It’s easy to believe that a man in possession of a boat is difficult to impress with a Christmas trinket, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The acquisition of a boat is in fact the starting point for an endless wish list of gadgetry. From simple thermals to technically advanced stereos, radios, action cameras and satnavs, the sheer variety available is vast - so what follows is a selection of particularly fine gifts that might just help kick-start your imagination…
High end binoculars
Steiner’s flagship marine binoculars, the Commander 7x50 Commander XPs, are something special. The quality of build is astonishing and so too is the brightness and clarity of the image. They will happily operate in all kinds of conditions, from minus 40 to plus 80 degrees Centigrade and they will also put up with a ten-metre dunking. The large (50mm) objective diameter allied to seven-times magnification is perfect for image sharpness on a moving platform and for clear colour rendition in low light. The autofocus is also delightful and the 30-year warranty is very reassuring. But the real standout asset is the promise of peerless, crystal-clear, rapier definition and unstinting, fog-free marine performance, day after day for decades on end. See Steiner Binoculars for more. Also check out more binoculars in our guide to the best models for boating.
The Ganton Down Gilet is a stylish, lightweight, down-filled body warmer from Henri Lloyd. It is both showerproof and windproof, it comes with a handy hood and it can operate as a useful layering piece to preserve core body heat in cold conditions. It can be packed down very tightly in a spare corner of your kit bag and the fact that it’s available in a wide range of sizes, as well as in three colours and as a woman’s model or as a full jacket, makes it a very attractive and versatile garment.
See Henri Lloyd. RRP: £95.00.
Jacket for your iPad
This waterproof and shockproof iPad Case from Lifedge is designed to offer unrivalled year-round protection for your iPad. Available in four colours, the iPad case can be immersed in one metre of water for 30 minutes, or dropped onto a concrete floor from a height of a metre without sustaining any damage. The case is abrasion and chemical resistant, so it won’t be ruined by oils, sunscreen or chemicals. It also features excellent screen clarity in sunlight and will fit your iPad without compromising touchscreen usability. Equipped with a soft non-absorbent hand-strap, it enables you to use your waterproofed iPad in either portrait or landscape orientation so you can make the most of the various marine apps currently available for powerboaters. See Lifedge for more.
Live action camera
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 (in light of its recent price drop) a clear frontrunner in the action footage race.
Serious marine watch
It is probable that you (like me) hanker after an Omega Seamaster or a Rolex Submariner. But the fact of the matter is that you’re not James Bond and neither are you likely to go to depths beyond 20 metres, so why not save yourself £5,000 and go for something digital. Modern digital watches are relatively cheap, very accurate and endlessly reliable. The classic Timex Ironman Triathlon, for instance, has been around forever, and brings a lovely retro edge to its armoury of practical talents. And if you want to up the ante with some more advanced marine-specific qualities like a barometer, tide data, a compass, a Storm Alarm and weather trend information, a watch like the Suunto Core All Black can offer everything you need for well under £300. RRP: £250. For more marine watch gift ideas see the best marine watches.
It looks dull and, in all fairness, it is - but what price peace of mind? The Drainman is a fully automatic bilge pump, which is powered by the pull on the mooring line as the boat moves with the wind and waves. It will keep a moored boat safe and dry, leaving you blissfully unconcerned by stuck float switches and dead batteries. It has a tensile strength of up to 10,000 Newtons and can drain up to 2,500 litres a day through the supplied 2.5-metre hose. It’s not glamorous but it’s very clever and at under £50, it’s also fairly affordable. RRP: £44.95. See BHG Marine for more.
WIFI on your boat
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. RRP: £360.
Fuss-free RIB fix
For committed RIBsters, the Clamseal is another devilishly clever device (see image below). It is basically a glue-free repair system for small tears or splits (of up to 90mm in length) in inflatable fabrics. It works by means of two half-shells that screw together tightly, using the inflatable material itself as an airtight seal.
The repair is instant and effective and requires no tools or adhesives. It can be used above or below the waterline, enabling you to finish your day out in safety before having the hole permanently repaired. The Clamseal can be re-used as many times as you like and it is an excellent addition to the safety kit of any self-respecting RIB skipper. See Barton Marine for more. RRP: £12.99.
