Gifts that give a little more

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Among the lessons cruising has taught me: that a frugal life brings returns in personal happiness, and that seeking simplicity results not in deprivation but in a feeling of abundance. Living in our floating Tiny Home, “stuff” is the enemy. Still… once the tryptophan effect wears off after Thanksgiving, there’s an undeniable pull for a lot of folks to start looking for gifts.

In that vein, I have a different take on ideas for gifts to give your favorite cruiser this year. First, consider donating to a nonprofit that’s making a difference instead. I’m highlighting a few here that are focused on the health of our marine environment or communities that rely upon it. Second, since most of us are on the hunt for something tangible to give, I have a shortlist of gift ideas for gear that’s not just truly useful…it supports a greater good. Also: codes for discounts!

Here’s a selection of organizations (and an individual) doing good work in support of a healthier marine environment, or better lives for the people that rely upon it.

Louisiade Solar Light Project. AKA- SeaGoon. We met the driving force behind this remarkable one-boat show in Papua New Guinea in 2012. Hans brings donated solar panels, LED lights, and the materials on his sailboat, SeaGoon, to islands in PNG where he installs them in local villages where there is no electricity. He works with islanders to teach them to maintain the systems, and has brought much needed donations to support health and education to islands lacking the most basic of utilities. PayPal donations can be sent to svseagoon@gmail.com; Read more about Hans in this Australian article. (see also: his website / Facebook page)

International Rescue Group. Delivering aid by sea, IRG is currently sending boats to Haiti and using watermakers purchased with donated funds to bring potable water to communities suffering in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew. Donate here to contribute to an immediate need where every dollar helps. (And because Haitians need help: Good Samaritan of Haiti, and Friends of Ile a Vache, and Waves for Water)

Sea Mercy. Sea Mercy provides health care workers, equipment, and services by boat when these events occur (like tsunami and hurricanes) and local governments are stretched to meet existing emergency needs in remote islands. We know a few cruisers who have enlisted their vessels to support Sea Mercy’s mission to provide aid when disasters occur; you can donate to support this 501 (c) (3) charity on their website.

OceansWatch. Working with island communities in the South Pacific, NZ-based OceansWatch uses their vessels (cruising boats can help, too) to develop and enact conservation plans. Educating communities to help them be self-sufficient through better management of their fisheries is just one example.  More information and a donation link is on their website.

Niparaja. ANiparaja works to protect natural environments along the massive coastline and species diversity of Baja California Sur (among other projecs!). Called “one of the most effective and locally well-loved non-profits” by a fellow at the Institute of Current World Affairs. More on their website.

Most of us are going to buy some “thing” instead of donating to a cause: here’s a range of options that aren’t just perfect for cruisers, but also support fair trade products, a family business, more sustainable living, or otherwise contribute to a greater good.

Marmara Imports. Many cruisers rave about Turkish towels, the flat cotton weave that dries you…then dries quickly (leave the terrycloth at home…and beware the musty/stinky microfiber!). But not all brands are created equal: Marmara’s organic cotton / fair trade towel quality is exceptional, where others sourced via Amazon weren’t soft and had tassels fall apart. Feel good: this small business’ mission is tied to sustaining artisans who are supporting families and keeping traditional hand-looming skills alive. See the full range on MarmaraImports.com: Use the discount code “Holidays” at checkout to get 20% off through November 30th.

One of the weavers for Marmara Imports; image courtesy of the company

One of the weavers for Marmara Imports; image courtesy of the company

Sport-a-seat. These innovative portable seats have provided the first TRULY COMFORTABLE seating in Totem’s cockpit since, well, ever. Aside from the significant increase in butt happiness on board, the easily adjustable seats use SunBrella, so I know that pretty navy cover will hold up for years. Feel good: support this family enterprise, a husband-and-wife team who are overcoming low quality knockoffs from big marine brands while continuing to provide a superior product. Order from sportaseat.com and use TOTEM15 at checkout for a 15% discount.

Solavore. It’s no secret I love using our solar oven: cooking with the sun helps us go farther, live lighter, and eat well. It’s a perfect match for the cruising life. Feel good: this company actively works to incubate solar-powered entrepreneurs in developing countries. Their Solavore Works arm is making a real difference for families in Kenya, India, and Cambodia…working with local organizations to empower individuals and change lives. Buy your oven from Solavore.com.

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Cooking corn…the very, very easy way!

Outdoor Foundry waterproof backpack. A dependable drybag is essential kit for cruisers, but a backpack style with features beyond “keeping things dry” eluded us. This bag finally does it with a laptop sleeve (remember our laptop/dinghy mishap?) and other functional pockets inside, outside pockets for water bottles, bungees to strap odd-shaped extras on the back, and COMFORTABLE adjustable/padded straps. Feel good: this better backpack is the brainchild and small-biz flagship product of future cruisers Chis and Andi, who are looking for new location-independent ways to support their family for a life afloat. They’re offering another 10% off the holiday discount if you use the code TOTEMFAN at checkout. Your purchase on Amazon with this link sends us a tip.

