Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite
Dates Reviewed: June 24 - 27 2016
Charter Location: The Moorings, Roadtown Tortola BVI
Yacht Chartered: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite
Locations: Caribbean and international locations worldwide
Charter Advisors Recommendation
I've been struggling with this one. I really have. The Moorings 5800 is a bit of a mind-bender for me. You see I've been reviewing charter yachts for a long time now and I have to admit, The Moorings 5800 is messing with my mind. No, no, nothing bad mind you. This is just what happens when I run into something that defies convention. I can't compare it to anything else really. That would be unfair to both the comparer and the comparee... Let me try this another way. Charter sailing vacations are all about escapism, adventure, beauty, the sea, and a healthy mix of pure joy. If you add luxury, space, presence, and pampering to that list, you're describing exactly what The Moorings 5800 has to give. She sails as good as she looks, and can be chartered either as a bareboat or crewed charter. You don't have to guess which way I went.
Large groups, vacation friends, families, and those looking for all the comforts and space of a luxury villa under sail, this one is you.
Charter Company Overview
Four nights and five days. That's how long I had to evaluate the experience aboard The Moorings 5800, Ocean Suite. A sailing catamaran that's as wide as some charter yachts are long, running just shy of 60-feet LOA, with a fly-bridge big enough to host Jumbies. A yacht of these dimensions deserves respect. She has the ability to show you things you've never known. Bareboating this beauty is for the qualified skipper only. This is why the vast majority of The Moorings 5800's in service are of the crewed charter variety. But not ours, we got to experience just what it's like to skipper, sail, and manage a yacht normally reserved for professional crews. What I found is a yacht that's super user-friendly, modern, easy to manage, simple to sail, and quite lovely to settle into at night. I expected some additional complexity or extra effort, but there was none. We'll perhaps there is one, the elephant in the room so to speak. The Moorings 5800 is no shrinking violet. Nearly three stories tall and two hulls of presence needs it's own space. Practically this makes mooring fields, marinas, fuel docks, anchorages, etc. smaller places to navigate. It's in the tight spaces where experience counts, quite a lot. The majority of vacation seekers chartering The Moorings 5800 opt for a crewed yacht, complete with Captain, Cook, and Steward. The solitude aboard a yacht the size of Ocean Suite our review 5800 is hard to forget. Yes, solitude. It's big enough you can actually have space all to yourself even with a crew. It's a floating luxury home you can take with you anywhere you sail. The Moorings 5800 provides a different kind of sailing experience. The kind that makes you feel as if you are in full command of your world, without really trying.
What They Say About Themselves
As stated on The Moorings website
After more than 45 years at sea, The Moorings has established its reputation as the world's premier yacht charter company. Our award-winning charter fleet now includes more than 400 yachts in 20+ destinations across the globe. Whether it's a self-skippered monohull; a Sail catamaran with a skipper at the helm; a high-performance Power catamaran or a Crewed yacht with a captain and chef-we're here to make your time on the water truly unforgettable.
Ocean Suite is at the top of The Moorings range for sailing catamarans. The Moorings 5800 is currently the largest offering out of their Tortola, British Virgin Islands Base. And as they say, whoever they are, "bigger is better". I tend to agree, but could a massive sailing yacht actual be a good value? Actually, surprisingly, yes. Yachts like this are most often chartered by two or three couples or groups, sometimes more. With six cabins, room for twelve adults in private cabins you have villa-like surroundings plus stately transportation, the islands of the BVI as your location du jour, with all the water-sports and snorkeling trips you can handle. Doing the same things from a resort would cost a small fortune. And aboard a yacht the size of The Moorings 5800 you can split the cost two, three, or four ways depending on who all is going. I know right?! It's more than do-able. That's why so many people a year do, over and over again. Repeat charterers year after year are extremely common. That doesn't happen if it's not a good value.
Recommended or Chosen Charter Yacht
I worked with Ian Pedersen at the Moorings to facilitate our review, but before we get to far, he is a sailor. That's important. His passion for sailing and brining others into the sailing fold shined through. Working with Ian, I discussed various yachts in their fleet but it was the Robertson and Caine Moorings 5800 that we zeroed in on. Originally we planned a crewed review (as The Moorings 5800 is most often chartered with a crew), but we shifted gears back to bareboat chartering. The Moorings 5800 has created a real name for itself in crewed chartering but is now coming into it's own on the bareboat scene. Charter yachts are getting bigger, more luxurious and more user-friendly. The 5800 is that yachtfor The Moorings. She's 57-feet 7-inches at the waterline, 27-feet 9-inches wide and houses six cabins in what The Moorings calls, "a split level layout". Two cabins on the main level and two in each hull. Two outdoor dining areas, a massive fly-bridge, a forward deck "porch" of sorts, and of course, the trampolines we all know and love aboard cats. Also aboard, a mix of water sports gear, snorkels and fins, and floats. Among the goodies clipped to the rails of Ocean Suite were knee paddle-boards, a S.U.P., and a tandem kayak.
Rule number 1, don't over complicate things, simple solutions are best. This applies to everything on a charter vacation, including provisioning. Being our first review of The Moorings, everything was new to us; new base, new area of Roadtown, new marina. Where indeed were we going to get provisions? I figured we'd wing it and see what options The Moorings base staff recommend for provisioning on arrival. They informed us of a free shuttle to and from a near by market. Having a ready solution is no accident. Options like this are only available if the charter company is really paying attention to their guests needs. The Moorings was making a good first impression. The crew and I split up at this point, half heading to the market for some light shopping and the other half staying with Ocean Suite for briefings. Using The Moorings provided shuttle, the crew was to the market and back in an hours time. Not to shabby for island time. Good timing too, because I had just completed the pre-charter briefings and was very ready to cast off. More on that soon.
The Moorings arranges for pick up at the airport through one of their approved taxi services. Prior to flying to the islands, you'll have provided your flight details to the booking staff at The Moorings. They use this information to take care of all arrival and departure planning. I have this rule; a charter yacht vacation really begins when the customer service kicks in. You know, the point at which you're being catered to. In this case it began the moment you walk out of the British Virgin Islands customs. A friendly face holding a "The Moorings" sign will be waiting to greet you, help with your bags, and taxi you to the The Moorings base in Roadtown, Tortola.
You may have noticed that I'm not writing this part from from personal experience. I've witnessed the moorings curb-side airport service for a decade now. They have shown a consistently high level of service and are always visible among the charter companies represented at the Beef Island airport. Thing is, I just didn't need an airport transfer this time. Instead The Moorings arranged to pick me and the crew up from a neighboring marina after wrapping up another trip. I was pleasantly surprised by the new Ford Transit vans being used by taxi services now days. New, comfy, and ice cold AC. It was easily one of the nicest island taxis around. The moment the taxi door shut our Moorings vacation began. Which by the way is no easy task when you're coming off of another yacht. It could have felt like a continuation of a "vacation". But that just wasn't the case, this was something new, an experience all its own.
Arrival at Base
Calling The Moorings Tortola base in Roadtown a "base" is a bit of an understatement. Its more of a village that hosts three of TUI Marines charter companies; The Moorings, Footloose, and Sunsail along with a marina hotel, pool, restaurants, retail stores, rental shops, and of course, a large marina hosting the sail and motor yachts for all three charter companies. For our purposes I'll just refer to it as The Moorings marina (because TUI Marine; The Moorings, Sunsail, Footloose marina takes too long to type).
Roadtown, located on Tortola the largest British Virgin Islands, is the capitol, center of commerce and the most populated of the island chain. But don't let that fool you into thinking crowds or bumper to bumper traffic. What it does mean is added convenience. There's more than one grocery store to choose from, multiple car rental agencies and lots of Caribbean history and points of interest nearby. On the water the Roadtown Harbor is open, well founded, well marked, and with organized marinas with deep clearly marked channels.
Being my first visit to The Moorings Marina "village", I got a true blue first impression. The first word that occurred to me was "surprised". I've been to my share of Roadtown charter bases and had my expectations shaped by those experiences. But what I saw when the taxi pulled up to The Moorings base was unexpected. A beautiful, self-contained marina village within walking distance of Roadtown shops. Its obvious The Moorings has put a lot of time, effort and thought into their Tortola base and it's paid off. It feels special.
