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Finding the perfect gift ideas for sailors or boaters can often be difficult for non-boaters. As a full-time cruiser and liveaboard, one of the biggest questions we got around the holidays or birthdays was, “What in the hell do we get you?”
Space on a boat is limited, so everything has to have a purpose, and even better if it has multiple uses!
So after 6 years of living and traveling on our sailboat, here’s a list of gifts for sailors that I think are practical and useful, and sometimes just plain fun. Feel free to share this with friends or family, or even use it to make your own “wish list” for the future.
I’ve used almost everything on this list (and if I haven’t, I’ll tell you). These are things that we’ve had and loved, and felt they were super useful, if not imperative, to have on a boat.
You don’t think you need one of these…until you do. Like the time when we ran aground right in the middle of a channel at mid-tide!
We weren’t sure which side had deeper water, and when another boater came by in a dinghy with his Vexilar hand-held depth sounder and told us where the good depth was, we swore we had to get one.
I got my first Dremel as a gift from an old boyfriend. I think my reaction was, “A f%^&#n’ tool??”
At first, I thought he was a terrible gift-giver, then he explained what it could do, and said he thought it would help with my jewelry making. Ok, that’s sweet.
When Chris and I moved onto the boat, we kept mine (which was cordless) and got a corded version for when we needed a little more poop to party with.
I can’t tell you how many times our Dremels came in handy. We used it for everything from cutting stainless bolts to sanding wood in hard-to-get places, to filing the dog’s toenails. I even admit that I’ve used the sandpaper drums to give myself a pedicure! Smooth heels for the win! Seriously a must-have.
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My friend Wanda had a Yeti mug and always had ice water inside. For the longest time, I never knew what made it soooo special until the time she had me drop her off at the Tampa airport using her car one hot summer day. She wanted me to drive her car while she was gone (and it was an adorable little sports car – sweet!).
She left her ice water in the console when she got out and the next day, I got in her car and I’ll be damned if the mug didn’t still have ice in it – after almost 24 hours of sitting inside a locked car in South Florida in August.
Boom. I was sold.
These come in several sizes. We have two of the 4L sizes (one red, one blue) and I love them so much!
I started carrying one of these instead of a real purse because I never had to worry about dropping it into the water and ruining all the contents inside. It floats, it keeps your phone, money, etc. dry, and comes in several colors.
Each of ours was given to us as a gift and honestly, we’ve probably used these more than just about anything else on the boat. Literally almost every day.
It says it’s not for heavy marine use, and I’ll admit that it’s not a super heavy-duty dry bag. The 4L is simply a small bag that holds and protects all of our essentials when traveling to shore by dinghy.
This is one of those essential tools that is a must-have on a sailboat.
It has so many practical uses, and it’s one of those tools I like to call “insurance tools.” When shit hits the fan and you need that certain something to quickly cut or unknot, this is the tool you’re going to want to have.
I’m not gonna lie – these feel super weird when you use them to dry off, because it’s so different than what we’re used to.
But because of the microfiber, they are excellent for drying off yourself, the dog, a big spill, whatever. AND they dry really quickly.
You get used to the texture after a few times, and they’re super soft. Great for any kind of travel.
Be sure to look at the sizes and get a nice large size if you plan on using it for a bath towel.
Ok, at first I wasn’t completely sold on these, but I decided to try them anyway because I hate that mildew smell that regular washcloths get, even when you dry them well.
Now, it’s the only washcloth I use.
They come 2 to a package and actually feel really nice on your skin. They have a scrubby loofah-like feel that makes your skin really clean and soft.
I’ve had these for almost 2 years and there is ZERO smell, they dry within minutes, and you never have to wash them – just give them a good rinse in hot water after using and hang them to dry.
I could go on and on about how much I love my Kindle.
No, it’s not as fun as turning the pages on an actual book, but on a boat, it’s a must-have if you enjoy reading.
Load it up with hundreds, even thousands of your favorite titles to keep you company while on a passage, or even just to read at the beach.
The Paperwhite version is great because there’s no glare, and no strain on your eyes. Almost (but not quite) like reading the real deal!
What I love about this mask is that you don’t have to hold the damn snorkel in your mouth and it allows you to remain hands-free while using your GoPro when snorkeling.
This full-face mask sits comfortably and gives you a much better view than a regular mask and snorkel. It’s also GoPro compatible which is really nice for those times when you want to capture the underwater magic.
