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All is not well in paradise… / Voyage of Te Mana #4

The islands in the South Pacific are known as a slice of paradise, with their golden sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. And as Jess & Nick sail, SUP and surf their way through Polynesia their blogs and photos has us green with envy. But unfortunately as Jess explains ‘all is not well in paradise.’…

So far our photos have shown nothing more than tranquil anchorages, glorious beaches lined with palm trees, and of course the never ending clear turquoise water with its beautiful fishes and coral. And for the most part this is reflective of what surrounds us as we sail our way through the Pacific. But we think it’s important to also mention some of the not so idyllic aspects we are seeing on our voyage.

Having sailed past our fair share of ever present water bottles (we even managed to snag a stray thong/flipflop in our outboard prop?!), we’ve also found many other assorted plastics whilst beachcombing deserted windward shorelines, where the pretty shells have been by far outnumbered by the presence of discarded plastics. From microplastics (small pieces of plastics that have been broken down by the wind/waves/sun into brightly coloured flecks that look tasty to fish and birds) to macroplastics (anything from toothbrushes, shavers, plastic toys, soles of Nike runners, plastic netting and ropes, and of course plastic bags and bottles/lids of all shapes and sizes), we have seen it all (without looking hard). And it’s a little disturbing to say the least.

Of course this is not news to any of us. We all know that the production and our consumption of plastic is unsustainable, and that its life cycle will outlive all of us by thousands of years. And thanks to the internet we’ve all seen images of seabirds and fish that have died from ingesting too many microplastics, and have most probably heard of the floating island of rubbish that has formed in the north west region of the pacific… entirely out of ocean plastics and other debris. It’s as if our society is binging on plastic, and unsuccessfully trying to find the right diet to get things back under control. And it’s not easy, as any dieter will attest. It requires behavioral change and that is hard, even harder when there are no immediate personal repercussions for having to do it.

I’m a great example. On land I would always try to remember my reusable shopping bags at the supermarket, but sometimes I’d forget, and no biggie… because in lucky country Australia they give you plenty of free plastic bags anyway (thankfully it sounds like this is about to change!). And coffee cups… I’ve got a keepsake cup somewhere, but it would not always be with me when I wanted to order a takeaway. And as our rubbish and recycling in Australia all gets whisked away nicely by the garbos each week anyway, its hard to actually gauge what level of rubbish and plastic waste we’re really creating. Out of sight, out of mind. But on a boat things are a little different. There are no garbos, there is no wheelie bin down the driveway, there is just our little boat which is both our floating home and our rubbish tip. Which means we have to think a little more about what we are consuming and how we deal with it.

Food is obviously our biggest consumption onboard, and with all organic matter fed to the fishes, we are left to store and then correctly dispose of our waste plastics, glass, cans and paper/cardboard. So far we’ve seen varying degrees of recycling programs on some of the more developed islands, to the burning of piles of plastic amongst the palm trees in more remote areas. But before we left Australia we had also started thinking about what (nonedible) consumables we would need whilst onboard. Already overflowing with surfboards and SUPs (lets not even get started on the toxic foams and synthetic resins used to make these toys) it really wasn’t much. But a supply of tropical surf wax, some polarized sunnies to make sure we can see the reefs whilst navigating, swimwear, and sun protection to stop us returning as sultanas were really all we thought we were in need of.

With Nick’s background in sustainable materials science we started searching to see if there were products out there that best fit our needs whilst also having an environmental conscience. It was refreshing to find there were companies and entrepreneurs starting to do things differently who more than fit the bill. And needless to say in this process I’ve learnt a lot about a whole bunch of things I can’t believe I’d never really considered before! So here is a run down of what we found after much research into our consumable options, and hence I’d like to introduce our Friends of Te Mana:

Surf Wax

Before looking into this I hate to say I’d never really thought much past the smell of my surf wax…However it turns out the majority of surf waxes available on the market that are made with petrochemical by-products and ingredients that are non-biodegradable, non-sustainable, non-renewable, synthetic, and toxic to the marine environment. Already aware and alarmed by this, Graham and his small family owned and operated business from Lennox Head – Tree Hugger All Natural Surf Wax – produce high quality surf wax that is 100% biodegradable and petrochemical free. And, their wax still smells pretty darn good!

