Do you know someone obsessed with their boat? Is a special occasion coming up, and you’re scratching your head wondering what you get someone “living the life” on their yacht?
Well, fear not good friend or family member—there is hope. Boat folks are just like regular folks, and they have lots of wants, desires, and needs.
The only limiting factor in your search for the perfect gift should be space. If your acquaintance lives aboard their vessel, they are probably cramped for space. While everyone loves some decor and some nick-knacks, boats do not have space for objects that they don’t use. There are no shelves or displays on a boat. Therefore, the best gifts for boaters are always the ones with clear and practical uses.
Here are some ideas for new boat owners, plus ideas for experienced cruisers, too. The best gifts, as always, are those that show you’re paying attention and care. What do they most love about their boat–fixing it up, fishing off of it, or voyaging across oceans? Find a gift they’ll love by narrowing it down a little.
Gifts for the New Boat Owner
New boat owners need a lot of help. First off, it’s not sexy or cool, but think about some about safety gear. Regular flares need to be replaced every few years, but this battery-operated SOS light is legal for both day and night use and only needs new batteries occasionally. Every boater should have one!
A floating VHF radio is another must-have on every boat. They’re inexpensive when compared to regular marine radios. While they don’t have great range, they’re fabulous for use in emergencies or just when you need to carry a small one with you.
If safety equipment is on the list of things every boater must invest in, cleaning supplies surely come in a close second. These Shurhold handle kits are absolutely some of the most valuable things on a boat. If they’ve already got the handle, buy them a spare boathook head, scrub brush, or fishing net. Don’t assume the net is just for fishermen, by the way. It’s super helpful in retrieving objects lost over the side!
Speaking of cups and mugs and things, there isn’t a boater alive who doesn’t go crazy for things with their boat’s name printed on it. Look for custom or monogrammed options. If you can, snap a picture of the boat’s name on the transom and try to match their ship’s font!
Boating couples often have difficulties docking the boat. One of the biggest hiccups arises from the fact that’s it’s tough to communicate without shouting. If the person driving is up high on a flybridge or way aft in the typical sailboat, the bow person won’t hear them easily. But it’s a simple problem with an easy solution—two of these Bluetooth headsets are all that’s required. So now the crew and talk to one another calmly and dock like champs.
Gifts for the DIY Boat Owner
Do-it-yourselfers and “project boat” owners have an entirely different set of needs. Most of them revolve around tools and parts! It’s pretty hard to make a list of all of the parts you might need for every project imaginable, but here are some ideas for tools that every project-minded boater can use.
Every boat has tiny spaces where you can’t see. A WiFi endoscope for your phone allows you to see in between wall panels and bulkheads, below floorboards, and even deep into engine compartments. Best of all, it has built-in LEDs so it can shed light on the darkest places in any boat.
Here’s a secret weapon most boaters wish they knew about—the handy hose puller. This simple tool is not a common sight in many toolbags, but it makes it easy to pry old hoses off their connections. It’s invaluable for engine work, plumbing, and through-hull repair in the boatyard.
Finally, here are two tools no boater should be without. The first one, an infrared thermometer, is invaluable for several things on a boat that you may never have considered. First, it can find loose or corroded electrical connections that could cause a fire. If a shore power cord is getting hot, it’s the first sign of serious trouble. The same goes for battery connections and wiring behind panels. They’re also great in the galley for checking the temperature of foods and grills.
Lastly, a compact clamp-style multimeter is a must-have for tracking down wiring issues and planning your daily power consumption. The clamp function is crucial because it enables you to see the current flowing through any wire to calculate amps and wattage easily.
Gifts for Liveaboard Boaters
Are you buying for someone who calls their boat home? Life afloat has all sorts of special considerations. Imagine stuffing all of the stuff that makes your home life tick into the hull of a tiny boat? There are lots of space-conscious solutions out there, so start with some basics.
These Turkish towels are soft and absorbent, but they dry quicker and fold up much smaller than standard terrycloth towels. You can get big ones for the shower and smaller sizes for both kitchen and bath. Speaking of the kitchen, these Lunatec dishcloths are fabulous alternatives to nasty dish scrubbers. And they work great with the environmentally-friendly bar soaps that are handy on every boat.
Liveaboard boaters are always looking for solutions in the galley, one of the most space-intensive spaces on a boat. Magma stacking pots are a great idea—they give you everything you need and store in a single cabinet. If they’ve already got the pot set, how about an add-on, like this wok or a colander?
Finally, if the boat’s electrical system can support it or they spend most of their time at a dock, an Instant Pot pressure cooker is a fabulous addition to any boater’s galley. They cook fast and efficiently and without heating the boat’s cabin on hot summer days.
If cookware is too obvious a ploy to get a dinner invite, how about a paddleboard? These inflatable paddleboards roll up small and fit in most large boat lockers. They take about five minutes to inflate, and they’re super fun to get some exercise paddling around the marina or explore far-off beaches.
Gifts for Cruisers and Voyagers
If your boating friends travel far and wide, look for items that help them move their boat and navigate.
If that feels a little too practical, how about a good story that provides some inspiration for their next trip? Younger sailors and women, in particular, will connect Swell by Liz Clark as she finds adventure sailing solo in the South Pacific. Every crew member will love Flirting with Mermaids, a tale of love and yacht deliveries penned by the talented John Kretschmer.
If you want to keep an eye on their travels so you can pop up for impromptu afternoon sails, check out the Garmin InReach Mini. This little tracker allows them to text from anywhere, even from the middle of the ocean. It has a handy SOS function for safety, and it can download offshore weather reports from satellites, too.
When approaching strange anchorages, one of the problems boaters often have is figuring out exactly where they should drop their hook. Of course, they don’t want to get too close to other boats, but it’s hard to determine when the other boats are swinging to and fro on their anchors. In addition, the varying sizes of yachts can throw off the best skipper’s perceptions. All of this is solved, however, with a simple digital rangefinder like the ones golfers use.
Cruising and voyaging sound romantic, and it is. But ask any experienced cruiser, and they’ll point out that it can be very dull at times, too. Most boats move slowly, and traveling days can get drawn out. So pass the time with a Kindle Paperwhite e-reader, which is easy to read in direct daylight. It’s perfect for passing the time at the helm or even for lazy days on tropical beaches. A subscription to Audible or Kindle Unlimited is a great idea, too.
If the boater in your life has it all, consider a waterproof backpack. There isn’t a cruiser alive who doesn’t need another waterproof bag, and this one is stylish enough to wear while exploring strange new ports.
When all else fails, it’s a safe bet that your boating friend could use a gift card to the local marine supply store or chandlery. Sure, it’s missing that personal touch. But if you explain that your landlubber self didn’t have a clue what to get such a wise and handsome old sea dog, you’ll likely be forgiven!
Finding the right gift for a boater doesn’t have to be a challenge, and it doesn’t even have to be marine-specific. In the end, it’s still the thought counts. Connect with what they love and something meaningful to them.