Trading Tales – The Bag Boat

Bags by Jane

We’re onto our seventh Trading Tale today would you believe? You’ll discover lots in this story to entice anyone pontificating on whether to take the plunge …

Introducing Jane and Paul

What’s the name of your boat, and what business do you run from it?

Bags by JaneMy name is Jane Parker, and I sew and sell all my own handmade handbags, cosmetic bags and caps. My husband Paul is a photographer and sells cards of his canal photographs.

The name of our boat is Pania. This was her name when we bought her in 2013. Pania is a figure of Maori mythology. She was a beautiful maiden of the reef who lived in the sea, and is the symbol of the New Zealand city, Napier.

Can you tell our readers a little bit about yourselves?

I was born and brought up in Johannesburg, South Africa after my parents emigrated there for work reasons in the 60’s. My working background is in the airline and business travel industry. I moved to the UK in 1994 and continued working in the business travel industry.

Paul is a photographer and worked in a very traditional, specialist camera shop and studio in London for nearly 30 years. Unfortunately the shop couldn’t survive the Internet/digital revolution and was forced to close last October.

A selection of Paul's cards at Middlewich FAB festival

A selection of Paul’s cards at Middlewich FAB festival

We met in 2009 and he told me that his dream was to eventually live on a narrowboat, and how would I feel about this. I suggested we hire a boat for a holiday to see the reality of narrowboating. We booked ourselves onto a Helmsman course, and then had our first holiday in the April. It rained most of the week, however this did not put us off.

We had two more canal holidays the following year, visited several boat shows, read books and magazines and started doing our research into living aboard. The search for a boat started in 2013 and Pania was purchased in September that year.

We found a marina mooring, and on the 13th September we started moving to our new base.

As we left Cow Roast, Paul got down on one knee in the rain (again), and proposed to me on the stern of the boat. Our boating plans were then put on hold when I was diagnosed with Melanoma skin cancer later that year, and had to have several operations. We made all the arrangements to get married and tied the knot in September 2014.

Give us a glimpse into the how and why you decided to become floating trader?

Last year I decided to take up my sewing skills again and started making handbags. I tried a few local markets where I sold a few bags, and started taking commissions and getting good feedback. After losing my brother nearly two years ago, at only 45 years of age, we decided that life is too short and we would like to cruise the waterways and also do some trading along the way.

Bags by Jane

We spoke to several helpful floating traders and members of the RCTA, and went to a seminar at the Crick boat show to hear about running your own business afloat (note from Sandra here, that’s the one Barry and I spoke at).

Paul was made redundant in October last year, after working in London for 28 years as a photographer and retailer. I decided to leave my ‘too normal’ office job so we could go cruising and try our hand at trading. It seemed like things had fallen into place to make it possible.

We got our traders licence in February, joined the RCTA, looked at maps and dates, and booked several markets and festivals. We then set off at the beginning of May to Burton-on-Trent for our first Floating Market, and the beginning of our new experience.

Describe the joys and drawbacks you’ve experienced to date as a floating trader …

From our limited experience of trading …The Drawbacks …

The sudden change in weather when trading, and the obvious limited storage space for materials, a spare sewing machine (just in case) and completed bags. Fortunately we are both well organised and fairly tidy (borderline OCD) so we find that having a routine of packing tools & materials away in between making & trading helps.Bags by Jane

The Joys …
We really enjoyed our first Floating Markets at Mercia Marina and Burton on Trent. The other traders were very friendly, welcoming and helpful. It was fun talking to members of the public – not only about what you are selling, but life aboard and our adventure so far. People are always interested in your story.

Is there any sage wisdom you could share with anyone reading who may be contemplating venturing into this watery ‘working’ world?

  • Try to find a product that you can make or store in a confined space.
  • Have a good look at maps and routes before you book too many events.
  • Think about re-stocking and how you can collect any deliveries, especially without a car.

Anything else you would like to add?

If it still feels right after lots of thought, then plan well and go for it while you still can! We did!

Get in touch and/or connect with Jane and Paul:

Check out (and Like!) their Facebook Page
Visit their website (and grab yourself a bag maybe?!)

Future planned events for ‘Bags by Jane’ include:

16-17 July – Cosgrove Canal Festival 
30 July – Linslade Canal Festival (Leighton Buzzard)
13-14 August – Fenny Stratford (Bletchley, Milton Keynes)

There’ll be another fascinating Trading Tale next Friday, 1st July, at 12 midday …

One Comment on “Trading Tales – The Bag Boat

  1. Pingback: Trading Tales – The Oatcake Boat | Adventures Aboard AreandAre

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