When the festive season rolls around, my wish list is always the same - a new drysuit, a pair of Steiner binoculars, a good sea fishing kayak and a Brompton folding bike. Not much to ask you might think for a lifetime of chipper optimism and general good-eggery but apparently my loved ones disagree. So, I have sourced a few ideas of wildly varying value and listed them in ascending order, from ‘Pocket Change Token’ to ‘Wow, you really do love me’. I don’t anticipate any personal joy beyond item number 2 – but just in case your people are more generous than the tight-fisted Smiths, I’ve included the good stuff regardless…
The What Knot is designed to tie a line at any point along its length, simply by threading the ends through the barrel and tightening the twist grip. It is easily adjusted or released, even under tension, and its plastic construction means no corrosion. On the back of extensive testing with cloth, cable, rope and chain and with loads of up to 600kg, it even comes with a lifetime warranty. Of course, improved seamanship knowledge would make the What Knot redundant – and that makes it as much an insult as a treat. But given its price and practicality, its stocking filler pedigree is easily justified.
Price £26 (four-pack)
Spyderco’s specialist nautical model, the Atlantic Salt, is built from a precipitation-hardened steel known as H1. That means it contains nitrogen instead of carbon, so it will never rust, even if you neglect it. The serrated hollow-ground blade offers great cutting performance in the water and the textured ‘Volcano Grip’ pattern of the moulded, fiberglass-reinforced nylon handle comes in high-visibility ‘Marine Yellow’. The reversible titanium pocket clip makes it ideal for both right and left-handed use; it can be opened with one hand; and it also comes with a lifetime warranty.
Forget about swanky high-street fashion brands with A-list patronage. What the boater needs is a proper pair of shades that combats low level light and refracted surface rays – and if polarised lenses are the best solution, the photochromic polarised lenses on the ‘Big Timbers’ from Zeal Optics are even better. With full-frame coverage and a colour and tint that adapts to the sun's brightness, they have already been a big success on the ski slopes. However, they’re not buoyant, so a floating one-handed adjustment strap would make a very useful addition.
The Fugoo Sport XL is not just your average portable Bluetooth speaker. It is IP67 waterproof, as well as sand, dust and snow-proof. A 35-hour battery life on a single charge is well ahead of the game and with its USB port, you can also quick-charge your phone or tablet. At night, the six top-mounted controls give off a gentle glow for easy use and it even floats, so if you do manage to lob it overboard, you don’t have to panic.
(5) Off-grid comms
According to the manufacturers, the DeLorme inReach Explorer is “the world’s only truly global satellite communicator”. It uses the Iridium satellite network to enable ambitious cruisers to share their nav track while also sending and receiving text messages from anywhere in the world. Of course, there is a monthly subscription to pay and if you want to use it for navigation, you need to pair it with a bigger, more user-friendly plotter, but as a standalone two-way satellite texting machine that you can use anywhere in the world, on land or at sea, its merit for the keen adventurer is beyond doubt.
(6) On board wifi
Proper wifi on board boats has always cost a prohibitive amount of money but with the new WL70R Bundle from Digital Yacht, that appears to be changing. The system uses the well-proven WL70 1.25m wifi antenna to receive land-based signals up to 1,000 metres away, before making them available to your various on board devices via the iKConnect DC-powered wireless router. Hey presto – your own local wifi network. The WL70R bundle features everything you need to get hooked up and it’s also compatible with Fusion Marine’s audio network for Fusion app audio control.
(7) Action footage
There’s been a wholesale love-in for GoPro action cameras over the last few years but Garmin’s new VIRB Ultra 30 looks to have the edge. It shoots up to 4K/30fps video, alongside three-axis image stabilisation, so even when your activity gets aggressive, the end footage will be smooth and crisp. In addition to an intuitive touchscreen interface, you get one-touch live streaming, so you can share the action without delay. And you also get integrated GPS for speed, altitude and track information, plus voice control for easy hands-free use. It’s Garmin’s best work to date and a clear frontrunner in the action footage race.
Sevylor’s Alameda inflatable three-man kayak is designed to be an ultra-stable, easily transportable family boat. The Boston valves enable easy inflation and deflation at the water’s edge, while the manometer indicates when you have inflated it to the correct (most efficient) pressure. The elevated mesh seats, which offer very useful back support, can be removed for solo rides and the flat PVC-coated bottom comes with a removable fin and welded directional strakes to improve tracking and manoeuvrability. Of course, you could get a great used polyethylene kayak on eBay for this sort of money but there’s something particularly appealing about a boat you can keep in the boot of your car.
RRP: £469.99 (plus £75 for paddles and pump)
There is no taste of the high life more intense and memorable than a crewed yacht charter with an on board chef, a flotilla of toys and a bespoke itinerary in a special part of the world. Whether you choose a summer adventure in the Med, some winter sun in the Caribbean, an expedition among the ice sheets of Patagonia or a meander among the film-set archipelagos of Southeast Asia, it is unlike any other form of travel. It might sound like the preserve of millionaires, but if you find enough friends who share your enthusiasm, the experience of a lifetime can be more affordable than you think.
Thomas Mercer, once the foremost name in marine chronometers, has been resurrected – and despite the practical obsolescence of such technologies in a GPS-equipped world, the sheer loveliness of the company’s modern offerings has to be seen to be believed. The Classis (pictured) is a case in point. Whether you want to use it on board your yacht or gaze at it in your living room, it is not just the most beautiful piece of craftsmanship you will ever witness, but an item of enduring maritime significance. Yes, it costs more than a house, but it’s an heirloom your descendants will also treasure.
Nothing appeal here? Need more ideas? Check out Christmas gift ideas for sailors and Christmas gift ideas for powerboaters.