Family Magazine

Insider Ideas: Totem’s 2020 Gift Guide

By Behan Gifford @sailingtotem

Every year we put a holiday gift guide together, to help pick out something special for the cruisers and cruisers-to-be on your list. This year, the suggestions have a new source. We send an occasional newsletter to coaching clients, and included in each edition are tips/tricks from Totem for the cruising life. While many are practical guidance, a number of them spurred holiday gift ideas; it's where most of this year's gift guide ideas come from. As such it leans toward the utterly practical, but includes the joyfully superfluous as well. Here's a 2020 guide to surprise your boater.

Insider ideas: Totem’s 2020 gift guide
Fid assist to create a crown knot

Splicing kit

Fids for splicing! It may feel intimidating, but splicing single braid Dyneema is relatively easy and has many great uses onboard. Give it a try with this kit of simple, robust fids.

While you're at it, get proper scissors for splicing. High modulus line, like Dyneema, is hard to cut and quickly dulls scissors or knives. Enter these snappy scissors: they cut Dyneema like buttah and stay sharp. Why is this important? If it's hard to cut the line, it's easy to mess up strand tension, making it harder to splice.

If you're into knots and splicing at any level beyond the basics, The Ashley Book of Knots is the one to have. Jamie learned from this as a teenager while working at the Mystic Seaport Museum.

LUCI string lights

These solar-powered string lights have brought us more cockpit joy than I ever imagined! Right now, they are 40% off! I'm not sure when the holiday special ends, so grab yours soon. I love the mix of gentle ambiance and functional light these have added to our cockpit.

Just in time for holiday season, the folks at IMPOWRD have introduced a color version of these string lights. For color, we have the gentle tones of inflatable LUCI Color Essence lights that do a slow rotation through warm shades we call jokingly call disco mode.

Insider ideas: Totem’s 2020 gift guide
String lights add a warm glow to celebrating Jamie's birthday on board this May, with bubble-boat friends.

When cruising, your cockpit is like another cabin on board - it's probably the one that gets the most actively used, too. Little touches like this go a long way.

Portable pressure washer

For practical-gifts-only-please camp: one of our TRU crew (coaching family) saw their slip neighbor using this to clean their boat. It's exactly the kind of gear I'd have laughed off before, but you know what? SO USEFUL, and knowing it actually works is key. Allan was impressed enough to order one immediately! "It's at its best when you use hot water, so I copied his setup. I connected an additional 50 feet of 3/8 ID tubing to the guest shower. I also ordered a second battery per his recommendation." Check out the 20V Hydroshot Cordless Portable Power Cleaner.

Totem got really dusty in the Sea of Cortez, where you get just enough drizzle to streak the dirt on deck. A washer like this would make efficient use of fresh water to get the salt and grime on Totem clean, and plenty has probably accumulated again while she waits for us in Puerto Peñasco.

Insider ideas: Totem’s 2020 gift guide
The last time we used a pressure washer above the waterline it was borrowed from our buddies on the Nordhavn 64 Oso Blanco, while rafted up in Fiji in 2010

Movie projector + screen

Totem's holiday gift for the crew in 2018 was an Apeman mini portable projector. Tiny (it fits in my little hand) but bright, paired with an inexpensive movie screen, it quickly transforms our main cabin into a home theater. We love watching movies, or following TV series together as a family (we've been waiting for Niall to join us to start the next season of Mandalorian!). Two years later it's going strong and we love it just as much.

Features that we like: the small size, and ability to run off battery for a 90-minute movie. Take it to the beach! I don't have to TV screen on a bulkhead, either. We store movies on a Raspberry Pi server ( join TOTEM TALKS this Sunday to learn how to get your own affordable media server), play on a laptop, and use a (waterproof, floating) Ecoxgear Bluetooth speaker for audio.

Insider ideas: Totem’s 2020 gift guide
Bringing sexy back to the fuel dock! Note no-spill can is on the right; the left is a cheapie that failed in a year, but all we could easily get in Mexico.

No-spill jerry cans

We all have funny things to get really excited about: Jamie's is these No-Spill 1457 Diesel Fuel Can jerries. What makes these winners?

  • Nozzle actually works as advertised
  • Nice big opening means no filling issues
  • Did we mention the no-spill part?

I've explained to him that it's not exactly sexy blog post material, but he pointed out that he finds their exceptional practicality and winning design to be plenty sexy thankyouverymuch.

Engine hour counter

Jamie cottoned on to a favorite new gadget this year: a tiny engine-hour counter. It works based on vibration. All you do is stick it on the engine/motor/generator/whatever in question, and when it's running - the vibration triggers decimal hours to record on a little display. Absurdly simple - and absurdly good value!

Why is this great? Because knowing how many hours it's run exactly, instead of wildly guessing, means we can learn what the real fuel efficiency of our outboard is (better fuel planning), know exactly when to anticipate an oil change in our Honda 2200i generator, etc. - you get the idea. Oh, and it's potted, so basically impervious to whatever the marine environment will throw at the thing. I really don't know when I've seen him so excited since, well, those no-spill jerry cans.

Insider ideas: Totem’s 2020 gift guide
This clever little tool is stuck on our Honda 2000i with a little butyl tape.

Books are always good

Once again, Amazon has loss-leader pricing for Voyaging with Kids. Less than $15, this is DEEPLY discounted; it's cheaper than I can buy from the publisher, as a co-author! Less than $15, and prime shipping. Maybe there's a friend or family member you need to convince about cruising: the full-color images and stories from dozens of families should get them over the hurdle.

Still stumped for gifts?

Insider ideas: Totem’s 2020 gift guide
Looking forward to being back on Totem and entertaining shipyard cat, Dulce!

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