CYOB Inbox: A case for supporting your local chandlery

Marc Robic

Jan 28, 2021

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This issue’s piece comes from Marc Robic. Marc is a member of the Canadian Power & Sail Squadron. He and his wife, Claude Couture sail their Catalina 270, Aquaholic 3, out of the Ile-Perrot Yacht Club in Montreal, where Marc spent 16 years as Harbour Master. They are regular bareboat yacht charterers. With over 40-years experience, Marc is also an avid onboard do-it-yourselfer.

The advent of the internet, with its vast search capabilities, has undeniably changed how sailors discover new products, improve their overall knowledge of boating, sailing, navigation and introduces us to new boater friendly destinations.

Like many other boaters, I keep busy during our long Canadian winters (while our boats are on the hard wrapped in their blankets) by doing a lot of research on products and keeping up on basic and technical knowledge. Boating magazines and the internet are a reliable source of information and, in no small way, part and parcel of any new project I plan before making any commitment on moving ahead or not.

Marc RobicThe internet and boating social groups do provide a lot of great information as well as sharing of experiences. Learning from the successes and failures of others is truly invaluable. Many times helping avoid costly mistakes and putting the viability of your project, as planned, into perspective. All of which, contributing to the opportunity of making better decisions that enhance the odds of a successful project.

No doubt, searching for products online is a good source of product information and reviews as well as finding out what is new on the market place.

But what is of concern, and should be for all of us, is the survival of our local boat supply stores and chandleries. Owned and managed by experienced and knowledgeable people, most are avid boat enthusiasts themselves. They hire local people who also share the passion for boating. Best of all, and not to be neglected, their experience is based on real local conditions and environment.

I purposefully plan all purchases at my local boat supply & chandlery store. In Montreal, my go-to store is the Boathouse, owned by John Duk and his wife Laurie McCormick, who are avid sailors themselves and never hold back on sharing their knowledge.

I will often email John regarding a product I am considering. If I see a better price online I will call or email him. Most times he’s been able to match the price. At worst, he’s comes in just a little above.

As I travel across Canada for business (before Covid-19), I spend my spare evenings visiting marinas, yacht clubs and boating stores. If and when I see something that I find interesting, I’ll contact my go-to-store, to see if they have it, can they get it and to give me a price and order it for me. I know they appreciate the support and I feel good knowing I am supporting my local chandlery.

Sadly, however, I know some people spend time with store staff, explaining what they need, soaking up the information and then leave to go buy the products online. Sometimes, at the same price or a little less expensive, but most times at higher prices as shipping is either extra or built into the price. Luckley, John tells me, in his case, it is a minority and for the most part, he has learned who “they” are.

But what about the value of the experience freely shared by our local chandleries? How can they survive? Do we not appreciate their experience and knowledge? How about their presence when something breaks onboard, just before a planned weekend of boating, only to be saved by the local boat supply store who had just what we needed or provided a temporary work around solution to save the weekend?

BoathouseI think we should all make a very conscious effort to protect and support our local chandleries. 

I for one, make my relationship with my Go To Store part of any project I have on board. Case in point, two years ago, I made plans to convert the icebox in our Catalina 270 to a fridge with a spill over freezer zone. I happened to be in Vancouver and went to visit Nova Kool, a Canadian manufacturer of ice box to fridge conversion systems who sell their products worldwide. I had read in a boating magazine that they had recently developed a new compressor unit that fits into smaller spaces, uses less power and is super quiet. 

They were great in giving me a tour of their plant and providing me all the information and best advice to make my project a success. With the right model and options on hand, instead of buying it directly, I emailed John at the Boathouse and had him order what I needed. Once delivered, a member of John’s staff gave me advice on how to best wire up the unit.

Last fall I was going to replace all four genoa track cars and main sheet traveller car as the original sheaves and traveller car bearings were badly worn. Instead, John spent time with me and showed me how to replace the bearings in my traveller car instead. For the genoa cars, he passed along the name of a local small production manufacturer that was able to machine brand new sheaves and properly set them in the cars. This alone saved many hundreds of dollars and provided new knowledge. Had I simply ordered online, not only would I have spent much more, but I would not have learned how to replace the bearings myself and know that sheaves can be replaced without breaking the bank.

My next project for spring 2021 is to replace our manual Jabsco toilet with an electric Jabsco Lite Flush toilet. Here too, internet research narrowed down the search for brand and model. I then called the manufacturer directly and asked all my questions to finally confirm the best fit for our needs. With the model number on hand, I again contacted my go to store. But since it is January here in Montreal and I don’t need the toilet for quite a few more months, he offered to wait until he places his spring stocking order with his suppliers and pass along the discount to my price. This is not something an internet order could or would have provided. Plus, I’ll rest in the knowledge that should anything go wrong, my local chandlery will help and support me.

These are the moments when we realize how the customer & local chandlery relationship can be beneficial, both ways. My concern is that, in order to save a few bucks, people forget the impact on their local chandlery and may only realize what they had once it is gone.

So, to all boat & water sports enthusiasts, wherever you are, get to know your local boat supply store and start building what I promise will be a beautiful and very rewarding relationship!

I would be remiss if I did not take the time to say a word to manufacturers and distributors. They too must play a role is supporting “their” customers, the local chandeliers. They should think about their own relationships and refer all purchase inquiries back the local store. I know of many I’ve contacted for technical information who did just that, and by that action alone, have earned my brand respect.

Marc Robic

Marc is a member of the Canadian Power & Sail Squadron. He and his wife, Claude Couture sail their Catalina 270, Aquaholic 3, out of the Ile-Perrot Yacht Club in Montreal, where Marc spent 16 years as Harbour Master. They are regular bareboat yacht charterers. With over 40-years experience, Marc is also an avid onboard do-it-yourselfer.

INFORMATION about the writer:
Marc Robic

Pierrefonds, Quebec

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