If you really want to stimulate trade as a boat jumble stallholder, take a tip from the pros and use plenty of exclamation marks!!!

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For all of life’s necessities that can’t be bought at Quid Save, there are boat jumbles – which are also excellent for all those un-necessities that boaters find essential, writes Dave Selby.

As for things you really don’t need and never ever will, the best place to find these is at chandleries, or as we call them round here, chandelieries.

The best thing about these nautical boutiques is that you can’t afford anything, and even if you could a lot of it is still in date: and here on the East Coast it’s considered downright embarrassing, unseamanlike even, to have anything still in date on your boat.

It’s a well-known fact that everything at boat jumbles is a bargain; that’s if you actually buy it. My old sailing companion Julian still has nightmares about an antique bronze boathook head he spotted six years ago at a boat jumble.

He considered £4 a bit steep, and as a negotiating ploy said to the stallholder: ‘It’s rather a lot, I’ll think about it’. When he’d thought about it enough he went back and it was gone. I’d bought it. I’ve been taunting him ever since, offering to sell it to him for £40.

Now he thinks about it all the time and is undergoing long-term counselling, which is a lot more expensive than a boathook.

Tommy Mills, who’s a bit of a racer, spotted some go-faster hard copper racing antifouling at the recent Essex Boat Jumble for just £28. (For cruising sailors, I should explain that hard racing antifouling comes in faster colours at racier prices, and makes you look hard.)

Tommy reckoned it was a saving of at least 100 nicker, and he saved even more – £128, in fact – by cannily shopping around for a better buy, then returning to the stall just seconds after the vendor had sold his last tin.

Tommy was last seen hurtling down the A12 in his Transit, hazards flashing, in hot pursuit of the bloke who’d bought it. Even the speeding ticket was a bargain… considerably less than £128.

I’ve bought lots of great bargains over the years. Many are things I already have, but have misplaced in the four-sided Bermudan Triangle formed by my house, garage, car and boat.

I now have at least three pairs of binoculars, but I don’t know where any of them are. Obviously I need another pair.

My garage is a grotto of boat jumble bargains, all as-new and never used, on account of none of them fitting my boat, or having a purpose I’ve managed to fathom. It’s not all my fault, ‘cos Julian once persuaded me to buy a pair of stabilising wingfin-things for my outboard.

These promised ‘maximum lift, lower fuel consumption, reduced cavitation and straight tracking’.

The tracking really is excellent ‘cos when I fitted them to my Sailfish’s outboard, the wings fouled the rudder and I couldn’t move the tiller at all, and I tracked straight into a mud bank.

I think Julian knew this all along. It was his genteel revenge for the boathook. Mind you, at £4 the wing-fin-thing was still an excellent bargain.

Over the years I’ve acquired so many bargains that I decided to take a stall at the Essex Boat Jumble this February. Pricing is key.

Last year I spotted a stallholder’s sign that promised: ‘Overalls, £10 each, two for £25’. This really is true. I bought two pairs so I could sell the spare for a fiver.

The other really important thing is to never, never, ever sell anything to those gaunt, wind-burned predators in fleeces branded with logos of long-bust brands who surround your car like jackals around a wildebeest carcass, the very moment you open your boot.

The proper term for these vultures is ‘the trade’, and if you sell anything to them you’ll see it 10 minutes later on their stand priced at 10 times what they paid you. As you’re always after a bargain, there’s a danger you might buy it back.

On my stand, I came up with the idea of a ‘£2 Bargain Bin!!! Everything £2!!!’ (PBO tip: professionals use lots of exclamation marks!!!)

This was a partial success, but I did have a sticky moment with a ‘public’ – as we pros call them – who threatened me with Trading Standards when he found a book marked at £1 in my £2 bin!!!

Generally though, the best thing about having your own stall is that it prevents you going off and buying anything.

All in all I had a pretty successful day, and by the end I’d almost made enough to pay for a bacon and egg bap… with a trade discount.

The other great thing about boat jumbles is that they are the only place on earth where you can actually sell videos. I sold an RYA Day Skipper video to a sweet old gent for £1. Later, my sale of a Perfect Storm movie video fell through when a ‘public’ had the effrontery to open the box and found a Day Skipper video inside.

I explained, quite justifiably, that in content they were virtually identical. In fact, The Perfect Storm is even more instructional, so the old gent had got a real bargain. You see, you can’t go wrong at boat jumbles!!!


This ‘Mad about the boat’ column appeared in the May 2014 issue of Practical Boat Owner magazine.

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