At boat jumbles, it would appear to be customary for buyers and sellers alike to feel hard done by, says PBO columnist Dave Selby...

There are two golden rules to boat jumbling.

The first is that if you buy anything at a boat jumble you’ve paid too much. This is known as buyer’s remorse, and sets in three seconds after the transaction.

The second is that if you sell anything at a boat jumble you’ve given it away for too little. This is known as seller’s remorse, and sets in three seconds after the transaction.

Indeed, as they say in the trade, the difference between a buyer and seller is about three seconds.

It’s all very straightforward and keeps everyone unhappy, and that makes everyone very happy, because there’s nothing we boat owners like more than to moan about the burden of boat ownership, just as traders like to moan about how mean we all are.

Indeed, in the boatyards on the Blackwater, the customary response to customers’ customary kneewobbling, horrified cry of ‘HOW MUCH?!*!#@!’ is: ‘If you can’t afford it, you shouldn’t have a boat!’

All around me in the queue for the Essex Spring Boat Jumble, which like all boat jumbles is held in winter on the coldest day of the year, seasoned boat jumble-goers were getting into the spirit of things by moaning about the length of the queue, which was being held up by pushy Hallberg-Rassy owners who were haggling over the ‘outrageous’ £4 entry, and variously claiming to be pensioners, students, under-12s, war veterans or VAT exempt, then proffering either platinum credit cards, euros, or £50 notes… then asking for receipts.

The worst of it was they were all at the front of the queue because their boats are faster, while we Sailfish brethren, whose boats are slower, were fidgeting angrily at the rear, in the realisation that all the best stuff would be snapped up by the time we got in.

Fortunately, I managed to wangle a PBO readers’ discount and got in for just £4 – a bargain, I reckon – which lifted my mood from murderous rage to a state of Zen-like boat jumble sourness.

I’d decided that this year I’d be getting serious about safety, so I had a bacon butty. It helps get the cogs whirring, and as a result I went off searching for a radar reflector.

Not having done any research whatsoever I had no idea how much they are, but when I found one for £10 I reckoned I could do better. I then found an identical one for £20, so I went back to haggle for the £10 one, which of course had been sold… probably to a Hallberg-Rassy owner.

The trader selling the £20 reflector had a strangely compelling sales patter, which started with him telling me not to bother with one ‘cos my aluminium mast would bounce back a stronger signal than a radar reflector. He then said that a reflector was pointless on such a small boat as the bounce back would get lost in the clutter caused by wave crests.

All of which made me really, really want the £20 reflector – I wasn’t falling for his perverse reverse psychology. I haggled hard and finally got it down to £20, after which one of my so-called friends asked if I really thought my life was worth £20.

He had a point, and it was round about then the buyer’s remorse kicked in.

Next up I went in search of an LED lantern for use as an anchor light and found two second-hand fishing lamps for a fiver. I haggled even harder and got him down to £2.50 for one. The reasoning was that if neither worked I’d be £2.50 better off by buying just the one; and there’s a free PBO tip-top top-notch top tip for you.

Then three seconds later the second dose of buyer’s remorse kicked in. It got even worse when I got home and decided to look on the internet so I could gloat to you about my brilliant once-in-a lifetime bargains.

First I found a brand-new radar reflector – exactly the same as my £20 second-hand one – for £15.75, including VAT.

On the plus side, I found an LED lantern online for a monster £29.95, but my joy was short-lived. I put batteries in my £2.50 lantern and it worked. Damn! I knew I should have bought two.

Follow Marlin’s Mission – Dave’s 300-mile trip to the Southampton Boat Show – online at