The UK and Ireland Circumnavigator’s Guide by Sam Steele is a very practical piece of work – the kind of thing that will not only inspire you to hatch big plans but also equip you with sufficient understanding to bring them to fruition. And the really exciting part about the kind of extended cruise it describes is the fact that we can all realistically consider it. A UK circumnavigation keeps you sufficiently close to stay in touch with loved ones, it offers no insurmountable logistical or linguistic challenges and it can be achieved within a very manageable time frame. Geoff Holt, the first disabled sailor to sail singlehandedly around Britain, described it as the "new circumnavigation bible" and he’s in a very good position to judge. RRP: £19.99.
Budget boating sunnies
If you’re looking for some budget sunnies that will float, Glasgow-based Lomo Watersport is right at the top of its game. Not only do the Lomo Wake sunglasses come with polarised lenses to help reduce glare reflected from water’s surface or refracted through mist and spray, but they are also buoyant so you won’t lose them if you drop them overboard. And in addition to the ‘Ultralight’ frames, the soft nose bridge, the usefully wide eye coverage and the surprisingly attractive styling, they come in at a price that embarrasses the competition. RRP: £10. For more on buying sunglasses as a gift for boaters see Sour guide to the best sunglasses for boaters.
Folding bike for cruisers
British builder, Brompton, is the king of the folding bike and its P6R model is the perfect multi-purpose touring tool for carriage on board your boat. You get multiple grip positions, a wide gear range and big luggage capacity from the T-bag and Rack Sack, plus an ingenious roadside toolkit tucked into the frame and a Shimano hub dynamo with integrated lights. By using the online customisation service and spending another £600, you can even chop the best part of a kilo off the weight with a steel-titanium frame. It’s classic kit from a top company. RRP: £1,365.
Low profile lifejacket
If you want a lifejacket that looks and feels a touch slicker than the rest, the Spinlock Deckvest 5D 170N could be just the thing. It offers a compact cut-away shape, with a built-in deck harness, flexible shoulder-fit system and a high-intensity light for all-round visibility. In addition to automatic inflation you get a mesh pocket for your radio and an emergency safety line cutter and stowage pocket. You also get a sprayhood, plus crotch and thigh straps and a double-buckle belt with non-snag fasteners. Add the Hammar Hydrostatic trigger system for an additional £20 and this great-fitting safety gadget makes an oddly desirable gift. RRP: £219.95.
Leather sailing boots
Dubarry boots are distinctly posh – and that’s nowhere more evident than on the traditional range-topping Ultima sailing boots. These waterproof, breathable, non-marking boots comprise Goretex-lined leather with plentiful sizing options to ensure the perfect fit. The dual-compound PU and rubber sole provides excellent grip and the ‘Extrafit’ versions feature a lycra panel to enable the insertion of bulkier calves. Whichever you pick, it’s a stocking filler to relish. For more boots, see: Clothing for winter boating: a guide. RRP: £279.
High end boat entertainment
Fusion’s flagship marine model, the MS-AV750, is a high-end stereo with full colour display and internal CD/DVD drive. It uses multi-zone technology to enable independent control of four sets of speakers, each in a different area of the boat; the integrated Bluetooth allows wireless audio streaming or remote control from your mobile phone or iPad; and an HDMI port enables plug and play compatibility with a TV or chart plotter. Pair it with an external amp and some high-grade speakers and it makes a great sports cruiser system. For further gift ideas, see: Music on the water: 10 top marine audio visual gadgets. RRP: £689.
Skipper's folding knife
Myerchin UK boasts a beautiful range of marine products. For those who favour separate functions, the G10 Offshore System is great, but with its blend of traditional marine practicality and artisan excellence, the folding G2 Captain with natural bone handle is a major highlight. Highly favoured by commercial seamen, it comes with three-quarter serration and high-grade German stainless steel for excellent hardness and corrosion resistance. The springless locking mechanism securely fixes the blade, the marlinspike or both - and the lifetime warranty on manufacturing defects is very welcome indeed. RRP: £122.
