As avowed minimalists, this feels slightly awkward putting a post of holiday gifts together. But the reality is that there are useful needs to meet in a life afloat. This peek into what works hopefully aidsÂ thoseÂ anticipating a similar path: a personal look what’s worked for us, and what’s on our wish list, as idea fodder for gifts to theÂ the sailors in your life. It’sÂ organized into four angles:
- Best additions to Totem this year
- Wish list: functional gifts
- Wish list: what the crew really wants!
- Especially for kidsThe Great Kayak Debacle of 2016. Weighing pros/cons, we picked the durability of a fixed board over a space-saving inflatable. A shorter (10â) Jimmy Styx model (year-end closeout!) is right-sized for our humans and has provided hours of fun and fitness. Siobhan paddles in front of Totem, photo at top.
- Underwater dome lensÂ â talk about bang for the buck. Only $50Â to get some of my favoritest pictures ever. Just fit the GoPro inside and swim! Itâs so flippinâ cool to have split images with above/below waterâ¦like this one showing TotemÂ floating in crystal Bahamian water while a nurse shark dozes on the sand below.
Pic made possible with a dome port lens over GoPro. Me on deck, Jamie in the water; Staniel Cay, Bahamas.
- Winches â Jamie likes to fondle our new Andersen stainless steel winches. No, seriously. Aside from the fact they are incredibly sexy mirror-finish stainless, the engineering of these makes them a better mousetrap, starting with guts that require less maintenance. Ribs on the drum donât need as many wraps for sufficient friction, and theyâre kinder to lines than conventional drum texturing. Jamie is all the warm fuzzies from that ribbed drum. I kinda want to get a lascivious picture of him with one.
- Mantus scubaâ we used to wish forÂ dive gear on Totem, but it never made sense; a mix of upfront cost, equipment x 5 crew, limited space, and just not being die-hard divers. But we do really like getting underwaterâ¦a lot! Adding a pair of Mantus tanks has been perfect.Â Good fun for more marine exploring beyond our freediving skills, plus peace of mind as added safety equipment (invaluable if an anchor fouled below freediving depth / hang time capability).
Kids dive with Mantus scuba. There’s that dome port lens again too!
- ACR ResQLink+. This personal locater beacon (PLB) was added to our safety kit for taking off to the Bahamas and beyond. My worst nightmare is losing on-watch crew overboard; I still worry when Jamieâs on watch and Iâm âsleepingâ off watch â these help me actually relax, knowing he’s basically attached to an EPIRB.
- Drone â we picked up a Phantom 3 pro during the post-holiday-sales last year. I know, have been lame about sharing the footage (will provide room & board on Totem for anyone who can train us up!) but â WOW. The images are amazing! I love the birdâs eye view it offers of our life afloat! New Years Resolution: learn editing and share some videos. Iâm not kidding about hosting someone who can school us! (Aline are you reading?! )
Culebra, Puerto Rico
II. Wish list: practical
The next set… well, theyÂ arenât exactly sexy holiday gifts. But the way our family looks at the world is in more practical term (I just realized how crazy that probably sounds to a lot of readers- yes, chucking convention to live on a boat with no fixed address is very practical. Really!): these are the practical wish-list expenditures. Right now weâre saving all our pennies to transit the Panama Canal but; some of these we expect (chaps, shade) others are less likely.
- Dinghy chaps. Fabric covers fitted to the hypalon tubes extend their life by preventing chafe and reducing UV exposure. These are labor intensive and custom made, haven’t rationalized this expense just yet.
- Outboard. Dinghy theme lately? Our outboard has been struggling for over a year, something that dependably gets a full load on a plane would be sweet. This 15hp Yamaha would do us right.
- Repaint Totemâs hull. Itâs so beat up, the guys working in the shipyard in Grenada were laughing at usâall in good funâand asking if they could give her a makeover! Hey, thereâs a dugout canoe associated with almost every ding, those are good memoriesâ¦OK yeah it would be nice to have a pretty boat again.
- Cockpit shade. We have an AWESOME, pretty new (2016) bimini frame (thank you to the great guys at TurboXS!)…but it still lacks the whole fabric-shade-that-attaches-to-it part. It will be really nice to get the last mile of this addition completed.
- Sailrite. Weâve gone back and forth on these durable sewing machines. Cons: machines need to be used to stay workable; they are heavy, and they take up a chunk of storage. But in the Pro column: Jamie could do a lot with one, like dinghy chaps and cockpit shade! Heâs a sailmaker,Â used to be a hands-on in the pit guy and knows his way around a pro machine. Our M.O. to date: Jamie fixes other cruiser’s Sailrites that have stopped working after languishing in a locker by bartering for usage to get a project done.
Making our dodger soft sides in Jacksonville: thanks Patty!
- Countertops. The formica installed in Thailand, unfortunately, is not good. Itâs a long story. But the formica is nearly worn through, the trim wasnât done right, and a bunch of other stuff. For the Someday files. Solid surfacing would be so dreamy!
