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Mon 16 Mar 2009 04:00 AM

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There’s a boat out there for everyone

But which one is for you? An essential guide through the what, where, when, why and how.

But which one is for you? An essential guide through the what, where, when, why and how.

In the modern 24/7-WiFi-Blackberry-always contactable world, ‘getting away from it all’ is becoming an increasingly precious commodity. To escape the hustle and bustle of the city and mundane commitments, what better way than to embark on a day on the water? The gentle lapping of the water on the hull, the feel of the breeze over the deck, and most importantly, an escape from the noise of traffic.

Embracing this sense of freedom, and sharing it with family and friends, either for sport or relaxation is what drives the boating community. But what is there to do and how does it work? This we aim to explain by answering six simple questions. Who goes boating?

Setting off on a boat into the horizon, escaping the claustrophobia of the mainland and being in an environment where the sky is not obscured by buildings is a liberating experience. But do you have to be a ‘sailor’ to own a boat, or even be on a boat? What about getting seasick? What about getting lost? These concerns could equally be applicable to an afternoon out in the desert.

Choosing the right boat depends on how you intend to use it, your yachting skills and budget.

In short, anyone can go out on the water – you don’t have to be passionate about it, or come from a ‘sailing family’. From motorboats to sailing yachts, luxury power cruisers and stable catamarans, there are many types of different craft that cater for different water-borne activities.

While sailing as a sport obviously requires a certain degree of interest, athleticism and learning to understand how to operate sails, ropes and use the wind as your power, the large proportion of yacht owners use their vessels for sunbathing, swimming off, dining onboard and generally socialising – for which no marine-specific knowledge is needed.

In essence, there is a type of boating for everyone, but make sure you try the right type. If you are sporty, you would get bored sitting inside the air conditioned saloon of a large motor cruiser watching films on the surround sound plasma set-up, but likewise, if you prefer to keep your hands manicured and sun worship, heading out for an afternoon’s racing on a sailing yacht would not be your cup of tea.

Why do it? What is the appeal?

The reasoning behind why people become owners varies, but most have at least two reasons in common; for the social life and relaxation. In all, people make the decision to buy a boat due to one or a combination of five major reasons: sport; family; lifestyle; business and passion.

One of the major growth markets in the Middle East is the sportsboat market, that is, the small powerboat from which a number of sports can be performed. Sportsboats can be generally separated into the bowrider (with seats at the front), cuddy (with a small cabin), and walkaround (self-explanatory), on these you can enjoy activities from swimming, snorkelling and diving, to sportsfishing, wakeboarding and racing.

Costing roughly the same price as a new car, this is the most affordable way to get out on the water, especially as it is often a cost shared by a couple of people who purchase the boat together. Depending on the sport followed, various manufacturers offer models tailored to the specific sport, making the launching, recovery and comfort of the sport easier, e.g. wakeboard towers, diving tank racks, fishing rod holders.

Finding an activity to keep the family active and entertained is also a valid reason for splashing out on a boat. Boating provides a platform for families to be together and for children to learn to respect their environment. This is especially true if a sailing boat is purchased, as children will get to learn a whole new way of respecting the strength of nature, teamwork and balance.

If buying for lifestyle/socialising/hosting parties, as a rule of thumb do not touch a sailing yacht under 20 metres, as there is not sufficient space to keep guests out of the way of the sailing activity.

But in terms of motor yachts, the bigger the better. At about the 20-metre mark you can start selecting spa pools and dedicated crew/staff accommodation to ensure your needs are always catered for, inside expect quality soft furnishings in the saloon and overnight accommodation.

Yachts are also an ideal platform for hosting business meetings on, entertaining clients and creating corporate ‘fun’ days. Not only can the actual purchase and running cost of the boat be a creative way of dealing with tax issues, but the boat can also be chartered out to third parties to offset the cost of ownership.

What kind of boat to buy?

Choosing the right type of boat depends very much on how you intend to use the boat, what your yachting skills are and your budget restrictions. It is certainly true that there is a type of boat for every character – even more than available in the automotive market.

You can initially split the yachting world into the world of sailing boats and motor yachts. It is very easy to get drawn into buying a boat by looking at the media-staged pictures of a yacht cutting through an azure-blue sea, guests socialising on deck. However, it is worth thinking about what you actually want to use your boat for before progressing too far down the purchase route.So we again look at the reason for buying: sport; family; lifestyle; and passion. In many ways, those guided towards getting a boat for either of the first two reasons have an easier task of selecting the right kind of boat, as the type of sport – be it wakeboarding, diving, sailing, etc – will to a large extent dictate the style of boat required.

