12 Gifts for the Boater in Your Life

By November 28, 2023Captain's Tips

Gift giving is upon us again and you’re in luck if you have a boater on your list. Boaters love gadgets and gear, most of which is very practical and may even save their life. Whether you’re looking for stocking stuffers or something more generous, check out these great ideas.

Sunglasses on the sand | Pixabay


Reflection and glare off the water, deck and sails is hard on the eyes and a boater can never have too many pairs of sunglasses because they often go overboard or get stepped on in the cockpit. Choose polarized lenses with lightweight frames for comfortable all-day wear. Top brands include Costa, Smith, and EveryDayBoater. Look for glasses with a case, a strap, and a warranty.

Inflatable PFDs

A personal floatation device (PFD) is indispensable for a boater but traditional lifejackets are bulky and uncomfortable. Instead, opt for an inflatable version which can be worn like a harness. Inflatable PFDs are compact until they come in contact with water or are manually activated to inflate. Mustang Survival Gear and Spinlock offer advanced models which are light enough to be worn all day. 

Satellite Trackers

For peace-of-mind, gift your boater a satellite communications device which will let you track them and will also let them send out an SOS message if needed. Garmin’s inReach uses the Iridium satellite constellation and can send a message from anywhere, 24/7. Short text messaging, tracking and one-button emergency calls are all possible. SPOT is another compact device with two-way communications. Both retail between $150-$250. In most cases, a subscription fee is needed for use.

Waterproof phone case | SanerG from Getty Images

Dry Bags and Waterproof Cases

Keeping gear dry is always a challenge on a boat so consider a waterproof bag or case for their cellphone, keys, laptop or wallet. There are many to choose from. Otterbox hard cases keep small electronics dry while dry pouches with water-resistant zippers or a roll-up seals protect everything from watches to lunches. Popular brands include Yeti, Dry Sack, Osprey and others. Pricing is according to size and features.

Mini-tools and Knives

Things on boats tend to break or seize up so small handy tools with blades, screwdrivers, and shackle keys are always needed. A comprehensive multitool from Leatherman will be a hit as will sailing knives with features like a bottle opener and a marlinspike. Gill and CrewSaver are go-to brands. Davis Instruments takes compact multitools to new level with their flat Snap Tool Multi-Key that fits in a pocket, has a hex wrench, a screwdriver, a key for water and fuel deck caps, a cutting tool for fishing line, a zipper-pull, and a snap tool for corroded canvas snaps. Boaters can never have too many tools.

Flashlights and Headlamps

Boaters also always need waterproof flashlights, especially ones with red light options to preserve their night vision on the water. LED headlamps are fairly inexpensive and keep a boater’s hands free when it’s time to hoist sails, peer into a dark locker, or grill onboard after sunset. Dependable brands include Petzl, Pelican and Mantus as well as others. To illuminate the whole cockpit during dinner, check out the Mpowerd Luci Light which is an inflatable, solar charged light that will shine all night and packs down flat for easy travel.


Technical apparel is impoartnat to keep your boater warm, dry and protected from the sun. Look for outer layers that are breathable, have all-weather zippers, and Velcro closures at the wrists. Helly Hansen, Henri Lloyd and Gill are top brands. 

For snorkeling, kayaking or swimming, a rash guard keeps bodies warmer and protected from sunburns. Dive and surf shops carry rash guards from brands like Body Glove, Roxy, Volcom and ScubaPro. Rash guards can be short- or long-sleeved, tight- or loose-fitting, and stylish or plain, so there are many to choose from.

Stemless Wine Glasses | Credit Robyn Mackenzie on Shutterstock

Galley Essentials

Boating chefs love kitchen gadgets so help them outfit their galley. Stemless wine glasses with a lower center of gravity stay upright in a seaway. Polycarbonate or stainless steel options from Yeti and Strahl will be appreciated. While you’re at it, add a bamboo cheese platter for docktails. Royal Craft makes a few specialized versions complete with drawers for knives.

Personalized Boat Accessories

Boaters love to see their boat name on all sorts of gear from towels to pillows, and T-shirts to hats. Embroidered, printed and etched gifts like welcome mats, hats and wine glasses make excellent gifts that they’ll happily display. Many retailers offer personalization services for a small additional fee.


There’s an app for just about every aspect of boating – from navigation to tide information, and top fishing spots to weather forecasting. Some apps are free while others require either a subscription or a paid “open key” for specific options or locations. For example, Navionics is a popular navigation app for the phone or tablet and is available for iOS and Android devices. Sectors of detailed charts may be unlocked for $50. Weather and tide apps like Weather Bug and AyeTides can be free if you’re willing to put up with ads. Check out iTunes or the Android store.

Gift Cards

Speaking of safe bets, give a gift card to Defender, West Marine , iTunes or a local chandlery. A gift card lets them choose their own apps, clothing, boat shoes, or gear. Most cards are available for purchase online at retailer websites.


You can always go old school and opt for some reading material – either on a e-reader or as an actual book. Tide your boater over during the cold winter months with practical tomes like Nigel Calder’s Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual or the Annapolis Book of Seamanship. For entertaining reading, check out real-life thrillers like And the Sea Will Tell by Vincent Bugliosi or Derek Lundy’s Godfosaken Sea. Do an online search for boating books and you’ll have lots of options from fishing to distance cruising. You may even opt to read a few yourself.

The holidays can be tough, but boaters make it easy to cross items off your to-do list.

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Author Zuzana Prochazka

Zuzana is a freelance writer and photographer with regular contributions to over a dozen sailing and power boating publications. A USCG 100 Ton Master, Zuzana is the founder of a flotilla charter company called Zescapes that takes guests adventure sailing at destinations around the world. Zuzana serves as an international presenter on charter destinations, safety issues and technical topics. She’s also the Chair of the NMMA Innovation Awards, a member of the American Society of Authors and Journalists, and the Executive Director of the Board of Boating Writers International.

More posts by Zuzana Prochazka