Provisions arrived by Charter Advisors crew this time around, though full provisioning services are available through many of the local markets; One-Mart, Bobby's Market, Ample Hamper, etc.. What I didn't mention before is that we had a few shopping bags of food with us from another trip we had just wrapped up. We really didn't need a lot fill in provisions, but what we needed, we really needed. Primarily I was dangerously low on ice cold Coke-a-Cola. The shuttle service provided through The Moorings I mentioned earlier was exactly what the doctor ordered. The free shuttle ferried the crew back and forth from One-Mart with all of the provisions we needed in under an hour. By the time I finished the yacht briefing and mechanical briefing, the shopping was done.
Base Check In
We arrived around noon, stepping into the think warm tropical air from the most air conditioned taxi I've ever ridden in. Don't get me wrong. I'm not complaining. It was so cold that when I got out, my sunglasses fogged over, and I got goose bumps from the stark temperature change. I must have looked a little strange approaching the front desk rubbing my arms and blowing into my hands like it was freezing outside. It didn't seem to phase the front desk staff though. Giving them my name, they looked up our charter, pulled the paperwork, and a couple of signatures later we we're checked in. Really quite quick. The Moorings staff pointed out where the chart briefing room was and when the next briefing would start. They informed me that our boat was finishing it's make-ready inspection and they'd let us know when we could board. They then directed me to where I could pick up our boat phone so they could contact me.
By my estimation we had a couple hours to kill before Ocean Suite would be ready. That gave us time to explore the marina "Village" and grab a bite to eat by the pool before the crew struck out to pick up provisions. Just as we finished eating, the boat phone rang. Ocean Suite, our review Moorings 5800 was ready. No, it wasn't time to go just yet, but it was time to board and get briefed up on the yacht itself.
The Moorings takes chart briefing seriously, as they should. Lead by an instructor using both images and video, the chart briefing covers local sailing knowledge, routes, conditions, popular mooring fields, anchorages, fuel and water docks, as well as pointing out navigation hazards and no-go zones. But, as they say on TV, "That's not all!". The Moorings also includes information on snorkeling, dining, hot-spots, along with some solid BVI sailing vacation advice. The Moorings also accepts the BVI Charter Chart Briefing Certification.
BVI Charter Chart Briefing is available through NauticEd. Materials can be downloaded from iBooks and in the Apple App Store.
I was met at the yacht by one of The Moorings briefing skippers. He followed a routine any of us who have done this before would recognize. Start at the aft deck and work our way forward, stopping along the way to identify where things are and how to use them properly. For the uninitiated, the yacht briefing usually begins wherever the briefing skipper happens to be standing. On this occasion our briefer was standing on the aft deck. So we started there, beginning with the deck lockers and engine rooms. With the engines and snorkeling gear sorted, we moved forward learning where the fuel and water tank inlets are, inspecting the fore-deck lockers, water tanks, anchor, windless, and searching for where the life jackets were stowed. Our briefing then moved upstairs to the fly-bridge where I learned (thankfully) that we had powered winches aboard. I learned the in's and out's of the helm electronics, charter plotter, and bow-thruster, discovering in the process that we had high-tech fly-by-wire throttle aboard. I mention this because they are fairly rare on sailing yachts. I normally see these high-tech throttles on big motor yachts. This served as an early tip-off as to what all went into this particular Moorings 5800. Ocean Suite is no ordinary charter sailing yacht. She represents the pinnacle of luxury in state-of-the-art charter sailing at The Moorings. Thankfully, by definition, sailing yachts are also wonderfully low tech. And that's what we covered next, winches, which color line went with what, and how best to raise and flake the massive mainsail. The fly-bridge of The Moorings 5800 is an impressive place. It's larger than the cockpit of all but the largest charter sailing yachts. It's beautifully designed, and can seat everyone onboard with plenty of room for guests. We finished "upstairs" finishing with another flurry of searching for the lifejackets.
Our briefing skipper and I made way next for the saloon. Stepping inside from the aft deck, the glass doors parted and I was instantly struck by two things right off, the air conditioning and the massive expanse of the saloon. It's just so vast. Nearly unbelievably so. Even for someone like me who's skippers charter yachts pretty regularly. The overall size and height of the saloon, the sheer volume of space, and the look, wow the look. I've never seen a bareboat charter yacht like the 5800. But I've gotten off track... Back to our briefing. Keeping my impressed face in check, I focused on the task at hand, taking in the instruction on the use of the breakers, electronics panels, generator, and radios. All very straight forward and no more complicated than a 30-foot charter-spec monohull. Lovely. We then did a walk-though of the galley, with a stop at the LPG light on the bulkhead. Important little light this. It lets you know if the gas is on or off. So you can see why our briefing skipper made a point of pointing it out. After a demonstration of how to use the AC controls we did another search for lifejackets, this time uncovering all kinds under settee storage. But, no lifejackets. Not yet at least.
The last stop was down the port companionway. We walked through each cabin and head, pointing out where the black tank "full" indicator lights were. A minor and major point wrapped into one. We also reviewed the holding tank sea-cocks along with how and when to use them. The briefing skipper also pointed out a fridge built-in to the inner bulkhead of the hull, just at the base of the companionway closest to the galley, handy for big crew provisioning no doubt.
Our briefing skipper did a great job. Very friendly and through. He also picked up on my degree of knowledge, asked qualifying questions, and customized his briefing so I'd get the most out of it. This I appreciated immensely. Good briefers do that. They don't just read you a memorized script and point at things, they inform, demonstrate, and keep it interesting. Oh, and we did find those lifejackets. Our briefing skipper was hell bent on finding them and making sure they were where they should be. They turned up in a hallway locker down below. Not a great place to if you actually need them in an emergency situation. Likely moved by a previous charter group to get more space in the deck lockers. That's a good example of why the dock crew and briefing skipper are so important. The best not only inform you, but they help to keep you safe. Even if it's something simple like moving the lifejackets above decks. Bluntly put, lackluster briefing skippers can, on occasion, piss me off, refusing to adjust course and insisting on showing me how to wrap a line around a winch drum. Yea, that will do it. After my briefing aboard The Moorings 5800, I was all smiles. A minor miracle unto itself.
The amenities aboard Ocean Suite are, well, you name it. Microwave in the galley? Yep. Blender? Naturally. TV? Oh yea, extra big flat-screen. Surround sound? Yes there too. WiFi? You betcha. TV and movie streaming? But of course. Dishwasher? Yes actually. And that's just the big stuff. This is a yacht built for entertaining with a luxury tilt. The Moorings 5800 benefits from being originally created as a crewed yacht that provides for the whims of the guests. To this mix of interior luxuries, Ocean Suite adds in the sailing amenities that make bareboating such a grand yacht possible. Integrated chart-plotter and autopilot, the aforementioned bow thruster and powered winches in particular. These do the most to help bring manning a yacht of this magnitude down to size.
But wait, there's more! Is a porch door an amenity? You bet it is when it's in your cabin and opens to a fore-deck front porch / cockpit full of water-proof beanbags. Then there's the hydraulic swim platform / lift on the stern, and the all important underwater lights. And the fly-bridge "kitchen" complete with fridge, sink, and conductive cooktop / BBQ. Ocean Suite left me wanting for nothing, and included things I would have never thought to ask for (and I've been doing this a while).
It's not overdoing it to say again how massive the saloon aboard The Moorings 5800 is. To the right on starboard a large u-shaped settee with fold-expanding table and padded stools, forward a entertainment center with a large flat-screen sits mounted on the facing bulkhead, and recessed Bose surround-sound speakers all around. To the left, port side is a large open galley. Flanking each side of the saloon are companionway steps leading down to the lower cabin level within the hulls.
Awash in a white wood-grain, the saloon not only looks airy but it feels it too. A coach-roof twice the usual height of a large catamaran with a forward section even taller, emulating a loft complete with windows showering the entire saloon space with natural light from above. From the smooth white Corian countertops of the galley to the softly cushioned leather of the settee, the saloon has the feel of a beautiful modern villa. I spent more time that I usually do in the saloon aboard Ocean Suite. I prefer to be outside, but it's just so darn comfy it's hard to want to go anywhere else.
