Tag Archives: kids4sail

6 weeks in Tonga: part one- Vava’u September 2018

img_1785img_1789Upon our arrival into Tonga, we felt a mixture if great relief and anticipation. We were relieved to be somewhere that we knew we would be at for about 6 weeks and were  anticipating the next step… were we going to get Josie to work in US as a travel nurse again for a 3 month assignment or wait for work in New Zealand.  We had to get both lined up a some point.  Josie’s work in New Zealand  should probably start sometime late December or early January.  Lots to think about and lots of fun to be had at the same time. Finding the balance of continuing the enjoyment of cruising and being responsible to keep the kitty fund coming can be a challenge.

Lets first have fun and worry about the other stuff as it comes up.

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Check into the country: check. Get Pa’anga (Tongan Money) from the ATM: check. Fresh produce from the local produce market: check. Walk around to town to get the general feel for things, check. Find our cruising friends, some of which we hadn’t seen since Tahiti, check check.  Neiafu is a small, but popular port of entry for Tonga in the northern group of islands called the Vava’u Island Group. It lies in the upper group of Tonga.fbd5ce09-0e7f-4b3c-90bd-c455a94a98d3

Checking in was pretty easy, the docking, not so much. The industrial dock is not super small sailing yacht friendly. It’s weather dependent,  has limited space, and tidal dependant.  We happen to have it to ourselves, but it isn’t uncommon for there to be 2-3 boats side tied to each other waiting for many hours for the check-in or check-out process.  This is also the only supposed place to get duty free fuel, which by the sounds of the radio chatter wasn’t quite that easy of a process and was not to be relied on.  Anchoring is also very limited. Most of the waters were at least 70 feet-120 deep up right near to shore and known for some rocky bottoms.  Basically, you crossed your fingers that there was a mooring available. We lucked out, someone had just left one.img_1597Mango Bar and Grill was where most of the cruisers would take their dinghies into shore and tie up.

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Taj driving the dinghy back out to the boat.

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A little boys club time at the Mango bar and grill

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We spent a few days on the mooring just off of Neiafu, exploring the town, visiting friends, meeting new friends, accessing wi-fi, finding the local butcher shop, and pondering what anchorages we should visit over the next 6 weeks.  Tonga has this weird, and thought to be rude by some, anchorage naming phenomenon.  Instead of the proper Tongan names for the anchorages, they have assigned numbers associated to them. This all started with the Moorings charter company. It was easier to provide anchorage numbers to the charter boats than for the people to read and pronounce the names of each anchorage.  I have to admit, as much as we tried to avoid using the #’s and be respectful to the Tongan people, it was a lot easier to use the #’s to let people know where we were at or heading to.  It just became what people did with the exception of a few more popular places.  Hopefully, at some point, the # names will be lost and the traditional Tongan names will be used again.

There were over 40 different anchorages in the Vava’u Island group of Tonga. You can see Moorings Tongan Cruising Guide in the link above or here.

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Noonsite also has some useful information on the latest Tonga info.  It’s all about the “latest” as it is ALWAYS changing season to season. Most of the anchorages are fair weather anchorages only, but there a few good ones that a really protected from specific wind directions. We happened to be in Tonga during one of the most windy 6 week stretches of the year, so we were a bit limited on where we went. But we made the best of it and we were with great people, so all was good.

I’m not sure what happened to my anchorage/ farkwar tracking abilities during our time in Tonga. I’m pretty sure I was just trying to enjoy every bit of it that I could in that moment before I had to leave for work and then move to New Zealand for more work. I’ll try my best to re-hash some memories of our time in the Vava’u group (part 1 of our 6 weeks in Tonga).

