Captain’s cruising checklist: Goh Thye Hock
One of Asia’s most widely experienced yacht industry professionals, Goh Thye Hock offers boaters a checklist of items to consider before embarking on any overseas trip.
I’ve had the fortune to work in the marine leisure industry for almost three decades, from my young sailing and windsurfing days to becoming a superyacht captain; from working in marinas to becoming a Certified Marina Professional.
During my time representing Singapore in windsurfing from 1993-2005, training and racing took me around the world, exposing me to different boating cultures.
In Singapore, when I worked for People’s Association Sea Sports Clubs, I promoted watersports to the masses. Later I joined Republic of Singapore Yacht Club to revitalise its sailing heritage by organising keelboat courses, sailing events and the Singapore Straits Regatta.
As construction on ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove was nearing completion, I joined the marina to take on special projects like managing the luxury yacht charter fleet, The Yacht Harbour 5 Gold Anchor assessment, marina safe operational plan (SOP), boaters’ events, the former Boat Asia show and the Volvo Ocean Race 2008/09 stopover – just to name a few!
Through those projects, I saw the importance of professional marina certification, so I signed up for a training programme with Marina Industries Association (MIA) in Australia and achieved an Advanced Marina Management certification in 2009.
Fast forward to 2018 and I became the first person from Southeast and East Asia to be accredited as a Certified Marina Professional by the Global Marina Institute. I hope this achievement can encourage others in this region to follow their aspirations in this industry.
CAPTAIN AND CONSULTANT
Back in 2010, as marinas and private boat ownership started to grow in China, I went over as a captain and fleet manager to manage four European-built yachts from 57-95ft that had been imported into Hainan. I singlehandedly trained local crew to be able seaman on those luxury yachts. It was also during this period that I experienced the true force of typhoons.
My marina operation and project management background landed me offers with Chinese corporations including as an advisor for a marina development in southern China, a director of luxury and super yacht charters, and a technical director for yacht management.
During the Volvo Ocean Race stopover in Sanya in January 2012, I joined the Spanish team as a temporary technical support crew, translator and advisor. I was then invited to continue supporting them for the next two editions of the race as Sanya hosted a stop in 2014 and Hong Kong and Guangzhou did the same in 2017.
With keen interest to formally get an international boat licence, I enrolled for shore-based learning courses with the RYA (Royal Yacht Association).
To qualify for the minimum voyage log before taking the practical assessment, I joined a delivery team based out of Hong Kong and took on many assignments receiving and delivering yachts, sailing throughout southern China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines and Singapore.
When a 140ft superyacht in China needed a First Officer, I went aboard, sailed to Singapore for the first Singapore Yacht Show in 2011 before proceeding to Phuket and back to her home port of Hong Kong.
Soon after, I attended the RYA powerboat assessment and secured a Yachtmaster Offshore certificate. After this, I obtained a Please Vessel Operator (Grade I) certificate in Hong Kong and a China Class A1E powerboat licence.
PREPARATION IS KEY
Because of my sailing and power boating background, I regularly take on delivery assessments, guiding an owner’s full-time crew to prepare their yachts and safety requirements for a long ocean voyage. Most memorable have been sailing catamarans from Xiamen to Sanya during the peak of the northeast monsoon season (October-March).
In-between managing and delivering superyachts, I’ve made use of my marina operation knowledge and boat-handling abilities to provide practical advice for a marina redevelopment project in Taiwan.
Over the past two years, having returned to Singapore due to travel restrictions and border closures, I’ve seen massive interest in boating activities locally and in Hong Kong, Thailand, Taiwan and the Philippines. A growing number of people, including some of my friends, have taken the plunge to buy their first boat and used it extensively, exploring home waters.
I’m currently involved in an interesting side project by helping an industry stalwart with his first boat, a 58ft sailing yacht, and guiding him toward achieving his dream of cruising the high seas when borders reopen.
It’s very important that owners familiarise themselves with their boat’s limitations, equipment, engine(s) and electronics before venturing into foreign waters, whether it’s from Singapore to the likes of Tioman or Phuket, or from Hong Kong to the Philippines, Phuket to the Andaman Islands, and so on.
