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yacht charter in tonga

Cape Elizabeth...
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for Portland, Antigua
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yacht charter in tonga
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Having chartered from The Moorings several times before in French Polynesia, I was REALLY surprised at the state of things in Tonga. We paid extra for their "exclusive" line, i.e. a boat less than two years old, and in spite of the more than U.S.$700/day had considerable problems. The freezer was wired backwards, so that the more we turned it towards "cold" the warmer it became, which wasn't immediately apparent until we had lost a great deal of our provisioning. The fridge was non-functional---but even worse, emitted a foul-smelling green goo which we were obliged to mop up every day lest the smell of it permeate the whole cabin. The base manager really tried his best to fix these problems, but of course his hands were tied by The Moorings policies. The only thing that really would have sufficed was a different boat.

Pardon me if I think that for $700 a day I ought to have some way of keeping food fresh and maybe even enjoy a cold beer now and then. The manager went out of his way to deliver ice to us on a weekend rather than make us go back to the base, but at the end of the trip his staff charged us for the ice! (The manager did remove this charge for us).

The quality of the provisioning was ok---not up to the level of other charter boats we have been on, but as good as the food was anywhere else in Tonga (I did check out the grocery store, and could not have found better food on my own). But the packaging was terrible! When we lost the freezer the frozen meats thawed and since they were wrapped in just a bit of plastic wrap there was meat blood, chicken blood, etc all over everything in the freezer----a disgusting mess. No ziploc baggies or tupperware containers or anything else of the sort aboard. And while the provisioning was generous, as The Moorings tends to be, how does one store four dozen eggs (not in cartons) on a 37 foot sailboat?

And...no fans. I have never before chartered a sailboat anywhere in the tropics that didn't have fans. It was brutally hot and humid in the cabin and no air movement whatsoever.

I would not complain so much about all of this had the price not been so high, and had The Moorings Company itself gotten in touch with me about my complaints, but they have not in spite of the fact I have been chartering from them for many years.

Berlin, Germany
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2 posts
18 reviews
21 helpful votes
1. Re: yacht charter in tonga
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Wow, glad we read your review as we are just about to book with Moorings in Tonga for June. We have, like you, booked with them many times in the past and they have been excellent. We are forwarding your mail to them as to be sure they can guarantee a few things beforehand. Regarding provisioning we always travel with the Ziplocks as they are invaluable for marinating, storing etc. The fridge issue was a surprise as was the lack of fans.

How was the area for sailing and the rest of the trip?

Cape Elizabeth...
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for Portland, Antigua
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2 223 posts
186 reviews
214 helpful votes
2. Re: yacht charter in tonga
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I am glad that you forwarded my post to the Moorings, and am wondering if the realization that I wrote about my experience on the web will cause them to do something. It is very strange that they made a point of asking for input after the charter, but then never responded when I gave them my comments (which were virtually the same as posted here, if not MORE specific, to them).

My understanding is that The Moorings has been bought by, or has somehow otherwise merged with Sunsail. A few weeks after the Tongan/Moorings experience, I chartered from Sunsail in the Whitsundays and had a great experience. It was my first ever Sunsail charter. Perhaps new management will improve things.

Anyway, as to the sailing: In two words, Really great! The sailing area is actually quite small and so there really aren't any destinations that are more than about 2 hours apart. But you can get out and do a bit of offshore if you wish before heading in for the night. There are a LOT of destinations that they tell you to only go as a day-stop (in our case this made sense; more on that later) and some of these were truly spectacular.

One of the things we most enjoyed about it is that there really aren't too many boats there in comparison to other charter destinations. In fact, we saw many more world-cruiser-live-aboards than anything else. In November (which obviously is off season) several times we had anchorages to ourselves.

The beaches on these little deserted islands are heaven.

And the snorkeling? World-class. Truly. I have been all over the place and Tonga ranks right at the top level. The coral gardens are spectacular. It's worth going, just for that.

I don't know what your comfort level is on navigation. I am a licensed captain and pretty much nothing fazes me. My husband feels a bit less secure sailing areas with unmarked hazards and so didn't enjoy some parts of the navigation. It is indeed true that there are areas of the sailing grounds that one really wouldn't want to go to if the sun isn't out....one or two tricky passages where you really need to be able to see the coral.

