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April 26, 2012

Finding It Online

A new website simplifies finding marine parts

If you own an older fishing boat, especially a discontinued model, you’ve probably encountered this problem: tracking down a part that’s no longer in the builder’s inventory. If you’re lucky, you may run across one buried in a jumbled bin at a marine liquidator. But what happens if you need two or three? Or when you want to replace that sagging cabinet in the cockpit with a custom tackle center that really suits your fishing style? Thanks to a new online business, you can get the parts required — without breaking the bank.

“We always shied away from the retail business before, but people are holding onto their boats longer,” explains Pat Brown, president of Teak Isle, a Florida-based manufacturing company that has been making OEM (original equipment manufacturer) marine parts for 30 years. Teak Isle supplies components to more than 200 boatbuilders, including most of the fishing-boat companies. “We developed boatoutfitters.com, a content-rich website that really shows the parts, about eight months ago because we had so many builders referring customers to us. It’s taken off, and we’re adding up to 10 new parts a day. The site offers a lot of good hard-to-find products, and it’s the same quality that we supply to the builders.”

Teak Isle, the largest user of King StarBoard material in the country, has in inventory StarBoard sheets up to 112 inches thick and in 10 different colors. Because of the company’s huge volume of OEM parts, cut-to-size pieces can be added to ongoing work orders to minimize scrap pieces, and those savings are passed on to customers who order through the website. “There’s no sense in paying more for parts if you can do the labor yourself,” Brown says.

Discontinued or replacement hardware and components are another major aspect of boatoutfitters.com. Items like latches and hinges are big sellers, as are replacement door keys. Detailed illustrations have exploded views of the key code. Match the code, and a new key will be on the way to your mailbox with just a few clicks of the keypad and mouse. Tracks and trucks for sliding cabin doors are more of the hard-to-find hardware offered. Another menu lets you order a replacement door, with multiple options for dimensions. Doors are built and shipped within a few days.

Brown says part numbers are critical when ordering exact OEM replacements. A discontinued item can be made from the original specifications with that reference. But with more than 50,000 inactive parts, it’s hard to remanufacture one without its identifying number.

That’s not to say Boat Outfitters doesn’t do custom work. One of its more popular services is custom-designed tackle centers. With eight CNC (computer numerical control) routers with automatic tool and drill heads, most of the parts assembly is done in the router phase. These computerized machines can cut and clean grooves in the StarBoard for seal, and drill holes and create kits ready for final assembly, reducing turnaround time and costs.

Boat Outfitters has over 100 tackle centers in its system, both universal and boat-specific. The company’s engineering department can also design custom units to accommodate specific requests for drawers, trays and storage cabinets to hold leader spools, tools, etc. Because of its expansive manufacturing capabilities, Boat Outfitters can modify standard tackle centers to fit a specific mounting area for a nominal engineering charge. A totally custom-designed unit requires a $200 engineering deposit (up to five hours of design work), which is included in the overall cost. Custom tackle centers run from $1,000 to $2,500 on average, Brown says. “The tackle centers really get people excited,” he explains. “They see them at a boat show and then visit the site.”

Brown says boatoutfitters.com is expanding daily. More OEM items are being added, along with fishing accessories like tackle bags, rod holders and dock boxes, as well as components such as weather seals, gas shocks and marine lighting.

“We continue to use our industry contacts to expand our inventory,” he adds. “The retail public now has access to this huge online catalog, so they can save money on parts already in the system. And since we build to order, there are no stocking costs, so those savings can also be passed along.”

The next time you’re trying to find a specific part to finish a boat project, let your fingers do the walking. Because the sooner the job is complete, the sooner you can get back out on the water. And isn’t that the motivation that drives us all? 

Boat Outfitters: Ocoee, Florida
www.boatoutfitters.com