Boating gifts keep on giving

No spot in North America offers what waterfowlers find every season on Catahoula Lake.

Christmas is just around the corner, and you are probably busy trying to figure out what gifts to get for your many friends and loved ones on your list.

If anyone on your list is a boating enthusiast, you may want to shop for something boating related. Boating-related gifts keep on giving each time the boat is used, and they will be appreciated many times over.

Guys, don’t get me wrong, I am not recommending that you go out and buy your wife a fishing pole if you haven’t taken her fishing in the last several years, but maritime gifts for the boater on your list are a guaranteed hit.

Safety equipment is an ideal way to tell someone how much you care for them. One of the most popular innovations in safety equipment has been the inflatable personal flotation device. There are many different brands on the market. They all feature a compact design that lays flat against the chest for almost complete freedom of movement, and they are comfortable enough to be worn all day long.

The better-quality models inflate automatically when immersed in water, so if the boater is suddenly thrown overboard, the PFD will inflate and keep him afloat. They come in various sizes and colors. You could actually be saving someone’s life with this gift.

If the inflatable PFD is a little too much for the budget, then try one of the many vest-type life jackets. These are also comfortable and designed to be worn all day when on a boat.

There are many other safety items that should be carried on board a boat. Most boaters are aware of the bare-essential safety items that are required by law. They include things like paddle, fire extinguisher, throw ring or cushion, horn, etc.

If you have access to your mariner’s boat, you may want to check items like the fire extinguisher to be sure it’s fully charged. A discharged extinguisher is worthless dead weight to carry in a boat.

Most boats are required to carry flares and other emergency signaling devices. Flares have an expiration date clearly marked on them. Once that date has passed, the flare is no longer acceptable as a signaling device.

Something that is not required to be on board but should be in every boat is a quality first-aid kit. Accidents can happen on the water, and a first-aid kit may come in handy.

Boating accessories is another broad category of potential gifts to be considered. Electronic devices, such as a VHF radio for communicating with other boats on the water, are always welcome. You never know when something may happen, requiring you to seek assistance. A VHF radio could be the link to get the help you need.

Maybe your mariner is not always a top notch navigator. A GPS chart plotter could come in handy in helping him find the way home after a day on the water. The GPS picks up signals from satellites and will pinpoint a boat’s location to within a few feet. Many of them are equipped with built-in maps that allow the boat’s position to be shown and assist in choosing which route to take.

Probably one of the most popular electronic devices for boats is the depth/fish finder. Actually in South Louisiana, many times these devices are referred to as a shallow finder. It is a great tool to help avoid becoming stranded on a mud flat. You can also find many combination units that offer both GPS and depth-finders in the same unit.

For the true electronics buff, you may want to check out radar. Today’s advanced technology has created radar units that are both affordable and adaptable to almost any boat.

For the fisherman on your list, how about an electric trolling motor so he can sneak up on that school of trout or redfish and come home with more fresh fish for dinner. Trolling motors can be hand-controlled, foot-controlled and even wireless remote electric-controlled. They can be 12-volt, 24-volt or 36-volt models depending on the size boat they will be used on. Some are designed for fresh water, and others for saltwater applications. In other words, they are extremely versatile and can be adapted to almost any boat.

Another popular accessory for the fishing boat is called the Power Pole anchoring system. The Power Pole is an electric/hydraulic pole that is mounted to the rear of the boat. While fishing in shallow waters, the fisherman will drift about until he hooks a fish. Without the Power Pole, the boat would continue to drift while he was attempting to land his fish, and he might drift right out of range of other fish in that area. If he has a Power Pole rigged on his boat, he just hits one button on the remote controller, which is worn around his neck. Without making any noise or splash in the water, the Power Pole automatically lowers and anchors the boat at that spot, where they will hopefully catch many more fish before moving on.

Perhaps my favorite gift category is maintenance items. This category offers you a chance to become creative. You could make up a do-it-yourself maintenance kit for your boater. This would include such items as a grease gun and grease, engine oil, lower unit oil and spray lubricant to be used for corrosion prevention, as well as a few spare parts such as spark plugs, fuel filter, propeller nut, washer and cotter key. Don’t forget to include some basic cosmetic items such as boat soap, mildew stain remover and boat wax. Last but most importantly, include some basic hand tools such as screwdrivers, hand wrenches and pliers. You can use your imagination to make this last category truly personal for your mariner.

Keep in mind that there are many Santa’s helpers who work at your local boat dealer, boating accessory store and sporting goods store. If you are having difficulty deciding what to get for the boater on your list, try contacting one of these boat elves for advice.