• From a Shackle to a Refit

    The day before Thanksgiving a gentleman, we’ll call him CG, strode into the yard unannounced. He was trying to locate a shackle for his twenty-five year old Cheoy Lee sloop.

    Now, we don’t maintain a ship’s store but we do have a supply of miscellaneous hardware that’s accumulated over the 55 years we’ve been in business. (Some of that bronze is covered with dust.) Naturally, the stuff is scattered among our ten buildings and poorly inventoried since most came off boats under repair.

    But CG was a pleasant enough guy so I decided to rummage through the supply and see if we might have the particular part he needed. Finding parts for older boats is challenging enough, but to locate a unique Chinese shackle that is no longer manufactured adds another layer of complexity. But, what the heck, it was a rainy day so I thought it might be fun to see what we had.

    After an hour of unsuccessful searching through every nook and cranny I could think of, I turned to Bill Clapp for help. Bill has been with the yard for thirty years and has seen it all. More importantly, he knows everybody in the boating world from Maine to Maryland. He took one look at the damaged shackle and said, “I think I know who might have one.”

    Three phone calls later he thought he’d found it. The retired owner of an obscure, out-of-business, yard in Short Beach said, “Come on over. I’ll look for it while you’re gettin’ here. If not, I’ll buy the coffee.”

    Bill said to CG, “You’ll never find the place. I’ll take you over there.” CG was stunned that someone would expend so much time, especially before a major holiday, to locate a part that would in all likelihood cost less than $20, none of it going to Dutch Wharf.

    As bum luck would have it; the other yard didn’t have the right part. It was close but not one that would work. So Bill said, “Leave it with me. I’ll ask a machinist who does contract work for us if he could make you a new one. But he won’t be back till after Thanksgiving.”

    CG returned the following Tuesday with a stunning announcement. “I explained to my wife the effort you guys went to over a lousy shackle. We decided that if one shackle failed there are bound to be other parts that will soon follow. Now, we love this boat and expect to keep her for another twenty-five years, God willing. So we’d like your yard to replace her entire rigging.”

    From that humble beginning, the job grew to include: installing new teak decks, stripping and refinishing all brightwork, an AWLGRIP finish for the hull and substantial carpentry and joinery work in the interior.

    When the job was completed, Bill said, “Imagine if we’d had that damned shackle. I’d have given it to him free.”

    Sometimes we just scratch our heads and marvel at how little courtesies result in long lasting relationships. Even after fifty-five years we’re constantly reminded that customer service is the most important product we sell.