Dumpster finds don't just save money, they keep stuff out of the landfill. I'm amazed at some of our finds.

Dumpster Diving

Okay, we’re not dumpster divers in the sense of getting our food or clothes there. But sometimes I’m amazed at what I find there – especially as most marinas and sailing clubs have a “give-away” place too, where you can put items that you can’t use any more but are still usable.

Case in point: our fenders.

Barefoot Gal had only one – smallish – fender when we bought her. We budgeted to buy at least four big ones. Even at Defender’s pricing, they’re $75 each (plus shipping).

A friend on the lake we live on in the summer re-did her dock configuration and asked if we could use two of her old fenders that she was no longer using. Could we!? Sure. And they were the big 10” Big B’s that we wanted.

Okay, that was two down . . . but that was a giveaway.

Then we went to a regatta at the Indianapolis Sailing Club this summer. I picked up a bunch of trash in the parking lot and took it over to the dumpster . . . only to find a perfectly good but dirty 10″ Big B sitting there. In the dumpster. Absolutely nothing wrong with it and it even had a line attached and a stainless carabiner worth at least $20 on it. Yep, I grabbed it out.

Then, here at the boat yard, three times I’ve taken stuff to the dumpster and found a fender there – two large ones (the one in the photo and one that was truly filthy) and one medium-size (perfect for one hull’s bow at the dock). About forty-five minutes with a scrub brush, Krud Kutter and some Soft Scrub and the merely dirty one and the filthy one were both clean enough to use. If you’re counting, we now have 5 large fenders . . . with no outlay other than some cleaning supplies.

Maybe none of our fenders look brand new. They’re all serviceable if not identical. If I wanted, I could make covers for them all and they’d look pretty similar.

Yesterday, Dave found a water filter housing in the dumpster, complete with hoses and LOTS of hose clamps, all in good condition. The housing has some rust on it and a check valve in the system was bad, but why throw out all those hose clamps? Ten minutes to take it apart and we now have seven more hose clamps in our parts box and several pieces of hose to use as chafe guard on our dock lines.

The funny thing with all of these finds at the boat yard dumpster? The giveaway area is only about 20 feet away.

Yes, I like saving money – our wish list is always bigger than our budget. But I also like rescuing/reusing/repurposing items instead of sending them to the landfill. Consequently, if we think something has any life left in it, we’ll put it on the giveaway bench. And almost all our offerings – items left by previous owners that we’re not going to use for one reason or another – have been picked up.

How about you? Got any good stories of dumpster diving or being given something?

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  • Lindsay Onwiththemotley
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    hear hear, we have found some really useful stuff… 😀

  • Lynn Kaak
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    Darned straight. Let the gold platers toss good, usable stuff, and I’ll recycle it!

  • Carole Erdman Grant
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    During the America’s Cup in San Diego we and several other canny yacht owners had great fun Dumpster Diving in the syndicates’ throw-away bins! There were many good items added to our yacht, and to other yachts in our marina where there were about 4 different countries represented for the AC!

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

      Oooh, I bet there was LOTS of good stuff!

    • osidenative
      Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

      I scored on Shelter Island once too! Former charter sailboat was bought by cruisers and they filled up a dumpster with all sorts of good stuff. Everything from no skid mixing bowls to unused life vests.

  • Candy Ann Williams
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    I like ‘environmentally conscious’! I got two BIG fenders out of the dumpster …. Lifetime guaranteed and got two brand new ones! Now I know I was just being an environmentalist!

  • Lupari Sue
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    Our friends repladed their chainplates, they were cracked. They are now our engine mounting brackets. Could cut out the good bits and make perfectly good bases for our new engine.

  • Bruce (s/v Migration)
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    Before I left the US, I found 2 BIG Taylor Made fenders that were split> Someone had thrown them in the marina dumpster. Taylor Made offered a lifetime warranty so I took them to West Marine and got 2 new $140 fenders. I think they still have a lifetime warranty on several types of their fenders.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

      They still have the warranty, but it’s only if the fender bursts. Valve leaks, punctures and cuts aren’t covered. They covered two of ours that burst in Hurricane Kenna (2002).

  • Lynda Hill Schuessler
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    It’s amazing what people throw away in marina dumpsters especially. We’ve found some good stuff.

  • Charlotte Caldwell
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    We love looking in the dumpster and always leave anything we dont need anymore, or has worn out, next to the dumpster. It always disappears within minutes! Good news about the Taylor Made fenders being lifetime guaranteed. Will any store that sells take them in for exchange for new ones? We are not going to be back in the US for several years and have two that leak, new valves dont work.

    • Carolyn Shearlock
      Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

      It’s my understanding that the lifetime guarantee is only if they burst; leaking valves, punctures and cuts aren’t covered.

      The ones we had that burst in a hurricane, we had to return to the US and West Marine. The two stores that we checked with in Mexico wouldn’t swap them out. Don’t know about anywhere else.

  • ChrisW
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    Wear gloves and use a stick. I used to check out the marina dumpsters until a friend encountered improperly disposed of medical waste. When all said and done they removed eight used syringes with needles attached.

  • Terri Zorn
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    We too have found many good items,TV antenna, fenders, cooler……..Carolyn, we use old sweat pants cut to fit as our fender covers. 2 covers one pair of pants. No sewing required. 🙂 if I don’t have any old pants here ,I pop onto the thrift store. The material doesn’t fray,and and usually lasts 2 seasons at a cost of almost nothing to free. I love free !

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

      Great idea! I may do that once we get to Ft. Myers.

