Buying a Boat

DISCLAIMER. USE IT AT YOUR OWN RISK!!!!!!  😉 This is not a professional advice.  This sharing is consolidation of my finding, chatting and first experience buying a sailboat.  If you intend to do this, do more research and have a more informed decision.  Buying a boat need determination and patient so that you will get one that really suits you; I have read in the Cruise and Sailing Forum that people take years to find a suitable one.

Purpose.  Isn’t this obvious?  Well, it might not be. For those who know exactly what they want, then this blog may be boring, or even help to point out those wrongly written stuff,  as you definitely is an experience sailor/boater/liveaborad.

For those newbie like me, I have learned that there are few probable purposes for one to buy a boat. 1) For pleasure, 2) For fishing, 3) For racing, 4) For cruising, 5) For circumnavigation and 6) To liveaboard.  Having the purpose in mind, it will determine what kind of boat you should be targeting.  For liveaboard, its further sub-divided into weekend liveaboard or long-term liveaboard.

It seems to me most Singaporeans will want power craft instead of sailboat, I have no experience of power craft except viewing one with my friend.  The myth of boating is expensive come from the power craft and it seems to be true.  The fuel consumption of power craft is huge, I was told a trip from Sembwang to Southern Islands cost about a month fuel bill for a saloon car.  I have yet to verify with a boater.  People having the purpose of pleasure and fishing will generally go for power craft.

For racing most will go for light weight and probably would not pay much attention to the interior; they will focus on the performance instate.  This is sailboat or rather keelboat for racing.

For cruising, I would think sailboat is good as it the sail cruising that bring you the joy.  However, to cruise with sail you must have time as wind powered can only be so fast unlike power craft.  Cruising also has variation from of simple short trip to the extreme of Cirumnavigataion (Circumference Navigation around the Earth).

To liveaboard is what I will be experiencing, and my liveaboard is long-term (as long as it can be) and with short trips during school holidays.  As to will I sail beyond Thailand will be something that will be planned but KIV till time and financial permit.

Qualification. I have found out from Maritime and Port Authority (MPA) Singapore that you don’t need a Power Pleasure Craft Driving License (PPCDL) to own a boat.  However, you will need the PPCDL if you need to operate an engine when sailing.  So officially you don’t need any qualification to buy a boat, and if you boat doesn’t has an engine you can sail with easy. Having said that, you would probably want to attend the Basic Sailing Course to have an understanding of how to sail and to make yourself more proficient, you will need to attend the Singapore Sail Federation Level 1 Clinic and the Competent Crew course and Day Skipper Course.  These course will teach you how to be a sail a keelboat with confident.  Of course you can skip all these course and learn it yourself but it could be risky. All the Yacht and Sailing Club in Singapore conduct most of the courses and at different rates, its best that call respective club to find out more and select one depending on your budget.

Budget.  This is the factor that concern most, boat price depend largely on  how new, power or sail, size, mono or multi hull, conditions, luxury build? First import in Singapore or Import Used?  The budget will also determine where to shop and how much you need to do to refurbish and upgrade.  The price range below can be found on the blog written by Kris Beevers and is amended slightly based on my findings.

  • <SGD$ 60,000:  You will either get a small sailboat or small power boat, 30ft or less, in Singapore, or from Thailand/Malaysia a slightly bigger boat but much older (probably 30 to 40 years old) and probably need fair bit of works to upgrade it.
  • SGD$60,001 to SGD$150,000: This range is the wide with many options available locally or overseas.  The boat size is generally in the 30 to 40ft and the conditions varies. If you are lucky you probably able to find one value for money, which I think I’m the fortunate one.
  • >SGD$150,000: The range extend to what ever you can afford.  I did not limit it as the range is too many options.

Where to shop. I first started with internet shopping at Langkawi and Phuket, there are quite few brokers there and with larger selection. The brokers are Pippen Marine, Lee Marine, Simpson Marine, Boatshed Phuket, and YBC. Personally I used YBC the most for research as I find that the website provides the most details and picture of the boats on sale.  Singapore brokers generally only have powerboat and less of sailboat, and I was told sailboat transactions usually are through word of mouth in the yacht clubs.  The price of the used boat in Langkawi and Phuket are also lower than in Singapore.  Some sellers do post their sale at adpost, and I got my boat from through adpost.


