The Current, NMI Blog, Northeast Maritime Institute Blog


Women’s History Month – Aunofo Havea Funaki

As Women’s History Month continues on, we want to spotlight another incredible woman who has made a lasting mark on the maritime industry – Aunofo Havea Funaki. Captain Aunofo Havea Funaki, of Vavau, Tonga, has broken gender barriers in Polynesia by becoming the first licensed female captain in the region.

Aunofo is the founder and Managing Director of the Tonga Voyaging Society, which is a not-for-profit NGO reviving Tongan maritime cultural heritage traditions through ocean voyaging on modern kalia vessels.

From April 2011 to August 2012, Aunofo participated in the Te Mana o Te Moana Voyage, where 7 traditionally built Vakas across ten island nations sailed through the Pacific Islands to San Francisco, completing 210,000 nautical miles of open ocean. Aunofo served as the only female captain of this international voyage, and later went on to captain the first all-female sail on the Vakas.

Aunofo runs an ecotourism business in Vavau, Tonga, called “Vaka and Moana” where she brings people to swim with humpback whales. This ecotourism business honors Tonga’s connection to the whaling industry, though in a more sustainable way. People travel from all over the world to have Aunofo guide them to swim alongside the whales.

Aunofo began her studies at Northeast Maritime Institute in 2018. She completed the curriculum for an STCW Master less than 500 Gross Tons Near Coastal license and obtained an Able Seafarer Deck endorsement.

Aunofo has served as an inspiration to all, as she has faced the unknown and broken through the glass ceiling. In 2018, Northeast Maritime Institute created a documentary titled “The Ocean Knows No Borders” to capture Aunofo’s incredible story. Watch below.

Scroll to Top