Sunglasses

And I definitely hadn’t thought about the production chain behind my sunglasses… Entrepreneurs Ryan and Rob had however and started Norton Point via a kickstarter campaign in 2015. Based on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in the US, they have developed the first line of sustainable and socially conscious eyewear made from recovered high density polyethylene (HDPE) ocean plastics from the canals and coastlines of Haiti. For every pair of glasses they sell they are committed to cleaning up one pound of plastic from the ocean. They also give back 5% net profit to global clean up, education, and remediation practices. We think that’s pretty impressive, and they’ve definitely succeeded in making us ‘sea plastic differently’.

Swimwear

Having owned my fair share of bikinis over the years, my only real concern with them up until now had been finding a pair that stayed on whilst surfing… I’d never really considered that most swimwear is made from petroleum derived nylon or synthetically produced polyester, or that more environmentally friendly alternatives might be available. Designed by the lovely Fiorella and made using locally based manufacturing in Sydney, Seapia’s beautiful swimwear not only stays on amazingly well with surfing and jumping off boats (not even a little bit of indecency), but by using Econyl fabric (made from recycled fishing nets) and waterbased inks they are (aside from a pair of coconuts) as ocean friendly a bikini as you can get (and far more comfortable).

Sun Protection

Although a little off the topic of plastics, but still relevant to the ocean and our ever increasing awareness of what we’re doing wrong to it… Sunscreen. Good old sunscreen is harmful for many of the little critters in coral reefs?… How did I not know this already?!… Oh wait… I forgot we don’t care about reefs in Australia. The majority of sunscreens on the market contain oxybenzone (among other things), which has been shown to be harmful to coral reefs. But Sydney based Chris and Kieren from Little Urchin thankfully know better and have developed a reef safe and eco friendly natural sunscreen that is good for us fair skinned humans, as well as being good for the ocean. They use zinc oxide as the active ingredient, which has been shown to be safe for the marine environment, as well as a whole load of other natural ingredients that I can actually pronounce. Also using zinc oxide (combined with other natural organic ingredients coconut oil, beeswax, olive oil, cocao powder and butter – that make it smell delicious!) Sun and Earth Natural Zinc is a small business from Byron Bay’s Hinterland that are helping to keep our snozzes and lips extra protected without using any nasties that can harm the reefs we are surfing over.

So there you have it. It doesn’t take much to start thinking a little differently about how and what you consume, and thankfully there are a growing number of companies out there already one step ahead.

Consume wisely… the ocean will thank you.

Words : Jess Cunningham ( Voyage of Te Mana)

So… next time you go to the shops, think about the impact what you’re buying will be having on the environment. And if it’s not good… think again! We are all responsible for the plastics and toxins polluting our oceans. And we can all do something about it by thinking more carefully about what we use and buy. Lets support the great companies around the globe doing their bit to help clean up our oceans. 

Incase you missed Jess and Nicks previous articles you can read them here

SUPing the South Pacific

Jess and Nick continue to sail, surf and SUP themselves silly in the South Pacific, whilst onboard their floating home Te Mana. SUPing in gin clear waters, surrounded by golden sandy beaches and colourful coral reefs, their daily SUPing adventures are what most of us dream about once in a lifetime! Here’s what Jess and Nick have to say about the latest stage of their trip…

Over the past six months, not only have we managed to learn to sail on the go, but also in the process we’ve sailed ourselves over 2000 nautical miles from French Polynesia, to Niue, to Tonga, and onto Fiji. And after the rough seas encountered on passage, the longest of which has so far been 9 days, there’s never a more welcome a sight than sailing into the smooth flat waters of a turquoise lagoon, just waiting to be explored by SUP.

