Gifts for sailors: ideas for the cruisers in your life

cobb in comoros

Who wants to cut into the cruising kitty for gifts that won’t work when you take off? It’s just about that time of year, so Jamie and I came up with a list of fun and affordable gifts based on our everyday cruising life. Maybe some of these will fit the sailor in yours! We aimed to skew practical but keep it fun and easy, with ideas that are (mostly) under $50.

Dry bag. Ship to shore, or even just walking around on shore, things get wet. I remember tucking a camera into a plastic baggie back in 2008 and was just lucky when we dumped the dinghy and the camera survived. A computer that took an unplanned swim a few months ago wasn’t so fortunate. ouch. I don’t want to risk electronics on a bag that will fail! We’ve used a number of different dry bags, and SealLine’s Baja bags are simply the best. What they lack is a shoulder strap, but the bags I’ve used that do have one have ultimately failed because of the strain on the anchor point.

Polarizing filter. An inexpensive addition to your camera that turns photos on the water from OK to awesome (filtered image on left, non-filtered on right) with effects you can’t get in post-processing.

Niall on the bow

Check this post for more examples here if you need any convincing. I can’t believe cruisers who like taking pictures ever leave without one! I’ve abused used this Tiffen circular polarizer for years.

Aloha shirt. We may get a little “grotty yachtie”, but a there’s a ritual at the end of a day of boat chores where we clean up and Jamie traides a grimy tee for a fresh aloha shirt. It’s the signal that it’s time to relax, maybe have a sundowner in Totem’s cockpit or with friends. I love Reyn Spooner’s classic reverse-prints, but hey, go with whatever feels right. Score vintage for <$30 on Etsy, eBay, or thrift shops.

aloha shirt page

Cooler bag. Right, about those sundowners: unless you’re European, cruisers bring their drinks with them when invited to another boat, and who wants a warm beer? Get a durable cooler bag; I like having one that can do triple duty with beach barbecues and provisioning runs, too. Look for one that collapses (e.g., no hard liner or top) for easier storage; a couple of pockets can be handy. Ours looks a lot like this one.

Books. I love gifting books, and have been building out a list of my favorite books for cruisers. There are books to inspire, practical references we use again and again, and favorites for regions we’ve traveled. I’d be happy to add a personal note to go with a gifted copy of Voyaging With Kids: just get in touch! This book is written for families but reviewers like The Boat Galley say it’s helpful anyone who wants to go cruising, not just those of us with children aboard.

Beachy jewelry. I was never big into bling but the basic jewelry I wore got even simpler after we went cruising. Natural materials, touches to remind me of places we’ve been, and anything inspired by the ocean…I’m a sucker for anything that incorporates sea glass. I reached out to my tribe of sailing women, because a number of them aren’t just cruisers – they’re artists creating lovely, affordable, cruisey adornment.shackle bracelet maggie millie

gifts for sailorsCobb barbecue. OK, so I’m breaking the <$50 rule for this one, but it’s worth it. A lightweight, portable, use-it-anywhere (outside) grill that cooks delicious meals. It isn’t fixed to the rails, like most boat BBQs, but portable. It’s not gas-fired, which means better tasting barbecue. We could only find regular ol’ charcoal in the Indian Ocean, but want to try the Cobb “cobblestone” briquettes- they’re made from coconut fibers! Because this grill stays cool on the outside (on ALL sides), you can actually just place it on deck…or take it to the beach, or whatever. We removed our (always corroding/ can’t get parts/ rattling noisemaker in a light breeze/ burnt everything anyway) Magma, and I don’t miss it at all.

Butane torch. Because every cruiser needs crème brulee! Well not really (although that’s a great, easy way to impress guests), but these culinary torches are also handy for heat shrink during electrical work…something we do a lot more than we ever expected. And hey, you can have fancy desserts, too!

Still stumped? Check out my list of holiday gift ideas from last year.

All opinions mine; Cobb provided product for review. Amazon links are affiliate; if your click through a link and purchase from Amazon, it throws a little change in our cruising kitty. It doesn’t cost you a penny, but it’s a nice help for us. Thank you for supporting our family!

7 Responses

  1. I just ordered a polarizing filter yesterday! Photography (or rather videography) is my passion and I was so glad to hear this tip before we left! I’m so impressed by the difference in your photos… now I’m REALLY glad I got it ordered.

    I also have a few other things on your list already ordered as well. This must mean I’m doing something right with all of my self-education (ie: reading the hell out of blogs like yours!) of the last 4 1/2 months!

    Thanks for sharing 🙂

    1. Awesome Byn, I can’t wait to see your photos! It makes such a big difference to have a polarizing filter. And yeah, I’m sure you’re doing great with the self-ed, I wish we had the blogosphere to learn from when we were starting out!

  2. Great ideas, Behan! I love my Tiffen polarizing filter too!! Also have a clear lens cover to keep the lens nice when I’m taking low light shots 🙂 And of course you can never go wrong with drybags and books! I’m looking out for a backpack/drybag for Seth for Christmas – do you know of any good ones?

    1. Hi Ellen- we have a “water resistant” (specifically not waterproof) backpack from Patagonia that unfortunately is a major fail- the fabric is literally falling apart and customer service isn’t helping me out. Friends of ours have one from Overboard they say is comfortable, well made, AND purports to be a drybag (my friend Ian says they haven’t dunked it, but it does well with spray). I’d check those out!

  3. Cobb barbie: I’d like to know how this cool=on-the-outside barbecue works on the boat and if you’ve devised a way to secure it while in use when the boat rolls. `Seems like a good idea if safe & workable – on the boat!

    Ashore, this veteran cruiser and solo motorcycle traveler is happy to just carry a small flat stainless wire grill out of a shopping cart, refrigerator or thrown-away barbie with which to cover a hole dug in the dirt or sand with trenches to and from it (upwind, downwind or to the side depending on wind and the fuel’s air needs). It’s an enjoyable learning experience getting the air tunnels just right for the fuel at-hand (usually driftwood or windfall pieces) placed atop one to three rocks in the bottom of the little pit if rocks are available. It’s actually easy to get it close enough to work ok. When through cooking and the grill has cooled, just kick dirt or sand into the little pit and cover it over – coals go out & continue returning to nature. Scrubbing the grill with leaves, dirt or sand and a little scraping with a knife or spatula, sometimes towing behind the boat, gets it clean enough for its flat canvas sack, ready to stow against the side in a locker or saddlebag. The fire next time sanitizes any residue. Cost: $0. My current grill is 12″ x 14″ ~ large enough to cook for me and a guest or two. Sometimes its corners rest on small rocks to get the height right above the coals. Simple, ecological.

    1. Brooks, love your pared-down approach, and the Cobb is a bit big for motorcycle traveling! Before getting the Cobb, this pretty well described our approach. Of course, that’s not something you can do on deck- just on shore- and we really wanted an on-board BBQ that worked (unilke our perpetually problematic Magma). The cool thing with the Cobb, is, well, how it stays cool! It honestly surprised me HOW cool it stays. I’ll have a full review once we do a little more at-anchor grilling.

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