August 30th: Maurelle bay (anchorage 7), Tonga. After 5 days of “big city” Neiafu life, we ventured out to our first anchorage in Tonga. Maurelle Bay. This lovely spot would end up being where we frequented the most,  with the exception of trips to Neiafu town to re-stock.  Maurelle was just a quick few hours out of town and a beautiful little bay that can fit a good number of your friend’s boats. There was 4 mooring balls that were available and then probably room for about 7 more boats to anchor.  A local would come by to collect a “donation”, I forget how much it was, but it wasn’t too much and  you could stay 5 days with it, but if you left and came back you would have to pay again. A bit funny, but we got over it.  The bay offered swimming, snorkelling, beach walking and easy(ish) access to the caves that are well known in Tonga. Mariners Cave and Swallows Cave.  Swallows Cave offered bats and clear water with many bait fish swimming around in formation. Super cool and easy for the kids. We did see a sea snake in there though…eeek.  Mariners is one of the more popular caves for having to dive down through and up into the open, dark cave. There is a swim through that’s anywhere from 6 feet to 12 feet deep depending on the tide and another one much deeper at  13-15 meters (44-50 feet).  S/V Muskoka took a bunch of us out to Mariner’s Cave and has a bit of footage of me diving down and through the deep tunnel. Here’s the link to their youtube video. The dive can be found at ~5min 10sec of the 14 min video.  (There is also a clip of Taj during one of his many frequent visits to S/v Muskoka : at 7min).

S/V Soggypaws has some good info on the dive sites and many other useful information for Tonga.

September 3rd: Kenutu (anchorage 30), Tonga.  This anchorage was out on the outskirts a bit, but worth the trip. One must follow the chart closely through a bit of a zigzag channel and go with good lighting to avoid running aground or on a reef.  This sweet spot held a good number of boats and offered more beach activities as well as dinghy sailing and kite surfing.  Kenutu was where we made cookies for the anchorage and had all the kids come paddle by the boat to pick them up.  Watch the short video below.

We shared many anchorages with many lovely cruisers. We had a dinghy raft up pot-luck, beach bon-fires, many sun-downers rotating between the different boats, pizza parties, birthday parties, and the occasional quiet evenings alone on our own boat.

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Calazone making aboard SV Anilaimg_1724

The video above was taken on one of my swims in Tapana Bay (anchorage #11). Zen life underwater.img_1788

The video below is when we had a impromtu boatfitness session aboard SV Muskoka.  I gave a little TRX demo / instruction and Laurie Ritchie added her professional Physio tips.

While we were there, we did get to experience a few cultural events. Sunday church is a HUGE thing in Tonga. In fact, most everything is closed on Sundays and the only thing to do is go to church. We are not church goers ourselves, but Nina and I went with a few other cruising families to get that experience. “Wow!”, is about all I can say. The attire that some of the locals wear and the songs they sing are amazing!. We went to the Catholic mass, but a few other cruisers went to the other sermans as well.   The experience is worth every bit of the effort.

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St. Joseph’s Cathedral

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As for the “traditional Tongan feast”, we hopped onto a luncheon at Ene’io Botanical Garden that a few other cruisers signed up for. It’s organised through one of the ex-pat tourist coffee shops in town.  A van picked us up and drove us out and over to the feast location. Apparently its this family farm that goes back many generations. Tours can be arranged for the full farm, but we just did the meal. I believe the meal alone was $40/person. I could be mistaken though, as it was a while ago. Again, just Nina and I went for this event. The roasted pig was as anticipated. I would say the rest of the food was so so. I think the best part was more about the whole experience, the attmoshphere and the people we were with more than food itself.  End result, we probably wouldn’t do this particular one again, but if we met a family and they invited us over for a traditional dinner, we would indeed be extatic to participate.08166056-ae0b-4cc6-8e32-e526641d9564

As time was ticking, it was time to start thinking about work.  There was play time and then there was a little thinking about “should I get a travel nurse assignment in The States or try to start work ASAP in New Zealand?”  First step was to look further into New Zealand Immigration  for what I’ll need to do to get a work visa and move to the next step from there.  As we looked into it further it became clear that the best way to go would be to apply for a job and get the job offer first and then apply for the visa.  If all went well with that, the visa would probably take a few months to go through. With that in mind, we decided it would be best for me to pick up a travel assignment back in San Francisco as long as the hospital  in New Zealand was willing to wait for a start date in January 2019.

