Jean-Pierre and Paulette van Hille have been married for 47 years.

"We met at the end of September, the 23rd or 24th. And we married on the 4th of July the following year," says Mrs van Hille.

The two have travelled extensively in their boat, the 1989 Rerevanui, to the likes of New Caledonia, Malaysia, Borneo, Alaska and Mauritius.

But there's always been one small issue.


"I don't like water. Not at all," says Mrs van Hille.

"She doesn't like water, but she's in love with me," replies her husband with a chuckle.

Paulette has faced cyclones and raging storms alongside her husband, who learnt to sail around France by himself from a young age.

"Never afraid, I have never seen my wife afraid of the sea."

The couple have sailed around the world the equivalent of four times.

"I like the sea. I am in love with it, and always I thought that one day I would make a big trip," says Mr van Hille.

Mr and Mrs van Hille moved to the island of Reunion after marrying, where they spent fifteen years working as teachers, while raising their two girls.

After seeing their children through tertiary education, they spent time in French Polynesia teaching - it was here they bought their boat and set sail.

"All our work, in the house, on the boat. We do it by ourselves," says Mrs van Hille.

They first arrived in Tauranga in 1998, a year after the Tauranga Bridge Marina was opened.

But they're not ready to settle for good - just yet.

"No plan at all. Maybe we stop tomorrow, maybe we get another ten years? Who knows," says Mr van Hille.

The couple will return to their home in Provence over the European summer to produce wine and spend time with their children and grandchildren.

Made with funding from