Marine recreation is for everyone

 
 

The inaugural Fragrant Harbour Maritime Festival took place on the 19th, 20th and 21st of May 2017 at Pier 8 in Central. Hosted by the Hong Kong Maritime Museum, it attracted 25 exhibitors and some 3,000 visitors.

It was something of a miracle that it actually happened, given the preparation time (two and a half months) and the granting of necessary permits and approvals from government. But, first, let’s look at why it happened and where it happened.

In the old, old days (mid-1980s), Fragrant Harbour gave its support to Dennis Young’s shows at the Aberdeen Marina Club, then Neil Brooke’s fairs at the Gold Coast (early 1990s), Martin Leung’s shows at Clearwater Bay, and later Mike Franco’s rejuvenated fair at Gold Coast Marina in January 2002.

For 15 consecutive years, Gold Coast proved itself a steady player and provided the local marine recreation industry a venue to showcase its wares. Show organiser and marina manager, Dave Bowdler, worked tirelessly to maintain standards and, in 2016, pulled 10,540 visitors, 80 boats in-water and 14 on the hard. That’s pretty good for anywhere in the world.

In fact, so pleased were we by the level the Gold Coast Boat Show 2016 had reached that in our FH Number 286
issue we wrote:

‘Finally, Hong Kong has a show that is settled, with a respectable attendance. Sure, it’s nowhere near the size of Fort Lauderdale or Dusseldorf, but Hong Kong is not America or Germany.’

Talk about speaking too soon!

A change of club management saw a car show take preference and a line put through the Gold Coast Boat Show 2017.

Still, the Hong Kong International Boat Show continued at Club Marina Cove in December so all was not lost.

However, Fragrant Harbour has long advocated a ‘total show’ or rather a ‘festival’ for Hong Kong as it really is too small a place for a ‘megayacht only’ event. We believe in small boats, medium boats, big boats, the lot. Also, there’s fishing, there’s models, there’s DIY, there’s historic craft, there’s powerboards, there’s sail training, there’s no end to what goes on in our waterways.

So, what to do? Put on our own event and make it work. Not as a big boat show because that would require dock facilities, calm water, lots of space, but rather as a dry show. And no conflict with Marina Cove.

The choice of venues was limited: Wanchai Public Cargo Working Area (great, but full of dumb lighters and construction waste), Clearwater Bay (too far) and the Hong Kong Maritime Museum (perfect, location-wise and in terms of covered space). So, after discussions with the accommodating museum director, Richard Wesley, preparations began in earnest. Surprisingly, Hong Kong’s many and varied marine players, clicked right in to what was going on and what was on offer. The show was under cover, reasonably priced and in the middle of Central!

No, it was never going to be an inwater show. Why does it have to be? Many Western shows are dry (boot Düsseldorf, for example). And, given that Hong Kong’s marinas barely have enough space for their own occupants, it is evident to us that a show on the hard has a promising future.

In prime position at the entrance, and by far the most photographed exhibit, was the Ranger Tug, Happy Mini Ship. At 21 feet in length, it drew glowing praise from boating and nonboating folk alike. “So cute” was the most commonly-heard phrase, along with comments about its affordability and suitability for family use.

Also displayed at the front of the show was a sexy Monterey 224FSC, powered by a 200hp Mercruiser inboard. Speeds of up to 40 knots make this a superb wakeboard or ski boat. This was complemented by a Sea Ray 230 Signature from Steyr Motors and two inflatable dinghies from China Pacific Marine.

Two of Hong Kong’s major sailing clubs – Aberdeen Boat Club and Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club – joined the show. “This is a pleasing sign that the clubs are reaching out to real people, dispelling the myth that sailing and boating are elitist. The ABC displayed an Optimist which is an entry-level craft for young sailors all around the world. The RHKYC brought along a Laser and signed up at least two people for their popular sailing courses,” said show organizer, David Robinson, of Fragrant Harbour.

Inside the Lower Deck, and in prime position, were the booths of Marine Italia and Absolute Marine, followed by Beaufort Marine, Steyr, Simpson Marine, Sunseeker and Starship Yachts. Olivier Decamps of Beaufort confirmed that he sold a Varianta 37 (smaller sistership of the Varianta 44, Tolo).

Drawing a lot of attention was the double booth of Premier Collections with its models of Volvo Ocean Race yachts, Hong Kong harbour craft, ferries and tugs. The proprietor of this world-acclaimed organization, Clive Miners, was on hand to provide descriptions of the 80 plus models on display and answer the many questions of curious admirers.

Natalie Ye from Seahorse Marine in China told visitors about her everpopular Diesel Duck motorsailers and ocean passagemakers, while Carmine Vastola’s fishing gear and videos of deepsea game fishing drew the crowds.

An attractive double booth created by Mia Qi of Asia Marine stood out for its elegance, colour scheme and visuals of the Galeon range of innovative powercraft, while luxury yacht magazine, Asia-Pacific Boating, added more diversity to the festival.

The Hong Kong Water Ski Association had a stream of fit, bronzed athletes passing by during the three-day event and Northrop & Johnson nearby offered luxury charters Asia-wide to interested visitors.

The team from NextWave Yachting always put on interesting displays at boat shows and the Fragrant Harbour Maritime festival 2017 was no exception. There were powerboards, fitness machines and an unusual in-water exhibit not far from their double booth. Called a NextWave Island 65, it is the perfect party and charter boat, ideal for corporate ntertaining or watching the fireworks in Victoria Harbour. Well known marine industry operator, Andy Chan, of Marine Link displayed a Kohler generator and not far away the restored L-class wooden dinghy, My Belle, added a touch of the past to the festival.

The Maritime Museum featured the well-supported Sailability organization and even the ship’s wheel of the historic Fatshan II. Museum director, Richard Wesley, encouraged both exhibitors and visitors to venture upstairs to see the many maritime artifacts, paintings, Ship Bridge Simulator and rare exhibits in his museum galleries.

The last two exhibits were a coastal rowing skull for the fitness-minded and a magnificent Ferretti 850 luxury yacht in-water.

The entire show was held undercover – a big advantage in May’s fickle weather. For next year, there are plans to use both the Lower and Upper Decks of the building, together with space in the open, along the promenade.

By staging the festival in Central, and in the public eye, it is hoped that the simple message of marine recreation being for everyone (not just the rich) will be conveyed to the public and those in power. With 9,500 licensed pleasure craft in the territory, and a good 5,000 other diverse recreational craft, Hong Kong is paradise for those who know there is more to life than work. And what better way to spend precious leisure time than out on the water!

For more information about the Fragrant Harbour Maritime Festival, call +852 2566 8120 or visit www. fragrantharbour.com

 
 
 
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