Last minute holiday gifts for mariners

When I’m looking for an enduring gift for family or friends, I tend to return to my all-time favorite gifts: books. They offer something for every interest and can educate, amuse and delight, whether your recipient is a newbie boater, seasoned mariner, eager cook or curious kid. And, with Internet access often slow or non-existent at some marinas or remote anchorages, books are a great way to locate essential information and provide entertainment.

Southern California mariners are fortunate to have one of only three surviving U.S. nautical book and chart shops located in San Diego near Shelter Island. Capt. Ann Kinner operates Seabreeze Books and Charts at 1254 Scott St., providing mail order through her website,

Kinner stocks an impressive selection of both new and used books on a wide range of nautical subjects, including basic marine references, study guides for professional mariners, cruising guides for world-wide locations and nautically-themed fiction and history. 

Seabreeze sells a range of laminated “quick guides” on maritime subjects — great stocking stuffers! — plus navigation tools,  nautical jewelry and gift items for both boat and boater. With navigation charts now sold as print-on-demand, Kinner offers boaters waterproof charts incorporating the latest updates within less than a week, or even as a one-day rush order.

While browsing, Kinner and I compiled a few recommendations for mariners on your gift list.

Assembling a basic marine library

Start with the ultimate indispensable reference, the latest (67th) edition of “Chapman’s Piloting & Seamanship,” covering everything from basic navigation skills and safety information, boat maintenance and operation, anchoring, government rules and regulations, and even flag protocol. Every boat needs a copy.

Kinner recommends three clearly written books by Nigel Calder to help you navigate and fix nearly everything onboard: “How to Read a Nautical Chart” (2nd edition), covering both paper and electronic charts; “Marine Diesel Engines” and “Boatowner’s Mechanical and Electrical Manual.” Add Harold Barre’s “Managing 12 Volts,” which addresses operating and troubleshooting boats’ 12-volt electrical systems, a fold-out “Captain’s Quick Guide to Rules of the Road” and a comprehensive, full-color guide to knots. 

“The Annapolis Book of Seamanship,” now in its fourth edition, is a standard sailing reference. For sailors contemplating extended cruising, select Beth Leonard’s “The Voyager’s Handbook: The Essential Guide to Blue Water Cruising.”

Books for Cooks

My three favorite nautical cookbooks, which provide advice and substitutions geared to cruisers as well as recommendations on galley equipment and provisioning, are Kay Pastorius’ “Cruising Cuisine,” Carolyn Shearlock and Jan Irons’ “The Boat Galley Cookbook” and Michael Greenwald’s “The Cruising Chef Cookbook.”

Cruising Guides

If your mariners are Mexico and Central America-bound, be sure they’re equipped with Capt. Pat Rains’ essential “Mexico Boating Guide” and “Cruising Ports: the Central American Route.” Also recommended for their excellent charts, photography and tourist information are Shawn Breeding and Heather Bansmer’s “Pacific Mexico” and “Sea of Cortez”. For British Columbia, choose Anne Vipond and William Kelly’s “Best Anchorages of the Inside Passage.” For cruisers heading to Spanish or French speaking regions, include Kathy Parsons’ excellent guides “French and Spanish for Cruisers”, which provides translations for boat parts, tools and food items.

And go ahead — treat yourself to that irresistible treasure. It’s the holidays! 

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