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Hong Kong Harbor Junk Charter

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Spouse & I will be spending 2 days in Hong Kong this October. We were thinking of spending one day doing a "private junk charter" to sail around the harbor and vist neighboring island. The concierge at our hotel has suggested we choose from several rather large (60' to 85') vessels all but two are modern cabin cruisers. The other two are large relatively new power boats with clapboard sidding that resembles "old" junks. All of the recommended boats are designed for grounp charters and accomodate for between 20 and 50 guests. Our own internet search brings up essentially the same charter boats, albiet through different yacht brokers.

Since there are only 2 of us that will be taking the trip we are wondering if someone could recommend a smaller boat, perhaps something in the 35' to 45' range, that would be more suitable for two people. We were hoping to find something like a more "taditional" sailing junk but are not really sure if they still exist. We would be willing to do either a power boat or a sailing (monohull or catamaran) although we don't know if the distances between island and other points of interest would necessitate the use of a power boat. Having an english speaking Captain would be helpful.

Any recommendations or suggestions (including possible itineraries) would be greatly appreciated. Thanks so much!

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    I don't think a sailing yacht is practical or safe for actually going between places in Hong Kong. Too many big ships and highspeed ferries that create high wakes in the harbor, as well as going to the main islands of attractions to the west of Hong Kong - including Lantau, Cheung Chau, Lamma, etc.

    I often see some yachts on weekends coming from the Causeway Bay typhoon shelter going east past Lei Yu Mun to east of the harbor. You may want to contact the Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club there to see what programs they may have:

    www.rhkyc.org.hk

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    To the best of my knowledge, junks are actually quite large. You may be thinking of sampans, which are smaller, but I don’t believe you will find any that are sail-powered any longer. The only sort of “authentic” junks for hire which I am aware of are the Duckling (http://www.dukling.com.hk/ )
    And Le Boat (http://www.toptables.com.hk/leboat/). I believe these are larger than you would want. The Duckling is a lovely boat and Le Boat is massive, but very beautiful I must say, I have not been on her, I have just seen her in Deep Water Harbour. (Go out and see her.)

    Sailing around the waters would require some days. I don’t think it is really a good option for just an afternoon or even a day. You need a power boat to be able to see anything of the area. (I believe both the Duckling and Le Boat actually have engines.) If you want to sail for an afternoon in an area, that is fine, but you won’t really be able to make a day of sightseeing, IMO. The Yacht Club mentioned above is a private club and does not allow members of the public to hire boats. If you belong to a club at home, you may have the possibility of a reciprocal membership and then can hire a boat. I don’t know that this would be the most fun as you are not familiar at all with the harbour, the waves, winds and currents. The club has lots of group events, however, and you may want to join an afternoon sail.

    There are only a few charter operators in Hong Kong, that is why your search is coming up with the same as the hotel’s. Most of the boats are large because people tend to charter them for parties and office groups. I assume you have come across Jubilee and the Saffron (http://www.jubilee.com.hk and www.saffron-cruises.com). The larger wooden boats are not actually “junks” they are luxury motorboats that sort of look like junks. Some even have sails, albeit not really working ones. However, both Jubilee and Saffron also have smaller boats for hire (with captain), have you contacted them to ask about those? I have been on the Cassia which is a Saffron boat, and it is about 40 feet and is a very nice wooden boat (sort of a junk) that makes for a great afternoon, IMO. While with only 2 people this may feel huge, I think you will get used to it quickly.

    Also try Paul Etherington at http://www.kayak-and-hike.com. He does day trips by speedboat for kayaking out to the Sai Kung area, which is really beautiful and would be my recco for a day trip. Very clean beaches, beautiful water, great vistas. His boat may be more open than you want (see below), but he may be able to arrange for another type of boat. He is usually very helpful in any event so you might get in touch with him about what you want to do and see if he can arrange it.

    When considering which boat to hire, IMO, you want a boat with at least some area which is covered. This is for rain and also to get some shade. A completely open boat is not really a fun experience here. Paul’s boat is open and so I don’t know that I would spend the whole day out on it, but if he has suggestions for other boats with covered areas, that might work.

    For an itinerary, you could get picked up in Central and do a harbour cruise, and then go to the back side of Hong Kong and see Deep Water Bay, Repulse Bay and over to the back side of Lamma Island (the village of Tung O and protected cove for turtles to the south of that) and perhaps Po Toi Island and then around the Shek O end of Hong Kong and back up through the eastern end of the harbour. Alternatively, you could get picked up in Central and go directly out to Sai Kung in the New Territories which would give you some good harbour views and then the great remote areas of Sai Kung, or you could arrange to meet the boat in Sai Kung (you would take a train there and back). The latter option would give you more time out in the remoter areas and beaches, but would mean no harbour cruise. Not really a loss IMO if you do the Star Ferry, the free Duckling cruise with the Tourist Office, and/or the junk cocktail cruise offered by the Hutong Restaurant (see to www.aqua.com.hk). Getting dropped off in Sai Kung would also give you a chance to wander around there, some interesting little shops in the village and some good restaurants. If you do a Hong Kong Island tour, you could stop for a seafood lunch on Po Toi Island, a nice spot, a tiney village and you can do a little walk on it too. (I am not toally sure the restaurants are even open on weekdays, you would need to check on that, I have only gone on weekends, it is a popular place to walk.)

    what are your dates here for October. October 1 is National Day and there are usually fireworks IN the harbour (a good day to keep the boat). October 19 is Cheung Yeng, the lantern festival, not really concerned with the sea, but a nice holiday to go see everyone out with lanterns, esp in Victoria Park in Causeway Bay.