Sure enough, everything happened to fall right into place. I was able to apply for NICU position at the level 3 NICU in Wellington, New Zealand, get in contact with them to set up an interview all the while setting up a travel assignment in the United States.  I was able to do all of this thanks to the affordable sim cards in Tonga and an APP called MagicJack to call internationally along with a few iridiumGo calls when there was no service available.  As I was organizing my travel assignment, Wellington Hospital offered to do a phone/skype interview. I loaded up my SIM card, had fellow cruisers watch the kids, and Christian motored our boat to an anchorage that we knew would be quiet and had cell coverage in order for me to have the clear call. I dressed up for the part, Christian went for a standup paddleboard tour around the island while I rang in for the interview. Wow, what a cool experience. I doubt many people could say that they had a phone interview off a remote island in Tonga. The interview went well. They were willing to wait until January if they offered the job, I just needed to wait a few days for their response. I rang up the travel nurse recruiter to confirm “a go” for 13 week assignment starting mid October to early January. Then a few days later I was offerend the New Zealand job!!! INCREDIBLE!

With all that excitement, we celebrated of course. But we also had to change gears for getting me to Tongatapu to fly out by October 9th.  We had more places to go, more time to play, but on more of a time schedule. We also had to arrange for our friend, Nic, from S/V Cielo Grande, to fly out to Tonga to help sail Shawnigan down to New Zealand.

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Maurelle Bay

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Play dates with other boat kids! (Representing Counting Stars, Magic and La Cigale)

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Playtime aboard Shawnigan

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Taj trying to explain how to play “chest” (as he calls it).

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Tall Ship Picton Castle

Taj had to have this cottonball in his ear due to a really bad ear infection. It started as just an ear ache and a fever that turned into many days later still having it with a sudden continuous drainage of gunk. We ended up giving him antibiotic and thankfully within a week it was mostly clear up. Our friends on Anila had an Otoscope that they loaned us and from what we could tell, the eardrum was ruptured, and pretty severely. For the remaining time in Tonga, the poor kid had to be really careful about not going underwater or making sure that he had waxy ear plugs in if he did.  I cant help but wonder if the germs from Christian’s staph infections were hanging out on the boat and got into Taj’s ear. I think that’s the nurse in me, but we’ll never know and it all turned out ok.

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A little boat making project with dad.

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Giving the boat a go…

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Facebook video call with Ellamae, who was in Florida. Thay aren’t real tears, but sometimes I sure felt that they could be.

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Fish and Chips out on the water- I just realised that it actually says “fish and chip”… you do get more than one chip with your order.

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Raising a Boat Teen

Behan, of S/V Totem is one of the most well know sailing family writers out there today. I few months back, near the end of 2018, she came to me to ask about writing up something on raising a teen on a boat. Yes, she’s already been there and done that, but she was writing and article for Yachting World Magazine and wanted the input of other sailing families with teens.  I was happy to ponder her questions of current “hot topics” for sailing with teens.  Having had writers block for some time, this was a perfect way to prompt me to write something new!  Behan’s article should be coming out in this month’s (March) Yachting World Magazine.  I’m excited to get a copy in my hands and read what different insights she got and how she compiled it into an article.  Thanks again Behan for the inspiration!

While you are now anxiously waiting to pick up a copy of this months Yachting World Magazine, here is what I came up with for raising a teenage on a boat:

“Wow, you are sailing the world with three kids on a 40 foot boat?! And your oldest is 16?! What is it like with a teenager on such a small boat? I can’t imagine being in such a tight place with a teen.  Does she have the normal teenage outbursts? What does she think about it? What does she do for school? What about social life? Does she help out?” Pretty much every conversation I end up having with non-sailing or soon to be sailing families about our life consists of the questions mentioned above plus many more. Raising kids on a boat is one thing, but raising teens, is a whole other ball game.  Our kids are 16, 11 and 5.  We get questioned about all age groups with such age gaps as we have, but the teen questions come up most frequently. Topics most often brought up are regarding what we do for school, whether she feels deprived socially and materialistically, whether or not we see similar situations for other boat teens, and how do we deal with teen “frustration” and moods and what do resolutions look like in these moments.

