From the pages of Practical Boat Owner magazine – our pick of the best Christmas gift ideas for the boat owner in your life
Luceco rechargable LED torch
Every boat owner needs a torch for poking around engines, bilges and other nooks and crannies. Since we got this one from Screwfix, we can’t live without it!
If, like us, you’ve got mountains of kit buried in bottomless lockers, you need an LED inspection torch to find what you’re looking for. This nifty torch can twist around so you can stand it up or hang it down from hooks. It’s also magnetic, has three different settings, and you can recharge the batteries from your car or a 3-pin plug.
Zhik UV protective sailing top
Zhik’s new UV Active tops are available for men or women, and are very comfortable for sports and hot weather. Ideal for shoreside as well as water activities they come in navy or grey with long sleeves (£39.95) or short sleeves (£34.96). They’re made with a ﬁne-gauge, soft interlock weave and are antistatic and snag-resistant.
We’ve tested ours a lot this year and have been impressed. When compared to a regular cotton t-shirt, Zhik’s UV Active top keeps you noticeably cooler, and the soft fabric is luxurious against your skin.
Slastik snap-on reading glasses
Perfect for an active lifestyle, Slastik’s smart range of glasses snap open at the front with a magnetic clip but have a continuous strap around the back, meaning they don’t fall off.
No need to resort to contact lenses or squinting over numbers on a chartplotter, the anti-reflective reading glasses are a great cockpit companion for any cruising sailor.
Note: we may earn a small commission if you click on links but this doesn’t affect our editorial independence
Slastik also do a stylish range of sunglasses. We tested the Swing magnetic glasses at sea and were impressed with how comfortable and unobtrusive they are – you simply forget you’re wearing them. The lenses offer 400% UV protection and, being polarised, prevent harsh reflection from water or snow.
Captain Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure
No boat should go without a bottle of Captain Tolley’s Creeping Crack Cure. An ailment for leaky windows and fittings, this liquid sealant/ adhesive travels deep into tiny hairline cracks and makes a waterproof seal.
We’ve used it on the PBO Project Boat, and boat owners swear by it, including Louis Derry of Boat Renovation People. At just £7.95 it makes the perfect stocking filler.
Red Original eco-friendly laptop bag
Surprisingly, the tough, waterproof fabric of Red Original’s new laptop bag is made out plastic bottles. The process is interesting – it begins with rescuing used plastic bottles, which are broken down into pellets, melted and spun into a fibre, which is then woven into the fabric.
The backpack has wide, comfortable shoulder straps and a padded back, allowing air to flow through and stop you getting too sweaty. There are two outer pockets for water bottles, and inside, a detachable padded laptop section and secret pocket for keys.
We put this to the test in lumpy 2m seas whilst covering the start of the Atlantic Rally for Cruisers. It got a thorough pounding and soaking, but everything inside remained dry and intact.
Although the bag holds 30 litres, it feels a lot more spacious, especially if you don’t roll the top too much.
For anyone wanting to keep their tablet, laptop and pilot books safe in the cockpit for easy navigation, this is the ideal bag.
Also made from recycled plastic bottles is the Red Original kit bag. Sturdy and snag-proof, it’s is a great overnight holdall for taking to the boat, and will keep your kit dry in damp environments.
Like Red’s laptop bag, the kit bag is also waterproof, only this one has several different compartments so you can keep wet items separate from dry ones.
We like the fact it has a long zip, enabling quick and easy access (unlike traditional roll-top dry bags), and rucksack straps as well as carry straps, so you have a few different options for lugging it around.
You can read a longer review here, and see PBO Features Editor Ali put it to the test at her Dorset sailing club.
Collapsible travel kettle
This neat little silicone kettle is great for use in the marina as it packs up small and runs on shorepower. It’s only 3.93in when folded and 7.08in unfolded, and can carry 0.6L, which is plenty for 4 small cups or 3 mugs of tea. The plug cord is detachable and can be removed when not in use.
Red Original cooler backpack
If you don’t have a fridge onboard, this cooler backpack is handy for keeping drinks and picnics cool on day-sails or longer trips. We tested this on the PBO Project boat recently, on a delivery trip recently from Chichester to Poole with an overnight stay in Yarmouth.
Using freezer packs we were able to keep the butter, ham, milk and cheese cool for the two days. Ice is said to last 48 hours in the bag, which comes with a padded back panel and removable chest strap. The backpack is 15l and can store up to 24 cans. For more storage, Red Original also do a larger 30l cooler bag.
