The Boaters' Holiday Gift Guide
By Chris Landers
Yo ho ho, and a bottle of rum? Maybe. But perhaps it's time to branch out, and give the boater on your list something a little more interesting.
Switlik MOM 600 Throwable Life RaftYou know those square seat cushions that double as flotation devices? Well, the MOM 600 is kind of like those, until it hits the water. Then it inflates into a 10-square-foot "rescue platform," with a strobe light, safety knife, sea anchor, and optional 5-foot-tall yellow pylon. So actually, it's nothing like those floating seat cushions, except that you can sit on it when it's not in use. The MOM 600 isn't Coast Guard-approved, and it isn't a full-fledged enclosed life raft — Switlik markets it as man-overboard and coastal-sailing equipment — but it's tough to think of a situation where the MOM 600 wouldn't be handier than a seat cushion. OK, maybe at a football stadium. ($999.00; www.switlik.com)
ULI Board Inflatable SurfboardsUnless you live within walking distance, transporting a paddleboard to somewhere you can actually paddle can be a pain. The ULI Board line of inflatable paddleboards inflates to a rigid board, but when you're done, you can roll it up and stow it in a duffel bag. Their latest model, the FAQ (Fat Ass Quad, if you must know) weighs 26 pounds and inflates to 9'3" by 33" for a 250-pound rider. ($1,295; www.uliboards.com)
Starboard's new Astro infatable paddleboard line is available in three sizes from nine to 11 feet, and rolls up into a backpack weighing 22 pounds. The Astro has multiple stainless-steel attachment points and a cargo bungee on the nose for your gear. ($1,199; www.Star-Board-SUP.com)
Cobra HH475 Floating VHF Radio With BluetoothCobra's latest generation of marine radios are packed with bells and whistles to make communication easier. The HH475 features a "play it again" feature that records and plays back the last VHF message it received, floats when you drop it in the water, and pairs with any Bluetooth-capable cell phone with a range of 30 feet, so you can receive calls on the thing while your other expensive gadgetry stays safely below. ($199.99; www.cobra.com)
GoPro Hero HD CameraBoring people with pictures of your vacation used to require a lot of equipment — slide projector, screen, a couch — but the GoPro digital camera, and its waterproof case, has revolutionized the vacation photo industry and created countless YouTube stars. The camera itself is just a little gray box with a couple of buttons on it, but the accessories allow you to attach that little box to any number of sports equipment from helmets to surfboards to boats to, well, anything else. It comes in a variety of different kits, depending on which attachments you want, or even a 3-D version if you really want to take it to the next level. ($259.99 for the HD Hero "Naked" kit; www.gopro.com)
JetlevThe Jetlev-Flyer is a water-powered jet pack. OK, we could probably just stop right there, because you have either just dropped this magazine and run off to buy a water-powered jet pack, or you are no fun at parties. Just for fun, though, let's paint a picture. You are at anchor in some exotic port, and you decide to go over to that waterfront restaurant. Should you row ashore? Oh wait, you've got a jet pack! So, you'll probably put on something like a tuxedo and fly there, and order yourself a drink at the bar, but you'll need to make it something non-alcoholic because: a) you need to fly home, and b) you'll need your wits about you to fend off the members of the opposite sex who will be lobbing marriage proposals at you because you, sir or madam, just flew up in your water-powered jet pack. Jetlev points out that it's safer than an ordinary jet pack, because you have to stay over water, but "safer than an ordinary jet pack" isn't a phrase that's ever won over a concerned parent. There is a small downside regarding price. ($99,500; www.jetlev.com)
GorillaPodTripods are useful things to have when you're out taking pictures, especially for the all-important self-portrait that proves you were … wherever you were. Unfortunately, a normal tripod takes up more space than the average digital camera, so you leave it at home, and that just leads to all kinds of fights about whether you made the whole thing up. JOBY, the company that makes the GorillaPod, is the leader in the field of oddly shaped tripods, and they make one to fit every camera and every pocket. This year they've added magnetic feet tripod, so you can get even more creative about where you hang the camera for the perfect shot. ($24.95; www.joby.com)
Olive Art Custom BooksIs there a harbor that's precious to you? Or vivid memories from that first trip to the Bahamas? Commemorate it with a handmade book by artist Kristi Oliver, who'll take a chart of that place and craft it into a wedding guest book, baby book, or photo album. The covers, end sheets, and signature bindings are made from repurposed NOAA charts, or she can use your original chart with courses marked. She creates a coptic binding hand-stitched with a white waxed linen thread, and stacked signature covers.
($40 - $80, depending on detail; www.OliveArtOnline.com)
SPOT Connect/DeLorme inReachThe SPOT personal locator brought about a bit of a revolution in satellite locator technology when it was introduced in 2007. The SPOT Connect offers all the features of previous units — an "SOS" button to summon help; an "I'm OK" button to assure your loved ones; and a tracking feature that leaves a trail across an online map to show your progress — and adds the ability to pair with your smartphone (iPhone or Android) to send satellite text messages to any cellphone or e-mail address. Instead of being limited to whatever you programmed in ("Please help!"), you can now get a little more specific ("Bring gas!").
SPOT is now joined by a new entrant into the field, GPS manufacturer DeLorme. DeLorme's model, the inReach, takes it a step further, allowing you to not only send short messages via satellite, but receive them as well. The price is a bit more ($249.95 for the inReach vs. $169.99 for the SPOT Connect) and the compatibility is different (the inReach only works with Android phones). Both devices work with DeLorme's Earthmate PN-60w GPS unit. Service plans start at $9.95 a month (DeLorme) and $99.99 a year (SPOT). Lest we forget, SPOT units can also summon 24-hour BoatUS towboat services. (www.BoatUS.com/Towing)
The DeLorme inReach and Spot Connect are available from delorme.com and findmespot.com, respectively. The Spot Connect is also available
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SOL Original Survival KitPacked in a small waterproof box, this kit contains everything you need to go from desert-island stranding, to zombie apocalypse with panache. Knife, fire starter, compass, whistle … it would be easier to list the things this kit doesn't have. Now no boat is too small to keep a full-on survival kit handy.
Fly-Fishing DaydreamsPat Ford's new book will inspire the fisherman in your family and help them pass the idle winter months while dreaming of wetting a line on a distant shore. Filled with Pat's stunning photography, along with stories about each location from local authors and guides, Fly-Fishing Daydreams is almost as good as going there yourself. Almost.
Special offer for BoatUS members: Get a signed copy of Fly-Fishing Daydreams for $29 (almost 30% off), plus shipping, by calling the BoatUS membership department at 800-395-2628