When we left for our world sailing adventure life, our oldest daughter, Nina, was 12 1/2.  She was in 6th grade and we transitioned her out of private school  halfway through the year into boatschool, 6 months prior to leaving.  We knew that with her very social temperament, she would benefit with a transition that allowed her to continue to be close to her friends, and at the same time warm her up to schooling on the boat. Looking back at it now, this was probably the best thing for us to do.  The transition to a less social life and more parent time over 6 months helped tremendously compared to other stories we’ve overheard from the families that did it “cold turkey”. The academic part of it had its own learning curve. The first year we pulled from various resources attempting to keep the Waldorf/Steiner style education. We ALL struggled with that. Not only did we find areas where Nina’s prior education might have missed her not understanding some subjects, but we also had to discover for ourselves how she best learned and what style of teaching/learning would be best for her. Once we found that, it was so much easier. In fact we have gotten to the place where she primarily teaches herself. We are just there as resources and to correct her math and papers.

“Does Nina ever feel socially deprived?” I think we better let her answer that question. (see her self recorded boat teen speech from December, 2018 here) .  I think she’s had ups and downs with feeling deprived, but when does a teenager feel completely satisfied? One of the goals as parents raising our children in this environment, was to lead them away from FOMO (fear of missing out) phenomenon.  It seems to be the case with the increased connection through social media that children feel the need to stay connected and fear that if they don’t, they will be missing out on something and possibly missing out on some “better” opportunity.  Nina had an IPOD at the age of 12, for email, skype and google chat. The main goal was to stay present with our own adventure, and allow her to stay connected to family and the friends she “left behind” and the new friends she met along the way.  There were many times she asked for Facebook and Instagram accounts, but we were able to hold off until she was 15. So now, she is on Instagram, but she’s also 16.  When there is wifi available, we allow her limited time slots to do her social media thing and then we get back to being present.  As for in person interactions with other teens, it comes in waves. There will be weeks, sometimes months without having interactions with other boat teens. And other times, it’s non-stop teen extravaganza! When there are not other teens around, she interacts with either adults or the younger kids. She’s very adaptable as far as that’s concerned.  We would like to think that is because of the lifestyle we are raising her in and we have noticed the same characteristics in other boat kids.  When we do meet up with other boat teens, there usually is an immediate connection between them. It doesn’t take to long to realise that once on cruising mode, it is necessary to meet and make friends quickly. There are no clicks, no super judgemental/harsh teen dynamics going on. It’s a breathe of fresh air to know that our children are being exposed to supportive and healthy relationships along our journey.

Other ways we helped Nina’s transitioning to sailing life: she’d already lived on a boat, at least part time, since she was 2.5 years old, so she was already accustomed to limited “stuff” aboard and tight living quarters. She moved aboard full time when she was 11, pre-teen. She had plenty of space. She shared the v-berth (the front of the boat) with her, then 6 year old sister, with two separate bunks, which they each call their own “room”. Their room, called a cabin on a boat, was equipped with a door for privacy and a second head (bathroom) that they are both responsible for upkeep on.  Having her own space and something to be responsible for helped give her “ownership”.  Now the girls are 16 and 11. They still share the v-berth and surprisingly still have enough space. Does Nina wish she she had her own room? Definitely. But didn’t we all when we were growing up, no matter how big the room was.

We all know that the word “teenager” is largely associated with emotional frustrations and irrational outbursts.  Not sure if its our parenting, growing up on the boat, or just plan luck, but we have it pretty easy so far on this topic. Yes, there are moments of complete meltdowns and frustrations and there isn’t anywhere to run to, literally. So… we are forced to work it out quickly. And we learn to be ok with emotions. Sometimes we grow more if we accept them, let it ride, and then reflect. On a boat, we all, not just the ones involved, get to see them, experience them, feel them and then, most importantly, let them go. Usually it plays out as trying to calmly talk about it first, then on occasion the outburst happens, usually  proceeded by a stomp to the v-berth and slam of the door, maybe some shouting, then hours of quietness. Nina journals, ALOT. Usually withing a few hours of in-room time, she returns to wherever we are, usually in the cockpit, to calmly talk out her frustrations. It seems to us, a very healthy means of working things out. We can only hope that we are giving our children quality coping and interpersonal relationship skills.

