Boat jumbles are understandably popular events that are far more than simply effective market places for buying and selling used boating gear. There’s also plenty of new kit available, as well as many knowledgeable people—whether other buyers or sellers—that can be a valuable source of help and advice.

Top boat jumble tips

1. Arrive early. Many of the best bargains, along with scarce items, are snapped up quickly at the very beginning of the day. For this reason the early morning is often the most fruitful part of a boat jumble for many visitors.

2. Stay late. Another opportunity for picking up cut-price gear is at the end of the day, when sellers would rather convert their wares to cash than pack everything up to take home again.

3. Don’t buy anything you don’t need. It’s easy to be tempted to buy kit that’s offered at a bargain price on the basis it may be useful at some later date, but is unlikely to ever be used. Before you go make sure you have a list of exactly what you want and how much to pay for it.

4. Don’t pay over the odds. If you’ve done your homework properly this shouldn’t be a problem, but it pays to remember that it’s easy to become overly enthusiastic about the availability of items on your dream list. If there’s something you might like that’s priced above what it’s worth to you don’t be afraid to haggle, or to return to the stall near the end of the day to see if it’s still available.

The Beaulieu Boat Jumble

The Beaulieu Boat Jumble is by far the nation’s largest. It takes place annually at the National Motor Museum on a Sunday towards the end of April.

UK boat jumbles

There are boat jumbles throughout the UK, both around the coast and at numerous venues well inland. Attendances range from around 1,000 people at a small to medium size jumble to as many as 10,000 on a good year at the very largest.

As well as used gear, boat jumbles can also be an excellent source of new discounted products. Chaddock and Fox, one of the largest promoters, which runs 12 boat jumbles around the country annually, says that around 60 per cent of their traders are businesses attending to sell new items at discount prices.

The Beaulieu Boatjumble by far the best known in the UK – it’s almost a mini exhibition that takes place in late April. The event will celebrate its 40th anniversary in 2017, when it will be held on Sunday April 23. One of the largest outdoor sales of boating items in Europe, there’s a huge amount of gear – both new and second hand – on offer, as well as expert advice and practical demonstrations.

There are other jumbles of a good size in all parts of the UK, from the south coast to Inverness. At the time of writing the Boat Jumble Association is listing some 30 events for the 2017 season. Notable examples include:

West Midlands, January, Three Counties Show Ground, Malvern (M5 Junction 8).

Nottingham and Lincolnshire, February, Newark Showground.

Suffolk, March and October, Trinity Park Events Centre, Ipswich.

Solent, May and October, Royal Victoria Country Park, Netley.

Cardiff, May.

Portsmouth, August, Fort Purbrook, Portsdown Hill Rd. Cosham.

Kent, March and October, The Hop Farm, Paddock Wood, Tonbridge, (J4 M20 or J5 M25).

It’s also worth looking around locally at clubs, marinas and other organisations that may organise smaller boat jumbles. These can be a good way to acquire any gear that you need – or sell kit for which you no longer have a use – in a minimal amount of time or travel.

Boat jumbles clothing

Boat jumbles can be an easy way to free up space and convert your unwanted boating related gear of all descriptions into useful cash.

Selling gear at a boat jumble

Boat jumbles are also places at which you can get rid of (often valuable) equipment for which you no longer have a need. Many of us have lofts, sheds or garages that are brimming with surplus boating gear. Whether this is shackles, blocks, rope, anchors, ageing electronics or whatever, the chances are it can be converted to cash.

In many ways it’s easier than photographing and cataloguing equipment to sell on Ebay, and the stuff you sell won’t need to be wrapped and shipped. The cost of pitches at a medium size event is around £20 to £40, while at small local boat jumbles you may only have to pay a fiver. A further draw is that some of the larger jumbles have something akin to a festival atmosphere among the traders, especially where they are able to camp on site the night before the event.

Stolen goods at boat jumbles

There’s a long standing suspicion among some boat owners that many items are stolen in order to be sold at boat jumbles. Fortunately it’s easy to check high value items including outboard motors, tenders, trailers and even whole boats via the Stolen Boats  website. Searching the serial number of an outboard, for instance, will reveal whether that particular unit has been reported stolen to the police or an insurance company.

boat jumbles

Many traders sell new or unused products at discounted prices and are also happy to offer advice on the best way of tackling problems.

As well as Boat Jumbles, Boat Shows can be a good source of gear, for more about traditional boat shows, see Boat show guide: make the most of your day and it might be worth checking out our guide to Used boat shows.

Written by: Rupert Holmes
Rupert Holmes has more than 70,000 miles of offshore cruising and racing experience, in waters ranging from the North Sea to the Southern Ocean and Cape Horn. He writes about all aspects of boat ownership and marine travel, including destinations, seamanship and maintenance, as well as undertaking regular new boat and gear tests. He currently sails around 5,000 miles per year and in the past couple of seasons has cruised from the UK to the Azores, as well as winning his class in the 2014 two-handed Round Britain and Ireland Race. He also owns two yachts, one based in the Mediterranean and the other in the UK.