Gift Ideas for Modern Sailors | Modern Sailing

Gift Ideas for Modern Sailors

With gift ideas for every budget, this helpful list of sailing accessories and suggested sailing lessons makes it easy to please your favorite sailor or sailor-to-be.

The items listed below are easily found online by plugging the bold text terms into an Internet search engine.

Also, although Modern Sailing does not endorse any specific brand or supplier, most of the items are readily available on,,, or Happy shopping!

Gifts Under $10

  • Hat clips will keep your sailor’s favorite hat from blowing overboard.
  • Croakies for sunglasses will help keep your sailor's shades out of the drink. The floating style makes it possible to retrieve sunglasses that have gone for a swim, but they can be chunky and cumbersome, especially when hats and hat clips are in the mix. Minimalist sailors may prefer a thinner style.
  • Hand warmers can be tucked into gloves when the wind blows cold.
  • Waterproof cell phone case or pouch with lanyard (or belt clip with leash) – Before departing the dock, Modern Sailing members complete their charter forms electronically on their smart phones. If your sailor is a chartering Modern Sailing member and doesn't already have one of these, definitely get one for him or her. All sailors will feel more comfortable using their favorite boating apps or taking photos with their smart phone while out for a sail.

$10 - $30

  • Waterproof floating flashlight – Look for one that includes a lanyard or wrist strap.
  • Waterproof headlamp with red light and white light – Some sailors may find this hands-free option more user-friendly than a handheld flashlight, especially since at least one flashlight is included in every MSC charter yacht's inventory. The red light helps preserve night vision and aids chart reading at night, so be sure to get one that has both a white and red light.
  • Sailing gloves – The high winds of San Francisco Bay make sailing gloves absolutely necessary to prevent chafe injuries to the hands. When sailing frequently or racing, gloves can wear out quickly. Every sailor needs at least two pairs in their gear bag, so if your sailor already has one pair, a second pair is still a safe choice as a gift. For summer wear, go for fingerless gloves. The full-fingered style (with cutouts for the thumbs and index fingers) are ideal for winter. Many brands and styles of good quality sailing gloves are available in the $20 to $30 range, but some brands will go for $40 - $50.
  • Neck gaitors do triple-duty as sun protection, warmth for the neck and face, and also suffice as a face mask when sailing with crew outside of the sailor's social bubble.

$30 - $60

  • Long-sleeved shirt or long underwear made of quick-drying technical fabric as a base layer – Lightweight wool is also great for layering, but sensitive sailors may find wool uncomfortable against the skin. 
  • Rigging knife with marlin spike – These tools are useful for untying knots or cutting fouled lines in a jiffy. For a multi-tool that includes a rigging knife, marlin spike, scissors, a screwdriver, bottle opener, pliers, and more (the options and combinations are nearly endless), plan on spending more than $60.
  • Knee pads for sailors are especially beneficial for racers who bounce quickly from winch to winch when tacking and jibing. Most are priced in the $30 - $60 range. Some will cost $65 - $100 depending on the brand. Be sure to read the reviews to choose a style that is unlikely to slip or pinch.
  • Hat with chin strap – Offers protection from the sun and/or rain and the chin strap will prevent its theft by the wind. For ideas, check out this article from Top 5 Best Sailing Hats. (Two of their top 5 are over $50.)