Galley is a funny word. It evokes a certain image. Smallish, efficient, well planned out, as much usefulness as possible in a tight space. Usually teak is involved. By that definition what's on board Ocean Suite is no galley. Kitchen perhaps. Gourmet kitchen, there that's more like it. But we're on a boat so I shall refer to it as a gourmet galley. Everything one could possibly need is included. Microwave, stove-top, large oven, coffee maker, blender, huge sink, dishwasher, and tons of prep and stowage space (that's no typo, there's a dishwasher and it's not the human kind). It's all set off by modern Corian counter-tops and the same modern whitewash wood look that defines the interior space.
The cabinets are stocked with enough glassware, silverware, and cups for a full complement of guests and crew. And that's when the dishwasher suddenly made a lot of sense. That's a lot of dishes to clean if you have 11 other people aboard.
I can report that the gourmet galley aboard Ocean Suite is actually big enough to get lost in. No me so much as my bag Cheez-It's. I swear I knew where I put them, but no. It nearly took a search party to track down those tasty crackers. And let me tell you the word search is appropriate here. There are so many places to stow provisions it took some effort, but I finally found them. My first mate had them. Mealtime is when the gourmet galley really shines. The stainless steel fridge is built into the bulkhead at arms reach from the four-burner gas stove-top. It's all arranged in a large U-shape providing large surface countertops and reverse side bar-tops. The galley tends to be a gathering place aboard a yacht. The galley aboard Ocean Suite is as inviting as it is functional and big enough to literally host to it's own gathering.
I'll be brief because going over each of the many cabins could take a while. In all Ocean Suite has six guest cabins laid out in something The Moorings calls, "split-level accommodation". The first two cabins sit on the saloon level, all the way forward and a step up, sliding doors providing privacy from the Saloon. You could actually keep the cabin door facing the saloon shut the entire trip, making these cabins completely separate from the saloon. You see these two saloon level cabins have the front porch doors I mentioned earlier. Guests staying in these cabins have their own exterior cabin entrance complete with a covered front porch and waterproof beanbags. A front porch on a charter sailing yacht! Ha! I love it. On a cruising yacht like The Moorings 5800 the whole concept works really well. Next its on to the the starboard (or port) companionway. Stepping down to hull level there are a total of four cabins, two in each hull situated aft and forward with large private heads for each amidships along the long hull corridor.
Bunks aboard Ocean Suite are all queen size except for the aft starboard cabin. This one was arranged with two full size bunks side by side (one for the kids perhaps). Comfort was never an issue, the cabins are spacious and bright with individual AC controls, and plush mattresses. Stowage shelves run along the inner bulkhead within easy reach of the bunk. Larger items fit well in the cabinets near each cabin entrance. I also noticed that the cabins are set far enough apart that they create real privacy, something that can be in short order aboard some charter yachts. I like charter yachts that aren't afraid to be what they are. The Moorings 5800 doesn't pretend to be anything other than what it is; Total comfort, be it underway or snoozing under the stars.
Each cabin has it's own private head and separate stand up shower, and of course the heads are electric. The shower heats up nice and quick using the water heater or water heated by running the engines during the day. Little details like this matter. The more time it takes the more water is going to be wasted waiting, unless you like really cold showers. The head itself is situated at normal height for adults, which is more than I can say for some of the low or extremely high seats found on some other charter yachts. But my favorite feature in the head (if one is allowed such a thing) the full-height port-windows. Large, about the size of a large full length mirror except tinted nice and dark. The low over the water view is spectacular. It's almost a shame this mammoth hull window is in the head.
A hydraulic swim deck is a luxury usually reserved for big motor yachts. But it also happens to be a luxury afforded by the Moorings 5800. Spanning the full width between the hulls, the teak swim deck fits like it's seamless part of the after-deck (beyond the lifelines). With a push of a button, hydraulics go to work, lowering the deck down to the waterline or below it. Below the waterline actually serves a purpose, allowing the swim platform to do double duty as a small dinghy or kayak lift with V cradles built in that can be extended or stowed.
After mooring up, the swim deck is usually my first stop. I used the cradles to carry the tandem kayak off the back. Removing the tie-down straps and tying off the painter, then lowering it down until the kayak floated off the back. Then with the press of a button the deck rises back up stopping above the waterline. Teak, dark and wet and cool under foot, everything a swim platform should be and a good example of the wonderful excess that makes The Moorings 5800 special.
On a yacht intended to host large groups of guests, above deck considerations must be varied and never in short supply. The Moorings has this covered too. Leaving the saloon, walking out the double sliding glass doors and stepping onto the aft deck brings you to the first of the above decks spaces. A large oval shaped teak table with matching chairs all around sitting on more teak decking. Up front, the mandatory catamaran trampolines and bow peak seating checks the usual boxes for a sailing cat. But being a Moorings 5800, the cream of The Moorings crop, it doesn't stop there. A small hard bimini visor of sorts extends from the top of the coach roof covering the front porch area, waterproof beanbags and all. I found the beanbags extra handy on the trampoline too. I piled them into one of the trampolines late one afternoon while on anchor and got more comfortable and relaxed than I think a person is allowed to be.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again, space aboard a sailboat is a true luxury. I didn't' actually measure the square footage of the above decks spaces, but it's safe to say the areas I've mentioned so far covers an expansive amount of lounging deck space. And that space alone would have been enough, but when it comes to luxury, enough is never enough. Enter the fly-bridge. The first time I walked up the fly-bridge companionway and taking a look around, one thought entered my mind. A really odd thought at that, "I could host a dance up here". I have no idea where that came from. But it gives you a good idea for just how much overall space is up on Ocean Suite's fly-bridge
The business end of the fly-bridge is up front. All lines are lead to winches at the front of the fly-bridge where they are met with a brace of chromed winches, one powered to handle raising the immense mainsail. The helm station sits just to starboard of the lines, within an arms reach making single-handing under sail a possibility. The Moorings 5800 is actually easier than some 40-footers I've sailed. The helm seat is more of a long bench. Enough room for four friends or three acquaintances. The seat back flips forward or back, providing a perch for a rested standing position or effectively turning the couch back to front, making the forward facing helm seat into a rear facing part of the large U-shaped settee. A large coffee size table sits in the middle of the settee "U". On the forward flanks of the fly-bridge sit twin lounges (or benches depending how you use them) adding to the above-deck accommodations. I should probably mention here that all this finery is protected by a tall dodger with rollaway windows and a hard bimini that covers about 70% of the fly-bridge space. The 30% that isn't is where you'll find the sun-deck, where two teak lounges await the sun worshipers. Central in the whole layout is an outdoor kitchen. This is not a basic built in BBQ, that's for sure. Ocean Suite has a outdoor kitchen situated in a central island that houses a conductive cook top, fridge, and full size sink, with enough counter space to prep an outdoor meal for everyone aboard.
The helm aboard the Moorings 5800 will be familiar to anyone who's chartered a bareboat catamaran before. The layout is straight forward with fly-by-wire throttles starboard of the wheel, chart plotter front and center and engine RPM gauges running along the bottom of the helm station. On the port side of the wheel sits a bow thruster joy-stick. Next to that, radio, VHF, depth, and autopilot all arranged neatly and easy to use without leaving the helm seat. Visibility is excellent all around. From the perched helm position I had a clear view of the bow and foredeck, which is particularly important when the crew are running the anchor or when mooring up. Keeping Ocean Suite on station during anchoring / mooring maneuvers carried no drama what-so-ever, even without using the bow thruster. It's these little things that stand out. Lets face it, a boat is a boat. Some are bigger than others, some are fancier than others, but in the end, they all need to do the things boats are supposed to do. How steady I can hold a boat on a on a mooring ball while the crew works tells me a lot about the boat. The Moorings 5800 gave me a great vantage point for mooring and docking and added a measure of safety. I could see the whole foredeck and communicate with the crew while they ran lines or tied up. Ocean Suite does have her own personality, don't get me wrong. For instance, I had to get used to the feel of those fancy throttles. Fly-by-wire throttles have their own feel and respond slightly differently than their mechanically connected brethren. I didn't have to change how I skipper the ship, just get used to the feel, if that makes sense.