This year, Red Original is offering a gift-wrapping service, too, to take the pain out of those frantic pre-Christmas sessions.
Shakespeare emergency inflatable VHF antenna
An emergency VHF antenna is a great piece of kit to have on any boat, especially if going offshore. If the main VHF antenna fails for any reason, this is your backup.
Shakespeare’s new Galaxy Infl8-5 is an inflatable antenna, which, like lifejackets, inflates using a CO2 cartridge (though a smaller size than standard lifejacket ones). It pops up straight away from the high-vis bag, but you can also manually inflate it, before attaching it to the pushpit to enhance your radio signal.
Handy also for kayaks, jet skis and dinghies, the Shakespeare Inflatable & Special Purpose Antenna inflates to 5ft and is compatible with most handheld radios (check with manufacturers for compatibility with the SMA male adaptor).
The Boatyard book – a boatowner’s guide to yacht maintenance, repair and refitting
This lovely, nicely illustrated book on boat maintenance has been a true companion throughout our PBO Project Boat restoration. With topics on everything from hull work, electrics, rigging, sails and propulsion, right down to the tool kit you should keep onboard, paperwork, costs and laying up, it covers everything you need to know as a boat owner.
Even if you don’t plan to do the maintenance yourself, it’s good to know what you’re getting yourself into, and Simon Jollands’s friendly tutorials will appeal to beginners and experts alike.
Liberty Lifesaver Water filtration bottles
Boat water tanks require careful maintenance, but if you’ve let this slip, or simply don’t have a water source you can trust, the Lifesaver Liberty filtration bottle is a great, quick and easy way to get clean water. We should know – we used it to drink bilge water and lived to tell the tale!
Also, handy for hikes into the wilderness or remote anchorages where you might need to source water from a river or lake, this is the ultimate gift for adventurers.
A larger, 5l, Lifesaver Cube is also available, which is ideal to keep onboard.
- Buy the 5l Lifesaver Cube on Amazon – £125.99
- Buy the Lifesaver Liberty water filtration bottle on Amazon – £131.24
Portable gas detector
Ok, so this isn’t the most glamorous Christmas gift idea, but if we said this could save yours (or your loved one’s) life, then you’ll agree it’s worth taking a look. A gas detector is an essential tool for a marine surveyor, but it’s also useful for boat owners to keep on board, especially liveaboards. Gas will gather in the lowest parts of the boats – the bilges and engine compartments – so it’s important to inspect these areas from time to time.
PBO’s marine surveyor Ben Sutcliffe Davies uses a TPI 725L combustible gas detector from Screwﬁx. The battery-powered detector can be used one-handed and has both a visual indicator and an audio alarm that beeps as you wave it around. If gas is detected, the beeping speeds up.
Dual USB charger for the cockpit or indoors
No more fighting over the charging points! Scanstrut’s Roxx Dual USB Waterproof Charger Socket can be used indoors or out, and can charge two devices at the same time. It has an output current of 4.2A (total) and click and lock lid to prevent any water ingress into your USB connector.
Rail tablet mount
As well as having a cockpit socket to keep your tablet charged, it’s a good idea to get a mount to keep it safe. Scanstrut’s Mini Universal Tablet Mount allows you to fix the tablet onto any 19-34mm diameter rail.
There’s some great navigation software out there now, such as Navionics, which you can stream or download to your tablet, so now you have a full chartplotting solution without having to invest lots of money in electronic devices.
You can never have enough drybags and Zhik’s high quality kit always makes good gifts at Christmas or any other time. The new 30lt dry backpack is made from a heavy duty 100% waterproof fabric with welded seams.
Features include an internal zipped pocket, padded laptop holder, and water bottle pouch. Extra compression straps will help to reduce bulk when the bag is only partially full and can double to secure jackets and the like on the outside.
Zhik has also launched a new 6lt high vis dry bag. Again this is 100% waterproof with taped seams and is supplied with its own pouch for easy stowage when not in use.
Scanstrut Nest – Tidy charger
Tired of the tangle of wires and multiple phones and all too frequently clutter nav stations and other work surfaces on board? This Scanstrut Nest is a neat pocket with a built-in wireless charger in which to keep the phone when it’s not being used.
