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Sail Cowabunga

The boys enjoying the beginning of their journey of 10 years at sea Sailing Cowabunga.

The Lost Interview with Janis Couvreux has been recovered with the addition of Jillian Morris

From Bordeaux France to San Francisco, California, Sail Cowabunga! A Family’s Ten 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.

P.S. NO, My Kids Did Not  Wear Life Jackets For Ten Years At Sea!

Award winning author of Sail Cowabunga! A Family’s 10 Years at Sea, Janis Couvreux is a journalist, sailor, mom, grandmom, traveler, and Franco-American, blogging at the Huffington Post,  The Lady Alliance, about living bilingually, crossing oceans, backpacking adventures, and raising kids outside the box.


Interview by Paul Cody with

Mike McKinnon ( The Captain ) Retired Submarine & Naval Base Commander.


Our Therapy Skunks Stoosh & Skittles.


CASA, of Central Texas


Jillian Morris, Founder of Sharks 4 Kids



Jillian Moris:  What was one of the coolest things you witnessed on your adventure?

Janis Couvreux;

Stoosh: Why dids you be livings on a saily boats and for how longs? Where dids you sails to?

Janis;  My husband and our two boys lived on our sailboat for 10 years. We first moved on board when we had one child and he was only 1 year old. We were preparing to go on our long trip, so we first lived on the boat for two years to get used to it and work on it to make it livable like a house. Then we had our second boy, and we brought him to live with us on the boat directly from the hospital where he was born. We then left on our long trip for eight years, and when we left our two boys were 3 years, and 5 months old.

  We wanted to travel as a family and both my husband and I loved sailing. We decided that traveling as a family on a boat would be a great way to go to other countries and not have to pack a suitcase! We could take our house with us, and it wouldn't be expensive because we wouldn't have to pay for hotels, or car rentals, or restaurants. We wanted our children to learn about different cultures, languages, geography, and history in an interesting way, and we wanted to spend as much as time as possible with them when they were young.

We started our trip in France, where we lived and where both children were born. Then we sailed down to Africa, across the Atlantic Ocean to Brazil and Argentina, then back up to the Caribbean and Florida in the United States. We stayed in Florida for three years and worked to get more money to continue on our voyage. After that we went to Cuba, the island of Curaçao off the Venezuelan coast, San Blas Islands near Panama, the Panama Canal, Costa Rica, Mexico, and finally San Francisco, California where we live now.

Skittles;  Did you does everythings on your boaty, likes we would does in us house, like eat, sleeps and takes a bathy? Cans you cooks on a boaty and is it callsed a kitchen?

Janis;  Absolutely! A boat can be just like a house, but quite a bit smaller. It's like a camper van but on the water instead. We had a kitchen, but on a boat it's called a "galley." We had a kerosene stove and oven, which actually uses the same fuel as jet airplanes, and it's safer than gas, believe it or not. We also had a shower, sinks, and beds you call "berths" on a boat. When our youngest was still a baby, we had an inflatable bathtub, like a very small swimming pool, that I could inflate and fill with water for his bath. Both our boys had their own berths, and my husband and I had ours. Our boys' beds were up at the front end, or the "pointy" end of the boat, also called the "V" berth, and their beds were built on top of where the sails were stored. (We had many different sails for different kinds of wind and weather.) It was almost like a tree house for them and very cozy. We had big water tanks to store water on our boat, but we also used salt water as much as possible to save our fresh water. Today they make very affordable desalination machines (machines that take the salt out of the water) for small boats like ours, but a long time ago, when we sailed, that didn't exist yet, so we would have to be very careful to save our fresh water as much as possible for drinking and cooking. I would cook all kinds of things: soups, bread, and even yogurt and chocolate cakes!

Skittles;  Dids your childrens have their toyses on the boaty? What dids they play with?

Janis;  Oh yes, they had toys! But we had to learn to fit them in a rather small space and limit the number of them. So eventually, Lego turned out to be the best toy ever for our two boys! It's a toy that grows with you and it's easy to put away. As children get older, they can create bigger, better, and different kinds of things with Lego, and that's what they did. Also, it was easy to store in special drawers my husband built for the Lego. And since Lego are plastic, we didn't have to worry about them if they got wet and they wouldn't rust like some other metallic toys. They also had a lot of books to read, and they kept busy fishing.


Stoosh;  Dids you has to sails in bad weathers like strong winds and nasty heavy rainings?