The helm aboard the Moorings 5800 is a comfortable, well laid out, and very skipper friendly. If you have the experience to bareboat a 5800, I highly recommend it. If you do, you wont be in over your head. For everyone else, there's always the crewed option.
With new adventures comes new experiences. Our departure from the Moorings base in Roadtown Tortola was no exception. I've reviewed and chartered yachts out of Roadtown many times but never from The Moorings docks. The departure process is similar to what I've experienced elsewhere, but it sure wasn't the same.
It was nearly three in the afternoon. The crew finished packing away provisions aboard Ocean Suite and I was finished with the boat briefings. It was another postcard perfect day in the British Virgin Islands. Mid 80's, blue sky's, puffy clouds, the reliably sweet and salty trade-winds. A perfect day to go for a sail and I was antsy to get back out on the Spanish Main. I let the base know we were ready to go and could use some assistance getting off the dock. Ocean Suite was tied on the starboard side at the end of the T-dock. I started the engines, warming them up. A few minuets later one the Moorings marina crew approached and hollered, "Ready Cap?" I gave him the thumbs up and he started untying our dock lines, tossing them aboard as he worked from the stern to the bow. The lines were so tight the marlin spike got called into action (glad I asked for assistance). But free them he did.
Most times Charter Companies pilot you out of the marina, at this point I wasn't exactly sure if he was going to do like I've seen done some many times before and hop on, piloting the boat out of the marina, returning to base in a chase boat. Ocean Suite is a big girl after all. I got my answer when he tossed the last line aboard, waived goodbye wishing us a safe voyage. Did I mention Ocean Suite is big? The marina suddenly looked a lot smaller than it had a moment ago. I crabbed her off the dock, ferrying sideways making room for a 180-degree turn pointing us out of the channel. Thankfully, though she's a big girl, she dances divinely. She spun on pointe as gracefully as a ballerina. But eve more importantly she made me look good in front of everyone on the dock.
Throttles set to 1200 RPM, we slowly motored our way out of Roadtown harbor, gathered up and stowed our fenders and dock lines in the man swallowing sized deck stowage compartments. And with that, we cleared the channel in full cruising mode eager to see what Ocean Suite had in-store for us. Time to raise the sails and make way for the North Sound of Virgin Gorda.
Wind, weather and waves were typical for late summer in the BVI. Mid-eighties, sunny with the usual tropical humidity. Later afternoon showers are not uncommon this time of year, but we so very few. I'd normally sail through an afternoon sprinkle or get caught with a hatch open by nighttime rain but showers were far and few between. We had one run in with a daytime squall, but that one missed us too. The sea was warm, also in the eighties running four to six foot swells in the open water with two to four foot swells down the channel. The trade-winds were consistently fourteen to twenty knots every day. In other words, perfect sailing conditions.
Our Path Through The British Virgin Islands
Day 1 - Roadtown Tortola To North Sound Virgin Gorda
Yacht pick up day at The Moorings Roadtown Tortola base. We set sail at three pm that afternoon and found ourselves racing the sun to make our first planned overnight mooring, the North Sound of Virgin Gorda before darkness fell. Normally I would have chosen a closer stop this late in the day, but I had those darn "plans" in the North Sound and a group waiting on us. I had to at least try. So I pushed it a bit (mind you I like a wide safety margin on the water). But I wouldn't have go for it if the yacht under us was uncooperative or not quick under sail. Ocean Suite proved to be very easy to acclimate to and was a willing partner from the word go. Like most things when set next to the huge expanse of the sea her size seemed to shrink. But he view from the high perch of the helm was constant reminder that the Moorings 5800 is no shrinking violet.
There's really only two tacks the whole way from Roadtown Tortola to the North Sound of Virgin Gorda. The trades we're blowing a steady 18 knots true quartering our starboard bow on a close upwind reach making for some wonderfully quick sailing conditions. The swell rolled in under the twin peaks of the bows, never seeming to impede or slow our progress. Come to think of it, I didn't see any spray over the bow or any dramatics of any kind, just steady and quick progress up the Sir Francis Drake Channel. The Moorings 5800's solid and planted ride is one of those feelings that will stay with me. It felt like it was smoothing the sea as we went over.
A little after 4 pm we sailed between the Dog Islands and Virgin Gorda. I double-checked my watch, wow we've made great time. I stopped worrying about chasing the sun, I knew at this moment, we we're going to be in the North Sound well before the green flash. About an hour later we passed Mosketto Island and turned down the North Sound channel. Motors running, we dropped sail and throttled down the glassy smooth turquoise and royal blue waters. Prickly Pear Island and the Sand Box Beach Bar to port, Leverick Bay across the sound to starboard, the Bitter End Yacht Club, and Saba Rock ahead. We tied off to on a mooring ball on the far end of the field away from the crowds of the Bitter End Yacht Club and Saba Rock just in time to get some amazing sunset shots.
A beach party was in full effect over at the Bitter End. Naturally we had to check it out, turns out it was a good idea. We were welcomed in, taken to a buffet of amazing food (including some pretty awesome pumpkin soup) and given succulent tropical drinks. Not a bad first evening you might say. We had a lot of fun that evening with our new friends. An evening that would not have been if it wasn't for a quick and comfy yacht that inspired me to go for it.
Day 2 - North Sound Virgin Gorda to the Dog Islands And Back
Morning in the North Sound aboard a big beautiful sailing yacht. There's nothing like it. I took a cabin up on the saloon level. Slept great but there was one drawback. An early rising crewmember started some coffee and bacon in the galley just outside my cabin door. I've never been upset and happy at the same time, but this did it. The upset part faded when I was handed my morning coffee and sat down at the aft deck table taking in the beauty of the green hillsides contrasting the azure water. Now that's how you start the day.
After breakfast we headed out for a sailing day. No rushing, nowhere to be, a day to put Ocean Suite through her sailing paces. We sailed out of the channel and made a downwind run back to the Dog Islands, sailing right through the middle of the tall rocky islands. There are some great snorkeling spots in this BVI National Park area. The swell was up a bit so we kept moving, tacking around the backside of the island group, trimming our sails for an upwind run to Mountain Point, another awesome snorkeling spot. We stopped here for lunch next to a Sunchaser's Scuba charter. Old school tuna sandwiches and chips (high on my list of fav's actually, but only when I'm sailing. Don't ask. I don't know either). Usually you can find me out on the trampoline or foredeck somewhere having my lunch. Not aboard Ocean Suite though. Instead the fly-bridge became the defacto hangout. The view, the breeze, the shade, and its plush, really plush. Best seat in the house as far as I'm concerned.
It was an easy, short sail from Mountain Point back to the North Sound where we grabbed another mooring ball, started the generator, flipped on the A/C and chilled the boat down for the evening. And as luck would have it, I pulled in just in time for "The Mooring Show". This has nothing to do with The Moorings by the way. It's the show put on by all the incoming charter boats trying to moor up. "Try" is the operative word here. It can be highly entertaining. There's the seasoned sailors that pull in nice and smooth, stop on a dime, and hold it there while their crew ties off cleanly in one swoop. But the most entertaining are the newbies and the "Senatra's" (I'll do it my way). We had what seemed like lots of newbies on this night. Nearly all the newbies in catamarans "swallowed the ball" which is always fun. You know, when the mooring ball get's "swallowed" up under the boat between the hulls. We had one "Senatra" in this evenings show, approaching the ball cross wind at a quick clip, throwing the boat into reverse abruptly stumbling his crew down the deck. Then fighting the wind, spinning the wheel and loosing the battle. Speed and power were then enlisted he approached the ball quickly once again, this time pulling up right along side the ball, still crosswind. He and his crew quickly grabbed the pennant and attempted to hold the boat by hand while one other tried to run a line through the eye. The boat was winning the tug-o-war but the guys managed to get the eye of the pennant hooked to the bow cleat with no actual line tied to the ball, just the mooring pennant awkwardly hooked to a cleat. The "fun" didn't stop there. Because they were broadside to the wind, pennant clipped to the bow, the actual ball was basically on the other side of the boat about mid-ships. I grimaced thinking about what was very likely happening. The newbies for the most part tried to do things the right way, and with practice they will get better. Their stumbling was pretty innocent and they figured it out pretty quick. But this guy had no intention of changing his approach. His 40-foot monohull started to fall back with the push of the wind (as it should), bringing the mooring ball forward, then under his boat, popping out on the starboard side. But then it sort of stopped. Instead of floating in front of the bow with a taught line back to the boat, it only made it about three quarters the way down the starboard bow when took tension, his boat lying cock-eyed to the wind and waves. It was obvious what happened. The chain anchoring the mooring ball to the sea floor was wrapped around his keel with no easy way to release. Not that our "Senatra" noticed. I figured it was my duty to do something, so I moved Ocean Suite to the other end of the mooring field. You know, just in case.
