It’s no secret among those who buy me stuff that I like boats. I’ve been known to return from a couple of weeks at sea on a delivery and clean the boat up fast so I can spend the afternoon sailing my own. So this month, I make some recommendations for gifts that I’d either be happy to receive (are you listening, dear?), already have in my toy box, or enjoy giving. Follow my advice, and any sailor in your family will be extra happy come sailing season next year.
What would please any kid (or Cruising World editor) more than a model boat to build and play with? Check out the Cup Racer 914. It’s a radio-controlled sloop that’s 36 inches long and weighs a bit more than 6 pounds. The boats are available as a kit ($475) or painted and ready to go ($850). The CR 914 is currently the fastest-growing radio-controlled sailboat class in the United States. I’ve had a ball sailing and racing mine. I’ve even been known to sail on cold days while sitting in the car with the heater on and the transmitter antenna poking out the windows. The hull is durable, blow-molded ABS, and the light-nylon sails are bent onto aluminum spars. The kit is complete with everything you need-right down to the glue-to put it together and go sailing. It’s fairly easy to assemble and should take about 16 hours, if you’re good at working with small parts and careful with glue. If you aren’t, then let the builder and North American distributor, Dave Ramos, build it for you.
Here’s a neat way to count down the days until the next sailing season: an Onne Van der Wal desk calendar ($16). There’s a reason that Onne is a frequent contributor to our magazine, and every week you can turn the page on this spiral-bound calendar measuring 8 by 8 inches and feast your eyes on a new one. The calendar is filled with stunning sailing images that make winter that much harder to bear, and recipients will use it year-round whether they’re sailors or not.
Over the summer, I got to use my last year’s Christmas present innumerable times. My stainless-steel Gerber Multitool 600 ($60) was right there, ready to tackle any job. Its ergonomic design made it comfortable to use, and given the variety of foldout attachments, it was the tool of choice for just about every challenge. The Multitool 600 features strong needle-nosed pliers that slide out with a flick of the wrist; a cross-head and two slot-head screwdrivers; two knife blades, one of which is serrated (and makes a lousy pry bar); a file; a can opener; wire cutters; and, of course, a bottle opener.
Every skipper who’s ever thought about weather trends will be glad to consult Robert E. White’s Cadet Barograph ($550). It’s beautifully crafted from brass and mahogany, features a battery-powered seven-day chart drum, and comes with a year’s supply of charts and a felt recording pen. Though it’s a useful piece of weather-forecasting equipment, it’s good-looking enough to display prominently in any study or living room. Mine sits on the mantelpiece next to a framed record of the barometric readings during Hurricane Bob.
Way back in the old days, when a sailor wanted to get a heavy mooring line ashore, he’d attach it to a light line at the end of which he’d tie a neat-looking, intricate knot called a monkey’s fist around a spherical rock. Then he’d throw the monkey’s fist to those waiting on the docks. Well, forget the rope this holiday season. A.G.A. Correa & Son Jewelry, the makers of fine, nautically themed jewelry for almost 40 years, have hand-tied Monkey’s Fist Earrings available in 14-karat ($375) and 18-karat ($470) gold. Put a pair of these beautiful pieces under the tree and you’re almost certain to get your lines across successfully.
Once upon a time, at a rendezvous of powerboat builders, I won a predicted-log race and was presented with a gorgeous watch. Made by Krieger in Switzerland, it not only kept excellent time but also told the phases of the moon and the state of the tide. An updated version of that watch is now available, the Krieger Tidal Wave Chronoscope ($2,200, with the stainless-steel bracelet). It’s water resistant to depths up to half a mile, it features a casing machined from a solid block of stainless steel, and it’s fitted with a double-dome sapphire crystal. Screw-down pushbuttons enable the wearer to quickly set the tides and moon phases. I found my old watch to be of superb quality and can only assume the new one is even better.
Nothing beats warm, dry feet at sea, and nothing keeps them drier than Dubarry’s Shamrock Boot ($280). Not only are they grippy on deck; they’re also as comfortable as bedroom slippers. And lined with Gore-Tex, they’re breathable, so feet don’t get that cold, dank, sweaty feel after an hour or two on watch.
For the women on your list, try the Henri Lloyd Women’s Axis Jacket ($125) and Coastal High-Fit Trousers ($125), both of which are cut for a woman’s figure. The jacket and pants are waterproof and breathable and have all the features and details you need offshore. Though stylish enough to wear at the yacht club, this is serious gear-there’s no doubt it’s meant for sailing.
Did you know that every International Code of Signals flag has a meaning? The people at Up 2 Code, of that fine old seaport, Marblehead, Massachusetts, had the bright idea of applying some of these colorful flags and their meanings to highball glasses ($40 for a set of four 14-ounce tumblers). My favorite is code flag “D”: “Keep clear of me: I am maneuvering with difficulty.”
North Carolina-based Nauti Gear has been making things from old sails for several years, and among its extensive line of bags is a new take on an old favorite. We love our moldy old canvas tote bag, but it has some drawbacks. The Zip Tote ($120) is made of mildew-resistant Dacron with a waterproof vinyl liner so it’ll keep your picnic dry on the way out to the boat. And the marine-grade zipper top will prevent all your goodies from spilling out in the dinghy’s bilge.
Every sailor who navigates the U.S. East Coast is familiar with the Eldridge Tide and Pilot Book ($13), published by Robert E. White Instruments. Filled with way more than just tide tables, this handy book makes a great stocking stuffer that’ll be used all year.
Are you, like me, the proud owner of soft, smooth hands that were once calloused and scabby? I like Harken’s Three-Quarter-Finger Gloves ($30). They’re made with a double-thick palm material that sticks to line and protects hands. The gloves fit well, thanks to the Spandex mesh backs. The faux leather doesn’t stretch much when wet, and it dries soft instead of hard and nasty, the way gloves did back when halyards were wire.
Chesapeake Performance Models: (410) 604-3907, www.rcyachts.com
A.G.A. Correa & Son Jewelry: (207) 882-7873, www.agacorrea.com
Dubarry Footwear: (800) 553-0497, www.dubarry.ie
Gerber Gear: (503) 639-6161, www.gerbergear.com
Harken USA: (262) 691-3320, www.harken.com
Krieger Watch Company: (800) 441-8433, www.kriegerwatch.com
Robert E. White Instruments: (617) 482-8460, www.robertwhite.com
Andrew Burton is a Cruising World associate editor.