We’ve scoured the seas (and Internet!) to put together the ultimate list of boating gifts that I (and other boaters) would genuinely LOVE to receive.
As a bluewater sailor and lifelong boater, I’ve given and received dozens of boat gifts. However, it was while I was living on a boat for five years (with very limited space), that I came to appreciate what items make for the most useful and thoughtful gifts for boat owners.
So, before I jump into our list of boater gifts, here are a few quick thoughts on what makes a great boat gift (or you can just scroll down to our 60 boat gift ideas).
What makes the best gifts for boat owners?
The best boat gifts for your the beloved boaters in your life will likely be:
Boats are small, minimalist spaces, and there isn’t much room for anything that doesn’t serve a practical function. Practical gifts might include things like multi-tools or travel-sized snorkeling fins.
Consumables gifts are great too. Check out my recipe for margarita marmalade and other homemade boating gifts.
The best gifts for boaters are things that have a little something extra, the thing you would love to own but might not buy for yourself (e.g., an auto-inflating lifejacket with all the bells and whistles).
Built to last
The marine environment is extremely harsh so this is not the time to skimp on quality. Look for items with water resistance ratings and non-corrosive materials (e.g., jewelry, zippers).
Boaters do more than just boat! They may enjoy fishing, snorkeling, cooking, sailing, reading a book, or playing music on their boat. Find out what your boater friend or family member loves to do aboard and tailor the gift to their interests. We’ve got plenty of suggestions for personalized gifts below.
This post includes affiliate links—so we’ll earn a small commission if you purchase—however, the opinions are 100% our own.
60 boating gifts for boat owners and enthusiasts
Auto inflatable life jacket
Auto-inflating life jackets cost a bit more than your standard non-inflatable but they are extremely light and comfortable. I don’t even notice that I’m wearing one. They make a great gift for keeping a loved one safe. Look for one with a tether and harness for anyone going offshore cruising.
If you know a boater who loves to cook (or eat!), this classic boating cookbook is a great gift idea. It includes contributions from top chefs and sailing legends (e.g., Sir Robin Knox-Johnston), helpful tips on galley organization, and plenty of mouthwatering (but approachable) sea-to-table recipes.
Online boating course
Online boating courses on topics like navigation and weather make great gifts for the holiday season because they give boaters something to do in the off-season: learn new skills!
I recently took (and would highly recommend) Boat Electrics 101, an online course co-created by marine electrics guru, Nigel Calder. I wish this course had been available when we bought our first cruising sailboat—it would have saved us so much grief! Read my Boat Electrics 101 review for more details.
Dry bag backpack or duffel
Rule to live by: you can never have enough dry bags on a boat! A waterproof backpack or duffel bag is especially handy for carrying personal belongings on and off the boat. I love the look of these Fishe dry bags, designed in Anchorage, Alaska. Keep your gear dry and haul it around with comfortable straps. Best of all they come in a range of psychedelic fish prints.
Boat binoculars are a practical gift that will last a lifetime and they don’t have to cost a fortune. My mother gave us a pair of Westmarine binoculars for our bluewater sailing trip across the Pacific and we loved them.
Be sure to buy a marine set with 7x magnification, anything more and you’ll have a hard time focusing on an object. Read more about how to choose a pair of binoculars in our 2022 best binoculars for boating guide.
Swim leggings are made from bathing suit material and can be used both in the water and out. They’re great for watersports, protecting from the sun (and jellyfish stings). These leggings, made by Waterlust, feature cool oceanic prints and UPF protection (great for sunny days!). Not only that but 10% of profits go to fund environmental science.
This stainless-steel multi-tool is a Swiss army knife on steroids and it makes a great gift for boat lovers. It has 18 functions including heavy-duty pliers, a knife, a screwdriver, scissors, and wire cutters. On a boat, they’re handy tools for undoing seizing wire, tightening loose screws, tightening shackles, and opening hard knots.
The Leatherman Wave is an international best-seller. We took a similar model on our three-year sailing trip.
Waterproof Bluetooth speaker
We received this tiny waterproof speaker as a gift and still can’t get over how much sound it delivers. It’s taken years of abuse and the tunes keep coming. You also can’t go wrong with the price.
Polarized sunglasses are a great gift idea for boaters who need to protect their eyes from the sun and glare. While I might personally opt for a cheaper pair of polarized sunglasses, these high-end sunglasses from Maui Jim would make a very special gift.
