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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Abu Dhabi's upcoming boat festival just might inspire you to venture out onto the open seas

All across the UAE, we are seeing waterfront dwellings becoming more and more popular and this, in turn, gets people thinking about the adventures that possibly await them on the high seas

A yacht sails around the Burj Al Arab. Courtesy Xclusive Yachts
A yacht sails around the Burj Al Arab. Courtesy Xclusive Yachts

It’s that glorious time of year again, when the temperature and humidity drop just enough for normal life to resume. And it’s now that UAE residents and citizens turn their thoughts to favoured pastimes that are impossible enjoy in the searing heat of summer. Cycling, driving convertible cars with the roof down, dining al fresco, even just walking – these simple pleasures are what many of us have been counting down the weeks and months for. And for anyone who owns a boat or yacht in the UAE, it’s probably an opportune time to plan a visit to Abu Dhabi’s Yas Marina Boat Festival.

This two-day annual nautical extravaganza takes place this weekend, and will appeal to anyone with an interest in boats, not to mention jet skis, water sports equipment and other such accessories. Free to enter and open from 2pm, the festival attracted more than 2,000 visitors and 56 exhibitors last year.

According to a spokesperson for the Yas Marina festival, the event will appeal “to everyone from boating aficionados to newbies looking to purchase their first vessel”, and will showcase a variety of new and pre-owned boats. Yachting experts will also be on hand to extol the virtues of life on the ocean, so if you’re a bit strapped for cash, it might be best to only visit if you’ve got your blinkers on.

One of the exhibitors at the festival will be Bush & Noble, a yacht brokerage that was established five years ago. Partner Brett Noble, a friendly Australian expat who has been based in the UAE for nine years, says the industry is in good health and experiencing an upward trend, year-on-year, despite some of the unimaginable costs involved in owning some of the larger crafts we see in UAE waters.

Yachts berthed at the Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Yas Marina
Yachts berthed at the Yas Marina in Abu Dhabi. Courtesy Yas Marina

“You can’t really say with any degree of certainty how many people own yachts in this country,” he notes. “And in any case, with the impending closure of the International Marine Club in Dubai, that number is about to fluctuate.

“It will bounce back again, though, when its replacement facility comes on line – the Dubai Harbour currently being built by Meraas as part of the Bluewaters development. This will be the region’s largest marina, and will provide more room for the larger superyachts to moor, and even allow cruise ships to dock. That’s when we’ll really see how big the regional yachting business is.”

Dubai Harbour will feature a 1,400-berth marina, increasing in one stroke Dubai’s capacity by 50 per cent from its current 3,000 berths. Owners of superyachts (up to 85 metres in length) will also be able to dock there.

All across the UAE, we are seeing waterfront dwellings becoming more and more popular and this, in turn, gets people thinking about the adventures that possibly await them on the high seas. Should you take the plunge?

Here’s some information that might help get you started.

Is shipbuilding still considered a UAE tradition?

Yes, it is. Before the discovery of oil, the sea was the country’s most important economic asset, providing food and facilitating the pearl trade. The Arab dhow, which is one of the most graceful of all floating crafts, is still an intrinsic part of the country’s culture and they are still built here using ancient traditional methods. There are many successful boat-building companies trading here, with each emirate represented. Ajman’s Gulf Craft is one of the world’s largest, making about 400 crafts a year in two UAE shipyards and one in The Maldives. About 10 per cent of the company’s output is luxury yachts, the rest being leisure and fishing boats, as well as commercial passenger crafts for markets all around the world. Gulf Craft recently delivered a yacht to a customer in Tonga, and has announced its intention to commence building megayachts more than 60 metres in length.

How many privately owned boats are there in the UAE?

There are about 5,000 berths in the UAE, which points to there being a similar number of crafts. It is understood by experts that at least half of these are less than 12 metres in length, a third are mid-size and the rest are megayachts, defined as being at least 24 metres in length and requiring full-time professional crews.

What’s the difference between a yacht and a boat?

According to Noble, that’s impossible to strictly define, but yachts tend to be privately owned leisure crafts as opposed to commercial sailing vessels. The term “yacht” used to conjure images of sail boats propelled by the wind, and, occasionally, an engine when the weather changed. Nowadays, the word has much greater meaning, as anyone who’s visited a UAE yacht club will attest to.

Where do yacht owners in the UAE go in theirs?

“Owners in Abu Dhabi have plenty of uninhabited islands to opt from,” says Noble, “while many in Dubai choose to take trips around The Palm, Jumeirah or go further along the coast to Musandam. Some might voyage to Muscat – there’s more to see and do than you might think. Moon Island [70km from the shoreline of Dubai and with excellent diving and snorkelling] is also popular.”

What are the costs involved in running really large yachts?

On average, a superyacht will require about 10 per cent of its purchase price to keep it running for just one year, when you factor in the various costs such as maintenance, staffing, berthing and insurance. Consider that approximately Dh90 million is what you’d need to spend on one of Gulf Craft’s biggest yachts, and you just might be tempted to stick with that kayak available on Dubizzle.

What do you need to legally operate a boat in the UAE?

Sailing anything on the open water is a weighty responsibility so authorities have made it a stipulation to be licensed before you can take to the warm blue waters. Essentially, for boats, you need a driving licence, no matter if it’s an abra, a catamaran, a power boat or a floating palace of a superyacht, and the training course requirements differ according to the size and type of craft you intend to operate, as well as the time of day you want to be able to go on the water. Each emirate has its own stipulations and licensing procedures.

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Read more:

Fishing in the UAE: enthusiast Kit Belen offer tips for first timers starting out

Emaar to develop Dubai Harbour hotel and residences

UAE's first 'floating home' arrives on Dubai Canal

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