American expat JENNY SELEVAN and husband Marc had toyed with the idea of buying a boat for some time, when they chanced upon a flyer for an old Hong Kong junk. Then it was just a matter of making it seaworthy!
Tell us a bit about yourself and your family – where are you from and what brought you to Hong Kong?
I’m from Jacksonville, Florida; we came to Hong Kong 15 and a half years ago with Marc’s family’s toy company. We have two children: Ethan is 18 and attending the University of Colorado Boulder, and Bradley is 17 at Elsa High School here in Hong Kong.
Where did you find it and what style is it? What made you decide to give it a makeover?
We have always loved junk trips and boats in general, and I had been trying to talk Marc into buying a boat for years. We just happened to find Serendipity on a flyer at the Aberdeen Boat Club. She is a 56-foot Chinese teak junk built in 1994 by Sun Hing Shing in Ap Lei Chau.
We called the seller straight away and his friend picked us up within the hour to take us to see her. She hadn’t been lived on in over a year, and was full of mould and roaches; but we both knew pretty quickly that she was the one. And she was totally not what we thought we wanted, so how fitting was her name, Serendipity! We had her surveyed and the guy pretty much told us that it would be a mistake to take on the project!
Where was the work done on the boat, and how long did it take?
The rebuild and renovations were handled by Sun Hing Shing Shipyard in Ap Lei Chau. The whole project took 11 months. We contracted Inge Strompf-Jepsen of Jepsen Designs based on her creativity and experience with ship renovations.
What are some of the key features of the renovations?
We overhauled the engine, added a generator, and increased the capacity of the fuel and fresh water tanks so we can take her out for a weekend.
What have been some of the challenges? Has the pandemic made things more difficult?
Due to basically having to gut the junk, we gave ourselves the opportunity to have a blank canvas to create what we imagined. As she is all teak, it took the skilled craftsmen’s time and our patience to complete the project. When we discovered the very high costs of materials and fittings in Hong Kong, I spent quite a bit of time sourcing stuff outside of here. As for the pandemic, it was actually a positive in some ways as it gave us something to focus on while we weren’t able to travel.
How do you hope to use the junk now that you’ve finished it?
For weekend getaways – though it feels like an escape even if we just stay in the marina!
Do you have a favourite aspect of the new-look boat?
I think my favourite area is the kitchen bar, which has a proper ice machine – I love to cook and entertain. Marc’s favourite is the hidden TV lift cabinet for watching his American Football.
Have you always been a “boat person”?
We grew up in Florida, so yes, we love boating!
Where do you live in Hong Kong? What do you like about the area?
We’re in Mid-Levels. We like being close enough to Central to walk to shops and restaurants.
What are a few things you like to do in Hong Kong when you’re not working or fixing a junk?
We do a lot of “urban hikes”, stopping to look in shops or eat. Aside from that, I love cooking and playing mahjong.
What are your top spots for a day sail in HK?
We haven’t had the boat for summer yet, but we like the ease of Deep Water Bay, as friends can come a go very easily throughout the weekend. We’ve also been to Turtle Beach. Serendipity isn’t built for speed, but come summer and calm seas, we look forward to being more adventurous.
Furniture & Furnishings
Marc and I are both very hands-on and like doing projects ourselves. I’ve sourced most of our stuff for the junk online – in particular, from Taobao, Alibaba, Etsy, Amazon and Overstock. Ken from Standard Curtain has done so much of our soft furnishings; he’s great to work with and eager to try new things, as nothing on the boat is straightforward. And Albert from Wing Sun Upholstery did a great job with our sofa downstairs. Another tip is to spend a good afternoon walking the floors at Horizon Plaza.
Dining & Drinks
We like Cotton Tree Terrace at The Murray, The American Club’s 49th-floor Town Club terrace, and Bayfare Social at Rosewood Hong Kong.
Like this? See more in our Living in Hong Kong section.
This article first appeared in the Spring 2022 issue of Expat Living magazine. Subscribe now so you never miss an issue.