Stand up paddleboard
SUPs can be a practical way for people to get from the boat to shore, but mostly they’re a fun way to explore and get a bit of exercise.
iRocker is one of the leading makers of paddle boards and their Cruiser Ultra is described as the most stable board on the market, perfect for SUP yogis, families with kids, and beginners. It’s spacious enough for two riders or additional cargo.
When you live in the Pacific Northwest, finding a truly waterproof rainjacket becomes an obsession. My husband loves his Helly Hansen Roan Waterproof Rain Anorak which is seemingly designed for commercial fishermen (who know a thing or two about staying dry!). Made from PU cotted knitted polyester, it features neoprene cuffs to keep your wrists dry, and costs a fraction of a rain jacket made from technical waterproofing materials.
The Garmin quatix 7 boasts some pretty mindboggling marine features including tide data, anchor alarms, and charts, not to mention connectivity with compatible chartplotters, autopilot, and other devices. That’s all on top of fitness tracking and the usual GPS smartwatch features you’ve come to expect. It’s one of the pricier boating gifts on our list, but perfect if you really want to make a splash!
Towing and boatside assistance
What is a good gift for a new boat owner? When you’re new to boating it can be stressful! BoatUS’ membership plans offer some peace-of-mind with on-the-water towing, jump-starts, fuel delivery, and soft ungroundings. The service is good on any boat you own, borrow, or rent.
You also get loads of discounts on marine products and services, not to mention access to BoatUS Magazine which is loaded with helpful information, how-tos, and great boating stories.
Full disclosure: I’m an editor at BoatU.S. Magazine, so of course, I think the content is top-notch!
Water bottle and thermos
Hydration is key at sea, which is why we considered our water bottles must-have-on-deck gear.
Grab one of these double-walled, vacuum-insulated, water bottles that do double duty, keeping your drinks hot or cold.
Choose from six marine-inspired designs and 10% of the profit will be donated to environmental research and education organizations. They’re dishwasher safe, and corrosion resistant and the handy D-ring is easy to clip in the cockpit (so your drink won’t go overboard).
Jewelry is a great way to mark a special occasion. For the boat, choose pieces that won’t rust (stainless steel is a great option) and are affordable (less of a loss if it goes overboard!). I love the look of these minimalist nautical knot bracelets.
Carbon fiber guitar
Spoil your favorite boater with the ultimate boat guitar.
Journey’s Carbon Fiber Travel Guitar is collapsible, fits into a carry-on backpack, and you can assemble it in 20 seconds. The carbon fiber constructions make it stable and durable, so you don’t have to worry about it warping in the humid marine environment.
My mum brought one of these on the World Arc and it was the centerpiece of many singalongs and boat parties. It’s one of the most high-end gifts on this list, but it’ll probably last for life.
Stainless steel harmonica
If the price tag on a guitar is too much to stomach, there’s always the harmonica! The Easter Admiral harmonica is great for beginners and even has a sailing ship inscribed on the front. Time to learn some sea shanties!
Sun protection shirt
Keep your loved ones safe in the sun with a UPF 50+ shirt from Grundéns. The Solstrale hoodie also has anti-odor, stain-release, and thermo-regulating properties making it a great shirt for anglers.
What could be saltier than a sailor’s beanie? I normally hate how I look in hats, but I love this recycled cashmere beanie from Canadian manufacturer, ANIÁN. It fits beautifully and the cashmere is so comfortable (and not itchy!).
Every boater needs a knife and these corrosion-resistant, lightweight knives from Spyderco make great boater gifts. In case the name didn’t give it away, Spyderco’s Salt Knives are 100% designed for the marine environment. They’re extremely popular and were our knife of choice when we sailed our 35-foot sailboat across the Pacific.
ACR ResQLink 400 personal locator beacon is a GPS-enabled rescue beacon that will guide rescuers to your location whether on land, sea, or in the air. Best of all, it doesn’t require a monthly subscription
Superstitious sailors pour a shot of rum overboard to appease Neptune before long voyages. I’m pretty sure the tempestuous sea god would appreciate this Stanley Classic Hip Flask. This 8 oz stainless steel flask is perfect for happy hour adventures on land or at sea.
Seasickness care kit
This gift is a bit of a gag (get it!?) but there is some science behind it! Acupressure has been shown to relieve nausea in some people. These anti-nausea bracelets come in a range of colors and make a fun gift for any boating enthusiast. They’d be perfect for a new boat owner or their first mate. Pair them with a bag of these GinGins Ginger Chews for a good laugh.