How much choice do we give our children, especially the teenagers, on what path we take for cruising? This is a tough topic and answers vary widely amongst other cruising families. We understand that our answer to this may not be agreed upon by others. Our way of thinking stems from both past experience and advise from others. Christian grew up sailing with his father.  His journeys, albeit not around the world circumnavigation, covered many miles and covered many of his formative years. After completing the South Pacific loop twice, his father and mother sailed him down through the Panama Canal, at which point they gave Christian the choice to keep sailing, possibly to South Africa to surf or go up to Florida to do high school. He chose high school.  He now says he wished his parents never gave him the option. He states that his high school experience was terrible. That being said, he does realise that he is where he is in life now with that as part of his path. But from having that experience and remembering how emotionally driven his choice was, we don’t feel like it is a good idea to give such a big choice to a teenager.  We will listen to wants and consider them in our decision, but ultimately they can choose their path when they leave the boat. Our good friend aboard S/V Imani, Marc Gournard, once said after doing  a circumnavigation with his wife and two kids, “You are the parents, your children do what you do, not the other way around.”  Ultimately, as parents, we feel that we are responsible for raising our children the way we think is best in order to set them free, so that they can then live the life they want to live in confidence.

Skipping ahead 4 months from when I originally wrote this post….

We have found ourselves in New Zealand primarily to work and experience the country while we are making money before we continue on again.  An added benefit to staying put here for a while is that Nina can go to high school (or what they call college here) and finish up her formal education before she goes off to University on her own. She entered school here as a year 12 student (equivalent to Junior year in the States), so she technically skipped half a year of school by starting the new school year here in January.  Is this what she wants? She says it is. It happens to work for us as well as far as timing.  Her transition into school has been great. She was very nervous to start, but within a few days she’d already established a good group of friends and a good understanding of how the education system worked. Nina found herself ahead in Math(s) and English and about right on par with Science. Yay, we didn’t fail as home-educators! What a relief!

We are always revisiting our choices and what we want next. We listen to our children, we listen to ourselves, we listen to what “feels right”.

Nina with two teens we met off of a charter boat that were out from Germany, cruising the Society Islands for a few weeks.

img_0664img_0710Tahiti: another place where many kid boats meet.

img_4930Hanging with younger kids from other boats… Above (Catherine from La Cigale)32584384_unknown32582640_unknownNina loves free-diving. She’s reached a max of 59 feet.  Above: Diving with Dad. Below: Diving with Mom.img_1085img_1263-1Snorkelling with her sister.

fcd181bf-6867-4035-8568-dae61a25c33bMarine Biology Boat school, tailored for all ages.

img_0315She’s outgrown me!img_0314img_0210Marc and Doreen from S/V Imani. Back at the cruising thing without their kids this time around.

img_9807Nina in the Galapagos with her Marine Iguana friend.

img_006817 boat kids met in the Galapagos for Taj’s birthday party. NO lack of kids here.

IMG_2909Beach play in the Galapagos with fellow boat teen Anastasia off of S/V Lady Mary.

img_9587Equator crossing, 2018.

31789264_unknownArrival to the Galapagos, late March 2018.

img_9305Hanging with the S/V Totem teens in the park in Panama City.

img_9240img_8882-2Skating with boat teen Jack off of S/V Arc En Ciel in Panama

img_8801Braces are taken off in Panama!img_8560-1img_8277January 3, 2018 Costa Rica

ahoy 6Sailing into Banderas Bay, spring, 2016

img_7820-130472256_unknown-1Fall, 2017

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Nina’s triumphant pose as she completes a 40 foot deep fin-less dive.

img_7242Screenshot (53)Nina likes her cliff jumping.

img_5538img_5631S/V Kenta Anae  joined us in the Sea of Cortez with their boat teen.

img_4399 Hanging with other boat teens

img_4424 90% of the time, this is what Nina looks like 🙂 Reading in her corner.

img_4219Getting braces (brackets) put on in Mexico.

img_3475img_2869-1img_1381Hanging with the boys off of S/V Tribe in La Paz, Baja Sur, Mexico.image-1img_5259img_1668img_1356Mid passage swim

img_1216School at the beach in Mazatlan

img_1147-1“Boat hair, I don’t care”

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Tenacatita Raft up with TONS of other boat kids (January 2016)

IMG_0207-0IMG_5202IMG_5049IMG_4908Back when we left in 2015, Nina still held our hands…

DCIM100GOPROGOPR3025.Rodeo show off of Morro Bay.

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IMG_4255Heading down the coast of California.