Luci. This solar-powered portable LED lantern has brightened many evenings on Totem. I love the soft filter and colors of the “party light,” and being the only Purple cockpit light in the anchorage makes it easy to distinguish Totem from other boats after dark too! Feel good: while you bring light to your life…you can help bring it to others. This company seeks to provide clean, safe, affordable lights to people in developing countries: more retail sales = lower manufacturing costs = more affordable lights to developing world. You can give a Luci light to someone in need directly through MPOWERED, or buy one for yourself on Amazon that will tip the Totem kitty.

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This fuzzy, Luci-lit cockpit picture was brought to you by too much rum.

Check out my posts for 2014 gift ideas, the 2015 guide, see my recent post of new books for cruisers, or choose a book from our list of recommended reading…because books are never the wrong answer!

Special offer for Voyaging with Kids: I’ll personalize a book with a message based on your desires, wherever you want. Now there’s a gift you can’t get on Amazon! Book plus shipping in the continental US is $40; other destinations, just ask (shipping costs passed through 1:1). Contact me to purchase.

Jamie wearing Outdoor Foundry's backpack on during a dayhike in Maryland last month

Jamie sporting the Nootka backpack during a dayhike in Maryland last month…tossing Siobhan into the marsh…

There are so many worth nonprofits working to make a difference for marine environments! Calling out more here, in case particular missions speak to you.

  • Hello Ocean! Coordinating scientific expeditions for marine research. Good work that the Hello Ocean! crew turns into films that can educate people about conservation needs: the kind of outreach that desperately needs better funding to help inform the public.
  • Rozalia Project. Programs and ideas for individual action in support of goals for a clean ocean, a protected ocean, and a thriving ocean.
  • Ocean Research Project. Science, education and exploration to direct the sustainability of the oceans. Also, Matt Rutherford!
  • Sailors for the Sea.  Work including green boating guides, educational lesson plans, and more. On #GivingTuesday they launched a new video about their mission.
  • OceanCare. Projects supporting ocean conservation, whale protection, biodiversity, and awareness for marine health issues.

Local organizations:

  • Exumas Foundation. A small and effective organization supporting education, sustainability and more in the Exumas.
  • Science Under Sail. Bahamas-focused projects on climate change, ocean acidification, plastic pollution and invasive species. Now with  MATCHING DONATIONS! Campaign to double your gift underway – plus, cool shackle bracelet.
  • Blind Sailing UK. Helping the visually impaired sail at all levels.
  • Coastal Conservation Association. Dedicated to conserve, promote, and enhance coastal resources in the USA.
  • New England Science and Sailing Foundation (NESS): year round educational programs promoting marine stewardship.
  • Sound Experience. Envisioning “a future where everyone values Puget Sound and chooses to act as stewards of its treasured waters.”
  • Deep Green Wilderness and SV Orion. Marine science and stewardship programs in the Salish Sea.
  • Call of the Sea has been successfully operating on-the-water programs for San Francisco bay area youth since 1984. They’re building another ship, a 124′ brigantine– Educational Tall Ship project — to expand their work.
  • Sailing Angels. Getting veterans and kids with disabilities out on the bay from Kemah, TX.
  • Downtown Sailing.  Providing sailing opportunities for people and families who don’t otherwise have the opportunity- in Baltimore, MD.
  • Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating (yes, that’s CRAB). Bringing boating experiences to the mobility impaired.
  • Community Boating. Boston organization providing sailing experiences to people of all ages, abilities, and means.
  • Shake a Leg Miami. Sailing for disabled kids and adults in Biscayne Bay.
  • KATS. Serving underprivileged youth in the virgin islands by providing instruction and experiences under sail.
  • Whale Time. South African database for whale tracking and guides in the Indian Ocean.
  • Warrior Sailing. St. Pete-based program getting wounded warrior men and women on the water and sailing.
  • Tall Ships America. Youth education, leadership development and the preservation of the maritime heritage of North America

Cruiser’s bookshelf: what are you reading?

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Lingering in Washington DC, we’re enjoying gorgeous days making the most of the US capital…and tucking ourselves in below on the chilly nights (40s! 30s even! rumored 20s in the next few nights- YIKES) with some solid reading to keep company. This little channel off the Potomac still hosts dinghies practicing (that’s our view from the Capital Yacht Club, above) and access to the city make it worth every goosebump to be here. Meanwhile, here’s a range of books–new stuff!– from inspirational to practical to just plain fun / escapism, all connected back to cruising.

lin-pardeyNew writing from Lin Pardey! The books she and Larry wrote served as an important source of inspiration during our planning/dreaming years, as they have for legions of cruisers. It’s exciting to read fresh new stories about their adventures—and, bonus, they’re in some of our favorite cruising grounds of the South Pacific!