GSI Outdoor’s unbreakable glasses were our go-to glasses on the boat. Not only do they stand up to the rigors of boat life, but they also take up minimal space in the galley. Available in clear and stainless steel. They also have unbreakable stemless wine glasses or champagne flutes (for when you feel fancy).
Handheld VHF radio
VHF radios are an indispensable tool for getting weather information, communicating with other boaters and marinas, and reaching out to the Coast Guard in the event of an emergency. The benefit of handheld VHF radios is that they’re wireless, so you can use them anywhere on the boat.
For the person who spends more time in the water than on the boat, a swim robe is a super luxurious gift. These fleece-lined, windproof, waterproof jacket are beloved by outdoor cold water swimmers, surfers, SUPers, and divers. It’s great for drying off, warming up, discrete changing, or prancing around the fancy beach house you rented on AirBnB.
Garmin Inreach Messenger
If you worry about boat-loving friends or family member when they’re out on the water, this tiny, rugged, satellite communicator is a great gift for staying in touch.
The latest release in Garmin’s ever-popular Inreach line allows you to send and receive messages from your phone when you boat outside of cellular range or trigger an interactive SOS if you get into trouble.
An active subscription is required and plans start at $14.95/mo.
Waterproof playing cards
Waterproof playing cards are a fun boat gift idea and a great way to entertain your boating friends. It’s probably the most minimalist game you could bring aboard.
This Hoyle Waterproof set is boat and beach-proof and won’t be prone to mildew if it gets left in a damp boat locker.
Protect your hands while shucking oysters or preparing fish with a cut-resistant food-grade glove. These NoCry Cut Resistant Gloves make a great gift for the onboard chef or seafood lover.
Boating magazine subscription
Boating magazines provide great advice and inspiration for new boaters and salty skippers alike. For sailing, I love Good Old Boat Magazine which has practical projects and advice for people who own pre-2000 boats.
Full disclosure: I’m a contributing editor at Good Old Boat, so am somewhat biased—but I write for them because I love their content!
Electric trolling motor
Are you considering upgrading to an electric boat motor? Why not dip a toe in the water and try fishing in silence with one of Minn Kota’s electric trolling motors? Minn Kota is very reputable and has been making electric trolling motors since 1934!
Sail cloth toiletry bag
I love the look of these unique, upcycled toiletry bags on Etsy. Perfect for holding toothbrushes and soap for overnights on the boat. Fill them with soap, sunscreen, and an SPF lip balm for a larger gift. Below we’ve listed our favorite nautical ablution gift ideas.
SPF lip balm
This SPF 15 lip balm is my go-to on land and sea. The blend of organic beeswax and organic olive oil make it perfectly smooth and there’s no weird aftertaste.
Boat and reef-safe sunscreen
Hook Ya mineral sunscreen is reef safe, bait safe, and boat safe—it won’t leave stains on your deck. Developed and bottled in Florida (where they know a thing or two about the sun!).
Boats are damp and humid environments where cotton towels can take forever to dry. Microfiber towels were essentials for living on a boat . They also pack down and take up almost no space.
A boating encyclopedia
Chapman Piloting & Seamanship is one of THE most indispensable and trusted books in boating—it’s been in print for over 100 years! The updated edition covers new technologies, safety tips, maintenance, weather, tides, currents, and navigation. If you’re looking for a gift for a new boater, this is it!
We kept one on our sailboat as a reference book when we sailed across the Pacific and didn’t have access to the Internet. Here are a few other nautical books we’ll never go to sea without.
Waterproof power bank
If you’ve been on a boat, you probably know that most boat captains are battery misers. The Goal Zero Venture 75 Power Bank makes it possible to charge phones, Go Pros, and Bluetooth stereos without draining the boat’s batteries. It has an IP67 water resistance rating and an LED flashlight. Great for long days on the water when you’ve drained your phone from taking photos and blasting tunes.
A guide to sailing anywhere in the world
Written by sailing legend, Jimmy Cornell, this guide shows you how to plan a voyage from anywhere in the world to… anywhere in the world.
With plenty of tips for planning a safe and successful voyage and overviews of the most popular cruising routes, this is the perfect gift for someone who wants to see the world by boat. In fact, any of Cornell’s books would make great sailboat gifts.
Crab, lobster, shrimp trap
My favorite boat breakfast is eggs benny with freshly caught crab. This Drasry fishing bait trap can be used to catch crab, lobster, crawfish, and shrimp. It’s great for beginners and collapses so you easily stash it away in a boat locker. Consider pairing this gift with a seafood tool kit which includes shellers, crackers, forks, and a nice bottle of white wine (lobster bibs optional)!
