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Buying a boat for the first time

Everything you need to know if you buying a boat for the first time in Hong Kong.

In Hong Kong and perhaps many parts of the world, buying and owning a boat is often looked at as a hobby only for the very rich. However it is not the case, because there are many affordable boats of high quality and high safety standards available. There are many sane people in the boating industry that are trying to make it accessible to as many people as possible. 

Deciding to own a boat for the first time and then moving forward is often very confusing, with so much useless information around and online. When a buyer approaches a broker or a dealer for boats, the prices they get can be ridiculous and it can get intimidating for some people.

Anyways, to cut things short there are few things you need to know and ask yourself if you want to buy a right boat in Hong Kong.

What are the reasons you need a boat for?

  • You live near the seaside and would like to go out a bit for some fishing.
  • You want to go out on the sea with your family to the beaches and explore islands.
  • You like to extend the use of the boat, you may require longer range, ability to stay over night comfortably and make it a corporate entertainer.
  • You can afford to buy a big yacht and use it for multiple purposes, family, corporate, long weekender etc.
    When you understand your need, it will help you to make a better choice, in the end of this article, there is a list of boats that are good for different requirements.

Boat Operating License (Driving license)
First thing when you are buying a small boat. Getting your Boat Driving License.  (Or Pleasure Vessel Operating License)

If you are buying a big boat then obviously you can hire a captain who has all licenses to operate and maintain your boat. Just like how you would hire a driver for your car.

There are courses available to get your license. Just like a driving course, but for boats there is no practical exam, therefore the course is also not practical. It is only understanding the concept by reading a book and doing past papers. So you are not really going to touch a boat to get the license to drive one.

Companies that provide courses are easy to find on google. I cannot advertise specific names.
But you can go to google and type, “Hong Kong boat operating license” and the first few links are the right ones, some even guarantee 100% passing rate.
Known Yacht clubs like ABC and RHKYC also provide courses to non-members.

Basically to be able to operate a boat, you will need 2 licenses.
One is Pleasure vessel Operating license another is a Pleasure Vessel  Engineering license.
(don’t get scared, the engineering is not serious engineering, it is general understanding of how machinery on a boat works)

To get this you will only need to pass multiple choice exam, Which is answering 40 multiple choice questions and the exam time is 45 minutes.
And you have to do 2 exams, one is for Operating license and the other for engineering license. You have to score more than 70% to pass the exam.

If you pass the first exam, it is called as Grade 2,
So you are basically applying for Grade 2, operators license and Grade 2 engineering license. If you pass these exams you are allowed to operate boats upto 15m in length.

To Operate boats over 15m in length you will have to wait for atleast one year after passing the Grade 2 exams, and then attempt Grade 1 exams for both sections. This will be more difficult and also involves oral exam. It will help if you actually have practical experience in operating a boat.

So first thing you will need to do is enroll yourself in a school where they will teach you how to pass the exam. That is the best bet, if you attempt yourself to pass it, It wont be easy unless you are a genius or very lucky.

There are many places which provide the training, this will cost around 7000 in fees for the course plus the exam approximately. You basically enroll and do the course maybe for a month or 2. They will also give you a lot of past papers to practice after teaching you the required things. They will apply for the exam on your behalf and you will then have to go to the Marine Department in Central to sit the exam at the given time. If you fail the exam, you can re-try after 30 days. The marine dept holds exams weekly.

Parking your boat (Mooring)
   

There are 2 types of boat parking available. There are in posh clubs you see, such as marina clubs where there are wooden walkways we call as pontoons to walk to your boat.
And there are other types that the boat is tied up to a floating ball or a drum (called as mooring line) and you will have to use a water taxi (sampans as they are called in HK) to get to your boat. Some people use kayaks and small dinghys to get to their boat which they tie up near seashore.

Parking your boat is usually called as mooring your boat. So if you are a yacht club member and you have your berth available by your yacht club, then you are incredibly lucky.
Otherwise there is a long waiting list of people willing to pay high prices.

