To motorise or not to motorise. That really is the question.
Boating in Singapore in a non-motorised inflatable boat is as simple as buying the boat, inflating it and then paddling yourself to freedom… well, almost.
On the other hand, motorising an inflatable boat in Singapore is a tedious process that involves a lot of paperwork and a lot of money.
So which really is best?
If your aim is simply to move slightly offshore, then there is no need to motorise it. However, for safety reasons, you should restrict yourself to the northern shores of Singapore, specifically, the sembawang to yishun area.
Moving too close to the causeway may land you in hot water and moving too close to Ubin may land you in Malaysia, due to strong currents.
I’ve had my PPCDL for quite some time now so these are not just the words of an ill-informed boater. At least I hope not. There are a lot of things that you’ll learn if you take up a PPCDL.
The general rule of thumb is, if your only source of propulsion is a paddle, then there is no need to register your boat. Aside from kayaks and canoes (which have been expressly exempted from registrations – with some limitations), the moment you put a motor, electric or gas, you will have to register it.
One of the biggest investments in registering your boat will be the transponder. Whether it be AIS or Singapore’s HARTS, it’ll cost you close to or even over S$1000. The other big investment will be time. The rules (and places to find the rules) aren’t intuitive for a previously inexperienced guy like me. It took me over 6 months before I finally found out how to register my boat. Some of the items seem impossible to find. For example, marine flares are controlled items. Yet you are required to have it before registering. Luckily for me, I have an uncle who works in the marine industry who managed to get some for me. I still have no idea where to get them.
On the other hand, if you don’t motorise the boat, you generally don’t need all that crap. From what I know, the rules are slightly gray in that area but everyday you can see people in small boats or sampans paddling near the shore, as (I feel) they rightly should be allowed to. The one thing you should bring though, is an all round white light. While unregistered boats are technically exempt from this requirement, the coast guard might pay you a visit if you don’t have it because they might suspect you of illegally landing. In fact, they did pay us a visit one cold dark night. They declined to take a photo though they were very nice about it (it was exciting for us!).
I registered my boat.
My aim was to be able to take my family to one of the southern islands on a whim, so getting a motorised inflatable was a no brainer – the berthing costs for a normal boat were something I could not afford at the time.
Alas, they never did join me for a trip of any kind. In fact, by the time they finally agreed to go, the floating restaurant I wanted to take them to had closed down, my second engine had died (first was crap, second one was close to death but fought till the bitter end), and the boat was damaged, yet again.
I’ve since moved on to a hardshell peddle kayak. Though in the future, I intend to either get a “proper boat”, or another inflatable (though one with much better quality). Or maybe both!
Afterword: I realise I am missing a fair bit of information on the topic. If anyone has questions, please post them in the comments section below. Otherwise, I hope to write a detailed article on the process of registering your boat in Singapore, at a later date.
Shawn started fishing in 1994. He caught his first fish (an Ah Seng) on that very first trip to Changi Carpark 4 (before it was barricaded). He built up his fishing knowledge and gear over the years but still keeps his old gear, just like the memories.