Stuck for a Christmas gift idea for the sailor in your life? Read our maritime book recommendations by Yachting Monthly literary contributor Julia Jones, plus our pick of this year’s reviewed boat products
For this year’s Christmas gift guide, the Yachting Monthly team has compiled our best-on-test boating items of 2020.
*Yachting Monthly is not paid by manufacturers for our recommendations. If you click through and buy an item, we may receive a small amount of money from the retailer, at no cost to you.*
Gill North Hill windproof, water-repellent insulated jacket
Gill Marine’s Men’s North Hill Jacket is an outer-layer with a synthetic equivalent of down insulation that offers the same properties, but with the benefit of being machine washable.
YM gear tester Toby Heppell has been putting it through its paces and even after a wash it felt as well insulated as it did out of the bag.
‘There is no doubt this is a warm, water-repellent jacket. Though sold as an outer-layer there is a limit to the amount of water it will put up with.
‘As such it works well for rain and spray, but should you be out on a boat in truly torrential weather, I think you would still want a dedicated outer-layer.
‘Nevertheless this jacket would still make an excellent mid-layer meaning it covers two bases well and will certainly feature in my kit bag.’
RRP: £140 / $180
Zhik 6L Hi-vis Drybag
Give the gift of clever kit packing this Christmas, and protect small valuables from water submersion, with this highly visibly mini drybag.
It could help your loved one avoid a frustrating rummage in a huge cavernous holdall when looking for essentials, by being easy to spot in poor light.
This six-litre dry bag, which is a surprisingly understated lime green colour, can also be used on its own to keep items safe.
This is 100% waterproof with taped seams and its thermoplastic polyurethane material is machine washable. It features a clip ring and bungee-cord loop.
YM tester Laura Hodgetts felt confident enough in the extremely lightweight yet durable design to give her phone a dunking.
It emerged unscathed. The submersion was a slight battle as the air rolled into the bag helped it to float, another handy aspect if dropped in the sea!
When empty, the pouch can be easily packed down to fit inside a pocket.
It is the smallest offering from Zhik’s new range which also includes a 25-litre roll-top drybag and 30-litre dry backpack.
Wuzzos personalised leather deck shoes
Wuzzos is a new name in the leather boat shoe market.
There is little that particularly stands out at first glance – although there is the personalisation option to add embossed text in a couple of font sizes and colours (gold, silver, plain) – for an extra £15.
This, combined with the made-in-Europe build, hand stitching and sewing, and good quality leather gives them a luxury feel that continues on delivery of the shoes, which arrive with your name embossed on the box and initials on the care card.
‘These are far from necessary, of course,’ says YM tester Toby Heppell ‘but does make the purchasing experience feel bespoke. The leather is fantastically soft and the soles offer a great level of padding.
‘Onboard, I was really impressed with the grip the razor-cut soles offered. The boat upon which I was testing the shoes was missing its helm footrest, as it was due to be repositioned.
‘This meant standing at the wheel while helming with nothing to brace against. We were sailing upwind in around 20 knots AWS without any reefs and so had a significant amount of heel.
‘I can honestly say that there was not a single moment in an entire afternoon’s sail that I did not feel securely planted to the deck. Very impressive.’
For more options, from deck trainers to leather moccasins, check out YBW’s guide to the best boat shoes available right now.
Crew-Talk Plus deck intercom
YM gear tester Toby went from sceptical to ‘sold’ when he tried out the Crew-Talk Plus deck intercom system.
It offers clear and effective communication over a distance, negating the need for helm and crew to shout.
Toby found that being able to share clear, concise communication with crew in moderate tones showed how inefficient shouting from the tiller is, due to noise or anger, how unclear those instructions can be and how much stress it adds to sailing.
‘It’s surprising how much calmer most situations are when you can talk in a normal, measured tone.’
The starter kit consists of two receivers and two headsets, each with a case, charging cable, lifejacket clip, and armband for the receiver. Extra units cost £175 each.
Toby said: ‘Straight out of the box, pairing the units took us a matter of a few minutes and even on a very blustery day the all-round audio performance was very impressive indeed.
‘A genuinely useful tool, particularly on larger yachts.’
YellowV Heartbeat 09 inflatable paddleboard
You can’t anchor anywhere without seeing someone on a stand-up paddleboard these days. And not without good reason – they’re a fun toy that keeps crew of all ages entertained and are a good way to explore.
Now marine engine maker Vetus has joined the fun with its YellowV range of boards.
The price places it mid-spectrum on cost, but it appears to be impressively well-made.
The inflatable 9ft board, (287cm long, 89cm wide, 15cm thick) weighs 9kg, rolling up into a compact bag with rucksack straps, thanks to three removable fins.
Large enough to carry a parent and child, the pronounced rocker makes it easy to turn.
A clip-on seat is available as an extra and the paddle transforms into a double-ended kayak paddle.
