Thursday, November 14, 2013


In the telecommunications world, the term provisioning means preparing a network so that its users can access it and receive services. I was thinking about that today while I was in the Inland Waterway Provision Co., on the corner near the town dock in Oriental, NC, because the network which is the cruising community is most certainly provisioned here.

The store has a varied and colorful history since its original opening in 1987, starting out as a company store for the Fulcher Seafood company, a place where the workers on the fishing boats could come and purchase both marine supplies and foodstuffs they needed for their time at sea. Eventually the store opened to the public, filling a void in the community's services. The store then passed through several owners, only to fall to bankruptcy in 2010. After nearly a year of shuttered doors Mark Henley, the current owner, came to town just to liquidate the remaining stock. After a barrage of requests for him to reopen the store, Mark acquiesced and began the process, succeeding with a grand opening of the store in pretty much its current arrangement on Memorial Day of 2011.

During the tenure of Jay and Paula Winston in the late 90s, the store was set up with his marine supplies on one side of a taped line on the floor, and her clothing / gifts / snacks, etc on the other side of the taped line. Although the taped line on the floor has long since disappeared, the general format remains. While the marine supply stock is physically smaller than most stores, I have found that the selection reveals the smart choices of a person who knows his boats. There is a good selection of a lot of hard-to-find maintenance items as well as chain, line, hardware, cleaners, fiberglass supplies, plumbing supplies, outboard and dinghy supplies, and a list of deck items such as boat hooks, life jackets, fenders, etc. While I haven't had the need (or the money) to peruse the other side of the store much, there seems to be a good variety of Gill clothes and shoes as well as some hammocks, chairs, bicycles and chartbooks and cruising guides. One of the things I like best is the inclusion of a variety of items from local vendors such as the coffee from Shawn at Nahala Roasting Company (to die for), and some jewelry and musical instruments from local artisans.

I am generally pretty choosey about the merchants that I review on our site.  After 30+ years in management of various aviation customer service businesses I have developed the attitude that any business who does not understand the value of treating customers like human beings is not a business worthy of my hard-earned dollars.  This type of customer service can be from the top down in a business, through training programs of its employees or an active, involved manager who holds those attitudes, or it can also be from an individual employee or group of employees that personally value their work in such a way. In the case of the Inland Waterway Provision Company, Mark Henley is very lucky to have employees who, as cruisers themselves, understand the needs of cruisers and provide the type of welcoming environment that they have come to expect from this store. In the weeks since we arrived here, I've had the pleasure of dealing with Pat Stockwell and with Ellen Ryder, who have been immensely helpful in finding the right parts and supplies, in arranging for workers to help us, and in general encouragement during what has been a somewhat trying time of engine breakdown.

Maybe more interesting than the telecommunications industry's adoption of the term provision, is the original Latin meaning of the word: "foresee, attend to". My future business with The Inland Waterway Provision Company has been assured because of these two employees' ability to foresee my needs as a cruiser and attend to them. If you're in the Oriental, NC harbor, be sure to stop in and patronize this store. I promise you it will be worth your time.

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