$60 - $100+

  • Navigation Toolkit – You can buy a complete kit or build a custom kit by purchasing the individual tools separately. At minimum, a navigation toolkit should consist of parallel and/or slide rulers, dividers, magnifying glass, pencils, and white erasers. Even better, include a nice case to store them in and a copy of NOAA U.S. Chart No. 1 (Chart Symbols). If your sailor has recently completed ASA 101, Basic Keelboat Sailing or ASA 103, Basic Coastal Cruising and has ambitions to advance through ASA 105, Coastal Navigation or ASA 106, Advanced Coastal Cruising, you can't go wrong with this gift.
  • Hand bearing compass – a helpful tool for advanced sailors to help find bearings by referring to two or more fixed points on land from the vessel. Hand bearing compasses come in two styles - one with a vertical grip, and one that is held flat in the palm. Preferences between the two tend to be very individual, but your best bet is with the palm style since they take up less space in a gear bag. This is also a useful item to include in a navigation toolkit.
  • Sextant – an excellent gift for any sailor with ocean-crossing ambitions. In spite of the navigation technology available to sailors in modern times, celestial navigation remains an essential and cherished traditional skill among advanced mariners. Sextant models come in a wide variety of materials, quality, and price points. A basic plastic sextant will cost around $50 and is a good choice for a beginner, but may lack durability. Prices for brass models begin around $75 and can go for as high as $500. Your sailor can learn how to use the sextant by taking ASA 107, Celestial Navigation. Include a celestial almanac with sight reduction tables to fully complete the gift.
  • Marine binoculars – Ideally, marine binoculars will be waterproof and can float. A detachable neck strap and a case to store them in are also very nice to have.
  • Handheld GPS + VHF Marine Radio – To pinpoint position on a chart and communicate with the Coast Guard and other vessels whenever needed.
  • Harness and tether – To stay clipped to the boat when it gets bumpy out there. Some PFDs also serve as a harness by including rings specifically for attaching to a tether. Sneak a peek at your sailor's PFD to see if it includes tether rings. If not, consider either purchasing a harness or a new PFD with tether rings. When shopping for a tether, look for the stretchy, springy kind with high-quality stainless steel clips. This is an excellent gift for any sailor planning a coastal excursion or to take ASA 106, Advanced Coastal Cruising.
  • Waterproof duffle bag for sailing gear – The lowest-priced sailing gear bags of decent quality begin at around $70 and can cost as much as $150 - $200 or more depending on brand, size and/or quality. Note that metal zippers and zipper heads degrade quicky when exposed to salty air or saltwater. Go with high-quality stainless steel or durable plastic zipper components and avoid ordinary metals if you can.
  • Foul weather gear and sailing footwear tend to be a very personal choice. Unless you know your sailor's size and exactly what gear they have their eye on, consider a gift card from a boating retailer roughly equal to the purchase price. Good quality foul weather jackets and pants range in price from $200 to $500, and deck shoes or boots can range from $50 to $200.

Suggested Sailing Courses and Lessons

If your friend or loved one has never been sailing but has talked about wanting to try it, or has sailed once or twice before and is itching for another go, an Introductory Sailing Lesson is sure to be appreciated and enjoyed. During a 1-day sailing excursion, one of our talented and personable US Coast Guard licensed captains will cover the most basic principals of sailing. While savoring the beautiful scenery of San Francisco Bay, each student will be given opportunities to work the lines and take the helm. You'll make the gift extra special by making it a shared experience. Be sure to purchase an Introductory Sail both for your budding sailor and yourself. Our Holiday Specials (December 3 - 26, 2020), offer two Introductory Sails for $190 ($60 off the total regular price for two). 

ASA 101, Basic Keelboat is the beginner-level sailing course in the American Sailing Association certification series. Over 2 consecutive weekends (4 days), your aspiring sailor will learn all the essential skills to enjoy actively participating as crew on a day sail. During our Holiday Specials, you can purchase ASA 101 for your sailor at the MSC club member price (save $100 off the non-member price).

Sailing Clinics are ideal for intermediate sailors who have completed ASA 103, Basic Coastal Cruising or above and would like to hone a specific skill area.

Not sure which Sailing Clinic to purchase for your sailor? Consider a Gift Card equal to the value of a clinic – generally $195 - $245 for MSC club members and $225 - $295 for non-members. A $300 Gift Card will cover the cost of any Sailing Clinic. This amount also gives your sailor the option of spending the funds towards membership initiation, or if he or she is already a member, for a Silver Fleet bareboat charter. A custom-value Gift Card can also make it possible to join a Course, Club Sail, or Expedition such as a Farallones Day Trip.

The Member Resources article How to Purchase Online for Another Person also explains how to purchase Gift Cards.

Need some help picking out the perfect gift for your sailor? Call our friendly office at (415) 331-8250 or send us an email. We're happy to help you make your favorite sailor's birthday or holiday one to remember.

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  • Sara Jane G.

    I've taken two classes at MSS&C and was very happy with the program. This is also a great club with lots of opportunities for camaraderie and practice on the water. The boats in the fleet are fantastic and kept in tip-top shape. I highly recommend for all sailors and would-be sailors!

  • John Kratochvil, Oregon

    I would like to compliment Stan Lander for his coaching, counseling and teaching Heavy Weather Offshore Sailing. Stan was very accommodating to all of the student's interests and shared his many years of insight on handling the boat in heavy seas. I would certainly recommend Stan and this course to sheltered waters sailors. My confidence in handling a boat of this size was certainly enhanced by the experience.

  • Trudy Flores

    Captain Jeff Cathers is really cool. I had such a great time on the Farallones Day Trip. It was actually my very best day of 2020. Thank you so much for coordinating the trip.

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Modern Sailing School & Club

2310 Marinship Way, Sausalito, CA 94965

415-331-8250 / 800-995-1668

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