And lucky us, as we had hoped for when we decided to undertake this voyage,

“we have basically been able to SUP ourselves silly in all of these amazing locations.”

With the South Pacific being such an incredible watery playground just waiting to be explored, armed with our quiver of surf and SUP boards on our trusty yacht Te Mana, we are more than prepared for fun and adventures in whatever lagoon we choose to sail ourselves into.

From the vibrantly lush mountains that tower above the simply stunning lagoons of the Society Islands, to the remote palm tree encircled coral atolls of the Tuamotus, to the coral cliffs and caves surrounding Niue, and the seemingly infinite amount of small uninhabited islands each with their own white sandy beach in Tonga… we’ve SUPed them all.

“And then there’s the clarity of the water… so so so so clear. Crystal clear. Gin clear. Just so so clear.”

The view from our SUPs, whether it be of the brightly coloured reef fishies, the beautiful corals of so many shapes and sizes, the sharks and more sharks in the Tuamotus, the wiggly black and white striped sea snakes of Niue, the vibrant blue starfish that seemed to be haphazardly sprawled over every rock or coral in Tonga, or the families of whales playing happily off in the distance… it has all been just amazing.

Yet despite all of this, it seems our SUPs are sometimes more adventurous than us, as we’ve found them a few times now floating off the back of our boat into the distance (no one to blame but our own poor knot tying!) Thankfully, they usually don’t get far… but Nick’s did get us a little worried when it managed an overnighter recently in Tonga. But lucky for us, despite our fruitless searching, King Neptune spat it back after 24 hours and beached it just 100m from where it had initially untied itself from the back of the yacht! Happy days.

Being only just past the half way mark on our voyage back to Australia, with Fiji, Vanuatu and New Caledonia still on our hit list… there’s no doubt plenty more of the above, and more, in store for us and our adventurous SUPs!

To follow more of our journey, check out our salty journal at www.voyageoftemana.com.

SUPing the South Pacific

We look forward to following Jess and Nick’s sailing and SUP adventures as they continue through the South Pacific. Anyone else a little bit envious!?

Incase you missed Jess and Nicks previous blogs you can find them here:

We’ve bought a yacht in Tahiti! / Voyage of Te Mana #1

Life afloat / Voyage of Te Mana #2

Voyage of Te Mana - Jess & Nick

Jess and Nick and their floating home Te Mana are back with part 2 of their adventures exploring the beautiful waters of Polynesia and the South Pacific. Having bought their boat in Tahiti they’ve been island hoping over the last few months, with SUPs onboard, recently arriving in Tonga…

Voyage of Te Mana - Jess & Nick

We’ve been floating in French Polynesia full time now for a few months. And although l’d have classified us as water babies when we were living on land (forever trying to be in or on the sea, SUPing and surfing around the waterways of Sydney and the beautiful South Coast), it’s just not the same as living constantly surrounded by ocean and its never ending motion… and of course, its never ending challenges.

And there have definitely been challenges aplenty for us with our newfound life afloat… as you would expect – having not really sailed much before we dove right into the deep end and bought ourselves a yacht in Tahiti!

“Don’t they say there’s no time like the present, and if you’re going to do it… do it properly? So we did. And we are learning… by doing… quickly!”

With it clearly not being our long engrained love of sailing that lead us here, it was more so the realisation that there’s no better way to access Polynesia’s many gems than by boat. And although space is always at a premium on a yacht, on board Te Mana (our 40 foot Beneteau Oceanis) we’ve managed to squeeze in as much of our land life’s garage contents as we could. Our arsenal of toys includes 5 surf boards, snorkelling/freediving set ups, spear guns, fishing rods, cameras and underwater housings of all shapes and sizes, and of course our SUPs. Although Nick has left his surf SUP on land (at this stage!), we’ve bought along our two favourite Red Paddle Co SUPs, as the option for below deck storage on passages (rather than strapping them on deck as with traditional SUPs) was just too good to pass up.

