I chartered one of Singapore’s cheapest yachts for 299 Singapore dollars, or $220.
The two-hour sail had views of the Marina Bay skyline, the Southern Islands, and Sentosa Cove.
I haven’t left Singapore since January 2020, and the experience was the perfect escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
This is Sentosa Cove, the most exclusive enclave in the world’s second-most expensive city, Singapore.
Most Singapore residents, including myself, live in public housing. As someone who grew up in a working-class family, places like Sentosa Cove are far removed from my neighborhood in the eastern part of Singapore.
Sentosa Cove is the only place in Singapore where foreigners can buy landed property (houses like bungalows, terrace houses, and even mansions).
The waterfront enclave is also a wealthy yachting town, and has been described as “Singapore’s Monte Carlo” by the South China Morning Post.
The enclave has its very own yacht club, ONE 15 Marina Club. It’s one of nine marinas in Singapore.
Owning a yacht in Singapore is expensive: A new yacht will likely cost an average of 1,219,884 Singapore dollars, or around $905,000, according to one estimate.
So it’s no surprise that most yachting enthusiasts prefer to rent a boat for leisure. Charter fees usually start from S$499 ($370) for a four-hour sail, so it’s still not exactly cheap, especially for a boating novice like me.
But when I came across a two-hour weekday charter that cost only $299 ($220) on Singapore Yacht Charter’s website, I jumped at the chance to finally sail on a yacht. The offer was the cheapest I’d seen after a month or so of scouring deals online.
On a Thursday evening, I headed to ONE 15 Marina Club at Sentosa Cove for my first yachting experience.
There are 270 wet berths at the marina, including 13 for superyachts.
My friend and I met the captain of our yacht for the evening, EK, at a nearby convenience store before he led us to the marina.
The marina was guarded by gates. Luxury residences towered over the harbour, overlooking the yachts. EK unlocked the gates with a special pass (above), and I followed him into the pier.
EK told me that while some boats are owned by companies chartering yachts for parties and special occasions, others, including superyachts, belong to wealthy individuals.
“Only those with registration numbers that start with ‘SZH’ are for hire,” he said. “Everything else is privately owned.”
My yacht for the evening, a 14-meter (46-foot) catamaran, was big enough to accommodate 23 people.
Nicknamed “My Escapade,” the yacht was decked out with water-sports equipment like kayaks and surfboards. It was a moderately sized boat, especially when compared to the superyachts at the front of the marina.
EK told me the yacht was one of the company’s most frequently booked vessels because of its entry-level price. In all, Singapore Yacht Charter has a fleet of 45 boats.
“We wanted to introduce what yachting is like to people who have never done it before,” he said. “We understand that price can sometimes be a hindrance, so we made a weekday package,” he added.
The lower deck featured a spacious lounge, two cabins, and a restroom.
The cabins, which were fitted with beds, were located at the hull of boat. As the cabins remained unused with charters limited to day use, they seemed to be converted into makeshift storerooms with fishing rods and rubber mats.
The hull of the boat felt a lot more unstable than the upper decks, so if you’re easily sea sick, it might be best to avoid overnight sails.
Despite the light rain, we went ahead for the sail. The cool weather made the experience so much more memorable.
The cockpit was easily my favorite part of the yacht. It had amazing views of the marina and the breeze was a welcome change from Singapore’s typically hot and humid weather.
EK used the boat radar to map out the course of our sail, which encompassed the southern coast of Singapore and views of the Downtown Core.
As we sailed away, there was a lot of turbulence from the waves, which got bigger the further we ventured out of the marina. Rain was pouring into the cockpit.
One important thing I forgot to take with me was a pair of sunglasses — not because it was sunny, but because water kept getting into my eyes.
But the spectacular views of Singapore’s offshore islands, collectively called the Southern Islands, were more than enough to make me forget about my worries.
The main Southern Islands are comprised of eight islands, most of which are uninhabited: St. John’s Island, Lazarus Island, Pulau Tekukor, the twin Sisters’ Islands, Pulau Seringat, Kusu Island, and Sentosa.
While most of the islands are now tourist attractions, some have dark histories.
St. John’s Island, which is a popular destination for day trips, used to be a cholera quarantine facility, detention camp, and a drug rehabilitation center before being converted into a “holiday campsite” in 1975, per government microsite Singapore Infopedia.
Others, like the Sisters’ Islands (above), have had much of their coral reefs destroyed by land reclamation and coastal development, according to the National University of Singapore.
But from afar, the islands looked pristine. It almost seemed like they weren’t part of Singapore, with the lavish islands a sharp contrast to the modern city on the mainland.
Climbing onto the foredeck on a rainy evening is not for the faint of heart, but it was well worth it for the photos.
As we neared the Downtown Core, I braved the rain and slippery deck to venture to the foredeck. The gunwale of the yacht was quite narrow, and with the boat moving fast, it was an intimidating endeavor.
Although I was emerged drenched, I didn’t mind — the glowing skyline was such a magnificent sight.
The view of the Downtown Core was breathtaking. Although I see landmarks like the Marina Bay Sands often, seeing them from out at sea gave me a new perspective.
Because of the pandemic, I haven’t travelled out of Singapore since January 2020, but the sailing experience made me feel like I was seeing something new.
Two hours went by so fast — the sail left me wanting more.
“You should bring your friends next time,” EK told me. “Then you can throw a party,” he added.
Little did he know that as we made our way back to the marina, I was already thinking of the next time I could sail on a yacht again.
It was a short but very sweet escape from my life in the city, surrounded by high-rise buildings and busy people. My only regret was not paying a bit more to have more time at sea, but suffice to say, the cheapest yacht for hire in Singapore was well worth the money.
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