- Solid state external drives. The movable parts on hard drives, in computers and external drives, have shorter lifespans with the small constant motions of a boat. SSDs would be less prone to failure. The multiple of expense is unfortunate (and almost rationalized by failed drives!). The only downside: external SSDs are mostly small,Â so you’d need a bunch to accomodateÂ all theÂ photo and video files a family accumulates.Â Sample: this Samsung 2TB drive, ~$800.
III. Wish list: just for fun
Whatâs your heartâs desire? I asked everyone on board to contribute their âwishâ gift idea for something they have zero need for, but a dose of desire. This turned out to be difficult: we are pretty good at being satisfied with what we have instead of craving what the boat next door has! But there are some great ways to be indulgent on board. The top five are our personal picks, the rest are from family brainstorming.
- Niall: PADI dive certification. (shhh: I think we figured out how to do this affordably enough in Bonaire next month! He doesnât read the blog â donât spill the beans anyone!!)
- Mairen: horseback riding. (still with the experiences. Câmon Mairen itâs about Stuff! She never got beyond “more art supplies then?”)
- Siobhan: a puppy. KIDDING. Except she wasnât. Her BATNA wish is to have any book she wants for a year. Qualified with âyou know I use the library mostly.â People, she reads a LOT. Thank goodness for ebook loans from our hometown library!
- Jamie: Code zero with a continuous line furler on a sprit. Because the sailmaker’s boat is a little bit like the cobblerss kids… often wanting. Here’s why Jamie thinks this is a winner sail for cruisers.
- Behan: fancypants freediving fins, and lessons to go with them. (As long as weâre daydreaming, Iâd learn from supermama and freediving champion Ashley Chapman at Evolve Freediving, with a whole- family lesson!)
More Totem crew wish-list picks that may generate ideas for giftees on your list:
- Water-friendly drone. Weâre having so much fun with the âregularâ drone, imagine one that lands on the water, or follows behind the dinghy â saltwater spray be damned?! This very cool looking Splash Drone 3 lands on the water and floats. Whoa. Or the QuadH2O: double whoa.
- Mini home theater projector. We watched movies outside on the Delos deck once upon a time; I harbor dreams of hosting anchorage movie nights with a film displayed on a sail âscreen.â One thatâs bright enough, not to big, and doesnât draw too much power, decent speakersâ¦or 3 out of 4. Like this maybe (and wow, that’s a good price!)?
- New computer. OK, not family but Jamie. The Toughbook that is our navigation computer doubles as his personal machine, but doesnât play well with Windows 10. Newer models do. Still a big fan of Toughbooks for their durability on board.
- Camera equipment. Better underwater shots with an Olympus Tough: the GoPro is awesome for environmental shots, but fails on macro, andÂ those are fun to take underwater. Above sea level, I traded in all my Nikon gear to migrate towards Sonyâs mirrorless a7 series, and will always be drooling over lenses.
- A dozen Luci lights. We have one and it’s fantastic: indulgent wish list version,- how cool would a strand of them be hung tiki-light style around the cockpit?!the masks they got fromÂ Divers Direct in Florida this year, and they’re very reasonably priced (holiday sale: $40?!).
- Beach fun: boogie boards and beach bocce are our favorites.
- Fishing kit. Get kids their own tackle box, handline, a net to grab stuff that goes overboard; even a Hawaiian sling spear if they can handle it.
- Field guides. Not kid books, butÂ GOOD field guides.Â Identification ofÂ underwater life was a big hitÂ from the time we started cruising with littles. Region-specific matters, I believe: the Gottshall two-book set is amazing for Pacific Mexico; DeLoach guides rule for the Caribbean: one forÂ Reef Fish, one forÂ Coral, one for, well, everything else (Reef Creatures).
- Scooters.Â Bikes are impractical; kids like wheels and folding scooters fit. Utility varies by cruising grounds (not a lot of roads in some oceanic regions!), but these are great get-around fun.
- Arts & crafts. Iâm not very crafty, so packaged kits like Klutz are perfect for me. Getting good materials will serve you later: these watercolors are richly pigmented and last a long time. Oragami, beading, or whatever! There are lists for this in Voyaging with Kids.
- Chocolate. Yes this was on their list. Clearly these are my children.
- Board games, cards. Our current favorite is Dread Pirate (thank you Sallianne and Doug!). Try cooperative games! Family Pastimes games got us started…Â Pandemic is the classic. This post about games cruisers play lists a number of other favoritesÂ on board.
- Legos. Our lego days are over, but the kids know these are huge for the younger set.
Totem and Utopia, rafted up for Thanksgiving last week: because 1) better with friends and 2) drones rock!
Want more ideas?
Here are the Christmas gift posts from the last few years. They’re all aimed at cruisers, but each with a slightly different take:
- Gifts that give a little more (2016). Focusing on sourcing gifts that contribute in some way to a greater good than just the Thing.
- Gifts under $50 for sailors (2015). Keeping the costs contained! OK, there was one item over $50.
- Gifts for cruisers (2014). Tried & true:Â fun, functional gifts that cruisers can use.