Know anything about sailing? I need your gift ideas.
March 4, 2015 11:22 AM   Subscribe

GiftIdeasFilter: what to get for the boat owner who has nothing? Looking for boat-related, casual gift ideas (think, non-milestone birthday). The main complication is that the boat needs so much it's hard to know where to start...

A close family member has a boat, and when asked for birthday gift ideas, he said "something for the boat." It's a ~25 foot sailboat from the early 80s, the kind that can be had for a few grand in many marinas around the US. Thing is, it was not in good repair when he got it, and it mostly remains that way. It has a powerful Volvo inboard diesel engine - which is rusted out and seized up. Part of the keel is torn off because the previous owner apparently hit a rock. Etc.

In my understanding these are all multi-thousand dollar projects and I'm looking to spend, like, $200 or less. At the same time I don't want to get something totally kitchy and silly like a sailor cap. If you own a boat or have close friends / family members who do, do you have any ideas for finding a (lower) middle ground gift that a boat owner might legitimately be interested in? Thanks.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (22 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
Would you be willing to do a gift card to a marine supplies outfit, someplace where he could get the proper gear or parts or paints & varnishes?
posted by easily confused at 11:29 AM on March 4, 2015


How about a gift certificate for the local ship's chandlers? Failing that, I'd be leery about buying actual gear for the boat (winches, cleats, tackle, GPS, what have you) because unless you go to him asking for a specific shopping-list, it's unlikely you'll get exactly what he wants/needs.

In general, it's a bad idea to buy things for people's pet projects, hobbies, personal passions etc., unless you share them and know exactly what it is that they want, or unless they spell out for you exactly what they want. It's super easy to drop $200 on boat-related gear (insert famous joke about yacht being a hole in the water into which you throw money), but it's hard to be sure that it will be the gear he really wants.
posted by yoink at 11:30 AM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]




Most practical thing I can think of is an air compressor and a needle gun. Makes all kinds of surface prep so much easier. I would suggest a fuel powered air compressor, so he can use it anywhere-- even away from shore power. I don't have a recommendation for a specific model-- low pressure air fittings were piped to us in the Navy so we never had to use a separate compressor.
Something to help him learn the practical skills: The Marlinspike Sailor. Then get him a multi-tool. I favor an inexpensive one from Maxam, it is specialized for sailing with a small marlinspike, shackle key, etc. If you lose it overboard, you don't feel bad.
Other ideas: West Marine is a nationwide supply store ("chandler"). A gift certificate wouldn't be amiss. Also a good place for lots of little gift ideas: A marlinspike, a fid, a sailmaker's palm and needles, spar varnish.
So many other ideas: GPS, life jackets. Probably the best thing would be a hookup with a local powerboating/CG auxiliary group that will get him out on the water, learning the skills and making friends.
posted by seasparrow at 11:50 AM on March 4, 2015 [3 favorites]


A subscription to Ocean Navigator.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 11:51 AM on March 4, 2015


A gift certificate to West Marine, please! It's a fairly expensive place to shop, but there are certain little bobs and bits that are much, much easier to buy there, rather than source from the internet or junk yards. And another plus is that they're a national store.

Additionally, you could go there are grab him a bunch of lines. It's hard to run out of those, especially when you're just starting out. But again, you don't know what kind he would prefer (synthetic or not, etc). So, yeah, I'd just go with a gift certificate.

Or you could do maps/tide charts for your area... or a silly captain's hat! And grippy sailing gloves for when it's cold!

Or, yeah. Gift card to West Marine.
posted by functionequalsform at 11:52 AM on March 4, 2015


Gift certificate to Jamestown distributors. They know how to fix it and will sell you the things you need to fix it and will answer your question about how to fix that hole you put in the fiberglass as inexpensively as possible with extreme patience.

Less good: gift certificate to west marine. They may have the thing to fix it, but likely won't put you on the phone with the guy who has been fixing similar things for 35 years.
posted by slateyness at 11:52 AM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Yup, came here to say West Marine gift certificate. My dad the sailor lives there. It's his candy store.
posted by cecic at 12:13 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Seconding Chapman, if they don't already own it.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 12:48 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


If you don't want to give a gift card, my favorite sailing gadget is my Bad Elf handheld GPS, which sends a very accurate location to your phone's or tablet's charting software over Bluetooth, $146 at Amazon.
posted by nicwolff at 12:50 PM on March 4, 2015


Thanks for the suggestions so far.

In general, it's a bad idea to buy things for people's pet projects, hobbies, personal passions etc....

Yes, I am sensitive to that. I thought I'd try since he specifically suggested that category of stuff, but it's true I might not be fully lined up with his preferences on these things. I mildly prefer not to do a gift certificate since that's kind of not the protocol in our relationship, but it might be the best idea under the circumstances.
posted by Joey Buttafoucault at 1:10 PM on March 4, 2015


My partner recently started sailing and some of the first things he bought (after sailing gloves, which your giftee almost certainly already has) were:

-His own PFD, because the marina's life jackets are just never comfortable and often kinda grody
-A marine watch with GPS (he is a data and gear geek)
-A small waterproof bag for his cell phone
-A waterproof duffel bag for carrying his gear

For Christmas I gave him a rigging knife with a built-in marlinspike, and it was well-received, as were gifts from other people of Columbia's nice fishing/sailing clothing.

