The Crow's-nest, a relatively small New York shop specializing in boating gear, gadgets and accessories, is the world's largest mail-order supplier of nautical equipment. Opened 12 years ago in a dingy basement by two weekend sailors, Ralph Tolleris and Al Klipper, the Crow's-nest today has over 600 different items crammed into a second-floor store and storage room at 16 East 40th Street. About 75% of the shop's orders come through the mail (80,000 catalogues—112 pages thick—are sent annually to customers all over the world), but at least three or four times a year some boatman will purchase gear by ship-to-shore phone.
Along with everyday boating accessories, the Crow's-nest carries such esoteric items as loaves of bread (baked whole wheat, white or rye) sealed in cans to keep it from getting soggy, made-to-order bunk sheets tailored to fit V-shaped or curved-edge bunks of any size ($8.25 and up), a portable hot-water stall shower that folds into a small space when not in use ($59.50) and breakaway christening bottles ($5).
More practical boating gear that can be bought at the Crow's-nest are waterproof flashlights ($4) and spotlights ($7), which float beam up in the water if dropped overboard and the new Sperry Radio Direction Finder ($175). The Sperry operates on transistors and flashlight batteries, is only 3¾ inches high and weighs but seven pounds 5 ounces.
The Crow's-nest also has a chart reader ($6) that can be used when the pilothouse is blacked out; essentially, it is a flashlight built into the handle of a powerful magnifying glass. And there is a marine wood screw kit for emergency repairs or installations while at sea. The kit contains 14 dozen oval-head screws in 15 sizes (brass screws: $7; chrome plate on brass: $8). Boating clothes are available at the Crow's-nest, too, and one of the best is a navy blue melton wool "Chief's" shirt ($15.50).
But the shop's best seller—year after year—continues to be canvas seat and back replacements for yacht or deck chairs. They come in a wide range of colors and cost only $3.50 a set.