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Encyclopedia’ of yacht procurement remembered

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Claire B. Miller, founder of Claire’s Marine Outfitters in Ft. Lauderdale, died of an apparent heart attack at her home on Aug. 29. She was 74.

Many in the yachting industry described her as an encyclopedia of procurement and relied on her specialization in hard-to-find parts. Capt. Rusty Allen tested her knowledge since he was captain on M/Y Pegasus in 1993.

“In 21 years, I never stumped her with a parts request,” Allen said by phone from a yacht in the Dominican Republic. Others shared similar stories. Capt. Ken Hornig of M/Y Lady Bull and his wife, Cathy, knew Ms. Miller for decades.

“My first order was for a pair of windshield wipers which I could not locate anywhere,” Hornig said. “To my surprise, she found that brand in Italy. From that day on, I used Claire’s knowledge and never looked back.”

She gave him advice in many areas, even outside the boating field, he said.

Wes Sweet, now a Washington state ferries port engineer, described Ms. Miller as a colleague, friend, confidant and as a second mom. In 2001, Sweet was engineer on the 151-foot Feadship M/Y Charade.

“We had a deck who brought the tender in fast, threw it in reverse and bent and broke the cables,” Sweet said by phone from Seattle. Several yacht chandlers told Sweet they could not get the parts to the yacht in time for the owner’s arrival.

“The captain said to call Claire,” Sweet said. “Within the hour she had the part on its way to Tahiti.”

They became friends over the years and as a notary, Ms. Miller performed the service for Sweet and his wife, Susanna, 11 years ago. Sweet had Claire on his phone speed dial and called her when he worked on difficult projects.

“Sometimes she knew vessels better than the crew because she had worked with the boat longer,” Sweet said.

Ms. Miller was also known for her direct communication style, said her two children.

“She was hard as nails and told you what was what,” daughter Christine Sanders said. “But, she was always fair and honest, willing to help.”

“She was knowledgeable and straight to the point,” her son, Trae Miller said. “That knowledge is lost forever.”

Heidi Allen, Capt. Allen’s wife, said Ms. Miller was well respected in her ability to take care of difficult clients.

“She had a special charisma and diplomacy and knew what to say to the right people,” Ms. Allen said. “She was an expert in communication and business management, and captains and owners liked that type of clear-cut, direct communication.”

Many in the industry had long-time relationships with Ms. Miller and recalled a less computerized, cell phone connected time. They remember the world map on the back wall in Claire’s shop with colored push-pins for each yacht customer around the world.

“They weren’t labeled, but she knew which was which and she knew their schedules,” Heidi Allen said. “It was a totally different world then.”

Capt. Allen had many stories throughout their relationship and told of a time early in his career when M/Y Cracker Bay had ordered five Kahlenberg horns from Ms. Miller and the owner had returned them.

“They were so big the owner said that instead of a boat with horns, it looked like horns with a boat,” Allen said.

Ms. Miller took the horns as returns and ordered the appropriate size for the yacht. She polished and shined them for years on display in the shop, Allen said. Eventually he was in Europe in 1999 working on the new boat, the 147-foot M/Y Campbell Bay, when the owner mentioned the horns.

“The day we signed the contract on the boat, the owner called Claire to say, ‘we’re buying back the horns’, 10 years later,” Allen said.

Ms. Miller worked for Miller Yacht Sales (no relation) in the 1970s in interior design, and later with D.S. Hull and Boat Owners Warehouse in Ft. Lauderdale. In 1988 she opened Claire’s Marine Outfitters. Although she was retired, she continued to work with several customers.

“I’m constantly looking for things that she would help with, she was always reliable,” said her son of his business, Ocean Marine Products, which he has owned since 1993 with his father.

Ms. Miller sold Claire’s Marine Outfitters in Ft. Lauderdale in 2006 after 18 years in business. She stayed on for two years to help the new owner provide the same level of service. It has since changed hands again.

In lieu of flowers the family requests memorials be made to the American Heart Association (www.heart.org).

Dorie Cox is associate editor of The Triton. Comments on this story are welcome at dorie@the-triton.com.

 

Original post Sept. 4, 2014:

Claire B. Miller, founder of the yacht chandlery business that still bears her name, died of an apparent heart attack Friday, Aug. 29 in the evening, according to friends. She was 74.

Ms. Miller sold Claire’s Marine Outfitters in Ft. Lauderdale in 2006 after 18 years in business. She stayed on for two years to help the new owner provide the same level of service. It has since changed hands again.

Family, friends, and colleagues are invited to a “Raucous Celebration of Life” party on Saturday, Sept. 13, at her home from 5:30-7:30 p.m.

“It’s exactly what she wanted,” her son, Trae Miller, said. “No service, just a huge party.”

For more information contact her son at 954-562-4986.

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