If you're like me, and aren't one of those organized folks who have all their holiday shopping done by Halloween, you'll be looking for gift ideas for your favorite sailor right about now.
A survey of the region's chandleries produced numerous fine suggestions, ranging from the big-ticket dream items to stocking stuffers.
The hottest items on the high end of the price range are still Global Positioning System navigation equipment, said Coast Navigation's Beth Kahr and representatives of several other shops. Available in hand-held, portable models as well as built-in setups, prices on GPS are running in the $750 to $2,000-plus range.
Kahr said that Coast, on Legion Avenue one block from West Street in Annapolis, has the Trimble Ensign system for about $745 as well as other, more expensive units such as the new state-of-the-art Magellan NAV 5000D model.
Among the other dream-gift items, Kahr also recommended the KVH Quadro electronic charting system at about $800, which uses NOAA charts and works in seconds.
Chris Martorana of West Marine on Bay Ridge Road in Annapolis, agreed that GPS is the hottest big item. West is featuring the Motorola Traxar hand-held GPS, menu-driven and user friendly, as well as the new Magellan NAV 5000D. West also has the less expensive, plain-English-prompted Garmin GPS 50 portable model, about $750.
Hot items at Fawcett Boat Supplies on City Dock include a wide range of foul-weather gear and stay-warm stuff, such as a full range of Henri Lloyd gear engineered for dryness ranging from the relatively inexpensive to super-duty offshore gear, and one of the biggest selections of Patagonia gear in the area.
Fawcett's Barbara Brown also recommended the new Douglas Gill maxi jacket, a longer, fanny-covering version of the boater's standard three-season shelled jacket with taped outer seams and polartech fleece lining, as one of the store's more popular gift items.
Boater's World manager Terry Woo said the most popular holiday items at his Annapolis Harbour Center store include VHF radios and binoculars, both of which range from about $150 on up.
"And of course everybody loves a tide clock," he said, adding that prices for these can run from about $44 to $170 or more.
Bill Kearney of E&B; Marine on Ritchie Highway in Glen Burnie also agreed about the popularity of GPS and said consumers should be pleased that prices steadily are coming down.
"But also the traditional gift items are doing well," he said, explaining that the respected Chelsea line of clocks and barometers has received a boost with the introduction of a new, home-use, brass-plated line of more affordable items as well as the traditional heavy brass boat-use line.
Among the items Kearney said were strong sellers is a new fold-up binocular by Tasco, as well as boat barbecues and the always popular nylon-shelled, fleece-lined jackets, $50 to $60, and the relatively basic $100 suits of foul-weather gear.
A popular item at many area boating stores is the Travasak bedding bag, in twin, queen or V-berth size, combining the ease of a sleeping bag with the comfort of traditional sheets. Price is around $200, depending on the size.
Coast's Kahr also likes the Weather Wizard II, an indoor-outdoor climate monitoring system for about $200, a popular knife by Lirakis for $80, and Helly Hansen long underwear, "the hot ticket for under foul-weather gear," at around $40.
West's Martorana was excited about a new 125-watt inverter, which turns a boat's standard 12-volt system into 110 for small accessories, at $99. The Autohelm personal compass -- a nifty waterproof, night-lighted gizmo that makes sighting and plotting breeze with push-button accuracy and memory as well as a stopwatch, elapsed time counter and countdown function -- is also popular.
He said watches of all kinds and prices are selling quickly, as well as the versatile Leatherman multi-purpose tool, a kind of pocketknife-sized tool kit, for about $46.
Binoculars, hand-held VHF radios, brass clocks and oil lamps are selling well at BOAT/US' Glen Burnie store at the corner of Ritchie Highway and Ordnance Road, said Rob Hickernell.
And, he added, because GPS is still a bit pricey for many people, Loran systems, whose prices have continued to come down, are still popular navigational gifts.
Among BOAT/US stocking-stuffer items are safes made to look like cans of household products for concealing valuables, compasses, and both the waterproof and panoramic-view Kodak disposable cameras.
"Galley gear is always popular at the holidays, too," he said, pointing to non-skid glasses, cups and plates.
Affordable popular items from Boater's World include a new copy of the "Cruising Guide to the Chesapeake" at $24, the newly updated DNR Chesapeake Bay chart book at $17.99, wind scoops ($29) and a line of rigging knives starting at about $10 for a basic stainless steel model, Woo said.
For stocking stuffers from Fawcett's, Brown picked Titan floating winch handles and a line of nautically inspired sterling silver earrings and bracelets for under $30. Kahr pointed to a nice hand-made monkey-fist key ring for $4.95 at Coast, and Martorana said West's "pocket trout" disposable fish-shaped flashlights, also $4.95, are selling like crazy again this year.
Virtually all of the area shops have a wide range of binoculars, barbecues and stoves, radios, clocks and barometers, foul-weather gear and warm stuff, and other special gifts that are certain to please your special sailor.
If anything, the selection can be staggering, but salespeople are generally knowledgeable and helpful.