Janis;  Sometimes we did. We didn't choose to be in bad weather, but sometimes it just happened. The weather can change quickly and when you are out in the middle of the ocean and you have no choice but to deal with it. In 10 years, we really had only two very bad storms. The winds were screaming and the sea was very big. When it's like that, you can't sail. We just take all the sails down, and wait out the bad weather like a cork bobbing around. We stayed down below, protected, and waited. Sometimes it seems long when the storm lasts all night. Other times the weather could be annoying, or rather not ideal conditions, where the sea would be very choppy or the wind would come from the east when ideally we would have liked a westerly, but that's what a sailboat is about, blowing with the wind. But very often, it was warm, sunny, and a light breeze just pushed us along. It was very enjoyable.

Skittles;  How dids your childrens go to schooly?

Janis;  Sometimes they went to school in different countries for a few months at a time when they were preschool age, in South America: once in Brazil, and once in French Guiana. They actually went to school on land from kindergarten through the third grade in Florida and then we left and homeschooled them for a few years. We developed a very good routine, scheduling school most mornings, from 9 a.m. to noon, and then we'd have the afternoons free, either to visit places, work on the boat, or later, the kids would go swimming and play with other kids in an anchorage where we would be. There were quite a few sailing families with kids onboard like us, all of different nationalities. It was quite something to see a whole "gaggle" of "boat" kids spending afternoons jumping into the water off boats, inventing sailboats on surfboards, and even playing hide-and-go-seek amongst the boats.

Skittles; Does you sails through the night times when you is far from landings or cans you just stop ins the middle of the oceans?

Janis;  Oh yes, we spent many nights at sea. The longest was one month, 30 days, when we crossed the Atlantic Ocean from Africa to Brazil. That was about 3000 miles, and yes, we were very far from land. But we would always have to keep our eyes open for other boats, and keep our eyes on the sails, because the wind could change quite often. My husband and I would "keep watch," which means we took turns being in charge, keeping an eye on the sails, on the sea, on the wind, and listening for strange noises that may not be normal for the boat, meaning maybe something was broken. While one of us was in charge, the other one would take care of the kids, make the meal, or if it was night, it was that person's turn to sleep. No we couldn't just stop in the ocean. We would lose our direction and waste our time getting to our destination, and then we wouldn't have enough food!

Skittles;  How olds was your kiddiewinks ?

Janis;  When we started living on the boat, as I mentioned earlier, our oldest was 1 year old. When we left for our long trip, we had two boys by then and they were 3 years and 5 months. By the time we landed in San Francisco and stopped, they were 8 and 11 years old. They had never lived on land or in a house until then. That was the first time.

Stoosh; Dids your kiddiewinks learns how to swims? And dids they learns how to ride bikies?

Janis;  Yes, they HAD to learn how to swim, although they didn't learn as early as I would have liked them to. The oldest was 4 years old when he could really swim and the youngest was 3. Until they could swim, though, we always had to be very careful. But we did have a lot of safety precautions specially built on the boat so they wouldn't easily fall into the water, and we had rules. For example, when we were out at sea, they were not allowed out of the cockpit (where the steering wheel is) onto the deck. It was too hard for them to wear life jackets all the time. This was their home, not just some place for a weekend outing. Can you imagine having to wear a life jacket at home while you are eating dinner? Well, it would have been like that for them. It's impossible to live every day like that for 10 years. And yes, they learned how to ride bikes, on land, while they were in school in Florida, so they each learned at about 5 or 6 years old by then. One interesting thing is our youngest learn how to walk for the first time when he was about a year old on a beach in Brazil!

Skittles; Where dids you gets you foodie from ? Us skunkies likes our foodie, we not live withouts wormies !!

Janis;  Ah yes, food, perhaps one of the most important things of all, along with water! When we were near big cities, we could go to supermarkets, but since we didn't have a car, that wasn't always easy, either. However, much of the time we were at sea, or fairly isolated in faraway bays or on islands. Then I had to make a lot of things though, like our bread and yogurt. At first we didn't have a refrigerator either so we would preserve fresh eggs with Vaseline, and keep other food by drying it (like fish and fruit) or salting it (fish, meat) and canning (preserving things in jars, also fish, meat, jam). We could buy canned butter, and cream and whipping cream in boxes like juice boxes.

Stoosh;  Dids you have a pet or comanion animals ? Skunkies not likes the water though

Janis;  For the first few years we didn’t have a pet and then we got a cat and we named her Bagunça, which means "big mess" in Brazilian. When she was a kitten she did make big messes! Our boys wanted a pet and a cat works well on a boat, except they don't like water either! Two or three times she did fall in the water though when we were anchored, because she chased after a bird that flew low over our deck. She even fell in the harbor where we were tied up waiting to go through the Panama Canal. My son fished her out with a fish net and then we had to give her a good scrubbing because the water was rather oily.

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