The same is true with a family boat and a safe, secure and stable boat is needed, with lots of interior cabin and storage space so that children can feel they have their own ‘space’ aboard the boat. In both these fields, budgetary requirements will probably dictate the size and specification for the boat.

If buying for lifestyle, then the chances are a powerboat will be the right direction to go in – as they offer a residential style level of luxury, with all the amenities of the modern apartment, packaged up in a more glamorous space.

The modern powerboat offers plenty of outside seating and sunbathing areas, with lots of grabrails for those unused to the movement of the sea to hold on with. Small galleys (boat kitchen) normally provide all the cooking facilities required to make a medium sized meal, so it is easy to transfer a shore-based lifestyle into a modern powerboat without too much inconvenience.

Separate cabins (bedrooms) also mean that many people can stay in hotel-standard luxury, and most powerboats over 15 metres will have a crew/service cabin for onboard staff to reside. Many owners who buy for lifestyle also hire a skipper to manoeuvre the boat in and out of its berth, keep the yacht maintained, prepared and ready for service at all times – leaving the owner more time to be a host, rather than a captain.

Buying for passion is a completely open field, and is similar to buying for business – as the ‘right’ yacht will more likely be an impulsive purchase that satisfies the needs of the owner or the business at the time. A passionate buy will most likely be a short-term ownership, in a similar vein to buying a fast car with a performance bonus. You may not always get the exact boat you want from your first purchase, but you will certainly get a better idea of what you need next time. Where to buy a boat and where to go?

Where do you a buy a boat? Well, almost in exactly the same way as you would a car. There are authorised boat dealers, international and local websites, independent brokers, new boat builders and independent (private) sellers.

Like with buying any major purchase, research is vital before making tentative steps towards even going out to meet dealers. Dubai is lucky in the fact most international brands are represented by companies based here, but the best way to get an initial idea about boats, what they are, the differences and similarities is to attend the Dubai International Boat Show, or any of the international shows that happen regularly all the way around the world. Boat shows allow prospective owners an ‘open house’ to climb on many different types of boats and slowly narrow down those types/brands they like the look of.

Having an initial idea of a number of different boat/brand types, then there are more passive ways of researching – websites and enthusiast blogs on the internet, magazine articles, asking current owners, etc. Everyone that owns a boat will always want an excuse to talk about it, so indulge them to find out the plus and minus points of their model, the build quality, handling, power units, finish, etc. It’s a lot easier to ask the questions before you’ve put the money down.

The easiest way of buying a boat is to go through a broker in the area you wish to keep the boat – that will ensure the boat arrives with the right engine/rig/air-conditioning specifications for the environment. However, if importing a yacht from another country, make sure the specification of the systems can cope with the environment you are taking it into – for example powerboats destined for the Gulf need propellers with a different pitch to those in colder European waters.

So, you can buy a boat anywhere, and at any time, but you must ensure that the yacht is specified correctly to safely fulfil the legislative and environmental conditions of your local area.

Talking of cruising ground – where do you take a boat? There are many different anchorages and marinas to visit around Dubai. But if more time is available, then venturing up to hotel resorts such as Al Hamra in Ras Al Khamiah, the Musandam or even Fujairah are all longer trips that many power and sail cruisers undertake over extended holiday periods. Cruising in the Arabian Gulf is no different from many other less-developed areas of the world; it takes planning, preparation and confidence. Take training courses for this! When is the time to buy?

There is no specific time when you ‘should’ buy a boat. The buying of a boat should be when you are ready to take it on. Do not be rushed into getting a boat before you have the right level of training, skill, finance or mooring provision arranged, or your first few months of ownership will be filled with inconveniences.

While it is best to buy a boat so that you can immediately start using it, like all contracts of sale, the process of buying a boat, registering and commissioning can take some time. It is always important to factor in a time delay. Also expect significant delivery times if your chosen craft is not in stock, or you have requested one with non-standard specifications.

If buying a boat for racing – whether that be power or sail – it is important to make sure that the boat will be on the water well in advance of the racing calendar, so that you can have ample time to practice, tune the boat to your needs and purchase any extra kit.

While common advice may be never to buy in summer, having a boat delivered in summer does allow for you to get used to the systems, paperwork and handling in advance of the cooler winter season. But above all, it is vital not to buy a boat before you are ready – otherwise you may well be put off before you reap the rewards.

Researching the type of boat to buy thoroughly is vitally important, so if you get the opportunity to go onboard the model you want at Dubai International Boat Show, make sure you do!

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