We had wind, wind, wind....and then more wind. And then we had.....woo hoo, WIND!!!! One day we even used harnesses, something I don't even do here in Maine except on the rarest of occasions. The seas were extremely rough each and every day. But we were told...and I believe it....that that was a real anomaly. EVERYONE said this was not the usual conditions. But it was due to these conditions that yes, we stuck to the Moorings' plan and did not anchor overnight in their "lunchstop" locations.....it would have been extremely lumpy and uncomfortable. We needed to use the dodger each and every night in order to be able to sit on deck. Night after night, the bbq grill would blow out several times while we tried to grill (incredibly frustrating).

That being said, I want to emphasize, it seems this was unusual weather---plus, we were there in that spring season.

Back to the boat again, if you are up for it I really think you could save some money if you are willing to self-provision. Va'vau is one location (unlike the other charters I have been on) where the grocery store (such as it is) is just a bit up the road from the base....maybe 1/5 mile or so. The food was the same, right down to the brand-names. Ditto on the booze; the store for that is very close to the base.

I also want to emphasize that the base manager (affectionately known as "Elvis") bent over backwards to try to correct the problems we had. But he was up against a brick wall with The Moorings policies and the boat we were on ("Foxglove" for the record---it figures it would be named after a poisonous plant!). I had never before had occasion to read the fine print on that Moorings Guaranty, but take a look---it's a joke. Basically, it covers the engine. It specifically excludes refrigeration---a fact I had certainly previously overlooked, until I lost refrigeration in the tropics.

I would be happy to discuss this further with you and answer any questions you might have----email mr0318jd. I will be leaving for Tokyo Wednesday morning EST (U.S.) but expect to be back sometime around the end of the month.

Good luck!

Berlin, Germany
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2 posts
18 reviews
21 helpful votes
3. Re: yacht charter in tonga
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Thank you for such a detailed review! It really helped to know such things, especially about the fridge as my husband likes his beer :) We always prefer to do our own provisioning where ever possible.

The islands sound stunning and hopefully in June the weather will be more stable. However we like the WIND!

Also planning Whitsundays in Sept. How was that? Sounds like we have a similar travel taste.

didnt get the unusual e-mail address??

thanks again

Cape Elizabeth...
Destination Expert
for Portland, Antigua
Level Contributor
2 223 posts
186 reviews
214 helpful votes
4. Re: yacht charter in tonga
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I am so glad I can be helpful on this. It was indeed after our trip to Tonga that I came to Tripadvisor, largely due to the yacht charter frustration. And then for a bit of time Tripadvisor told me they wouldn't post it because there is no interest in yacht chartering on this website.

As to the Whitsundays....Wonderful experience, but really, really different from Tonga. (Which I am sure you already know).

We were awestruck by the beauty of the Whitsundays. And of course, most of them are protected----it is truly amazing to spend a week or weeks sailing and not even see any kind of man-made structure. It is mostly national park, and one reaps the benefits of this.

Here at home I own a 40-foot boat which is somewhat of a rocket-ship (I used to race) and so it almost follows that I will always be disappointed in the types of boats Sunsail or The Moorings has. But the nice Oceanis (? not sure...I think it was a Benneteau) 39 we had in the Whitsundays performed decently. The wind blew, in late November and early December, 10-15. We were able to mostly sail (not power).

Because you had also asked about Tonga, I cannot help but compare the two boats. The Tongan Benneteau 372, though a brand-new boat, had such an awful layout. There were several things I mentioned in my letter to The Moorings that I didn't put on this website....such as the fact that on lovely "Foxglove", from the cockpit one could not SEE over the deck! I am not kidding. I am reasonably tall (5'7") and couldn't see over the deck while STANDING at the helm!

Benneteau 39 in Whitsundays was a totally different ballgame. The boat was great, well laid out (even ziploc bags!)

Bad thing about Whitsundays: loads and loads of boats. There are several charter companies and the accompanying....well, company. This is definitely not an area of the world you will ever be alone. If we anchored for the night in a place with, say, seven or eight boats, we considered ourselves to be "alone".

I am not sure why you had a problem with the email address....

MR0318JD@aol.com

the "0" is a zero, not the letter "o".

Again, I will be in the U.S. and at my computer for about 24 more hours; after that I am traveling and will be back at the end of February.

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