From Bordeaux, France to San Francisco, California, Sail Cowabunga! A Family’s 10 Years at Sea, follows a Franco-American couple and their two young sons across the Atlantic Ocean and into a ten-year journey at sea. Through their adventures and misadventures, tragedies, and glories across four continents, the Couvreux family rarely had a dull moment living on the water.
Janis chronicles in vivid and lively detail how they fended off a midnight intruder, sailed to the microscopic St. Peter and St. Paul Rocks on the equator, explored the jungles of French Guiana and Devil’s Island, and sailed through Cuba in the turmoil of the late 80s. Their adventure was not without hardship, however, as Janis recounts battling medical emergencies that required sending her husband across the globe for treatment (twice), leaving her to single-handedly orchestrate a Panama Canal passage amid pre-war chaos. While living in the close quarters of their 42-foot sailboat, the Cowabunga, the Couvreux family was able to maintain sanity and a normal daily routine of cooking, schooling, and sleeping at sea, knowing all the while that something unexpected might be waiting just around the next peninsula.
Video from the Cowabunga adventure:
I just finished "Cowabunga" and have finally stopped crying. I loved it. What an interesting and amazingly raw, honest, and amusing story!
Janis Couvreux’s nonfiction travel memoir, Sail Cowabunga! A Family's Ten Years at Sea, is a marvelous account of a most spectacular adventure...beautifully written...it so easy to get caught up vicariously in the family’s experiences. Sail Cowabunga! A Family's Ten Years at Sea is most highly recommended.
—Reviewed by Jack Magnus for Readers' Favorite
Invigorating and flowing with perfect rhythm, your story is pleasant to read alternating between evocative descriptions and suspense at just the right moments. I love the precision and sober factual presentations in your writing while mindful of the reader who may not be polyglot. You take us with you with humor; throughout landscapes; lively human, cultural and natural encounters; and across the infinite seas—a life that I would have loved to have known more.
I was touched by your discretion of placing yourself in scenes, always leaving the spotlight to Michel and the boys. Discreet and modest, you have never boasted about your adventure. And indeed, this is Adventure with a big “A” that you recount without invoking pity in face of all the risks, dangers, deceptions. Yet, you remained buoyed by friendship and confidence in your guiding star.
Not all grandmothers have such a passionate story to tell their grandchildren let alone to hand down in such a striking book of adventure.
—Marie France Weber, retired Professor of French Literature, Lycée Français San Francisco and French National Education
I was "blown away" by Sail Cowabunga! ! I loved every paragraph. Your elegant command of the English language is superb. Your style of writing and descriptive prose portray an environment that made me feel I was there. I think your book should be used in High School and College classes to inspire all to write so eloquently.
—Gia Whalley, Nurse, Experienced Backpacker
WOW, what a great story!!
I am awed by your writing craftsmanship, and the vivid recounting of your amazing adventure. How bold you and Michel were to undertake (and stick with) such a journey with two small children. Michel's medical issues alone were worthy of a book, and you had to deal with them under such adverse conditions. What a gift you gave your sons, and it sounds as though they have continued to lead adventurous lives. I was very touched by the closing chapter as you described your feelings of sadness at realizing the journey had ended.Well done, thanks for sharing your story.
—Stan Bluhm, Trip Team Adventure Leader, Coastwalk of the California Coastal Trail Association
In 1983, as we were prepared our cruising trip around the world with our three boys, we met an amazing family: Janis and Michel, and their children on board their yacht Cowabunga in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil...just arriving after 30 days crossing the Atlantic ocean... and I admired them for their courage. During their stay in Brazil, they became part of my family and friends. Janis inspired and helped me with many hints about her cruising experience with her kids. I am happy Janis is sharing their life story. We need more dreamers and people who defy the patterns and go for a unique journey or life experiences.
- Heloisa Schurmann, author, researcher, a sailor, of The Schurmann Family, the first Brazilian family to sail around the world. Completing three circumnavigations, they raised and taught their four children on board their sailing yacht.
What a delightful read. Janis’s story has plenty of excitement without the drama and is a solid story of a family of adventurers. Sean (aka Doogie) is a great shipmate, and after reading this, I understand how he got to be that way.
- Dawn Riley, professional skipper, four America’s Cup Teams, two Around the World Races, Youngest Sailor, and CEO of an America’s Cup Team
The curious and courageous Couvreuxs and their trusty sail boat Cowabunga. Janis Couvreux, husband, Michel, and their two young sons invite the reader to squeeze into that sailboat as they ride the waves to places most of us will never venture: the complicated ports of Africa, strange islands smack in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, tiny inlets along the eastern coast of South America, to name a few. Janis’s exquisite storytelling style puts the reader in the thick of the adventure, from being rescued by the U.S. Navy to being the rescuers during a devastating flood in Brazil along with how to cook family dinner every night strapped into the galley, so the waves don’t knock you over while you are stirring the soup. The life the Couvreuxs chose to live and the lives of others they got to share it with, even for a little while, paint a portrait of what it means to be human in its many varied forms around the planet. And because Janis has gifted us this book, Sail Cowabunga! A Family's Ten Years at Sea, the rest of us get to live it too. Cowabunga!
- Elaine S. Silver, editor and writer
Sure, we have all engaged in a risky caper at some point. Yet, when do we hear of an entire family embarking upon an extended and unlikely adventure as this? Logistical conundrums from the simplest daily tasks, bureaucratic and mechanical complications, coping strategies to survive emergencies, all required exceptional physical and emotional stamina and resourcefulness. Try raising well-adjusted boys and keeping a marriage nicely afloat...on a boat. The Couvreux Family reinvented family traditions, found generous camaraderie at each port, and gazed toward the next horizon. This astonishing journey is full of surprises, and heart, to the very last.
- Laurie Lubeck, Editor, Japan Association of Travel Agents Eco-tourism Handbook
Courageous and inspiring, Sail Cowabunga! is beautifully written, honest and rife with cruiser-moxie. This heroic story is a must-read for anyone considering a jump out of suburbia and into a quality life, rich with travel and adventure. Janis Lasky Couvreux's intriguing memoir is a culmination of her adventurous spirit, profound relationships, and on-the-water plights—all while navigating family life. Sail Cowabunga! is a seafarer's guide to living one's dreams; aptly exposing the equally imperative values of patience and perseverance.
- Lynne Rey, author of travel-school cruising blog www.mvcortado.com