It's holiday season and the message boards are starting to fill with threads about "gift ideas for sailors", so I thought I'd offer up some ideas of my own based on sailing gear we're currently using (or plan to use very soon!). Look for more detailed reviews for many of these products in the near future.
Ronstan Quick-Lock Winch Handle: Perfect for the grinder in your family, these new winch handles from Ronstan feature a one hand grab-and-release mechanism that is...quick! They're available in 8" and 10" models with single grip or palm grip. I've got a 10" palm grip model that I'll be testing out early next year on our Catalina 34. I like the longest handle I can get for maximum leverage, but if the space around your winch is limited by a dodger or other hardware, consider the smaller 8" model.
Carmanah M550 Marine Lantern: This new self-contained and solar powered marine LED lantern is rated for 1-3 nautical miles and has a ton of potential uses such as lighting for your dock or private aid-to-navigation (PATON). I plan to try it out as a back-up wireless anchor light by rigging a way to hoist it with a flag line. Carmanah is known for producing tough, weather resistant solar powered lights for industry, but I think their smaller products like the M550 might find a home on cruising sailboats.
SEMCO Teak Slave Rescue Kit: We've all got work to do in the spring. If your list includes refinishing or cleaning teak, check out this kit from Semco that includes cleaner, sealer, cleaner pads, application brushes, rubber gloves, finishing rag, stirring stick, and bucket. Semco's teak sealer comes with rave reviews (I haven't tried it yet), so I'm going to see what all the fuss is about. Supposedly, Semco teak sealer is simple to apply and easy to maintain while providing a nice, natural teak look.
Spiroll Chafe Guards: Need a stocking stuffer? These simple polyurethane chafe guards from Spiroll should fit nicely. They're self wrapping and come in a variety of sizes to fit your dock and anchor lines. I've used rubber hose for chafe protection in the past, but these wraps from Spiroll look like they'll stay in place more effectively.
Finis Mermaid Monofin: As a father of three daughters, how could I leave a mermaid swim fin off the list? The kids should have a blast with this one at the marina pool and while at anchor. I have to admit, it looks like fun. Go ahead and order one for yourself, I promise I won't tell anyone it's not for your kids!
Joby GorillaPod: Focus on sailing and let the GorillaPod handle the camera. These nifty little mounts work great to attach your camera to a stanchion, grab rail or simply as a tripod. They come in a variety of sizes and styles to fit most cameras/mobile phones. [Note - I can't recommend the waterproof Kodiak PlaySport HD video camera shown in the photos below as mine crapped-out on me with a well-known electronic switch issue. Try a GoPro Hero instead!]
Subtech Dryskin for Tablets/iPad: Mobile devices are becoming more and more common in the cockpit, but their downfall is that most aren't ready for the marine environment. Dryskins from Subtech Sports offer an affordable temporary solution for protecting your iPhone/iPad/tablet from the elements. In fact, Subtech claims Dryskins are waterproof and even allow you to take underwater photos and videos. I'll be testing this out soon and will report back with my findings.
Tower Rigid Inflatable Paddle Board: My kids are obsessed with stand up paddle boards (SUPs) ever since we rented one this past summer while anchored out for the weekend. I admit that trying to balance, paddle and stand was more fun than I thought it would be, but carrying a 10' plank on a 34' sailboat just isn't very practical. Well, that is until I saw rigid inflatable paddle boards from Tower on ABC's Shark Tank television show. These boards roll up into a manageable size yet are supposedly very rigid when inflated. In any case, we're saving up to try one this coming season.
Have other gift ideas for sailors? Share them in the comments below so we can all check them out.