16 September 2002
Break Out Another Thou
From what I can surmise, Ft Lauderdale is the cruising capital of the U.S. Located at the northern tip of the Caribbean it attracts a great deal of traffic from European boats and ships completing their voyage and U.S. craft getting underway. The local area is full of chandeliers and provisioning stores and many small shops concentrating on certain areas of expertise. Shops that sell only cordage, water makers, radar, tankage, sails, anchors and well you get the picture.
With the free markets of the U.S. and the great transportation network the prices for nautical equipment are very competitive compared to the rest of the Caribbean or so we are told. Labor may be less expensive in Mexico and the island nations but hard goods and provisioning are much cheaper here. It's difficult to find a Sam's Club in Antigua. Now that is not to say that you can just open your wallet and allow the suppliers to dip in. After all, this is capitalism and there is a whole community of suppliers ready to take advantage of our inexperience. First there is the mystique of things nautical. Nautical window cleaner "for boats" cost about three times as much as Wal-Mart window cleaner and the other day I paid $2.95 for a 10mm x50mm bolt in 316 stainless steel. A year ago I would have paid that for 100 and then felt overcharged. But such is the free market and the prices one will find at West Marine, the largest purveyor of marine items in the U.S.
One of the first things a supplier ask for is your telephone number and since our cell phone is our only telephone for now the number starts with 317. As fast as any computer could do a search, they automatically think Indiana Hoosiers with a sail boat. Please come on in, I have a special deal for you. I had the same feeling while in Hong Kong on R & R many years ago. To find more competitive prices we have turned our attention to the smaller shops and have found that the larger commercial operations use these shops to do their custom work. I have even found the stainless steel fastener suppliers including Fastenal. For the more savy buyer there is Sailorman, a store specializing in surplus, used and hard to find marine items. But you have to know what you're looking for and be willing to search the yard and warehouse to find the right filter or block or locker or whatever it is that you need. We are changing our propane tanks from steel to aluminum. What cost $40 in steel cost $140 in aluminum, but that's not all you need.....you also need a $540 locker to put them in. How did the last guy get by for all that time with rusty steel. Anyway we are making everything fresh. New oil filters, cleaning strainers, some new running gear, new rigging, scuba tanks, helmsman's chair, hell we haven't left the dock yet. We have a locker full of oil and filters, you never can have too many filters or too much oil.. We have, however, switched to generic filters. Yammer's OEM filters can cost $20 each and are about the size of a demitasse cup of coffee. Generics (that is to say Napa) are about $7. Raycor prefilters for your diesel filter to about 7 microns. Then the engine filters go to about 2 microns, and even before you put it in the tank you should run it through a Bajha filter. Dirty fuel is one of the biggest problems and diesel will grow a bacterial microbe that you need to kill with an additional biocide additive. This is what we have read time and again in magazine articles. I'll bet there are no bacterial growths in the diesel in Indiana when its 20 degrees Fahrenheit.
What seems to be one of the more expensive items are navigational charts. At a minimum of $20 per chart, it becomes a very expensive requirement. Mind you that we have electronic charts for all the areas we plan to visit but in a boat everything must have a redundancy. Charts, cruising guides, directories you name it we have it. Pile on top of that books for pleasure and you can start a library.
Already the boat is full and we haven't started to provision yet.
Here is something to reflect upon. The DJIA is at a six year low, no doubt missing my personal efforts to increase productivity. And yet since we purchased the boat the stock price of West Marine, a NASDAQ company, has gone up modestly from $11.01 to $11.14. This is not a coincidence. There are economic forces at work here and my check book is all the proof any congressional investing committee would need.