Aside from literally allowing us to walk on water, SUPing forms a massive part of our daily cruising life. When we’re at anchor, not only are they our method of choice for up close and personal exploration of some of the world’s most stunning tropical islands, atolls, and coral reefs, but they also provide us with fitness, transport to/from land, surfing (you’ve got to pick your wave here to ride an inflatable on!!!), skurfing, and of course just plain and simple fun and enjoyment.

Someone asked the other day if we were missing our life on land… lets just say there was no time lost in answering!

“So until that answer changes, it looks like we’ll keep floating on, SUPing, surfing and sailing our way across the Pacific.”

Jess and Nick will be sharing their sailing & SUP adventures on SUPboarder with regular blogs. But in the meantime check out their website Voyage of Te Mana. 

You can read Voyage of Te Mana #1 on SUPboarder here. 

Voyage of Te Mana - Jess & Nick

Have you ever dreamed of leaving it all behind in search of the simple life? Jess and Nick from Australia had, but instead of just keeping it a dream, they made it a reality! Leaving their home town of Thirroul in New South Wales earlier this year, exploring the beautiful waters of Polynesia and the South Pacific by boat, has become their new way of life. And with their SUPs and surfboards close at hand it’s going to be an epic adventure too.

But first of all they had to buy a boat! SUPboarder follows Nick and Jess’s travels with a series of blogs over the coming months, following them back to Australia and possibly beyond!…

“We’ve bought a yacht. In Tahiti! I don’t think I’ll ever get sick of saying that.”

Both Nick and I have done our fair share of travel and living abroad over the years and so are no strangers to tapping out of conventional society for periods of time. But there has been something special about uttering that phrase as the explanation for upping and leaving our perfectly good lives on land while our friends and colleagues our age cling onto the property ladder, pop out babies, and strive to further their careers.

Reactions to our news consisted consistently of raised eyebrows, jaws agape, stunned silence, and then of course a retort to the gist of ‘Can you even sail?!…’ .Once the initial shock was digested, most were excited for us and encouraging, however a few aggressive reactions spilled forth (interestingly all from local racing sailors who had never cruised the Pacific) bluntly implying our idiocy. We could only conclude that maybe, just maybe we were striking a nerve by living out their never fulfilled dream.

Our grand plan consisted of surfing, SUPing and sailing our way through Polynesia, and eventually back to Australia.

Voyage of Te Mana - Jess & Nick

And it is a grand plan, even by our usually ambitious standards. Not only have we never really sailed much before, we definitely haven’t captained a 40 foot yacht, let alone crossed an ocean. In fact this idea had only really been in motion for the past six months when I suggested it to Nick. He has since run with it like only he can and here we are… living aboard our new floating home anchored in the beautiful turquoise waters of Tahiti, overlooking the sun setting behind the jagged peaks of Moorea.

Although the idea was mine, our quick turn around in life circumstances has to be attributed to a combination of Nick’s never ending enthusiasm and optimism, some good solid advice from a boat broker friend in Sydney who set us on the right path of what type of boats to look at from day one, as well as a large planning wall in our home that we turned into a blackboard to visually workshop all we needed to do in order to achieve our goal.

The blackboard definitely got a good work out, with there being many stages of our oversized ‘to do’ list. We not only managed to tick everything off, but also provided our friends’ children a way to happily draw on our walls.

And now that our walls are curved and our living space is the size of our previous bedroom, all that’s left to do is the fun part – the sailing, surfing, and SUP exploration around Polynesia’s beautiful islands and coral reefs. Stay tuned for our updates as we cruise the Pacific in search of paradise, or follow our adventures at www.voyageoftemana.com.