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Sailboat Chartering in Tonga

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I'm planning my next sailboat charter and while researching airfares to our intended destination (Belize) found that they were so high from the East Coast (around $1000) that I thought I might as well spend a little more money and go REALLY far away. Among the South Pacific charter offerings, Tonga sounds most appealing.

Can anyone who has sailed in Tonga compare it to the Caribbean? Will I need any more sailing skills beyond those we've already tested throughout the Carib (on monos and cats) and the Chesapeake? I've heard it referred to as the "BVI of the South Pacific" -- does that include the increasing crowds as well? How about provisioning -- are the supermarkets fairly well-stocked and accessible, or should we go with the charter company's offerings? How difficult and time-consuming is it to get there from the eastern U.S.? How many extra days should we allow ourselves for just getting there and back?

Sorry for asking so many questions. If you have any thoughts, thanks in advance for sharing, and feel free to e-mail me directly if you prefer.

Fair winds,

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