As the sun set, I fired up the grill (to the degree one can fire up an electric grill) and sipped on an ice cold Coke-a-Cola. What we had for dinner that night sitting around the fly-bridge table really doesn't matter. It paled in comparison to the view of the sunset from our elevated perch. So beautiful we didn't speak, our glasses in hand, dripping with condensation but otherwise frozen in our hands as we sat together, equally and simultaneously awestruck unable to look away, waiting for a chance glimpse at the green flash. The sun dipped below the horizon ushering in the twilight. Conversation returned to normal again. But wow, just wow, what a way to end a day on the water.
Or so we thought. Me in my infinite wisdom decided it would be cool to flip on the underwater lights now that it had gotten properly dark. I flipped the switch on at the nav station and click, off went the saloon lights. Flipped the switch back to off and went to check the lights. I knew right away I popped a breaker or fuse. No biggie, just have to locate it. Much easier said than done. This isn't something you'd attempt yourself on charter normally, but I had to give it a try, else turn in my man card right? But no, as you read earlier the Moorings proved to be prepared and had the fuse sorted early the next morning. Just goes to prove the old saying, "Sailors don't make plans, they have good intentions." I intended to flip on the lights, look for tarpon, then head to bed. Instead I had a game of "where's that fuse" followed by a light show in the sky, masses of shooting stars streaking across the heavens. Yep, if those saloon lights would have been on, I would have missed an amazing meteor shower. Proof that things always work out for the best. Now that's how you end a day on the water.
Day 3 - North Sound Virgin Gorda - Yacht Life
A big beautiful catamaran like the Moorings 5800 is has to be particularly good at two things. Sailing and "yacht life". The sailing part is self-explanatory, but you may not be familiar with "yacht life". Think of it this it this way, when you imagine "living the yacht life" what you're likely to envision is something pretty special, full of luxury, space, and maybe even beautiful. This is what the 5800 needs to deliver (everything except the beautiful people part I suppose). That's what today is all about, indulging in the amenities, laying-out on the fly-bridge sundeck, playing with kayaks, and kneeboards. I know, it's a rough job, but someone has to do it.
The morning began at a slow pace. Relaxed and peaceful, you see today we had no plans, not even a "good intention". Zero expectations, no where to be, no sailing to do (though I reserve the right to go sailing at a moments notice just because), today we see how Ocean Suite treats us, leaving her to her own devices as it were.
I was up at dawn along with the rest of the crew. Perhaps the crew feeling as I did, that I didn't want to waste a moment of this beautiful Caribbean day. We stretched breakfast out till 10:30 or so and got in touch with a good friend, Gumption. I've written about him before and I will again, but for those of you new to Charter Advisors, Gumption owns Sea It Clear Glass Bottom Tours in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda. He's been a Charter Advisors Award Winner for the past three years. He's a bright ray of Caribbean sunshine in any day. Happy and kind, the kind of guy you can't help but like, and want to be like in many ways. We made plans to get together for lunch at one of our favorite places, The Fat Virgin later that afternoon. For now it was time to run ashore, gather up a few snacks for the crew at the chandlery at the Bitter End Yacht Club and get the power lounging started on Ocean Suite.
The crew split up in the morning hours. The kayaks and paddle boards went to go explore the mangroves, others cuddled up under blankets in the AC chilled saloon to watch a movie on the Apple TV (I logged into my own account and had my entire library of music, TV shows, and movies. "Wind" anyone?). I took up residence across the fly-bridge settee with a book and an Ice cold Coke-a-Cola. The paddlers returned, sighting stingrays, turtles, and a couple of jellies along their journey. The Movie watchers squinted their way out of the cool cave of the saloon out onto the "front porch", tossing the bean bags out onto the trampoline (as if the trampoline wasn't comfy enough on it's own) getting nestled in, warming themselves in the late morning sun.
Lunchtime was nearly upon us. The crew and I climbed into the dingy for a short ride to The Fat Virgin. The North Sound is extremely dinghy friendly. You can literally go anywhere in the North Sound area in those little RIBs. Smooth protected water, no swell, and everything within a fifteen-minute dinghy ride. Prickly Pear Island and it's deserted beaches, the Sand Bar, Leverick Bay, The Fat Virgin, Saba Rock, Bitter End Yacht Club, heck even Oil Nut Bay. It's an ideal area to spend a day exploring. Today though we had about a two-minute trip from our mooring to the docks at The Fat Virgin. Sitting at at one of the colorful wood tables looking out over the sound, and right on queue Gumption's bright green glass bottom boat came into view, motored up, and docked, a welcome smiling face. We spent the lunch hour catching up, eating roti's and oversized hamburgers. The owner of The Fat Virgin came over to say hi and ask a favor. Seems someone left their bankcard the previous night and asked if we'd mind calling the number of the card to see if the bank could alert the cardholder to the location of their card before they sailed too far away. It was a kind thought. The kind of thing that we just don't see often enough these days. I dialed the number on but the only thing I was able to accomplish was getting this poor persons card shut down. O well, worth the try. You know what? This is what I love about the British Virgin Islands. People helping people, doing the right thing, and looking out for each other. In the islands, a simple lunch turned out to be a mini-adventure. I call that a good lunch for sure.
Gumption joined us aboard Ocean Suite after lunch. He's seen his share of yachts living in the North Sound and he spends time with Sir Richard Branson quite often, and I was quite keen to get his opinion of the Moorings 5800. When he boarded he looked around wide-eyed, he hadn't been aboard one of these before. The space and size impressed him, but it was the fly-bridge that drew him in. Must be a Captain thing, because this is what got me too. After an hour or so Gumption said, "now you come with me on my boat". No argument from me there. Gumption had just had his glass-bottom boat refit including a new paint job and new ultra high clarity glass in the bottom. We boarded off the back of Ocean Suite and took off in his v-hulled glass bottom speedboat. He slowed as we approached Eustasia reef at the north end of the sound, then suddenly threw the boat into reverse. "Look down!" So I did. Sure enough, a massive and beautiful hawks billed sea turtle was swimming among the coral. We floated there watching as he came up closer, then turned and surfaced right next to us, diving back under the boat again. We moved on and saw sea turtle after sea turtle. Six of them over a 45 min period. Swarms of colorful fish were always present on the reef but my favorite stop is a place Gumption calls Starfish Valley. And rightly so, it's one of the few places I've seen huge red starfish. No sooner had we arrived at a shoal off Prickly Pear Island, Gumption turned the helm over to me and dove deep into the water, surfacing with the biggest starfish I'd seen in the BVI's. A hard-shelled, red, living thing. A curious creature of odd beauty. We didn't leave it out of the water for long though. In fact Gumption has a particular way of putting the back on the sea floor (if you don't do it right they will float up to the surface). You see he's not your average tour guide, he's also is an ocean conservationist. If you're not already, he'll make you to fall in love with the sea and it's creatures, passing along a deeper respect for those things living among the sea.
We arrived back at Ocean Suite late that afternoon. Gumption had a tour coming in and we we're ready to get into the water and continue our day living the yacht life. Swimming the afternoon away, jumping off the side decks, snorkeling, you name it, we did it and Ocean Suite proved to be a gracious host. Her transom showers rinsing off the salt and sand, her plentiful aft deck, the perfect place to dry off have a snack and plot what might come next.
