By: Claire Locking
Sitting on a steamer chair, sipping a glass of chilled Chablis and watching the light show of Hong Kong Island from the harbour, I must admit I’m feeling pretty special. It’s not everyday you get to spend an evening on board Hong Kong’s most luxurious super junk.
So imagine if, like my companions Rick and Beatrice Schoeb, you were the proud owners of such a beautiful piece of Hong Kong’s maritime history. They rightly feel proud and privileged to be the current guardians of Michelangelo.
Michelangelo was built in 1994 by a Hong Kong-based marble dealer, hence the name. He was not content just to create any old pleasure vessel, which at that time were ten a penny on Hong Kong’ s coastline, but wanted to create a wooden yacht, a boat that combined modern Western ship-building techniques with some of the heritage and craftsmanship of the Hong Kong junks.
He also wanted to create a modern interior with space and comfort like no other wooden boat in Hong Kong with five spacious bedrooms, sumptuous bathrooms and a catering kitchen.
Two decades on, Michelangelo’s once proud owner has left these shores and, despite his raucous onboard parties and memorable excursions becoming stuff of Hong Kong legend, it seems he must have fallen out of love with this beautiful lady.
When Beatrice and Rick first set foot on Michelangelo for a corporate event in July 2011, another guest mentioned that he believed the boat was for sale. She was in a bad state of repair both above and below deck. Yet, despite the years of neglect, the couple instantly fell in love with the elegance and craftsmanship that was still visible and realised being able to buy her was a unique, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
Rick and Beatrice both love the ocean but had never owned a boat before, let alone an 88-foot wooden boat. They needed help to undertake the enormous task of renovating Michelangelo back to her former glory so enlisted the expertise of two of Hong Kong shipbuilding gurus in the form of Nic Robinson, a maritime surveyor, Kandy Chan, a third-generation ship builder and Sammy Lee. Nic has spent 33 years living in Hong Kong and has an almost encyclopaedic knowledge of the territories’ boats, craftsmen and traditions. He took on the role of project manager and navigated these enthusiastic novices through the process of turning a neglected gem into the beauty she is today.
“Nic made us aware that we were buying the best wooden boat in Hong Kong and the best junk in Asia, that it was an unique opportunity and that a boat like Michelangelo would never be built again,” explains Rick. “He made us realise that she deserved the very best care and attention.”
Once the boat was out of the water, it became obvious that she needed more work than originally thought. Kandy’s Sun Hing Shipyard in Aberdeen still employs craftsman who are experts in traditional Chinese boat-building techniques; some of these skilled men, now in their 80s, are sadly the last generation with these skills. Unfortunately the younger Hong Kong Chinese seem uninterested in learning these age-old traditions.
When she was built, Michelangelo combined the best of Chinese and Western techniques and this happy marriage continued in the renovation. The thousand-year-old Chinese calking tradition was used in the hull of the boat to keep her watertight and afloat but modern advances such as flexible silicone sealant were imported and used to bind the new teak planking on the decks. Every inch of the boat was sanded, polished and varnished to create the immaculate and elegant vessel she is today.
As well as making the boat watertight and restoring the original elegance, Beatrice and Rick also wanted to modernise her to the highest specifications. Air-con and heating were installed, along with hot water showers, a two-zone Bose sound system, Ralph Lauren soft furnishings, energy efficient LED lighting and on-board internet. The final look is clean and yet still has a slightly British, “gentleman’s club” feel with the combination of polished wood panelling, brass and a colour palette of blues and greys. Sammy Lee rejuvenated Michelangelo’s Rolls Royce engines and notably increased the boat’s speed.
One year on from buying the boat, Michelangelo is back in the water and the couple are sharing their newly polished jewel with family, friends and those lucky enough to be invited to corporate events, birthday parties and weddings that are regularly hosted on board.
|Michelangelo can be chartered for parties, weddings and corporate functions (capacity: 59 people). Beatrice recommends Gingers for onboard catering but guests can also use their own suppliers. Overnight charters can also be arranged; the boat can accommodate up to nine guests. For further details, call 6621 1691, email email@example.com or visit www.luxuryjunk.com.hk.|
Kandy Chan, Sun Hing Shipyard
2555 0301 | firstname.lastname@example.org
Sammy Lee, Harvest Marine Services
2552 9231 | email@example.com
Captain Nic Robinson, Marine Surveyors
2711 2715 | firstname.lastname@example.org