  • Buy from Singapore or Overseas – Buying from Singapore save on some of the unnecessary expenses and is largely less troublesome as compared to buying from overseas especially if you are Singaporean. The only set back to buy from Singapore is the limit in choice and cost.  To buy from overseas there are better options and generally cheaper.  But to buy from overseas you will need to deliver her back to Singapore and if you can’t do it yourself (that will depend on your competency) else you will need to engage a delivery captain and perhaps crews.  This is the additional cost.  Boat shopping at overseas will also incur lots of traveling time and expenses, no-frill airline cost help to save some cost though. The traveling includes viewing, reviewing, sea trial, survey, sign contract, final settlement, taking over boat, preparing the boat to sail to Singapore…. I don’t know what else but large should be these.
  • Size – For most Singaporean probably is the bigger the better it is, just like houses, this come with a cost and again is just like houses.  What is the suitable size boat is dependent on the purpose of owning a boat.  Since this blog is about liveaboard, then I will discussed using this as reference.  I was looking at 40 ft initially, as it seems quite big from the picture found in YBC, but with more readings, it seems that a 35 ft would be a right size even with family of four.  Now that I have a 36 ft, I can said that it’s just right but depending on the layout.
  • Mono or Multi, Power or Sail – Catamaran and Power boat are better liveabord, if you can afford it, as they are generally more spacious and catamaran is less rocking as  compared to mono hull.  Catamaran and power boat are a lot more costly and power  boat is expensive to operate.  So for a sailboat is generally the option for low budge liveaboard.
  • Cabins – A sailboat of 30 -40 ft generally will have 2 to 3 cabins. You would need to consider this depending on number of people living aboard. Although the saloon can mostly be converted to be sleeping area, but it can be troublesome to do that every night.
  • Electric Power – Electrical Power is looking at shore power set-up, solar power system, wind generator, fuel generator… When the boat is berth on a Pier, generally there will be shore power supplied, however most of the electrical stuff aboard are DC power from the batteries. Shore power is used to charge battery, if you don’t have a solar system, run few AC appliances if you have installed.  Solar power and wind generator are the need to have for cruising liveaboard, it can be build over time and not necessary be the first priority.  It will be good if the boat you are buying comes with it. Some boats have fuel generator aboard to use it as a replacement for shore power or alternate to the solar and wind generator. The issue with fuel generator is the noise and capacity of fuel to be carried.
  • Water – There is a need to pay attention to the water tank capacity as if you decided to do a longer cruise, it will be limited by this as there is a need to do more stops to top-up water.  This limitation can be resolved if there is a water maker system aboard, you will have unlimited supply of freshwater!
  • Fuel – To bad, there is no fuel maker in this world, and I think it will not have for a long long time to come.  So you would need to consider this depending on your purpose of having a boat.  Fuel is to power your engine to move your boat if the rig or wind is not there for you, fuel is also to run the engine to charge your battery if no other means to do so.
  • AIS vs HARTS – Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a transponder system that emit your boat location to other vessel so that they can pick you up from the radar, this is “international” system which is a better option to HARTS.  Harbour Craft Transponder System (HARTS) is a Singapore system and is mandatory, but if you have a AIS you are exempted to install a HARTS.  HARTS is a Singapore system and it works only in Singapore Port Limit, the cost is almost the same as an AIS (SGD$ 900+) and have an annual operating cost of SGD$120.  AIS only has an upfront cost with not annual operating cost.  So if you have a choice go for AIS instead of HARTS.