That night in true yacht-life form, we got cleaned up, put on our best white on white linen, and headed to an extra fancy dinner. We were invited to a special dinner on Mosketto Island, Sir Richard Branson's newest private island. I can't say much about our visit other than, wow, just wow. Amazing food, gorgeous surroundings, Bali inspired architecture, grass tennis courts and infinity pools with sea turtle sculptures all around. The definition of plush luxury and glamor. Want to know something funny? Returning to Ocean Suite after an evening living the high-life felt like a continuation of the evening. I went from one of the most luxurious and exclusive private islands in the world to the Moorings 5800 and there was no great juxtaposition, no stark contrast, just a continuation of a luxurious evening. Living the yacht life indeed!
Living the yacht life is all about comfort aboard combined with the ability to truly enjoy yourself at anchor in grand surroundings. On this day The Moorings 5800 proved to me that she's more than a big charter yacht. Living the yacht life is second nature for Ocean Suite. She has every amenity you might want, plus a few you never knew you needed. It's all wrapped up in yacht that sails as well as she looks, and provides for her crew in a way few yachts can. Now, when I close my eyes and envision the yacht life I'm not imaging anything, I'm remembering Ocean Suite.
Day 4 - North Sound Virgin Gorda To Marina Cay Via The Baths
I had to get sticky buns from the Bitter End Yacht Club. I'm addicted to those things, and I only get them when we're up here. So, the first order of business; coffee. Second, go get sticky buns from the chandlery.
When I returned I was met by one of The Moorings techs. We called in for assistance with the blown fuse I mentioned earlier. He came aboard looked exactly where I was looking, pulled one fuse and had the saloon lights were back on. All in all I'd say he took him all of 30 seconds to locate and fix the problem. He gave me a smile and a handshake and was on his way again. In total, a five minute visit. By this time the crew had already started prepping to get Ocean Suite underway. This is the sign they give me to let me know they are ready to get going. So we did. Engines warmed up and the mooring line cast off.
Our destination today? No idea. The crew wanted to go sailing, so that's what we did. After a quick motor out of the North Sound channel we raised sail and pointed Ocean Suite downwind down the Sir Francis Drake Channel. Virgin Gorda ran down our port side and the open blue Caribbean Sea to starboard. Downwind aboard a Moorings 5800 is a leisurely thing. There were times when I wasn't sure we were even moving. Such a sense of stillness when you become one with the wind. That's what sailing downwind is, it's moving at the speed of the wind, with the wind, the same air molecules by your side, riding together. It was nearly lunchtime as we approached the Baths on Virgin Gorda. The mooring field looked full but the crew spotted a BVI National Park Mooring floating uncomfortably close to a small monohull. The moorings at the Baths are intended for yachts under 60-feet, we were swinging nearly 58 feet so yes we fit, but I was reminded why you need to be a skilled captain if you're helming a yacht the size of The Moorings 5800. Just about anyone can sail in the wide-open ocean, it's the tight work that tests your skill with the helm. We moored up and broke out lunch, dining alfresco on the fly-bridge over looking the massive granite boulders that make up "Stonehenge By The Sea".
After lunch we all swam ashore and hiked the trail through the boulders to Devils Bay. Half the crew opted to snorkel their way back to the beach at the Baths, the other half kept on hiking, agreeing to meet them back at the beach. This is when the wind changed, a cool puff. Looking up I could see why. A squall was a brewing off on the horizon. As you've already read, we hightailed it out of there about twenty minuets ahead of the storm. That head start, plus the speed of twin diesel engines kept us ahead of the storm and rough seas.
We crossed the channel, moving perpendicular to the squalls direction of travel, which took us directly to Marina Cay. Once again, our "planned" destination was nothing more than a good intention. I had planned to pull into Norman Island that evening, but that was into the teeth of the squall line. So Marina Cay it was. Not a bad place to runaway to when you think about it.
That evening we dined on what we had left in the fridge. Namely hotdogs, pasta salad and beans. Not very sophisticated I suppose. You see this night was our last night aboard before heading back to the states, our summer reviews complete. We had diminished our provisions down to beans and franks. It was a great dinner though. Cooking on the fly-bridge grill, eating a simple meal with my crew, and talking into the night. Sure we could have gone ashore for dinner at Pussers but, we'd done that already. Besides, all those people at the bar will be talking about where there going tomorrow and what they can't wait to do when they get there. Not sure I could take that. My tomorrow involves heavy bags, taxies, flying, customs, more flying, and a drive though rush hour traffic. Not something I wanted to talk about let alone think about. Better to just let those things happen.
We dragged the night out as long as we could before turning in. That night, we slept the sleep of sailors, lulled to sleep by the motion of a slight swell trickling in over the reef.
Day 5 Return Day - Marina Cay To Roadtown
I woke early, just as the sun was peeking above the horizon. Coffee and pop-tart in-hand I sat up on the fly-bridge settee and watched the sun rise. I wanted this morning to last forever. A short while later the smell of bacon wafted up from the galley. Better than ringing the dinner bell (which Ocean Suite also has). While I was upstairs one of the crew had made bacon, scrambled eggs, toast, and was in the process of flipping flap-jacks. Now this is how you start a day! A beautiful sunrise, and a big old-school breakfast aboard a gorgeous yacht on a tropical mooring. My next morning back home was going to be quite a juxtaposition.
We spent the time after breakfast packing and cleaning up before casting off. We dropped the mooring around 10 am sailing our way around Buck Island and down the Sir Francis Drake channel. It was a postcard perfect day as usual, the sea calm, and the sail all to short, but that's how the last day goes. It leaves you wanting for more.
It wasn't long before we were dropping sail and making the turn into the Roadtown harbor channel. Red, right, returning. I radioed in to the Mooring Base and was directed to dock B, to wait there for a skipper to board and slip the boat. As we approached B dock I could see it was full. This is another one of those moments where you better darn well have solid skippering skills. Keeping a 60-foot catamaran on station in roughly the same spot with limited space, with the wind pushing at you from the starboard side takes ability and nerve. In my case, one out of two ain't bad. I for one was very happy when The Moorings skipper took the helm guiding us into the marina and into Ocean Suites slip, in reverse the whole way. Better him than me.
We we're back on the dock in no time, hooked up to shore power, and gathering our bags. Our summer review season was officially over, ending on a high note thanks to The Moorings 5800 and a truly unique charter sailing experience.
Noteworthy While Underway
Crewed Yacht For Bareboaters
At some point before we got onboard it hit me that we were about to bareboat a type of yacht that usually gets run by one of The Moorings crews. I wondered, was there something about the 5800 that's somehow more technical or more challenging to sail or run? In that moment I wondered, did I make a mistake? I'm a Captain so I can't actually make mistakes, right? My fallibility aside, charter yachts are getting bigger and bigger, I had to find out if the largest offering from The Moorings could be handled by an experienced bareboat crew as easily as other similarly size yachts we've reviewed. My concerns all washed away with the wake once I was settled in behind the helm, making way down the Sir Francis Drake Channel. True, The Moorings 5800 is a big yacht. But because she's been thoughtfully built and laid out she's extremely user friendly. If it's space, luxury and comfort is top on the list, and you have the experience necessary The Moorings 5800 is very much worth a look. And if you don't have said experience, The Moorings offers a crewed option for all their yachts, with specialized crews dedicated to the 5800.
The Motion In The Ocean
Big charter yachts like the Moorings 5800 get chartered by a wide variety of guests. From experienced bareboaters who'll take the helm themselves to long time repeat guests that go out in a large group. Then there's the first-time guests who've come aboard as someone's "plus-one". It's important that the yacht cater to its guests, especially when they cover a pretty broad spectrum. This is an area where the Moorings 5800 really excels. Comfort is too generic a label. Good yachts are multidimensional. They have to provide comfort while underway, while at anchor or mooring, in still air, and in blustery rolling conditions, rain or shine. And do it for guests ranging from first timer to old salt. Tall order. I can report that The Moorings 5800 is one of those rare yachts that makes the going easy for everyone aboard no matter how little salt flows through their veins. Ocean Suite cut through the chop, smoothing out the ride with her size and piercing catamaran hulls. Her wide stance made kept hobby-horsing and yaw a non-issue. Ocean Suite is a stable and luxurious sailing platform that cruises in a most dignified manner.
