Gear and Reviews

2009 Holiday Gift Guide

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Finding the perfect gift for the sailor who’s got it all can be as tricky as trimming a mainsail in an oscillating breeze while sailing through sharp square waves. Get it right and your “skipper” will be happy; bugger it even a little bit and the old salt with a careful eye might subtly let you know that your efforts need to be stepped up a bit. To help avoid this dilemma, SAIL searches high and low each year for a wide variety of holiday gifts, ranging from small stocking-stuffer items to bigger, super-cool items. Regardless of your choice of item, we’ll put our salt on the line that these items will evoke a smile on the faces of their recipients.

Stocking Stuffers:

Smartwool Socks

Standing night watch has its charms and its hardships, but one of the later should never include wet, cold-feeling feet, especially if you’re sailing in colder climes where hypothermia is an issue. Smartwool makes a wide range of high-performance wool socks, ranging from lightweight, ankle-high athletic socks to burlier, thicker models that make standing a night watch off of Newfoundland a pleasant experience, rather than an excise in shivering your timbers. And should your feet get splashed, wool fibers are still warm even when sodden, unlike cotton. (Hint: Smartwool also makes a great line of long johns and performance-minded wool shirts and sweaters that are perfect layering garments.) From $13.95. www.smartwool.com

Colligo Marine Softies

How many times have you spied a heavy shackle and wished there was a lighter, faster way? Or, for wooden-boat sailors, perhaps that same metal shackle has invoked a yearning for attachment systems of yore? Colligo Marine’s line of Softies perfectly span the gap between sailors of all era’s, from the carbon-fiber go-fast crowd to the wooden-boat fanatic. Colligo Marine’s soft shackles are handmade out of Dynex Dux and come in a wide range of sizes and safe-working loads, making them ideal for Opti sailors all the way up to maxi-yacht bowmen. You’ll be amazed at the variety of uses you’ll find for these shackles, ranging from attaching halyards and outhauls to rigging inner forestays or removable furling gear. From $29. www.colligomarine.com

Petzl e+lite

They say that good things come in small packages, but you’ll search long and far to find a better example of this than Petzl’s e+lite. While billed as an emergency light, many experienced offshore sailors use this as their go-to headlamp as it offers serious light for its size, and it boasts a red-light feature (simply flip the switch, mate) as well as a built-in emergency whistle that can be heard for up to a third of a mile (the side of the whistle is engraved with SOS signaling instructions; the whistle also serves as the cinch for the head strap), and is waterproof down to three-plus feet. This tiny LED headlamp has several lighting modes, including low power (one diode) and high-power (two diodes), and a flashing mode. And should you want to give someone a more-powerful light source, check out Petzl’s complete line of high-quality headlamps. $29.95. www.petzl.com

Slippery Stuff

When I raced Lasers as a kid, our team used to apply liquid dish detergent to our hulls to make them faster. This worked great for a small while before the soap washed off (usually measured in boatlengths from the dock). Team McLube’s Hullkote, a high-performance speed polish, takes this same concept many steps forward, delivering an ultra-smooth, bonded finish when applied correctly. Hullkote can be applied to “anything that shines” and delivers UV protection. Best yet, Hullkote uses an environmentally friendly citrus base and doesn’t use petroleum distillates. $29.95 www.mclubemarine.com

Spinlock Fid

If you have a bowman on your gift list, this fid is a perfect gift idea. But don’t stop with foredeck fools: this tool is super useful for any sailor who uses snap shackles with a trigger-style release. Forget about risking breaking or spraining a finger while trying to open a shackle in choppy seas: simply use this fid to open even the most-persistent shackle. The fid comes equipped with drilled holes to accept a lanyard, and features a burled-grip handle, making it easy to keep a grip on this tool even during a lumpy Gulf Stream passage. The fid’s business end is seriously tapered, making it ideal for opening a wide-range of shackle sizes. $38. www.spinlock.co.uk

Medium-Sized Gifts:

Ronstan Dinghy Boots

Got an older junior sailor or a young-at-heart sailor (read: adult skiff or dinghy sailors) on your list? If so, check out Ronstan’s Dinghy Boots (small adult sizes work great for teens). The boots sport a reinforced vamp for long hiking sessions, and feature a serious tread pattern on their undersides that will help the lucky sailor on your list keep her feet under her during technical gybing duals or when scampering forward to launch the kite. The boots have neoprene uppers for a super comfy fit (and also to help keep your feet warm on chilly days) with a Velcro-guarded zipper that’s situated on their inner side section. These boots are equally at home on a trapeze rail as they are under a Laser’s hiking strap. $74.95. www.ronstan.com

Harken Sailing Shorts

Finding the perfect sailing shorts is no easy feat: they’ve got to allow ease of movement, wick away water and perspiration, have enough pockets to keep you organized, and feature burly, abrasion-resistant material that can take the punishment of everything from a gritty raceboat deck to a splintery bar stool to a hiking session on a dinghy. Plus, they should help keep you comfortable during long rail session or offshore passages. Harken’s sailing shorts (with removable seat pads) exceed all of these requirements, plus they are stylish enough to wear while buying groceries ashore (anywhere, be it Italy or Panama) or to the post-race party. Trust us: these shorts will make you a legend to anyone lucky enough to be on the receiving end of this gift. $79.95. www.harken.com