Boating adventure books
We’ve compiled a list of the top 25 classic boating books that every boater should read. If I had to pick only one to give as a gift, I’d suggest the national bestseller, A Voyage for Madmen by Peter Nichols, a riveting account of the first single-handed sailing race around the world. Nine men set out at the start of the race but only one finishes.
As a boater, it’s really not possible to own enough waterproof storage containers. This Pelican water-resistant (IP67), the crushproof case offers versatile protection for cell phones, cameras, watches, and other small electronics and valuables. Made in the USA and comes in different colors. Fill it with your boating friend’s favorite chocolate or candy for a more personalized gift.
Boat cleaning kit
This collapsible bucket and sponge set make for an easy-to-store boat cleaning kit. If you’re feeling especially generous you can always include a homemade gift certificate good for one boat cleaning service by yours truly.
These Seavenger snorkeling fins are great for travel or stashing away in a boat locker. The perfect gift for boat owners who enjoy swimming and snorkelling.
Personalized captain’s log
While I’m not always one for customized boat swag, I think this is one place where it makes sense! Have a journal or log book made up with the boat name and captain’s name inscribed on the front. A thoughtful gift for someone who wants to document their sea travels.
If you spend time in the water, your hands and toes are bound to get chilly. These 1.5 mm neoprene gloves can help keep your hands warm while mainting your dexterity. Great for snorkeling, paddling, wakeboarding, surfing, and spearfishing.
It’s hard to take good photos on a boat because you’re in close quarters, leaving you stuck with a pretty narrow field of view. Not to mention you don’t want to get your camera wet.
GoPros are the solution! Their fish-eye lenses offer much wider fields of view, so you can capture more of the scene. They’re also waterproof, so you can keep them on deck, ready to capture memorable moments.
Nautical artist’s sketchbook
The perfect present for the seafaring artist! Capture the light on the water with this nautical sketchbook. These make boater gifts because each one is handmade. Pair this gift with a couple of brushes and a set of watercolor pencils.
Boat life was made for al fresco dining and what better way to cook than break out the grill! The Magma Marine Kettle Gas Grill makes a great gift for the BBQing boater in your life and is sure to be enjoyed by all crew members. Pair it with these heat-resistant BBQ gloves. Hopefully, you’ll earn yourself a dinner invitation!
Anyone who likes to boat in the shoulder or winter seasons will appreciate a high-quality set of thermal underwear. My personal favorite is Icebreaker’s 100% Merino base layers. While not inexpensive, mine have lasted for almost a decade and were vital when we sailed down the coast from Vancouver to California in 2015.
This is one tough little note-pad! These all-weather notebooks repel water, mud, and grease and can even survive the laundry. They come in different sizes and are perfect for navigation and taking notes onboard.
If you think an experiential gift would be most appreciated, a Boatsetter gift card can be put towards a boat rental anywhere in the world. Whether you want to book a local fishing boat or a yacht in Thailand, Boatsetter has thousands of options. You can even choose to hire a boat captain if you want to just sit back, relax, and enjoy the experience.
Celestial navigation course
Perfect for stargazers, offshore sailors (and people who love doing math!). Learn the art of celestial navigation with this comprehensive guide. Pair it with a sextant for a bluewater sailor gift.
Spearfishing pole spear
A spearfishing setup is a great gift for someone looking for a new and exciting way to fish. The Mako Spearfishing Traveler Pole is a good pole spear for beginners and packs down well for travel, so that any boating trip can become a fishing trip.
Protect your feet on the beach and keep them warm in the water with Seavenger’s Zephyr 3mm Neoprene Beach Socks. They come in lots of fun colors and patterns for maximum foot flare. Great for swimmers, divers, and water babies!
Cruise and learn
Whether you’re just learning to sail or want to up your offshore sailing skills, cruise and learn courses offer you an opportunity to learn on a boat over a weekend, week, or longer. These immersive courses are available in all kinds of exotic locations (why not learn in the Caribbean!?) so it can be learning and vacation all wrapped into one. Check out our list of offshore sailing schools for some great opportunities.
Fiona McGlynn is an award-winning boating writer who created Waterborne as a place to learn about living aboard and traveling the world by sailboat. She has written for boating magazines including BoatUS, SAIL, Cruising World, and Good Old Boat. She’s also a contributing editor at Good Old Boat and BoatUS Magazine. In 2017, Fiona and her husband completed a 3-year, 13,000-mile voyage from Vancouver to Mexico to Australia on their 35-foot sailboat.