One of the reasons I wanted to go to a smaller boat like the Spirit is because of the simplicity of the design. Everything is very basic and minimal on a boat like this and as a result, it doesn’t take a lot of parts to get the boat up to speed. And as much as I hate spending money on anything, it is necessary seeing as how this boat will be my home for as long as I own it. And when I do sell it, it will be nice to have things repaired or replaced so the new owner can’t whine and snivel about this and that. So, you may be wondering where I will be getting said parts for said boat. Here are my current resources:
West Marine The current and most popular place for marine supplies. Like Home Depot and Lowes is to home improvement, like Bass Pro is to the outdoors, so is West Marine to the boating industry. They are a corporate entity complete with all the nonsense that we have to deal with nowadays. A national chain, homogenized stores, worker bee training, but they do have most of what a boater will need and they are handy. There are 4 West Marines in the Keys: Key Largo, Marathon, Stock Island, and Key West. The one on Stock Island is within walking distance of where I live, (well, everything in Key West is within walking distance but this one is really close). The store is well stocked and the staff is pretty good. In fact two of them live here in the marina and I make sure to stay on their good side. I’ve been able to find most of what I want there.
The store on Key West recently moved to a larger building, the reason being that they got kicked out of their old spot by a condo development. A condo development being built by Paul Arthur Labombard, he of the infamous marina saga where I live. Anyways, the store is having it’s grand opening this weekend so I will have to pedal over and see what new and wondrous things they have.
The Key West store has tended to stock more items for sailboats than the Stock Island store. It’s proximity to the Key West harbor and all the live aboards out there may be a factor.
Pricewise, West Marina is not cheap. They do have sales now and then and some rewards programs that can save you a little bit. If you have a marine business you can apply for a Port Supply account which allows you to purchase at a significant discount. Otherwise, you pay full retail. I use West Marine mostly for the small stuff. The Spirit uses a lot of generic things for hardware and rigging so I can get replacement parts pretty easy. Safety equipment, lines, cleaning and maintenance supplies, even electronics can be had there. It just takes some timing to hit the sales.
Elsewhere in the Keys, virtually every hardware store, including Kmart, Sears, and Home Depot has some smattering of marine parts. Not a lot, mostly generic things like boat covers, lights, lines, and that sort of thing. You might find a better deal on a battery or cleaners, but don’t expect to find any specialty items.
There are also a lot of small companies that specialize in specific things for boats. Canvas makers, sail makers, aluminum frames, electronics, and more. Most are located in and around working marinas. Marathon and Stock Island have a lot of these sorts of businesses. You will pay more for what you want but they can do custom work and probably fix something that you can’t get fixed anyplace else.
Online, there are tons of stores to find things. A search will turn up just about anything and if you are looking for something unique or special for your boat, online may be your best bet. The one I have found that looks real good is Sailboat Owners. They have a store full of specialty items for small sailboats, in particular, for Catalina, ODay, and others. I’ve found a few things listed for the Spirit and the nice thing about this boat is many parts for the ODay will fit as well.
Here in the Keys, if you have the time to go look, yardsales are a good source to find things. Everyone down here at one time or another has owned a boat and usually you can find a deal on something. Up in Big Pine Key there is a flea market in the winter time. There are several booths there that sell new and used marine parts. And up in Key Largo, on the southbound lane around mm 99 is a junk yard full of small sailboats and parts. The guy runs some yard sales a couple times a year and this is a good place to find some odd ball parts. Sailing clubs, online owner forums, and just asking around sometime may result in a deal on some must have part. It just takes a little resourcefulness to find the deals.
And when all else fails, do it your own damn self. If you have the skills, build what you need from scratch. A little carpentry know how, working with fiberglass, or whatever, and you might be able to fix whatever you need for a lot less than what it would cost to buy.
Anyways, with a simple boat like the Spirit, finding parts to fix things should not be a problem. There are plenty of resources in the Keys for boat supplies and there are deals to be had. You just have to look for them.