What impressed me most under sail was shallow learning curve. Not that long ago it would take a good bit of instruction and crew training to handle a sailing yacht the size of The Moorings 5800. Ocean Suite is the latest breed in The Moorings luxury sailing lineage, and being as such her first duty is to make her Captain look good - meaning you can pick up the helm, run the lines, and nail it right out of the box, first time. This she did this to perfection. The key to making the Moorings 5800 manageable is in her set up. All lines lead to the center of the helm to a bank of winches, the biggest one powered. Tailing bag's help to keep things neat, but with all the space in the helm I preferred to sort the lines out and give them their own space on deck. The mainsail rose in under sixty seconds using the powered winch and flaked cleanly down without sticking or catching along the way.
Sailing a big yacht tricks the perception a bit. At the onset it was hard to believe something this grand was moving so quickly and easy through the water. The ride aboard Ocean Suite was controlled and settled, it tricked me into thinking we were cruising easy when we we're in fact flying! I kept double checking our speed over the ground (SOG) on my own hand-held GPS to make sure the one on the chart plotter wasn't fibbing our boat speed. Under sail I regularly saw speeds above 12 knots to windward into 18-20 knot true breeze (8-10 knots downwind in the same conditions). Ocean Suite exceed my expectations yet again. This was beginning to become the theme of the trip.
The Moorings 5800 hasn't reinvented sail handling, and that's frankly a very good thing. To pick up a new yacht and sail her intuitively the first time out speaks to intelligence that was applied to her design. Not reinventing sail handling, rather they optimized it, adapting the familiar to create familiarity with new and updated technology. The result - from the moment the crew cast off the lines I felt in control, confident, and relaxed.
A Floating Home
Ocean Suite is actually a pretty apt name. More like Ocean Villa, but that doesn't have the same ring to it. I say villa because suites tend to be on the smaller end of the spectrum, where as villas are for vacation and can be big, real big in some cases. In flat terms Ocean Suite is spacious, roomy, comfy with all the amenities of home. The volume of space aboard is astounding. The last yacht I was aboard with this much space was over eighty-feet long.
At the end of the day, after a nice long sail, I usually find myself out on the trampolines star gazing. The night of day two, I was lounging in the saloon when I got hit by some sort of mental double take, trampoline... Do we have one? Of course we did, but I had been so completely seduced in the evenings by the plushness of the saloon and that Apple TV with all my favorite shows playing up on the large flat-screen. I didn't really know what to think. I supposed a healthy dose of shame was in order, but I felt no shame. Instead I indulged what attracted me most about Ocean Suite. And you know what, the things that drew me in most weren't necessarily the same as on other comparable yachts. Where one yacht might have me going to bed late because I couldn't remove myself from counting shooting stars on the trampoline, this one was making me offers of living-room-size settees and flats-screens I couldn't refuse. Don't worry, on day three I found the trampoline. And I can report, the Milky Way reminded me I was being an idiot by hanging out inside so much in those evening hours. So I did what any thinking person would do, split my time between both!
So what is it that makes Ocean Suite so dang comfy and lovely to be aboard? Light wood, open spaces, extra large pillowy settee, uncluttered modern design, and clean lines are the main ingredients. Add to that plenty of space for guests to move about and all those amenities I've already mentioned and you have the makings of a beautiful, luxurious home, er... yacht. When the sliding glass doors open from an impossibly large aft deck, and you peer inside for the first time, be ready. It's so much more than you'll be expecting. I've sailed and reviewed a lot of yachts and this was the first time I'd been caught slack jawed. Be prepared to be impressed (often in the form of uncontrollable giggling) or ready to guffaw at the opulence (even though we all know you wouldn't turn it down).
Watersports Are Go!
You know you're aboard a big yacht when you forget where the tandem kayak is and the paddle boards aren't in the way. The kayak was located, lashed down on the hydraulic stern swim deck, the paddleboards we're unclipped from the lifeline cradles, and the paddles we're pulled from the front deck hatches. Each of our little self propelled boats got placed on the swim deck. I figured it was overkill to use the lift to lower the kayak alone, so I had it loaded up with all the watersports gear that would fit. The crew tied off the painter lines and the swim deck was lowered until each water-toy floated off, tugging on its line ready to go play. Insta-watertoys! It sure beats tossing the kayak over the lifelines! The knee paddleboards were new to me but immediately made sense. It's likely not many charter guests are going to be experienced SUP paddlers. The knee paddle boards are basically designed to be used exactly how newbies use SUP's. They kneel and paddle. The boards and paddles are shorter than SUP's, there are bolster pads to support your knees and lower legs. If a small whitewater kayak and a SUP had a baby, it would look like one of these things. They proved to be lot's of fun, and super easy to use first time out.
Not everyone loads up on the water toys. I get it. But I would suggest that you make sure you've got something in the watersports department. A small kayak, SUP or knee-board turns any anchorage into a playground or adventure depending your pace. Me, I like to explore the shallows and mangroves. In one thirty minute outing I saw stingray, a sea turtle, a large iguana, and a rainbow of colorful fish everywhere. "Natures little secretes" indeed.
One evening after arriving back to Ocean Suite from dinner ashore I was reminded by one of the crew that I hadn't turned on the underwater lights during our trip yet. I apparently let myself get a little too relaxed at night and just didn't bother. This Moorings 5800 was having an odd effect on me. I walked over to the nav station, opened the glass door covering the main breakers and switches, found the underwater lights and flipped the switch and.... Darkness. Instead of the water glowing turquoise all around the stern our saloon lights, the glorious flat screen TV, and the internet hot spot, all off. I flipped the underwater light switch back to the off position. The lights were still on in the hull cabins. Just the saloon was out. The crew settled into their cabins down below and I grabbed a flashlight to see if I could find the breaker or fuse that likely popped. I guessed that the underwater lights shorted (its fairly common), so long as I left those off, we should be fine. After an extensive search, I couldn't locate the blown fuse. A call to the Moorings after hours mechanical help line was in order. They answered at ten past ten at night and let me know they would have someone over first thing in the morning. Which worked fine by me. What surprised me was that they actually had a mechanic available up in the North Sound of Virgin Gorda first thing in the morning. The next morning, just after breakfast The Moorings service tech arrived, tying off his chase boat at the stern. After a quick handshake and description of the issue, he went to work, moving directly to a panel on the right of the nav station breakers. Behind this wall disguised panel sat a large bank of fuses. I checked these right after the lights went out and they all looked good to my eye. I'm almost embarrassed to report that I completely missed the blown fuse. Our visiting mechanic found it and had a replacement installed in less than five minuets. We tested everything, and he was on his way. It's good to know help is so close even when we're so far from base, but honestly, I was an idiot. In morning light I'd probably had better luck finding the fuse and I would have saved the Moorings Charter Tech the trip out. Then again if you can't find the fuse, all the replacement fuses in the world aren't going to help. I am happy to report that this is one of the few times that we had a charter tech visit and lost no time on the water. I'm also happy to report that the only hiccup during our review was that single blown fuse.
The baths on Virgin Gorda. A fabled stop, a must on any charter vacation. I motored slowly into the mooring field at the Baths noticing that the moorings balls seemed to be closer together than they we're last week when I visited in a different yacht. A trick of Ocean Suites size perhaps, but that's not really important here, just an observation, mooring went without issue, as did our swim ashore. The hiking was lovely, Devils bay was heavenly. It was such a good day that I spent more time than usual just enjoying the crazy oversized boulders of the Baths, Stonehenge by the sea. It makes sense then that this is where the story turns. It was actually the sky that did the turning. Black clouds in the distance growing and beginning to make their way down the channel and we we're still sitting at Devils bay, a hike through the boulders and a pretty decent swim through the mooring field away from Ocean Suite. This could get interesting. Hiking up and through boulders the size of houses stacked one on top of the other, myself and the crew moving with purpose with the precision of the crew they are, helping each other along the trail. We made good time all the way back to the trail head. The squall line was filling the horizon and getting closer, twenty minuets away perhaps. There was no panic or rush, but there was little talk until we we're all back in the dingy tied off about a hundred yards or so off shore at a dinghy mooring. On the way back to Ocean Suite the first of the outflow wind hit. Cool and refreshing! We wasted no time firing up the engines and casting off our mooring. We we're exposed in rolling waves at the Baths. Not a place to ride out a storm. I pointed the big Moorings 5800 at Marina Cay to hide in behind protection of Tortola and the reef at Marina Cay. With the squall over my left shoulder I ran the engines up till we saw 11 knots on of boat speed as the squall began to swallow islands. Norman Islands disappeared first, then Peter Island was fading. The sea was with us and we had a breeze at our backs, and now our jib was unfurled, 12, 13, 14 knots now, riding the storm feeling the push of the sail and swell. We beat the squall to safe harbor and ended up watching the storm as it approached, engulfing The Baths and Virgin Gorda, passing just about a mile north of our hidey-hole. It's time like this that I really count on the yacht. Ocean Suite played her part to a "T", taking care of her crew and out performed my expectations along the way. More importantly she reinforced something I learned when we first cast off from the Moorings docks, she makes her Captain look good.