Before a boat owner embarks on their first ‘overseas’ trip on their own yacht, there are many topics to consider. They include the following:
Safety check: Make sure your buoyancy vests, fire extinguisher(s), red hand flares and First Aid Box are in order.
Documents check: Carry your licence, proof of flag state and insurance to ensure the boat can venture out of port limits.
Seaworthy tests: Before travelling, run the boat regularly, check the equipment is in good working condition and perform any necessary system maintenance.
Clean up: Clean the hull, propellers, shafts and sea-water strainer.
Endurance checks: Long-distance cruising adds greater demand on engines, so consider changing the engine oil, oil filter, fuel filter and impeller prior to voyage.
Tighten up: It’s common for hoses and connection to loosen, so check, tighten or replace them.
Sea trial: Test different RPMs vs speed over ground (SOG) vs fuel consumption to find out the best speed for economical fuel consumption and running hours to the destination.
Plan the route: Set way points on your chart or chart plotters, calculate the total distance of voyage, estimate your cruising speed and total voyage duration.
Carry extra fuel: Running the fuel tank low increases the risk of water or dirty fuel clogging the engines, so allocate an extra 30 per cent of fuel for rough seas, strong winds, tidal flows and running the generator until the next fuelling stop.
Quality fuel: Fuel contamination can cause major engine issues, so only use fuel from a reputable supplier; most modern engines run on zero-sulphur fuel.
Become a mechanic: You are your own mechanic, so carry spares like oil, fuel filters, impeller, fuses and so on; know how to replace them.
Keep clear: Store or remove unnecessary items ashore to keep the weight down and alleys clear.
Night navigation: Check that your navigation lights are working and make sure you know the light systems on different vessels and areas.
VHF: Learn the basic VHF communication protocol.
Radar: Be knowledgeable on their settings and usage, especially at night or during bad weather.
Keep a log: Maintain an hourly voyage log of engine running temperature, fuel consumption rate, position, sea state and so on; any drop in boat speed or increase in fuel consumption or engine temperature may be an early warning sign.
Seek advice: Make a passage plan and consult any fellow boaters who have been on your route or to your destinations before.
Team up: Ideally, sail in a flotilla with experienced boaters and maintain close communication at sea.
Seasons: Know the seasonal conditions and sea states; be prepared for sudden changes in weather.
Call ahead: Contact the marina and make berthing or refuelling arrangements beforehand; find out the type of shore plug used, the electricity priority and ampere to meets your boat’s requirements.
Port notices: Research to see if any marine port notices may affect your voyage.
You’re the foreigner: Know the local customs, language, festivals and any places to visit by the sea; be friendly and respectful to locals, crew, boaters and seafarers.
Requirements: Read up on customs and immigration procedures, flag or visa requirements of departing and visiting countries.
Currency: Carry the visiting countries’ currency; it may be difficult to find money changers upon arrival.
Provisions: Estimate the duration you’ll be living onboard and store emergency food and water.
Teamwork: Everyone onboard plays an active role, so explain the route, passage, duration, things to look out for and keep a safety watch on other vessels.
Prioritise planning: Lastly, when it comes to voyage planning, I believe in the motto ‘Plan for
the worst and hope for the best’.
Good luck and enjoy your time at sea.
GOH THYE HOCK
Goh has been involved in top-level watersports and the yachting industry since he started representing Singapore in windsurfing in 1993. One of the first Singaporeans to obtain an MPA (Maritime Port Authority) licence to skipper superyachts, he holds several other boating licences around Asia and is the first Singaporean to be accredited as a GMI Certified Marina Professional. Goh has worked at the People’s Association Sea Sports Club, Republic of Singapore Yacht Club, ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove and Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Yacht Club, organised regattas, assisted the Spanish team during stopovers in three Volvo Ocean Races, managed fleets of luxury yachts in Hainan and Hong Kong, and completed well over a dozen international deliveries of luxury yachts around Asia. firstname.lastname@example.org
Having built confidence during trips from ONE°15 Marina Sentosa Cove to Lazarus Island, Singaporean Kevin Quek and his wife Alicia now look forward to cruising their Jeanneau Merry Fisher 1095 Fly to the likes of Malaysia and Thailand.