Beyond that, yeah, West Marine gift certs are an excellent idea.
posted by rhiannonstone at 1:14 PM on March 4, 2015


That boat sounds like a total disaster. However, he can make it look shiny up top with a random orbiting polisher/buffer and some buffing/waxing compound. A car buffer works as well as a "marine" one and 3m and starbrite makes different grades of polish and wax. It would fit nicely in your budget.

The psychological effect of a shiny boat overtakes the hard reality that you have a unmovable lump of floating fibreglass. Also a waxed cockpit is a nice place to have drinks in without the gritty/dirty feeling of oxidized gelcoat.
posted by captaincrouton at 1:31 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


A year's subscription to the BoatUS towing insurance program runs about $160, if he's actually getting out on the water.

Many sailors won't spend money on their own PFD. My wife saw me agonizing over the price of a Mustang H.I.T. and bought me one for Christmas.

It sounds like he'll have a lot of fiberglass and wood repair to do. A Fein MultiMaster is the boatbuilder's sixgun.

And a can of PB Blaster penetrating oil for the Volvo.
posted by Kakkerlak at 1:35 PM on March 4, 2015


At the same time I don't want to get something totally kitchy and silly like a sailor cap.

Maybe something like this?

Most practical thing I can think of is an air compressor and a needle gun. Makes all kinds of surface prep so much easier. I would suggest a fuel powered air compressor, so he can use it anywhere-- even away from shore power. I don't have a recommendation for a specific model-- low pressure air fittings were piped to us in the Navy so we never had to use a separate compressor.

A compressor that can deliver 10 CFM at 90 PSI (which that tool requires) is going to be well outside the budget.
posted by jon1270 at 2:06 PM on March 4, 2015


How about a sailing knife? This one seems useful and has a bit of a vintage cachet. I would get the version with the marlinspike.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 2:31 PM on March 4, 2015 [1 favorite]


Ask him where he'd like to haul out the boat and then arrange with the boat yard to pay for his haul-out and setup. It's a stressful thing, pulling the boat out, and if someone is covering the cost for you... It makes a big deal.
posted by humboldt32 at 2:36 PM on March 4, 2015


O.P. doesn't mention whether the boat is in or out of the water at the moment.
Probably on dry land if part of the keel is torn off, so it sounds like the boat will not be going anywhere just yet, so a GPS, ropes and lines and so on are not a requirement at the moment.
West Marine has a great catalog, give him one and let him browse it. Also Harbor Freight!
posted by lungtaworld at 3:03 PM on March 4, 2015


Thing is, it was not in good repair when he got it, and it mostly remains that way.

Haha that sounds like my boat!

Seriously, though: a copy of This Old Boat and a copy of Don Casey's Complete Illustrated Boat Maintenance Manual.

These two books are indispensable for owners of old boats. Ask me how I know.
posted by gyusan at 3:30 PM on March 4, 2015


You know what I love with respect to my old boats? Help. Gift certificate for "one afternoon of swabbing the deck and/or learning engine repair" would be as excellent as a monetary gift. Some boat work legit needs two pairs of hands!
posted by slateyness at 5:00 PM on March 4, 2015 [2 favorites]


Sailor here, and the single most awesome purchase we made last year were chairs for the cockpit of our sailboat. We don't have nicely padded seating in our cockpit, so we always sat on the standard square Stearns throw pads, or on loose pieces of foam pad, neither with back support. But then we had the opportunity to sit on these padded folding chairs we'd seen on some boats and it was a game changer. After much research about this and its competitors, we bought the Sport-a-Seat at $115. And Made in USA if that matters to you.

West Marine makes another option for $100, but so much of what we read said the one we bought was more padded and more durable. YMMV. One argument for this one, however, is if you really need a seat that folds completely in half for storage or ease of carrying, this might do that better (the Sport-a-Seat doesn't fold in half for travel, but it does have a carry handle).

These seats are super awesome. We sat in them daily, in the cockpit, or up on the foredeck. We will also use them in parks or at outdoor events. The backs are adjustable at different angles, and you can also lay them completely flat for napping. LOVE. THEM.

If he already has a comfy seat, and doesn't already have a great knife, the perfect sailor knife to carry at all times is a Myerchin with a marlin spike and shackle breaker.
posted by AnOrigamiLife at 6:39 PM on March 4, 2015


In addition to all the great suggestions above, might I suggest the book How To Avoid Huge Ships?

Both optimistic (since it implies he will get that thing sailworthy and in the water) yet useful and precautionary at the same time.
posted by Tandem Affinity at 7:41 PM on March 4, 2015


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