The holidays may be in the rearview mirror but it’s never too late to get good gift ideas for next year, or for your favorite boater’s birthdays. Not surprisingly, popular items this past season came in three flavors: things that could be given as kits (usually under $150), things that evoked the season (cold or warm weather), and items that could potentially add safety to your boating experience.
Katie Mitchell, communications manager at Bass Pro Shops, gave us some insight into what topped the company’s sales reports.
Bass Pro-branded four-packs of fenders in assorted colors were hot. These small fenders are great for small boats and pontoon boats, are UV-resistant, and come with floating lines attached. We’re sure they were a welcome sight under the tree because you can’t ever have too many fenders.
Another solution-in-a-box was the Bass Pro Anchor Kit, which includes a lightweight galvanized anchor, five feet of chain, 100 feet of nylon anchor line, and two shackles. For a new boater, an anchor is one of the bare necessities. And for an old pro a new anchor could replace a rusty relic. For small towboats or fishing craft, this anchor is compact and easy to stow and will be helpful in case of an emergency or for when you just want to anchor out in the cove and relax.
The Bass Pro Air Horn was another big seller. Powered by compressed air, this very loud horn is good for signaling in limited visibility and is small enough to fit in a stocking. Designed for officiating at sailing regattas or to get attention when help is needed, this handy safety item is also good for sporting events—just in case you’d like to blow out the eardrums of the opposing team’s fans.
Finally, while it may seem a bit strange at first, plain old rope was also very popular on the company’s list. Tie-down material was in demand, whether it was 30- to 100-foot lengths of camouflage-colored line for securing duck blinds, or 3/8” polypropylene braided rope with a stainless-steel hook and 850 pounds of breaking strength. And why not? There’s much you can do with rope—including tying a Christmas tree to the roof rack.
What flew off the shelves at a local West Marine in the last two months of the year? By far, the most discussed item was one that would warm boaters up on and off the water: the Tidepool blanket. It was highly praised for its soft feel and plush lining. That it came in a nautical coral pattern and was under $15 probably helped, as well.
Yeti-branded anything was also in vogue this holiday season. For the generous, there was the soft-sided Yeti cooler bag at $280. Yeti Rambler insulated tumblers and thermoses for $20 to $40 were more for the budget-minded, but still prominently branded with the favored logo. It could have been a result of the season when minds wandered toward drinking hot chocolate, but these temperature-controlled items will do just as well in the summer when the weather turns hot on the water. Either way, we saw it coming—the Yeti’s were called out in our Top 10 Holiday Gifts for Powerboaters article way back in November.
Leaning more toward safety, two other items stood out for the store. First were private-labeled inflatable PFDs. For anglers, power boaters, and sailors, these PFDs are very convenient and necessary safety items. They’re self-inflating, come in a variety of colors and sizes, and start at around $180. Perhaps the reason they were so popular is the numerous holiday boat parades at the end of the year, where guests of all sizes joined boaters for the festivities.
In electronics, a high-ranking safety item was handheld VHF radios like the Standard Horizon HX870. Perfect for the dinghy or ditch bag, this small radio is submersible, has a long-life lithium battery, is DSC-active, and it floats. Even better, since it has a built-in GPS that displays your position, it’s really two products in one for just around $250.
The staff was quick to add that the store was ready for the holidays by November 3, with Christmas music already looping on the store stereo. And although shoppers were out in droves right after Thanksgiving, by the 23rd and 24th of December things were quiet. Does that mean that boaters are more organized, eschewing last-minute holiday shopping? That theory might be a stretch, but if you’re laying out your shopping strategy for next year, it would behoove you to start early so there’s plenty to choose from. Your boater and your Christmas tree will thank you for it.