There was a question I was asked fairly often ashore or meeting other folks on vacation. "What's it like?" It's an easy question to answer because the answer is in their question. No one asks, "What's it like?" unless the yacht in question raises curiosity. In the case of the Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite it's her presence, at least at first. Closer up the details come in to focus as does her scale. It's an impressive thing the 5800, but underway her palatial surroundings seem at odds with the experience underway.
When I see a large, well appointed cruising yacht I tend to think heavy and slow. That's been my general experience anyway, that's not necessarily a bad thing. Big boats like this are about cruising in luxury and comfort first and foremost. The Moorings 5800 has somehow included all the comfort and luxury and added an extra dash of performance. Ocean Suite, made by Robertson and Cain who apparently practice witchcraft. I can't think of any other explanation. How did they get a Moorings 5800 to cook along under sail at 13 knots without any real effort? Or how they made her handle as easily as a 44-foot catamaran. Or dance on pointe with such grace and control in a tight mooring field (without even touching the bow-thruster). Witchcraft I tell you. It's either that or the collaboration between The Moorings and Robertson and Cain designed a sailing catamaran that's as user friendly as it is spacious, a rare combo. Swift, comfortable, spacious, and confidence inspiring, that's the underway experience aboard The Moorings 5800.
The first few moments at the helm of The Moorings 5800 is quite reassuring. The familiarity I talked about earlier makes it easy to settle in and motor or raise sail like you've done it many times before. And with such a stable ride every sailing task were just that much easier.
The helm is situated on the starboard side of the fly-bridge. From this vantage point I raised the main with a push of a button, watching as it went up through a "sunroof" in the bimini that gave full view of the mast. The jib unfurls off an upsized roller furling system completing the sail setting routine. I intentionally single-handed the entire operation the first time we set sail just to see if it was possible. With all the lines led to the center of the fly-bridge cockpit and with that big powered winch sitting right in the middle of the lines, it was a matter of choosing the right colored line, winding it around the winch, unclipping it and with a press of a button, it was made so. Do that twice, once for the main and once for the jib and that's it. It's sailing time!
Ocean Suite got put to the test right off the dock. You see we had a photo-shoot set up in the North Sound we needed to get to and only three hours of sailing light left in the day. This is easily a three to four hour trip. I motored then sailed Ocean Suite into a brisk breeze running 18-20 knots true. The motoring portion of our journey took us from Roadtown Tortola to just offshore of Buck Island along the Sir Francis Drake channel where we headed nose to the wind and set the sails. Our speed nearly doubled using the sails! Seven knots under motor turned to 13-14 under sail. That wind we were beating into was now ours to use, to power up our massive mainsail and slice the waves. She flowed and ran true under autopilot until we were approaching Mosketto Island. With the island to starboard, we dropped sail and fired up the engines for the last push by the large reef guarding the entrance of the North Sound Channel. Some sail in here but frankly folks, it's not worth the risk. Digital charts all have warnings about approaching under sail. It's a subtle warning, "Do not approach under sail, boat graveyard" is one of my favorites.
I broke one of my own rules of sailing that day. "Sailors don't make plans, we just have good intentions." I made plans for a photo shoot on day one of a charter, with little wiggle room. Not wise. Leaving as late as we did, I really didn't think we we're going to be shooting any photos that evening. But we made it to the North Sound of Virgin Gorda with sunlight to spare. We had our sunset photo-shoot thanks to a surprisingly quick, easy to sail, yacht.
The Moorings has a couple options when returning after a charter. Dock yourself or they can send one of their crew out to guide the boat from the inner breakwater and dock up for you. Docking yourself is straightforward in The Moorings marina. Calling in to base on entering the channel you'll be directed to a T-dock. Just entering the breakwater puts you on the right approach, allowing easy and open docking. In our case the T-dock was full of boats, and slipping a 5800 in reverse isn't something I'd recommend unless it's your job. So long as there's space on the dock, docking here is nothing more than slowly pulling in on starboard. Dockhands catch lines and assist with the tying up.
Because we we're taken directly to our slip, we were able to unload while the Moorings dock crew topped off the fuel and water tanks. All very efficient. The only thing that remained was to do the debriefing. My crew headed off with the bags while I sat down in the saloon with one of the base managers. She was a direct and blunt woman. Just the facts, no nonsense. Probably a good thing considering she's a kind of quality control. Making sure everything is ok and uncovering anything that isn't. In our case I let her know about our blown fuse and the underwater lights. To this she asked, "Did you try to turn the underwater lights on again after he fixed the fuse?" I told her we didn't flip them on again. She asked, "Why not?" I really didn't understand the obsession with these lights so I told her, "Well, I didn't want to take a chance and blow the fuse again." I nearly let out an audible chuckle when she said, "You could have tried when the tech was still there." Touche. And that was the end of that. We moved on to heads, general use items, then on to sailing gear review, and finally a light chastising when she and I discovered at the same time that the downstairs fridge was actually a freezer. Apparently one of the crew put a few cans of Coke in there, they froze, exploded and made a bit of a mess. That crewmember may have been me. I swear the checkout skipper at the beginning of the trip said that was a fridge. We'll I suppose it's better than mixing up the halyard and the boom lines.
With the debriefing done, I picked up my captains bag and took one last good look at Ocean Suite before stepping off onto the hard, back to life on land, at least for a little while. The Moorings 5800 turned out to be an unexpected treat, one that emphasized why we love to sail while coddling us in a way few charter yachts can.
This was our first review of The Moorings. The Tortola BVI base was a natural charter base for us since we base the majority of our charter reviews out of the British Virgin Islands. It is after all the charter yacht capitol of the world. I have to admit, I may have pre-judged The Moorings. I had this impression that they were too big to be personal or operate at the highest levels of quality and service. You know, the ol' quantity over quality thing. Let me take this moment to affirm how totally incorrect I was. The quality and detail put into the yacht, the make ready, and the preparation was spot on. The Moorings crew I worked with we're professional and friendly. And when we needed a visit from a service tech they we're ready, even at the farthest end of the island chain.
The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite is impressive in size, luxury, and under sail. She has the ability to make you feel completely relaxed and at home even when your anchored in the middle of nowhere. The Moorings 5800's can be chartered as a bareboat or crewed charter, but either way she makes the going easy and extremely comfortable. We recommend The Moorings 5800 to those of you looking for space, luxury, and comforts of home, or need space for a large group. She's unique in the British Virgin Islands charter fleets and makes every day feel special. I can't think of anything I'd want more on a sailing vacation.
By The Numbers
By The Numbers
At the time of publishing, the following are the listed weekly rates for the Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite bareboat. Charter rates change seasonally and do not include crewed charter, insurance deposit, permits, water, or fuel fees. Please note that Charter Advisors provides this information for reference purposes only and does not, endorse, or represent any particular charter yacht company.
Weekly Rates (4 nights)
Low Season $11,214
High Season $15,344
Note: Minor fees and deposits such as permits and insurance deposit, are not listed. The above totals are not to be used as exact costs as these costs change often. This budget summary is intended for planning purposes only and to give a good idea for the average costs involved. The costs listed above are as per what we were charged at the time of charter.
- Charter Review: The Moorings 5800 Ocean Suite by Captain Kev
- Charter Review: VOYAGE Charters, VOYAGE 520 Silver Lining by Capt. Kev