Ultra Marine’s best design yet amply delivers on its maker’s promises when compared to other stainless anchors.
Although if you’re looking at cheaper galvanised anchors, it’s quite a step up cost wise.
Editor Theo tested the 12kg Ultra Anchor model (£1,104), with the Ultra Flip Swivel (£267), on his Sadler 29 in a range of overnight anchorages.
He simulated heavy weather with generous amounts of power astern and was impressed with how quickly the anchor set.
‘While our normal 10kg Bruce anchor can struggle in soft sand and weed, the Ultra anchor buried itself almost completely and refused to drag.
‘On bare rock, the anchor slid across a flat piece of rock until the tip met a crevice and brought the boat up sharply. As the tide changed, the anchor stayed lodged.’
He added: ‘The Flip Swivel is a great piece of kit too. Its ball joint reduces lateral forces by allowing 30° of movement in all directions, as well as 360° rotation.
A small nub rolls the anchor the right way up as soon as the swivel hits the bow roller.
It’s made of CNC-milled stainless steel, with a breaking strain of a tonne more than our 8mm galvanised chain.’
Julia Jones’ literary Christmas gift ideas
92 year old James Wharram’s autobiography offers fascinating individual insight into post-war social history, design history and changing attitudes.
It’s both a record of voyaging and an advocacy for a different way of living.
As an intercultural document it combines insight into the ‘deep mystical strand’ in the German subconscious, with his own pragmatic north of England background.
Wharram was inspired by a need to prove that Polynesian double canoes were capable of ocean-crossings, including reliable performance to windward.
His more spiritual ‘people of the sea’ concept is a challenge to the harsh doctrines of ‘landmass man’ and a celebration of the ‘universal female aspect’ that comes as a breath of warm scented air in this harsh winter of 2020.
As we approach the end of 2020 we may look back at the festival summer that wasn’t and wonder whether such joyous gatherings will ever return.
When this book was being planned, cancellation of the 4-yearly Brest Festival with 2,000 vessels, 10,000 crew, 100,000 visitors probably seemed unthinkable.
Many enthusiasts would already have structured their summer holidays around their festival attendance and for the owners of historic ships and associated maritime exhibitors, the economic impact will have been hard to bear.
Perhaps Nigel Pert’s vivid photos and Dan Houston’s emotive words will offer a bridge between past and future festivals.
The text is in both French and English: so is it goodbye or only au revoir?
Such a good idea! This puzzle book from the National Maritime Museum offers 250 pages of brainteasers which are inspired by the NMM collections and also test general nautical knowledge.
Word puzzles, maritime trivia, code-breaking, pictorial observations are all included with plenty of supplementary information and images from the museum’s collections.
The challenges are accessible to different age groups (if I were planning a children’s excursion I’d raid this book) but the depth and precision of nautical lore ensures that everyone will learn something.
For long winter evenings in the family bubble I recommend this book.
This beautifully photographed book takes a thematic approach to the different elements of the British canal system: locks, aqueducts, water supply, cargos and connections.
The authors clearly have a passion for the ‘quiet dignity and good proportion’ of Georgian architecture and expert eyes for detail – for instance the grooves in metal bridge guards worn by decades of friction from tow ropes.
They emphasise the human effort involved in feats such as the Laggan cutting on the Caledonian Canal and inspirational engineering.
I hadn’t known that the characteristic mitred angle of lock gates was conceived by Leonardo da Vinci.
Each chapter ends with a brief list of places to visit but I was very disappointed by the failure to include any maps.
Preparing this 16th edition of the CA Almanac must have had its problems.
The area covered stretches from Bergen to Gibralter yet when this volume went to press, these countries were scarcely coming out of lockdown.
Good for the editors’ concentration maybe, less good for last minute on-the-spot checking and impossible to feel confident offering advice for the year ahead, especially with the Brexit wild card.
Clearly this is where the in-depth strength of a membership organisation proves its value.
The information is as detailed and clear as ever; the advice on cruising in the time of Covid is obviously sensible and useful Brexit questions are indicated.
Updates are promised via the CA website.
RRP: £37.50 (Tidetables can be purchased separately £17)
Waldringfield is one of those little bits of yachting nirvana: a pub, a boatyard, a long stretch of sandy beach, a bunch of moorings, all on a pretty river.
It looks timeless, but as this book, created by the village’s history group, reveals, it wasn’t always like this.
In the late 19th century it was dominated by a cement works and a coprolite (dinosaur dung) extraction industry.
And of course it goes back even further.
This book is a fascinating compendium of stories, of people and buildings, of yachts (the King’s Britannia and Arthur Ransome’s Nancy Blackett both feature) and barges, of recent and older history.
If you sail those waters, it’s a book to keep and dip into.
(Reviewed by Peter Willis for impartiality as Julia was involved in the book’s creation)
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