IMG_4321Our first family photo after leaving San Francisco, August 2015.

 

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Raiatea – Society Islands – French Polynesia

 

Just west of Huahine is Ra’iatea. After spending about a week here, we decided that Ra’iatea is one of our favorite places so far. There is just something about the feeling, the vibe of the island that is alluring. We arrived July 30th. While were there we got to paddle up a river in Fa’aroa bay to a plantation, where we were invited to tour and take produce. We ended up with so much fruit and veggies that we did pay for it as well as trade for some said needed items that we had aboard the boat.

James kayaked out to invite us to his family plantation.Taj on paddleboardjosie on paddleboardJosie goofing on PaddleboardJosie and rambutin

From the east pass entrance at Fa’aroa Bay, we anchor hopped southbound until we reached the south pass, until finally exciting to make way to Bora Bora.

Fa’aroa Bay:

Rafted up with S/V La CigaleRafted up, Raiatea

Taj helping clean the dry food storage area.

Raiatea’s famous Marae Taputapuatea:

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another obligatory spiritual grounds handstand

A “map” of how all of the South Pacific islands are connected and meet at Raiatea as the
center for their cultural rituals.

Fetuna:

Boat teens jump off SV Bellini

Daddy DIY school

Typical Boat Storage set up.Next up… Bora Bora

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Huahine-Iti – Society Islands- French Polynesia

July 26th, 2018: After Mo’orea we did an overnight sail to Huahine, in order to arrive there with good lighting to navigate through the pass and shallow areas.  La Cigale joined us for the fun.

Marae Anini - HuahineMarae Anini - Huahine

The Societies offer a combination of “atoll”  and mountainous landscape. They are surrounded by a perimeter of reef, channels that are mostly navigable by boat are access through a pass, and there is where you take your boat to known anchorages off the volcanic islands. Huahine offered great views, clear water, great surf, paddle boarding and culture.

The overnight passage along with S/V La Cigale was great. The pass into the island’s reef was also seamless, as we spectated local surfers doing what they’re natural at. We motored our boats down to the south tip, where it’s less inhabited with ancient sites to see. We spent the next few days, unwinding more from busy Tahiti life, paddle boarding around, swimming and walking to the Marae Anini (cultural site).DCIM100MEDIADJI_0089.JPGDCIM100MEDIADJI_0017.JPGIMG_6550Josie headstand

Adult Sunset paddle with our friends on La Cigale. (Nina and Francis are on kid duty)

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sunset SUP with La Cigale

NOVATEK CAMERAGroup shot - sunset paddleboard

Hammock time under La Cigale.

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felt the need for inversions at this Marae.

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Marae Anini : At the southern tip of Huahine is Marae Anini: an ancient meeting ground for worshiping gods and making human sacrifices.  For a brief cultural background click here.

The following drone photos are from S/V La Cigale

Marae Anini

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SeeLa Cigale’s post here

Mo’orea – Society Islands – French Polynesia 🇵🇫

While I was away with Ellamae in the USA, Christian, Nina and Taj made their way over to Mo’orea, the beautiful island about 10 miles west of Tahiti. It was a great break from the busy Tahiti experience. They met a few new boats and few more great people. S/V Today was there with a active Kiwi family visiting that quickly became great friends. S/V Green Coconut Run from Santa Barbara was there and Tusi 2, with their teen grand kids visiting. Nina was in heaven with older kids around.

Hanging with our new Kiwi friends off of SV Today

Jeremy (StarboardSupNZ)

After about ten days there, Christian came back to pick me up from my return flight into Tahiti. We spent a few more days in the Marina Taina are, provisioning and exploring Heiva events.

We then returned to Mo’orea so that I can see the beauty for myself as well as meet with our friends on La Cigale, Kea, Bajka, Heritage and Tranquilo. With only a few day allotted for Mo’orea, we packed our “tourist” experience in before heading northwest to Huahine.

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Coming into our anchorage in Mo’orea.

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Taj

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Nina

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Josie

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Josie

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Nina

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Nina

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Tiki

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NIna and the Tahitian Stingray

SUP Yoga off the back of La Cigale with El (SV Tranquilo), Josie (Shawnigan) & Lucy (La Cigale).

Josie at the alter with the underwater Tiki gods

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