Reading Taleisin’s Tales was like seeing old friends again through her vivid writing about the cruising experience, and hit me harder than I anticipated in all the best ways (plotting, or at least dreaming, about our Panama Canal timing now). Full of beautiful color photos, the book took me on a return voyage — and although it’s been a few years between her visit and ours, time comes closely to that far side of the world. Besides, the lessons in seamanship and humanity are every bit as relevant today as when they sailed these miles in Taleisin.

Working with Lin in her booth at the US Boat Show in Annapolis this year, I could put her voice to the stories and gain a new appreciation for their authenticity. Find this book—and others—on her website.

A little while back, Kate Laird sent me a copy of her new book, Homeschool Teacher. I cracked it open for a quick look and was hooked in the first pages. WHERE WAS THIS BOOK WHEN WE WERE PLANNING TO TAKE OFF? Ahhh, Kate, this wonderful guide would have saved me so much stress!

I’m not kidding when I say that what scared me most of all about the prospect of cruising was not storms, was not pirates, it was homeschooling. The conventional recommendation for cruisers did not resonate with me, so I floundered a while looking for alternate guides. This book would have put my fears to bed and given me the tangible direction I craved. Homeschool Teacher is clearly and simply written, and aligns spectacularly well to support what *most cruisers actually do* — that is, draw from an eclectic mix of resources and curricula to fit a child/family.

Kate’s book is rooted in many years of experience, from her first post-Harvard job tutoring three children across the Pacific to boatschooling her daughters (15 and 16 years old) while she and her husband lead high latitude, expedition style charters. Homeschool Teacher covers K-8, years we’ve got mostly in the rearview mirror now, but I’m pulling plenty of ideas here we can apply to our teen skewed crew. Download a sample to check it out, follow on her Facebook page (frequent tips/helpful homeschool info), check out her books’ website or buy this book on Amazon.

selling-your-writingMy co-authors for Voyaging with Kids have each published books this year: both practical guides on entirely different (and yet, related) topics. In a season that’s prompted a few folks to do some soul searching on what lies ahead and how to find that far horizon, they’re very timely!

Michael Robertson’s Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines (and other niche mags) has everything you need to know about the nuts and bolts of how to get your wmove-to-nzork published by one of the big-name glossies we all love. That’s great, right? But better yet, Michael colors the practicalities with personal tips and tricks he learned (the sometimes hard way) along his path from IT professional to writing to support his family for cruising full time.

From her new home in New Zealand, former Seattlite Sara Dawn Johnson wrote How to Move to New Zealand in 31 Easy Steps. Not sure you want to return to your home shores after a South Pacific cruise? Sara lays it out the steps she and her family took to become residents on the path to citizenship. We’ll stay nomadic for the time being, but as I learned working with Tourism New Zealand during our stint in that corner of the world, this is a very special place—and it’s a very real option, if you know the process.

A few years ago, we met a friendly couple of cruisers on the dock in Tioman island, Malaysia. We’ve happily stayed in touch with Jase Kovacs over the years as he and his partner adventure through Southeast Asia. At the moment, Jase is writing the novel Ebb Tide about a dystopian future where a former cruising kid is using skills from her boat life to survive. He’s writing this WHILE SAILING FROM ASIA TO NEW ZEALAND and posting chapters along the way. Sorry (#notsorry) for the yelling, but seriously, tackling a book in conjunction with some serious passagemaking – fun fast paced writing — AND keeping up new chapters every few days?– go Jase!! I am a latecomer to the book-in-progress and can’t wait to see what happens. Plus, badass woman sailor protagonist. Follow along free on his website.

Pondering books for your current or future cruising life? I’ve organized a list of books that cruisers will find useful. Words of inspiration, practical guides, books we actually use on board, regional recommendations and more. Check them out!

Can I send you a copy of Voyaging with Kids that’s been inscribed to the reader(s) of your choosing? Maybe you need to sell the grandparents on your plans, maybe you want to give a special gift. While we’re in the USA (tick tock…but long enough for holiday season), I’ll send a new book personalized with a message based on your desires. Now there’s a gift you can’t get on Amazon! Book plus shipping in the continental US is $40; other destinations, just ask (shipping costs passed through 1:1). Contact me to purchase.

A number of the book links in this post are connected to our Amazon affiliate account: that means when you click through from SailingTotem.com we get a commission on any Amazon purchase you make in the following 24 hours. There’s no added cost to you, but it does make a difference for us. Thank you for the consideration!