Berth – You would need to think about where to berth your boat when you have it.  And some of the yacht clubs here only allow member to berth their boats, those allow non-member will charge a slightly higher price.  You would need to find out from the club that you intent to berth on availability as there are only so many of the berth available and there are many boats on waiting list to berth.  The berth charge for a 36 ft cost about SGD$300 to SGD$700, it all depend on how premium is the club and is it private club or public.  Cheaper option is mooring, but that will mean no shore power and unlimited water supply.  Get a berth before you buy a boat!!!! Else your boat better be self-sufficient in term of electric power and bear with the trouble to top up water (you may not want to use your water maker around the mooring area due to cleanliness of the sea water around the area)

Sea Trial. After you have found a suitable boat and finding a berth, please do a sea trial to satisfy yourself that the boat is seaworthy and the system are generally ok.  Is just like buying a car, you would bring it out for a test drive.  Try to get an experience boater/sailor to go with you, to try to have the surveyor to do sea trial will be ideal but would be costly.

Insurance.  Just like buying car and houses, you would need an insurance policy for your boat.  The minimum sum is $25,000 as required by law, and a third-party coverage will cost only about $200+; I’m not sure does the premium go high if the boat is newer, but this is want I have found out from the companies for 20 plus years old boat.  Even a comprehensive coverage is not very expensive based on the boat that I have, it’s cost about the same price as a saloon car without NCD.  There companies who do boat insurance; HSBC, NTUC and QBE are the three that I have checked. I bought my with QBE as they seems to be a well establish and common insurance company in Thailand and Singapore.

Survey.  This is a necessity for two purpose; 1) Insurance for boat older than 10 years, 2) a professional opinion of the boat conditions.  Don’t try to find a surveyor for sailboat from the internet, I have tried and couldn’t get any.  Talk to your insurance company, they will be able to refer you the surveyor recognised by their company.  The survey fee can vary from hundred to thousand depending on how details you want the check to be.  To check below waterline will requires you to haul it out from water, if the marina has the facility and it’s quite convenient else you would need to arrange for places to haul it out. Two places that have this are Marina Country Club @ Pungol (they have travel crane to do this), Changi Sail Club (this is by hiring a mobile crane to do it in the club) and it’s not cheap, the lifting itself is about SGD$1k plus each time, haul out once and put the boat back on water another cost.

Closing the Deal.  After you are satisfied with the above and think this is the one, do go to the jewellery shop and buy a wedding ring, you are marrying to her. Well it’s almost like that.  You would need to negotiate before any final agreement, seller or buyer need to prepare a bill of sale or bill of purchase.  The template can be found easily from internet, a simple one will do in Singapore context and is direct seller and buyer. If you are going through broker there will be contract to sign.

Registering the Boat. You would need to decide which country you want to register the boat with.  To register it with Singapore and purchase outside Singapore you will need to pay GST for importing the boat, even if it’s used boat. You can register under other country, but you would need to find out how to as I have not experience. The broker might be able to advice.  The boat that I have bought was first registered in Thailand and brought over to Singapore. It was registered with Singapore Ship Registry even the previous owners are PR, but the MPA staff said there is no need to maintain the ship registry for me as I’m Singaporean, so if you are buying a boat locally do check on the Ship Registry with the seller.  The registry will need to be transferred or cancel before the ownership transfer can take place. I learn this on the day of ownership transfer at the last moment after all the paper work, thought I would not get the transfer done, fortunately the de-registeration can be done over call and emails.  However, I couldn’t get my boat license on the spot due to that and have to wait for the post.

MPA-OSDC.  For bring boat to Singapore or transfer of ownership you will need to visit the One Stop Documentation Center to do the paper work.  My experience of direct seller to owner it’s pretty straight forward.  Fill up a form (seller will need to provide more of the details), present the ID of previous owner/s and new owner/s and the staff punch in the details into the system and it’s done.  The preparation works above are the tedious one and is following a sequence.  For producing the necessary document for transfer the sequent of events are get Bill of Sale/Purchase, get survey report then Insurance and with insurance to show to the club, the club will give you the Letter of Mooring.

Delivery. You would need to bring the boat from where it’s berth/moored to your new marina.  If you can’t handle single-handed, advice is probably not, you can asked a friend or even the seller to help. Which for my case the sellers helped me sail it from Changi to Sembawang.  I would like to offer my free service if any one needs help. 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s