  • Andrew
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    I truely enjoy your site Carolyn. A brigatine schooner sailing ship at my marine is always changing their running rigging. It’s still got plenty of life for my little cutter to have docklines, warping lines (I’m engineless), and for fancy work onboard.
    One man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

  • Andrew Mcp
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    Scores dumpster diving…
    Warping line
    Small stuff
    Anchor bridle
    Racing sail bags to be converted to folding bike bags
    Brass hinges (very expensive ones), cleats, non-perforated o-clamps, teak for finishwork inside.
    One man’s junk is another man’s treasure as they say.

    • The Boat Galley
      Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply


    • Andrew Mcp
      Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

      Every little item can help. I agree also that it recycles. My kids used to laugh, but when they see how I use it somehow, they understand and, of course as their parent, I have to turn it into a lesson.

  • Colin Mombourquette
    Posted at 25 November 2014 Reply

    Dumpster Diving isn’t just something that good old boaters do, it’s an environmentally conscious way of life.

  • Glenda W.
    Posted at 26 November 2014 Reply

    Not quite dumpster diving, but I know a captain who whenever he spots a fender drifting at sea, does a man overboard drill. He has outfitted his and several friends boats with complete sets of matching fenders, and has a very well trained crew! Not to mention cleaning up the waters!

  • Leigh
    Posted at 26 November 2014 Reply

    We once found a pile of hand-carved walking sticks at a marina dumpster. The man who put them there made them as a hobby, and his wife finally put her foot down about having so many aboard. We rescued two of them for our use, and I told everyone I could find about them, in the hopes that they would each find a good home before the trash man came.

    We also found a nice big fender washed up on a deserted beach once. It slowly leaks air, but is perfect for cushioning our dinghy when we have her tied up alongside, or on the davits.

  • Rhonda Mancini
    Posted at 27 November 2014 Reply

    I’m glad to hear that others re-purpose things found in or near the trash. We always put our things outside the trash so workers or cruisers can have a look and not get poked in the trash. One friend on Shelter Island kept a record of all the things he collected,cleaned up repaired and sold
    $2000 in one year! After living in third world countries for several years, it seems that we are a bit wasteful in the USA. Keep up the great tips Carolyn and Happy Thanksgiving.

  • Rob
    Posted at 04 December 2014 Reply

    Yup, got some dirty large fenders in a dumpster and the went to Goodwill and bought some black sweat pants for $3 or $4 each. Cut legs off and put them over fenders so I have nice black matching fenders that don’t scuff my hull. OH and I also found like brand new 30″ Bottomsiders (2ea) brand new $3 each at Goodwill – dark blue but beggars can’t be choosers

  • Andrew
    Posted at 05 December 2014 Reply

    In order to maintain their governmentall funding, the local rescue boat had to toss gear. My friend and I scored 7 light weather rain gear, an immersion suit, 5 brand new offshore suits, 2 pfd’s, 4 work overalls, and various other treasures. Stipulation was to remove the company name and logos. We kept the best and gave the rest to our other dockrat friends. It wasn’t trash at all. We scored big time!

  • D
    Posted at 14 January 2015 Reply

    A local rigger has a ‘replaced parts’ bin that he lets me look through from time to time. I’ve retrieved big boat Harken hardware that’s perfectly good and then resold on eBay for very good money.

  • Mark Dobkin
    Posted at 13 June 2015 Reply

    Use “Brush Cleaner” to clean Fenders, etc.

    It will blow your mind of how fast and easy it works-under 10 minutes for a very large fender having it look close to new… Try it out

  • Marc J. Kornutik
    Posted at 11 April 2016 Reply

    It’s amazing what some people toss as trash… Too lazy to clean or perform even minor repairs.

    • Joysealife.com
      Posted at 11 April 2016 Reply

      Some people don’t know how to repair anything. I’ve seen people that can’t understand the simplest of repairs. People shouldn’t be so afraid to try and fix it before they toss it. Youtube taught me to change out the water pump on my clothes washer. Simple and I’m sure I saved $100.

  • Marisa Brown
    Posted at 11 April 2016 Reply

    We found a roll of closed cell foam sticking out of a garbage bin and decided we could use it for something. 🙂

  • Louise Stanley
    Posted at 11 April 2016 Reply

    Great reading. Thank you.

  • Joysealife.com
    Posted at 11 April 2016 Reply

    I would dumpster dive, but my husband not so much.

  • Page Escallier
    Posted at 11 April 2016 Reply

    We purchased our boat almost 3 years ago and the cowl ventilators looked almost as bad as that fender. A wash to remove surface dirt and then repainted with Krylon spray paint for plastic (red & white) and they look brand new! Total cost for 3 = $15 instead of $75 + tax each.

  • Zachary Schweter
    Posted at 11 April 2016 Reply

    Abandoned boats abound nyc shores (known as hull i.d. numbers ground off) and they’re broken up on the rocks hardware stores….

  • Verena Kellner
    Posted at 11 April 2016 Reply

    I found a very nice sail in a dumpster and sent it to Sea Bags in Maine. In return they sent me one of their awesome bags!

  • Joel Turner
    Posted at 11 April 2016 Reply

    We always take a peak.

  • Emmie Richmond
    Posted at 11 April 2016 Reply

    Dan has this crazy knack for needing some part or boat thing and then finding it at the dumpster. We call it the “will call

  • Christine Springfield
    Posted at 28 March 2017 Reply

    Got a nice heavy duty White sewing machine, a bolt of shade cloth, lots of denim for a rug I am making, a fully working Sirius stereo and other stuff. I LOVE the “free table” here in Boot Key Harbor!

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