I don’t have one, but they get great reviews. I definitely wish I would have had one when we were snorkeling in Belize!
Speaking of GoPro… We love our GoPro so much that we have two of them!
If you’re sailing and blogging or vlogging, it’s practically an essential part of your toolkit.
We’ve got amazing footage of dolphin, shark, and even a Goliath grouper that decided to camp out beneath our boat for a couple of days with the help of our GoPro.
Great for snorkeling and sailing footage to show off your amazing lifestyle!
As I write this, my husband is messaging me from Roatan, Honduras using our InReach so I can see where he is and know that all is well on the boat he’s helping deliver to Mexico.
The great thing about the InReach is that you can send and receive messages, get weather reports, and send location updates to friends and family who want to follow your sailing track. Not to mention the SOS feature that allows you to call the Coast Guard for help should the worst happen.
We pair ours with our iPad to make messaging easier (so you don’t have to scroll through and select each letter one at a time on the device).
It was a lifesaver in Cuba when we couldn’t get wifi to get weather updates, and offshore since we didn’t have radar. Definitely worth having on a boat.
My absolute favorite boat toy. Not only is it easy to use as a beginner (never once have I fallen off mine), it’s also really well made – much better than I would have expected for an inflatable.
I used to have a blast taking our dog out for a ride (and he loved it, too!) It’s a super fun way to exercise. Here’s a video I posted a while back of me and my dog Jet paddleboarding around on the Chesapeake Bay.
The fact that you can deflate it and roll it up for storage makes it a perfect accessory for a sailboat of any size.
The AeroPress is smaller, more compact, and makes better coffee than a French Press in my humble opinion.
This baby never leaves our side. Seriously – if it were to ever fall overboard, we’d set our “man overboard” alarm and waypoint so we could go back and get it.
It makes a perfect cup of coffee and doesn’t over-extract the bean like a French Press can (the hot water and long duration of contact with a French Press causes a more acidic taste).
It’s the perfect coffee maker for a boat since it uses no power, and you can almost always get hot water somewhere.
These silicone storage covers are perfect to have on hand when you need a cover for a random bowl or lose one of your tupperware tops. Which I still can’t figure out how that happens!
Easy to pack and store away, they’re super handy to have in the galley for when you don’t want to waste food.
I love love love our Turkish bath and beach towels!
Not only are they so soft, they are super absorbent, they look pretty, and they have multiple uses. I’ve used mine as a bath towel, a beach towel, a sarong, a blanket, and have clipped them to the bimini to block the sun and provide some shade in the cockpit.
We love the bright colors and quality of the ones shown here. They’re very plush.
If you don’t already own these, they are so handy to have on a boat.
They’re inflatable (so they take up very little room when deflated), solar-powered (so you don’t have to use your battery power to charge them), and they give off the perfect amount of light.
Keep ‘em on hand and hang them in the cockpit, on the shrouds, and even use it as an anchor light in a pinch (although I don’t recommend it for a permanent solution). We love Luci Lights!
There are so many cool things about this light from Mantus.
It’s a great all-around light that has 4 different light settings. On the white light, it has both a dim and bright option. It also has a solid red and an SOS flashing red option for night or emergency use.
It can clip onto a rail or bimini frame, allowing you to move it wherever it best suits your needs. It has a USB charging port, so there are no batteries to replace. You can even charge it with the portable USB charger I mentioned earlier!
Last, but not least, it also acts as a charger for your phone! Yes, it has a port that you can plug your phone into to get a charge. Those ladies and gents at Mantus are crushing it with their innovative marine products.
I’ll admit that I don’t have one of these, but I saw someone post about it recently in a Facebook group and I was intrigued.
As an avid snorkeler, one thing I was keen on while in Belize was being aware of my surroundings and what to do if I see a shark.
I love sharks, and understand how important they are to the ocean’s ecosystem, but since I’m not experienced in shark behavior, I don’t want to risk being in the water and doing the wrong thing, provoking an attack, or even causing stress to the shark.
I think having something like this would definitely be a safe way to feel more secure, although you should still always be aware of your surroundings any time you’re in the water.
As you can see, there are a ton of useful and fun gift ideas that can be used on a boat.
Do you have any of these? What do you think? Anything you’ll be adding to your wish list? Leave a comment!