CRUISING THE WEB
Navigating the Internet can save you money on boat repairs

 

By: Keith Burton - GCN

 

The family was gathered around the dock eager to set out for a day cruise to Ship Island—a small offshore isle with its pristine white beaches washed by the clear green Gulf waters. The island lays just ten miles offshore and is a favorite site for boaters along the Mississippi Coast—and one of my family’s favorite autumn outings.

 

But the prospect of an enjoyable day on the water was short-lived. When I toggled the trim button readying our bowrider for launch, I was greeted with silence. Instead of the familiar hum of the hydraulic pump raising the sterndrive there was nothing.

 

Closer inspection revealed the area’s saltwater environment along the Gulf of Mexico had rendered the trim pump’s electric motor a useless rusty mass. The only trip we’d be making was to the dealer for repairs.

 

Anyone that has ever had to replace a part on a boat knows the gauntlet one faces.  If the boat is several years old, the part probably has to be ordered - if it is available at all. In my case, the part was available for my 7-year old Sunbird Stinger, but the dealer said it was on back-order.

 

Afraid the remaining days of fair weather would be over before the part showed up, I tried another parts source: the Internet. 

 

A few minutes and a couple dozen keystrokes later I had found the part from an online boat parts company, which not only had the motor in stock, it was priced $100 cheaper than the boat dealers in my area. I was hooked.

 

EASY MOVES

 

Forget for a moment all the bad news you have heard about the Internet. While there has been a failure of many dot-com companies, service-oriented companies, like those that provide parts and accessories for boaters, are thriving.

There are literally hundreds of websites that provide real services and information for boat owners. This includes everything from tracking down those hard-to-find parts for your boat and engine to navigating the waters in your area.

 

Typically, you can count on saving from ten to 30 percent on many parts from an Internet supplier. Largely because their volume of business is greater that your local dealership.

 

However, many people are intimidated by the mere thought of trying to navigate the Web. The thought of searching for something useful on the Internet among the more than 2-billion web sites, is just too difficult and time consuming. Or is it?

 

The easiest way to find something on the Internet is to use the computer’s Internet browser, such as Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, or Netscape’s Navigator. A search engine is a web site that is designed to search among the billions of web pages to find those you are interested in via a query. Among the best search engines is found at www.google.com.

 

The search engine will locate literally hundreds of websites based upon your query, which can get confusing. The trick is to be specific with your search query.

 

For example, if you are looking for a starter for your 150 Merc, instead of typing in  “boat parts,” type “boat parts Mercury 150 starter.” The search engine will display a list of online sites that bring you closer to your goal. Need a Yamaha trim/tilt pump, type in “Yamaha trim pump.” The more specific, the quicker it is finding that item. If that display list is still too broad, then get more specific with your search, by entering the specific type of part you need or year of boat/engine.

 

Another shortcut is to go to an online boat part site that saves even more time. For example, www.marineparts.com is an Internet company that can provide almost any part for a boat, no matter what year. Marineparts.com, which began in 1997, is among the first entirely Internet-driven boat parts companies. The site has a simple-to-use form that the company will use to match a part to your needs.

 

“We have an extensive network and database of part suppliers and manufacturers,” said Geoff Stevens, president of Marineparts.com in Jupiter, Florida. “We can search the whole country and usually can find the part very quickly.”

 

The company uses its extensive database of suppliers and manufacturers to find the part. Marineparts.com doesn’t actually warehouse the part, but finds who has the part you need and then arranges it to be shipped to you. In a real sense, if your local dealership doesn’t have the part, or even if the manufacturer doesn’t have it, the computers and staff at Marineparts.com can find it.

 

The company can take orders directly from Internet or from a telephone, if you are squeamish about using a credit card online - although most reputable online sites have better security than using a phone.

 

SAFE AND SECURE

 

Personal and financial security is a big concern these days—and the reputable virtual stores take those matters as seriously as you do. To be sure your transaction is secure look for a little padlock symbol at the bottom of your browser’s message window. This indicates a secure site.  In addition, you can look for sites that offer encryption using Verisign Secure Socket Layer (SSL) technology, which increases the security of any web transaction.

 

One thing that you can do that can insure that you are getting the part you need is to get the part’s serial number. If it can’t be found on the part itself, visit your dealer to get the manufacturer’s part number and write it down. Then when you go online and visit a parts website, you have the specific number of the part, which will expedite the search to get the part you need. It will also help if you have the year the boat was manufactured.

 

Most parts companies supply the same warranties you would find in a brick and mortar store. Shipping costs will vary, but are usually reasonable.

 

There are also websites that provide a quick directory to many more boating-related sites. This saves a lot of time if you are looking for information and parts for your boat.

 

One such directory site is at www.boatinglinks.com. This site has a huge directory of boating-related websites organized alphabetically and by regions. Just clicking on the blue text, or in “Internet-speak,” hyperlinks, with your computer’s mouse, you can quickly access the information.

 

Using the Internet to locate boat parts is fun—and cost-effective in saving both time and money. Another way you can save some money is by looking for used boat parts.

 

A good place to start is at www.boatrecycling.com. That site also uses an online form for you to input your particular parts need, and they will email you a response. Boat part recyclers can save you up to 75 percent from what a new part would cost, but typically, look for a 50 percent savings. What can you find? Most anything that was on a boat, from engine components to trim. The used parts also have a warranty, which depends on the dealer. The parts are tested and should perform as the original. Boatrecycling.com even has parts for discontinued boats and motors. Think of a good boat recycling company like you would a good auto recycler.

 

You can also sell or purchase a boat through the Internet. One such website is at www.onlineboatsales.com, which has a huge listing of boats for sale, brokers, and more, such as photographs of the boats and all sorts of dealer listings.

 

For a quick way to check out the manufacturers of pleasure boats, a directory of most all of them can be found at www.boat-manufacturers.com. From that site, you can find out the latest products from boat and engine makers, and contact them directly via an email message or telephone.

 

For the latest news on the boating industry, a great site is at www.nmma.org, which is run by the National Marine Manufacturers Association. This website has the latest news and a calendar of boat shows around the nation where new products are being displayed, plus lots more.

 

In almost every, case, boating websites contain a vast amount of information, more than you typically would find in a magazine or from any other information media. Using the Internet to keep your boat in good shape is easy with the web, and can certainly save you time and money.

 

TOP INTERNET MARINE PARTS SOURCES

 

Here’s a quick list of web sites for boating parts and information. If you can’t find a part you need from one of these sites, you might want to pick up flying.

 

www.amarket.com

www.apimarine.com

www.boaterssupply.com

www.iboats.com

www.marineengine.com/

www.marineparts.com

www.marinepartsexpress.com

www.mercruiserparts.com

www.westmarine.com