I ALWAYS know when the boating season has really got under way because I head down to Lord Montagu’s lovely little pad at Beaulieu in Hampshire to take part in what has become the biggest boatjumble in Europe.
It happens towards the end of April when the spring flowers are at their prettiest – from bluebells to primroses – and the days are getting both warmer and longer.
Beaulieu is an extraordinary phenomenon.
It features up to 1,000 stands crammed full of boating bits – some from professional sellers and others comprised of yachties simply clearing out the garage or the garden shed where they have accumulated dozens of items of chandlery that are no longer needed.
You might be looking to sell an old outboard, an inflatable dinghy, a spare set of sails for a Sadler 32, a portable VHF or a left-handed widget for a froo-froo valve – whatever it is, you can almost guarantee that there will be someone among the thousands of regular visitors who will be looking for just that item.
If you’ve never been to Beaulieu boat jumble, here are a few tips that you might find useful.
The main site opens at 10am but it’s worth getting there quite a bit earlier if you can so that you can park closer to the entrance.
Also, there are attractions to keep you entertained until the jumble itself opens in the shape of Boatmall and Boatmart.
Boatmall is a high street comprising chandlers, holiday companies, engine manufacturers, and the like while Boatmart is a whole section of the field set aside for used boats featuring everything from dinghies to classic gaffers and cabin cruisers.
When the boatjumble itself is thrown open to the public, you can find yourself carried along on a sea of boat fanatics heading purposefully towards the hundreds of stands to haggle and bargain for the best deals they can find.
An innovation in recent years has been the addition of something the organisers call trunk traders – amateur jumblers who might only have a few items to sell – but it all adds to the incredible variety of products and useful bits on offer.
When my brother, Alan, and my wife, Julie, come with me, we normally take along a picnic, as do many other visitors, but if you can’t be bothered to lug a coolbox round the site, there are dozens of food vendors offering lunchtime nourishment – burgers, kebabs, pasties, steak sandwiches, hot dogs, etc.
And, yes, of course there are several bars – come on, this is a gathering of sailors, of course you can get a drink!
If you’re planning to buy quite a few bits and pieces, the well-trained boat jumbler will take along a wheeled trolley to put the purchases in which makes it a lot easier.
And don’t forget that if you’re buying something large and heavy – like an outboard – there are trucks and vans in the centre of the site that can take you back up the hill to the car park.
If you buy your tickets in advance (from www.beaulieushop.co.uk) admission costs £8.70 for adults and £6.50 for children. On the day, those prices rise to £9.70 and £7.50 respectively.
There are also free shuttle bus services operating to and from the site from Lymington Ferry Terminal, Brockenhurst Station and Bucklers Hard. They run from 8am to 6pm.
Have a great day if you do go – and I might even see you there!