Tatler’s Ultimate Guide to Sailing In Hong Kong
When Mike Simpson resigned from the British Army, he spent 14 years sailing and mountaineering around the world. “I enjoyed seeing the world. I like to adventure and experience the different cultures,” he says. Setting sail in England, Simpson cruised down to and round the Mediterranean, North Africa, across the Atlantic, and then through the Caribbean. His mission of sailing around the world subsequently brought him to Hong Kong, Taiwan and Singapore, before he eventually decided to set up yacht sales and charter company Simpson Marine in Hong Kong in 1984.
After running his business for more than three decades and having travelled around the world for most of his life, Simpson still finds Hong Kong a charming place to set sail. The impact of Covid-19 this year has forced a lot of people to stay put, but Simpson believes this doesn’t mean travelling––which has become a part of the modern lifestyle––has to stop. “People saw the beauty of the environment around Hong Kong, particularly the marine environment,” he says. “I think the best thing about travelling is for people to try it out for themselves. An adventure means that you’re not programmed to go here because you’ve been told this is brilliant. In my traveling days, I never used guidebooks. It may sound rather stubborn and difficult, but the more things are actually planned, organised, structured, the less you have that sense of adventure, which to me is what it’s all about.”
Still, for those who are new to yachting and sailing in Hong Kong or are looking for an anchor, here’s our ultimate guide with recommendations from an expert.
Where to go?
For local cultural experience
A popular destination from Aberdeen is the island of Po Toi, where there is the famous Ming Kee Seafood Restaurant on the beach. Don’t be fooled by its rustic outlook, this three-decade-old restaurant which is rested on a wooden deck serves fresh seafood dishes such as deep-fried, salted and peppered squid with garlic, seaweed soup with egg and dried shrimp, steamed prawns and stir-fried clams. Be sure to pair your delicious dishes and the sunset with a bottle of beer or two.
The beach, which is on the west coast of Po Toi, is easy to reach, and you can drop an anchor there. Sampans will pick you up and drive you onshore to the restaurant. Check the opening times of the restaurant before you set off.
See also: 10 Secret Islands To Visit In Hong Kong
For beginners who wish to get a feel of sailing in the ocean
When there is a northeast monsoon blowing for a few days, the east end of Hong Kong, such as the open waters outside Clear Water Bay and the Tathong Channel, will be most affected. The sea builds up and swells are created. “This is what you get in the ocean,” Simpson explains.
“When you’re closer to shore, there are shorter waves. Out on the ocean, you get these long waves which we call an ocean swell. It’s a good experience for people who are new to sailing to experience what it’s like when you’re out there and to go up and down and so on. That is the rhythm, the beauty of sailing around.”
See also: The Most Beautiful Beaches To Visit In Hong Kong
For an afternoon tea with a beautiful sunset
The southern side of Hong Kong––Lamma Island, Repulse Bay, South Bay and Stanley––are known for their breathtaking views of the sunset on a clear winter day. Fall and early winter are the most comfortable seasons for yachters to stop by the bays where the water is calmer for the perfect (and steady) afternoon tea.
Starting from this November, Fairline Yachts is partnering exclusively with Peninsula Hong Kong for bespoke on board catering and event collaborations. For the launch of Fairline Squadron 50, the Peninsula is serving British afternoon teas from the fly bridge surrounded by the southern shorelines. The trip sets off from Victoria Harbour, so that guests are in for a treat as you sail around the landmarks and neighbourhoods of the city from a different angle.
For an isolated overnight experience
The Soko Islands in the southwest of Hong Kong is a bit wilder and less visited as it is isolated from the busy, touristy Sai Kung on Lantau Island. Once populated by boat people and villagers, the Sokos are now uninhabited.
It remains a major feeding site for Chinese white dolphins and finless porpoises. The issue of yachting here is the Macau ferries which come through the area at some speed, but there’s only one route that the ferries follow. Most of all, if you choose to explore the Sokos, be a responsible yachter and make sure you sail carefully in the cetaceans’ habitat.
For a longer trip
If you’ve got some time, start from Tolo Harbour and head all the way out to Tap Mun. Be sure to go around the corner into Double Haven, which is very sheltered and pristine. As it will be quite a long trip, you can anchor at various places on route and spend a day or so in the natural environment in the northmost area of Hong Kong.
For discovering some curious landforms
The Ninepins are made up of a cluster of 29 islands created by volcanic activities around 140 million years ago on Sai Kung’s eastern edge. The islands are known for their hexagonal columns which are formed when the cooled and hardened volcanic ash contracted and joints formed in a honeycomb shape. There’s a famous lighthouse here which sailors can see from a long way out as they enter Hong Kong.
Basalt Island and Bluff Island which are a bit up north also have rock formations that are very interesting to geologists. You can stop by Port Shelter which is a enclosed by a mountainous terrain or the more exposed Tai Long Wan to appreciate the headlands, bays and beaches.
What boats should you choose?
A wide boat with two hulls, the catamaran is known for its stability that comes from the width of its shallow draft (the trunk part of the boat below water surface) instead of the depth. It can go in much closer to the shore without bumping into rocks, which is never a good idea for the boat. The catamaran also has a lot of space for fun and storing water toys like paddleboards and kayaks. You can even install a trampoline for kids to jump on. All these make it the perfect family boat.
Motor yachts can go pretty much anywhere. Choosing motor yachts is more about the pace of your cruising as they can run high speed. The British company Fairline’s new Squadron 50, a flying-bridge cruiser built in 2019 for the 2020 season, is installed with the larger 650 IPS engine, giving it a top speed of 31 knots.
Who says you have to go minimal for boat trips? By choosing luxury yachts and superyachts which are very spacious and well-equipped with a wide selection of toys and tenders like swimming pools and some even helicopter platforms, you can travel in style and comfort.
Superyachts usually host 12 guests for overnight cruises and more for daily charters depending on the yacht registration and licence. Sanlorenzo is one of the most known Italian brands for producing made-to-measure and quality built yachts from 24 to 70 metres in length.
These leisure crafts use sails as their primary means of propulsion. They are therefore a popular choice for those looking for something more adventurous. You’ll have to read the wind, the weather conditions, waves and the environment you sail in. Most importantly, it’s the ultimate team building training in order for it to set sail.
See also: 10 Luxury Yachts You Can Rent For The Day In Hong Kong
Where can you learn sailing?
The Hong Kong Yacht Club and the Aberdeen Boat Club in Wong Chuk Hang have sailing programs where you can learn to sail. When you’ve got the hang of it, you can get yourself a crew or yacht and sign up for a race programme such as the China Sea Race, sailing to places such as Vietnam and Manilla (during the normal times), or like Simpson suggests, explore the beautiful places of Hong Kong.
See also: Where To Take Sailing Classes In Hong Kong: 2020 Edition