Merin Design Totes

Traditional canvas open-top boat bag are a staple item for most sailors, except they suffer from several drawbacks, the biggest being what happens when you set them down on sodden decks, or if you can’t reach your ringing cell phone under a jumble of other items. Merlin Designs has solved this problem with their line of totes that feature canvas construction with a waterproof bottom. Even better, the totes come with a variety of stash pockets that are built into the inside walls of the bags, allowing for the convenience of a boat bag, sans the hassle of having to yard-sale your gear to find your keys. The generous-sized bags come in five bright-and-lively colors and measures in with at 18.5” high and 24” wide, making them ideal for everything from grocery-gathering missions to trips ashore in the dink to explore deserted beaches. $88. www.merindesigns.com

Swing Time

Nothing beats lounging in a hammock with a good book after a sail. Cool Net Hammocks recently introduced their namesake product that is rigged to your boat via the hammock’s three-point connection system. The hammock can be attached either forward of the mast (attaching to the forestay, the mast, and a shroud) or behind it (using a shroud, the mast, and the backstay), depending on your boat’s layout. The hammocks are well built, easy to rig, can be stowed in a compact bundle, and can provide plenty of relaxing downtime. $129.95 www.coolnethammocks.com

High Rollers:

Leveled

Are you a racer looking for ways to hone your crew’s sail-handling skills, or are you a cruiser interested in creating a home video documenting of your latest adventure? Either way, Horizon True can get you sorted with one of their high-quality, self-leveling video camera mounts (they also accept still cameras). The mounts utilize either a pendulum or a counterweight to keep your camera level with the horizon, and a strong clamp to keep the kit solidly attached to your pushpit rails; some models also feature a convertible mast-attachment system. Three models available, with prices starting at $239. www.horizontrue.com

Puckster

If you sail aboard a boat without onboard electronics, wouldn’t it be nice to know your speed information to help dial-in your trim skills and tactics? Now imagine a wireless device that also displayed course readings and allowed you to record – and later download – GPS data that you could use to compare your performance against of other willing boats. Meet Velocitek’s new Speedpuck, a clever, handheld device that displays header and lift information, max speed recall, as well as boatspeed (and later, GPS information), all via one-button operation. The unit updates its SOW and heading information twice per second, and is waterproof to 6 feet. The back of the unit unscrews to reveal a AAA-battery housing and a USB port for retrieving GPS Beta. $339 www.velocitek.com

Boye Knives Basic 3

Spend enough time on the high seas and you can bet the house that the day will come when you’ll need to sever a line or a sheet quickly. While basic folding blades work well for most purposes, Boye Knives are in a class of their own. The Basic 3 is crafted out of dendritic cobalt, a material that acts, on a microscopic level, like a serrated knife, exposing whatever is being cut to many tiny, hungry teeth. The Basic 3 is available with either a pointed or rounded tip (the later is safer for use on pitching decks) and comes with a brass-lined nylon sheath that keeps the blade safely contained and corrosion free (corrosion does not occur when dendritic cobalt and the brass contact each other). The handle comes wrapped in grip-friendly P-cord, and the knife itself is perfectly balanced. Be warned: this is sharper than any kitchen knife you’ve ever used, but it will sever any fiber that’s in its way. $360. www.boyeknives.com

V.I.O.’s POV Video Camera

One of the best ways to improve your sailing skills or to capture those unbelievable moments is to record videos of you and your friends and family out doing what you love best. The trouble is that some video cameras are not water friendly; others require you to hold the camera while shooting footage. V.I.O.’s POV (Point of View) camera solves both of these dilemmas. The waterproof unit is shock resistant and can be mounted anywhere (say your masthead, your sprit pole, or you companionway) thanks to the various mounting accessories that are included in the kit; it can be operated via its wireless remote control, allowing for some creative shooting. And, due to its robust construction, you can use the camera on days when you’d be crazy to pull out a regular camera. Talk about a cool way to show your non-sailing friends what makes sailing so addictive. $699. www.vio-pov.com

Steiner 7x50 XP C Binoculars

Have someone who’s been extra good this year? If so, consider the Steiner Commander XP C binoculars. These high-powered (7x50) “big eyes” have a built-in compass for sighting the range and bearing of far-away lighthouses, buoys, or ships, and feature NANO-protected hydrophobic lens coatings that keeps water, condensation or fog from beading up on the lens. The bino’s “sports-auto focus” feature provides a clear view of everything that’s at least 20 yards away to infinity without having to refocus. The unit’s individual eyecups keep all ambient light out of your field of vision, super handy on days when there’s a strong glare coming off the water. Best yet, the bino’s are fantastic in low-light or foggy conditions thanks to their XP optics (a broad-band optical formulae), allowing you to spot target even in challenging situations. These big eyes are waterproof and are a joy to use on the water. $1049. www.steiner-binoculars.com

Unwired

Tacktick’s new waterproof, solar-powered Race Master System is packed with pertinent features such as compass info, speed, and depth, and can be wirelessly networked with other Tacktick instruments to display wind speed, wind direction, wind shift averaging, and mean wind direction. Also, it can be networked to your boat’s NMEA interface to display GPS data. The kit’s race-specific software makes it easy to set up lift/header info; new to this unit is its Start Line feature, which provides both “at-a-glance” starting line bias, as well as mean wind line bias info. $2,399.99 www.tacktick.com

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