For Smaller boats such as speed boats under 30 footers, it is easy to store them on a shipyard, so basically lifting them up and storing them on the ground, it is called as Dry Dock, because it is not on water. So every time you need to take the boat out, the shipyard or the yacht club will lift your boat and put it down, and then put it back when you bring your boat back.
The Going rate for dry dock in Aberdeen shipyards is around HKD 6,000 to 8,000 per month.
The Rate of clubs like Hebe Haven, RHKYC etc, are cheaper but only for members and some times there are waiting lists even for dry docks and racks.
If you like to moor your boat on the water, you can moor it in many places in Hong Kong, around Sai Kung, Aberdeen Typhoon Shelter, Causeway Bay, Tuen Mun, Kwun Tong,
Aberdeen, Sai kung and causeway bay being most popular and Kwun Tong catching up its popularity.

So remember these are not walk way berths, so normally people need to go to public pier and take a sampan (water taxi) or a dinghy service that are provided in these areas.

Mooring on water for small boats cost around 3000 HKD monthly
Mooring for big boats 40 to 60+ footers will cost around 8,000 HKD to 25,000 HKD monthly
The Prices are different in different locations and for different sizes of boats.

Costs of keeping a boat. Maintenance & Servicing.

This depends on size of the boat, the smaller the boat, the cheaper it is. The bigger the boat gets the bigger your cost of up keep. But it is not as crazy as people say it to be. People do love to exaggerate to create the wow factor when they talk about boat maintenance costs.

for a Speed boat around 25 footer. If you are putting it on dry dock. You are paying for the Rental, General cleaning (you can do yourself), Engine Servicing yearly, which costs around 5000 to 7000 HKD for big outboard engines over 100hp, and around 30,000 – 40,000 HKD for twin inboard diesel engines up to 500 hp each which are engines of a modern 50 footer boat. For bigger motor yachts with bigger engines the costs will go up of course.
For Twin IPS Volvo Engines, the general maintenance Servicing costs around 50,000 HKD. Which needs to be done every 200 hours or every 12 months.
So if you do have a large yacht, with generator, Engines, it will cost you a bit for servicing, Generator servicing is usually cheaper and easier than engine servicing.

 

Hiring a Captain or Crew.
Normally people hire crew for boats that are over 40 footers. The Bigger your boat is the captain’s salary will be higher, as they need to have relevant experience in taking care of bigger boats.
A full time captain’s salary will be generally over 25,000 a month. And as the boat gets bigger you will also need an extra crew to help. Generally people hire part time boat boys to assist the captain when they go out on their boat. Usually captains have their friends that help and assist for some extra earnings.

If the boat is not too big, some people also chose to hire part time captains for cleaning and general maintenance, which is not expensive, the cleaning cost and just checking up on boat weekly will cost around 6000 a month for a part time care taker, and you would have to pay the captain and crew extra every time you take the boat out. Which would be whatever they ask as their daily wages. Generally around HKD 1500 Per person or so for a day trip. Again different level of crew will have different charges. Just like your office, some people get paid a lot higher than others depending on their competence and experience.

 

Now what kind of boat you should really buy.
Not everyone wants to buy a high end expensive yacht, and what you need is a safe, sturdy good quality boat which has good balance, speed and the systems will not always need repair. Here are some different types of boats that you can consider, there are good and bad points in all, But it is helpful for a general broad understanding.

  -A totally Foldable Inflatable Boat.
called as VIB. It has a V shape inflatable bottom.
-Length: 3 meters approx
-License requirements : Boat needs to be registered and needs a certificate of ownership (license number), but the driver does not need a Operating (Driving) license, if the boat is under 12ft and uses less than 4hp motor.
Advantages
-Not expensive
-Safe, as it has 5 air chambers incase of any damage

-These are good run about boats, You can totally deflate it and put it in your car.
-Light to carry and drag around the beaches
-Good to explore near beaches and for light fishing not far away from shore.
-Great as a small dinghy for a big boat.

Disadvantages
-It can’t go too far, but it is possible to carry a small fuel tank.
-It will not be stable in rough seas, or if weather suddenly changes.
-It is not easy to get damaged, but it is still possible by a very sharp object.
-Cannot be stored on water
-HK license will not allow it to be in open seas or far from shore

Price : Around HKD 22,000 Approximately including the engine. 
   3.6m RIB boat, This is with Fiberglass Bottom, Fiberglass Floor, Console, Steering, a Bigger 20hp Engine with battery and a tank.
Length : 3.6m 

