Hong Kong's outlying islands offer tourists some of the most beautiful natural scenery and ideal sailing, but some are not readily accessible because of a lack of public piers, sailing enthusiast and Catamaran Club founder Andrew Kay said. Hong Kong is surrounded by more than 200 islands. Excepting Lantau, Peng Chau, Lamma, Cheung Chau and Tsing Yi, many are sparsely populated or uninhabited, such as the Ninepin group of islands near Sai Kung. Dr Kay said the Ninepins, which feature hexagonal columns resulting from a volcanic eruption about 140 million years ago, offered a good half-day's outing but needed a pier to allow visitors greater access. The Catamaran Club is offering tourists daily weekday cruises to the islands for HK$590 a person. 'I have repeatedly told the government to make a small pier but it seems the government wants to preserve its natural beauty and does not want too many people to go there,' Dr Kay said. 'I called up some people and some of the environmental preservation groups and they don't want to disturb the environment, so now only select people can go.' Dr Kay said the Ninepin Islands received virtually no visitors from Monday to Friday but were popular with locals who went there on the weekends on charter boat tours for about HK$100 to HK$200 per person. The lack of a pier meant people had to be ferried from the boat by dinghy. Dr Kay said that, despite the current downturn in tourism, the market for island-hopping cruises and sailing by catamaran was promising, with many mainland companies and overseas tourists interested in the club's services. The Tourism Board is also keenly promoting island-hopping tours. Dr Kay has invested about HK$15 million in the club so far and estimates that he is losing about HK$300,000 a month. He plans to invest another HK$5 million in the business. The club was started last year with one boat and now has nine. It is the first sailing school in Hong Kong to be affiliated with the American Sailing Association.