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    Thanks for the helpful replies.

    Cicerone - yes those were the websites we found and I was pretty sure the Royal HK Yacht Club didn't provide a charter service and confirmed that on their website. We live very far inland so are not members of a local yacht club.

    Kayaking sounds interesting to me but doubt spouse would enjoy it as she is not comfortable in anything that would put her that close to the water.

    We've chartered before in other parts of the world but were just a bit overwhelmed by the sizes of the vessels recommended by our hotel concierge. It just seemed a bit pretentious to charter something as big as what was being recommended.

    I'll check into the tours but our reason for a private boat was so we could move at our own pace. We tend to see things quickly and the few times we've done group tours we end up spending more of our time waiting while the "stragglers" waste time roaming around the ubiquitous souvenier shops.

    We will be in HK the last few days of October and leave on November 1.

    We don't mind spending the money for a private charter/tour but we didn't want to be sitting on the deck of a mega-yacht looking like rich tourists.

    We will review your suggestions and adjust our plans accordingly. Thanks again for your help.

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    Like Cicerone and I said, there's just no small boat you can hire to tour the islands. Just not safe and practical. The seas can be pretty tough, particular INSIDE the harbor because of all the vessels, the hard/straight seawalls and the narrowness of it.

    Then there's the distance. Central to Sok Kwu Wan in Lamma is about 8 miles. Even relatively high speed ferries take 30-minutes. Then from Sok Kwu Wan to Yung Shue Wan is 4 miles. Yung Shue Wan over to Cheung Chau is 7 miles. Cheung Chau to Mui Wo is 5. Mui Wo back to Central is 12.

    Just doing this loop in a small powered vessel will take a whole day without spending much time at each place.

    And again, this side of the harbor has lots of traffic. From 100,000+ tonnes container ships to passenger jetfoils and catamarans going at 45knots creating huge wakes.

    Even for the Duk Ling, the powered Chinese-style junk that carries about 40, its free one-hour harbor cruise only loop around the relatively quiet eastern part of Victoria Harbour, for a distance of about 6 miles. And even for that, the wake was large enough twice during my trip that had people feeling quite uncomfortable.

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    Thanks to the two of you I now have a much better perspective of the harbor and distances involved and why the larger boats were recommended. As I said we are familiar with chartering and the logistics involved in travelling between various points. I can see why our initial idea might not be very practicle. We'll probably just do one or more of the "standard" tours during our stay. Again, thanks for some very usful information.

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    Rkwan’s experience notwithstanding, the 40-foot boats do fine on the day charters. That is a very typical size of boat which many people use for afternoon and day trips. They get picked up in Central and spend the day going to the backside of Hong Kong, Lamma and other islands. Many, many offices here have boats those size and people spend the day out on them (this is an extremely typical Sunday afternoon activity for expats here).

    Waters are typically not that choppy. Inside the harbour if there are a lot of boats you may get some backwash, but generally it is not a problem. If you are used to boats, really not a problem at all. (I suspect that many people on the Duckling rarely get on a boat, you can see that with tourists on the Star Ferry too, they stand up while the boat is still docking and then seem surprised when the boat jerks as it hits the dock….)

    I agree distances can be long, so if you wanted to go to Sai Kung which is quite far out, it probably would make a shorter day to either get picked up in Sai Kung or get dropped off there at the end of the day. However, discuss all these things with the charter company; they know best what timings and routes would work for you depending on how much time you have available. This is what they do for a living. For example, if you did not have time for a whole day, you could do a partial tour of Hong Kong Island and get dropped off in Stanley, have a meal and a look around Stanley and then take the very fun double Decker bus ride back over the mountain, which would be faster than the boat, but a great trip as well. There are many options available to combine the boat and public transport (which is excellent all over Hong Kong, Kowloon and the New Territories) to make a long or short day.

    I personally think this is a great idea, and often encourage people on this board to do it. I have chartered myself here for parties and when family/friends are here and it is a makes for a very relaxing fun day IMO. With only 2 days in Hong Kong, you might want to stick to just staying in the Hong Kong Island area and using the boat as an opportunity to see Aberdeen and the back side of the island, but you do have the opportunity to see more remote areas if you want.

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    I actually agree that the 40- to 60-foot powered boats are fine. I've been on such cruises a few times, mostly to Lamma Island; but also out to Ping Chau on the NE corner of Hong Kong (long trip).

    My comment about the Duk Ling is more about the issue of slow boats (like a real sail boat, or smaller vessels than the 40-60' ones) inside the harbor. They're more susceptible to the wake than the typical "cruisers" Cicerone and I had been on.

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