Long ago my wife's grandfather, Thomas Grieve, ran a busy ship's chandlery on Tyneside. In those days rope was of hemp, wood was tough hardwood like teak or mahogany and metal fittings were of brass. As a student, John worked in such a shop when he was young, but now such places are few and far between. Like Simper's Ropeworks in Cambridge they've been replaced by clean and spacious warehouses on industrial estates and the ropes are of nylon and the wood replaced by plastic and glass fibre.
So we visited the Ely Boat Chandlers, just yards from the Ely marina, with low expectations, half expecting it to be closed on a wet, dark and miserable Friday afternoon at 4.30pm. (This photograph was taken near Patience the previous week, when the snow and the sun were out; on the day of our visit all life had drained from the sky and the world shuffled around heads down with hands in pockets and its collar up.)
I'm delighted to say that this is a really useful shop with a wide range of goods for both cruisers and narrow boats. And what's more the proprietor obviously knows what he's on about. Which is a wonder rarely found today.
He gave us sound advice on solar panels, bilge pumps and galvanic isolators and we browsed a small but exquisitely selected range of books, maps and manuals plus everything from brass fittings to buoyancy aids, narrow boat chimneys to waterproof grease.
It may lack the ancient charm of the gloomy salt-infused sea but it's a great place to get that essential kit for boating. And no, I don't have anything to gain from advertising this shop; I just think it deserves to have our custom.