The first boat we built in China

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:

Main dimensions:

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.

About Stranded Mariner

Marine Engineer and passionate sailor and cruiser, working in the marine business in China.
This entry was posted in Boats and boating, China. Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to The first boat we built in China

  1. mylaowai says:

    What a fucking surprise! I challenge anyone to tell me a true story of any Chinese manfacturer who hasn’t stolen the ideas given to them by the naive West.

  2. A very interesting article, it’s a while since I’ve had a chance to get out on the water. In case you need some parts or a new gori prop or yanmar saildrive engine feel free to contact us. We sell parts and engines for yachts, cruisers and other craft. If you need any advice please feel free to contact we export around the world.

  3. @Minards Diesel

    I will definitely check out your site. I am planning to build a Dix43 steel hull sailing cruiser, and might need some equipment and parts.

    Best regards!

  4. justin says:

    love the choice of a dix yacht.
    we are about to get a 72 foot challenge yacht, should be fun hey

  5. Hello Justin,

    Yeah, we will start building soon. Can’t wait to get this project started.

    Wow, a 72 ft Challenge! That’s some serious vessel. Cool!

  6. de boer says:

    wear ken i bey the sloop?

  7. As I said in my post, our product was copied and at the same time what they wanted to charge us for our own production models went up by about 30%, putting us effectively out of business. China starts to become too expensive.

  8. Arnoud says:

    I wonder why they, i guess out of the blue, increased their prices. Did you guys have some kind of contract? (for what it s worth in mainland)

    • Well we found out later that they had been approached by another company to build similar boats, and with the same target market as us. So they had to get rid of us, and they had stolen enough of our ideas to deceide they did not need us anymore. Yes, we had a contract, and no a contract is not worth the ink it’s written with in China.
      Later again we learned that their new business partner also had been royally screwed. At least they are consistent. One of the few fields where Chinese companies are. 🙂

  9. Arnoud says:

    🙂 Interesting… would you mind telling me the name of this superb company? And sorry for asking, but uh, how come you all didnt see the signs? Your gut feeling didn t say like “get the … out of here?”

    • Arnoud, for a number of reasons I prefer not to disclose the name of that company. Hope you understand. And to tell you honestly, no we did not see this coming. Not this one 🙂 They were just a bit better at cheating than others.
      And as another note, if you look at the value for money ratio, it would not have lasted very long anyway. Again in hindsight all is clear and easy.
      They lost the business anyway now to Eastern European countries, like Poland. China lost a lot of competitiveness lately. It depends on what you want to produce here, but for a lot of products China is simply getting too expensive.

  10. Arnoud says:

    In a way i understand why u do not want to reveal their name….

    Thanks for sharing. It’s a “good” story.

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