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.
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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. I looked at them, just arriving after 30 days crossing the Atlantic ocean from Europe with Sean a toddler, and Brendan, a baby 11 months old, 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. We followed them throughout their lives with the many challenges and victories they faced. 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
Janis Couvreux has written a vivid and fascinating account of her family’s extraordinary journey. Sail Cowabunga! is a story of perseverance and determination, a story about personal growth and relationships. Armchair travelers and adventurous types, this remarkable story is for you.
- Marlene Cullen, founder of Writers Forum of Petaluma and host of The Write Spot Blog www.TheWriteSpot.us
Janis and Michel took their newborn and three-year-old sons on a 10-year ‘boat schooling’ experience. In this book, I discovered how homeschooling two children at sea from France to California opened this family to realities that cannot be learned on land.
- Delphine Duler, teaching professional at Lycée Français de San Francisco
One word describes this book, ‘Magnifique!’ This is a story of resiliency, teamwork, family, love and courage. One word describes this book, ‘Magnifique!’ This is a story of resiliency, teamwork, family, love and courage. As a landlubber, I was fascinated with life at sea for a young family. I know now why your fabulous son is so family oriented and adventurous. Cowabunga has new meaning for me.
—Keith Schneider, Assistant Chief, West Metro Fire Rescue in Littleton, Colorado
What a wonderful way to be a family: A must read. It’s not just a good story, I know those two boys who spent 10 years at sea with their parents, and they both grew up to be good human beings who care and make a difference every day!
—Philippe Kahn, Inventor of the camera phone, Time Magazine’s 2016 list of most influential images of all time
A pioneering family adventure built on creativity, grit, ingenuity, and joie de vivre, all bound together by an overwhelming love for all on board and the incredible life Janis and Michel created. Their two boys wonder, grow and thrive, from tiny passengers to crewmates who become captain-worthy when life-threatening surgery sidelines Michel for a time. Throughout it all, their steadfast and beloved Cowabunga carries them ever forward, at times through seemingly impossible situations. ‘We were able to wrap the world around us,’ writes Janis, imparting a touch of the magic that seemed to guide and watch over them. What a gift it is to sail along and catch the Cowabunga spirit!
- Peter Stein, children’s author of Cars Galore and the Galore Series at Candlewick Press, and Little Red’s Riding ‘Hood of Scholastic Inc.’s Orchard Books