This boat needs the operator to have a license, and also needs to be registered.
Advantages 
-It is sturdy, very tough, not easy to get damaged
-Very safe and can have a good range about 20 km or more, 
-It can go to open seas, but we would beware of rough seas
-Can still be a great dinghy for a big motor yacht
-Stable and well balanced weight.
Disadvantages
-Needs to be stored out of water
-Not as light as VIB, So one person cannot carry. The weight is over 120 + Kgs with engine.
Price : Around HKD 60,000 including engine
   4.8m Fiberglass Boat. 
This kind of boat is fully fiberglass, Has a much bigger engine of 60hp 
Length : 4.8m / European boat. 
Advantages 
-A well made boat by a known factory is usually very safe and good for island hopping around HK
-Great Range over 70 km
-Very tough, sturdy made to last forever
-Good for harsher weather

-not much maintenance needed
-can be stored on water or out of water aswell
Disadvantages 
-Need to be lifted and cleaned if stored on water
-you will need a mooring or a shipyard to store it.Price : Around 180,000 HKD. For brand new with an engine. 
   This is a well built 7.8m (European built)
A Fiberglass Boat, with a cabin inside, a small washroom, A Big Engine.
Advantages :
-Long Range over 100km (or more)
– Big Boat with nice space, a cook top, Washbasin, shower, Small toilet, Good for more people
-Possible to stay over night on the boat.
-Safe and designed for open seas, can handle harsher weather
-Can be stored in and out of water.
-Can be a family boat, Low maintenance
-Good speed
Disadvantages
-Need general maintenance
-Needs to have a mooring space or a dry dock
Price : HKD 500,000 Approximately with a big enough engine like a 200hp
  Something like this is a 30 footer enclosed boat, fully fiberglass.
This size of boat allows to have a bigger interior inside, a bigger washroom with shower and a cabin with bigger bed, and also extra sleeping bed in the mid section, so this boat can actually sleep 4 people, or more if they chose to sleep on sofa which is convertible to bed. This will have generator, Air conditioning, Music, space for cooking, a wash basin etc.
Length : 34 ft. Over all.
Advantages
-Large interior space allows to stay over weekends
-Long range boat, with diesel engines, the range is over 300 km easily
-can handle open seas, higher safety
-Enclosed so it is possible to use during rain, or even winters. So period of usability is increased
-Still a shipyard can lift it up and easily store in on dry docks around HK, or can be stored on water
Disadvantages
-You need to do general maintenance of machinery as they increase
-You will need to pay for (mooring) parking the boat.
-If moored on water, every six months the bottom needs to be cleaned.
Price : Approximately HKD 1,600,000 or more depending on options etc. Brand New. 
 
Flybridge Motor yachts are the next level, these are bigger boats with bigger rooms with upper deck. A step forward to luxury. But the usage extends a great deal, people can stay on board on weekends comfortably, great for small families, even corporate outings, leisure fishing etc.
This is a Princess 42, When you come to this size, I think it makes more sense to buy a used boat for starters. Unless of course you do have the money to spend and looking for something trouble free.
A 42 footer boat, Some like this Princess made in UK, is one of the best in this range. It has well thought space, 2 rooms, a kitchen, a big bathroom, an upper deck called flybridge.
These types of boats have long range, and are capable to go cross country rides, many clients from Philippines normally buy these boats in Hong Kong and drive it to Philippines which is about 600 Miles of open rough seas.
Disadvantages 
Of course as the boat gets bigger, you need more maintenance, just like your house, things will need fixing, things wear off, needs more cleaning inside. Moorings also will be more expensive.
For starters you will need to hire a captain to take care of a boat like this until you totally learn how to manage and handle.
Price range of a used boat like this : HKD 2,500,000/- 
 

A 45 footer Greenline

If you do have the finance, and want something new, then this Greenline 45 is one of the best models I have seen in this range. This boat actually has a range of around 1200 Nautical miles, that is back and forth to Philippines from HK twice without needing to refuel. These are super fuel efficient boats, with joy stick controlled Volvo IPS engines, so beginners can easily control it. Very luxury designed interiors and as you know, there are no bounds to luxury and expense in today’s world. But these boats are one of few that actually has value for the money, which is most important.

Of course the disadvantage again is the bigger and pricier they get, the more care they need.
Price around : HKD 6,500,000/- to 7,500,000 depending on what options etc.

The boats can get as big as one likes it, and the price tag keeps going higher and higher, putting them all here would be a lot of information. But I hope you get the general idea when you want to step into boating. 

I hope you found this article helpful

Asia Boating Ltd 
Hong Kong
Baggy Sartape