It’s 3 years ago now that by coincidence I found an old schoolmate back in Shanghai. We went to the Terschelling Maritime College in The Netherlands together in the early 80’s.
My friend had built FRP (Fiberglass Reinforced Polyester) boats in Turkey before, and we thought it would be a good idea to try this in China. The intention was to sell the boats in The Netherlands, where there is a high demand for these ‘sloop type’ open boats.
On the Shanghai International Boat Show in April 2005 we found a yard that was specialized in building FRP boats. It is in Changzhou, in Jiangsu province, about halfway between Shanghai and Nanjing. So far they had been building patrol boats for the police and Chinese navy, and life boats for merchant marine and offshore vessels. We decided to use the hull of an existing life boat design as base for our sloop. We made some modifications to the stern part, because we wanted to use a so called balanced rudder. This requires less complicated steering gear, and the rudder can be better protected from damage. It took us quite a while to build the first prototype, as the yard was not really familiar with the requirements of pleasure boats.
The specifications are as follows:
Length 6.50 m
Beam 2.15 m
Hight 0.90 m
Draft approx. 0.40 m
Weight 1,100 kg
For the propulsion we installed a 14 hp, two cylinder Yanmar inboard diesel engine. We decided to use a water lubricated stainless steel propeller shaft, which is more environmentally friendly than the standard grease lubricated shaft arrangements.
On the trial run early 2006 the boat performed very well, and in line with our expectations. We got the CE certification sorted out, confirming the boat suitable for category C and 10 persons. We found an interested buyer in Holland, and shipped the prototype for further testing.
What happened next? The yard increased the price for us by more than 30%, making it impossible for us to compete with similar manufacturers from Eastern Europe. On this year’s Shanghai Boat Show we saw our design slightly altered, being promoted by the yard as their own development. They even specially mentioned the water lubricated propeller shaft (‘water smeered axle’, they called it), and of course they developed that as well. After all, the Chinese invented boating somewhere during the Han dynasty, together with golf, soccer, cricket, the Olympic games, and a few super strains of the clap.