It’s designed for easy integration into voids within consoles and cabinets, behind seating and so on. A grippy mat stops the phone moving around inside the pocket, while the front lip acts as a further physical barrier to help keep it in place.
CleanToGleam canopy cleaner
Why not give your boat a little Christmas cheer? Canvaswork such as sail covers and sprayhoods can really suffer over the winter, especially during long periods of damp weather. CleanToGleam has launched a pair of products for cleaning and protecting canopies that are free of harsh, caustic ingredients. The Canopy Cleaner removes dirt, mildew and grease after first dampening with a fine mist spray. The Canopy Protector, which is applied after cleaning, is a non-greasy liquid that repels dirt and moisture, thereby inhibiting further growth of mould and mildew.
RRP: £18 for 1lt bottle.
Inesis 900 Laser Rangefinder
Designed for golfers, this is equally useful on any cruising boat that encounters crowded anchorages. Even the most experienced skipper can struggle to judge distances accurately enough to identify a safe spot to anchor between other vessels – the deck of a boat simply isn’t a good vantage point for this.
A decent laser rangefinder solves this problem – when preparing to anchor you can figure out exactly the distance to other boats. Equally if another vessel anchors close to you it can be used to figure out if there’s safe swinging space for both vessels. Maximum range of this unit is a whopping 1,200m.
Digital Yacht NMEA-Wifi link: NavLink 2 & WLN10-Smart
Many useful smartphone and tablet apps require data such as depth, boat speed, AIS targets, wind info and GPS from the boat’s instrument systems to deliver their full functionality. Digital yacht has two devices that will transmit this data by wifi . The NavLink 2 is suitable for vessels with an NMEA 2000 network, while the older WLN10-Smart will work for older NMEA 0183 systems. The company is offering readers a 20% pre-Christmas discount on these items using the code AAPYXMAS.
RRP: WLN10-Smart – £150. Navlink 2 – £210.
Spot Gen4 – low cost satellite tracker
This device completes a trio of relatively low cost Spot satellite tracking and messaging devices. The Spot Gen4 fits between the basic Spot Tracker, which only pings a position to your phone or email, and the Spot X that allows two-way email and SMS text messaging of up to around 500 characters. The Spot Gen4 allows your friends and family to track your location. In addition, you can pre-programme short custom text messages to indicate whether you’re OK or in need of a specific type of help.
There’s also an SOS function that sends an alert to the GEOS International Emergency Response Coordination Center, which in turn can raise the alarm with the relevant coastguard agency. The unit uses the Globalstar satellite network which now includes almost all of the Americas (apart from the very southern extremities of Chile), the north Atlantic ocean, plus all of Europe, the Med and north Africa.
Yachts on passage across the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean will, however, pass through a band with only fringe coverage.
RRP: £150 + service plans from £10.80 per month.
Velocitek Prostart update
Competitive sailors in the family will love the second generation of the Prostart. The original quickly became the go to device for judging the approach to a race start line, gaining wide acceptance at the top end of fleets that allow such electronics, ranging from dinghy classes to large offshore racers.
Velocitek recently revealed the second generation device. Basic functionality remains the same, as does the user interface and the mast bracket. However, a huge number of small changes improve accuracy and give a better user experience. A higher speed internal 18Hz GPS unit measures distance to the line more accurately and without lag.
There’s also a new magnetic compass that gives better accuracy and maintains calibration across a wide temperature range. Data logging is now four times a second and includes heel, plus fore-and-aft pitch angle. Additional features include a bar graph showing heel angle and the bearing square to the line, making it easy to see bias.
For the new device Velocitek has moved production into its own facility at San Mateo in Silicon Valley. Each unit leaves the factory fully calibrated.
Helly Hansen – Arctic Ocean Parka
Helly Hansen designed this for sailing in the harshest conditions and it’s perfect for winter days afloat. It has a waterproof outer layer, a breathable inner fabric, plus an insulating layer made of a high loft and quick drying recycled polyester material. Taped seams, a double storm flap and watertight cuffs are provided to keep the water out.
RRP: £500 / $700
Gill Penryn Hybrid Jacket – Mid layer warmth
Gill’s new Penryn Hybrid Jacket is super lightweight and made from a four-way stretch fabric with a soft brushed interior. A down-like synthetic insulation is used, which provides excellent warmth and can be packed tightly for easy travel. It’s available in both men’s and women’s fits.
Didn’t find what you’re looking for? Head to Amazon’s dedicated boating page for more marine products.