With 5cm of insulation in the walls and 8cm in the lid, plus a freezer-style sealing gasket, the Yeti Tundra 35 coolbox can keep its contents cold for up to a week without a power source. It also offers non-slip, non-marking rubber feet, a full-length, self-stopping hinge, replaceable rope handles and tie-down points so you can strap it to the deck as an extra bench seat. At 8kg, it’s not light and at £241, it’s not cheap, but with a huge range of options, from step plates to cushions, locks, rod holders and bait trays, this multipurpose gadget makes a brilliant boating gift. RRP: £241.
I first tried a Sea-Doo Mega Inflatable Island at a late night party in the Finnish Lake District. At first I didn’t understand why I had been jettisoned from a perfectly good boat to drift around in a glorified lilo - but with space for eight people, plenty of cup holders, a waterproof MP3 storage box, four integrated speakers, a couple of built-in wine-coolers, a sun deck and a detachable boarding platform, this ‘island’ has the ability to double the communal capacity of most recreational open boats. RRP: from £500 plus shipping.
Foul weather onesie
Foulie manufacturers love to invent fresh words that don’t mean much and charge you big money for the privilege, but for the winter boating skipper, a commercial-style, all-in-one floatation suit is a great asset. Designed with fishermen, rig workers and other offshore professionals in mind, the Mullion 1MHP Powerfloat may be less industrial than the company’s flagship models, but even this ‘standard’ version still offers robust, breathable, one-piece protection, plus plenty of warmth (for protection against cold water shock) and built-in 50N buoyancy. At £180, it’s extraordinary value - but if you want to spend even less, the entry-level ‘MHA’ model can be yours for as little as £90. For top-end ability on a bottom end budget, it’s tough to beat. RRP: £180.
Mainstream outboard manufacturers can talk about refinement all they like, but the fact of the matter is that most small, single-cylinder outboard engines produce more noise and vibration than is comfortable for long spells at the tiller. So how about going electric? Equivalent to a 3hp internal combustion unit, the Torqeedo Travel 1003 weighs less than 9kg (around half that of a comparable petrol model), runs in virtual silence and packs down to the size of a small sports bag. Yes, it costs around double the price of a conventional four-stroke but as a portable engine for your tender (or even an emergency auxiliary), the 1003 from market leader, Torqeedo, is not far from being the perfect small powerplant. At around £1,500, it’s a Christmas gift to covet. RRP: from £1,449.
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. In the wake 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. RRP: £5.80.
When the Sea-Doo Spark first appeared, it was lighter, smaller and cheaper than anything else in the world - and not by a nit-picking fraction, but by a country mile. With its POLYTEC construction techniques, its skeletal aesthetics and its user-friendly customisation and upgrade routes, it got exactly the acclaim its ten-year development deserved. It didn’t quite manage to sidestep the industry and establish a new ‘Aquascooter’ genre (as the designers originally envisaged), but as a credible, desirable, fun and accessible PW that you could pick up for little more than pocket change, it heralded a radical and welcome shift in market focus. True, its price has now crept up beyond the £5K mark, but it’s still good fun and it’s still great value. RRP: from £5,549.
The Racing Jackets from perennial favourite, Oakley, use Switchlock Technology for fast and easy lens changing with no uneven pressure to distort the optics. Two sets of lenses are included (one for bright light and one for low light) and there are lots of optional lens sets available – from Iridium-coated and photochromic lenses to ‘Oakley Authentic Prescription Lenses’. Convoluted acronyms aside (‘HDO’ clarity, ‘O-Matter’ frames, ‘XYZ Optics’ and ‘Unobtainium’ components) these are a true class act, with 8.75 base lens curvature for a wide-open view, plus top-end impact resistance and sharp vision all the way to the periphery. RRP: £180.
The Fugoo Sport XL (also available as a ‘Style’ or ‘Tough’ variant) 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. The fact that (unlike an integrated boat system) you can carry it ashore for picnics and beach parties makes it all the more desirable. RRP: £250.
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 tucked away in the boot of your car. RRP: £400.
Yacht charter heaven
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 holiday. 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 much more affordable than you think. RRP: POA.
Plenty more top-notch Christmas present ideas from boats.com, see: Christmas gift ideas for sailors.