And then there are some mementos from Cowabunga, pure and simple, now working their way into veritable heirloom status along with the kitchen tongs. As Sean became an adept fisherman, he would most often trail a fishing line during a passage, and more often than not, a good many of the fishing lures would disappear usually munched off by a shark or the “big one that got away.” Sean was around 10 years old during one particular passage when we found ourselves bereft of lures after the last one disappeared. Figuring they weren’t called “spoon lures” for nothing, Sean confiscated one of my spoons, and asked Michel to drill two holes in the spoon: one at each end. With that, he was able to attach a fishing line at the stem end, and then a hook at the bottom of the cup of the spoon. He threw it into the water and promptly caught a hefty, beautiful bonito! And the lure survived. In fact, it survived quite well and became THE fishing lure, bringing Sean a lot of success. One of his prized catches was a big Dorado, (almost as big as him), that he caught off the Pacific Coast of Panama and that we ate heartily. Since his system worked so well, he commandeered two other spoons for a total inventory of three. Two of them have been framed for posterity, and one remains in my kitchen utensil drawer today.
Spirit of Cowabunga
Spirit of Cowabunga
What happens in life after Cowabunga? Life after living 10 years sailing and exploring parts of the world via our sailboat? Now what? That’s what this blog, Spirit of Cowabunga explores.
As the book Sail Cowabunga! A Family's Ten Years at Sea recounts the past as wrought from my Original Vignettes from Cowabunga, the Spirit of Cowabunga explores the “fallout” and influence of that life almost 30 years later, as Sean and Brendan have grown, have their professions, and their own families, and Michel and I find ourselves grandparents.
A household in France cannot survive without a pressure cooker, and thus I learned to use this handy item when I lived there. I purchased my six-quart pressure cooker some time before we set sail from France and for our 10 years onboard, it was a workhorse. It was even an excellent safety device, cooking whole meals encapsulated and enclosed in its own secure space as it rocked on the gimbaled stove while we sailed along. On the boat, it was also my yogurt maker, canning device, and sometimes a bread oven as well. This, too, would surrender to salt water damage during those 10 years on the seas; I had to replace the rubber lid gasket and the pressure relief gauge several times. But since our arrival in California in 1990, it still has prepared many a winter stew and soup for our family of four.
Just the other day, I had a minor catastrophe in my kitchen, and I practically shed a tear. Really. It was unbelievably silly: My beloved kitchen tongs broke. Really??? Just like that old sweater one can’t bear to throw away, we have a few such vestiges from Cowabunga in our household that we still can’t live without. One of my dearest, trusty items is an unlikely pair of plain old, gadget-store, low-grade stainless steel kitchen tongs. Nothing fancy. Yet, these tongs can tell a tale. In the over 30-odd years that I have had them, they served me well during our 10 years on Cowabunga, and the many years since, here on land.
I bought them in some nondescript Ace Hardware-type general store in France, even before Brendan was born, I believe, so yes, they must be over 30 years old. During our life on the boat, they succumbed at one point to one-too-many saltwater dishwashings, and the main hinge screw rusted out one day. Being somewhere in the middle of nowhere at the time, it was not an option to go out and buy a new pair, and I needed this kitchen tool—constantly! So, Michel, handy that he is, was able to scrounge up a stainless steel screw from his onboard tool, treasure chest, and replace it, and they have lived on to see many another day, and many cooking adventures on into this 21st Century—a good 25 years or so since we disembarked. And now, here they were, these same heroic tongs on my countertop, broken. No, I can’t, I could not cook without them! The main spring had sprung for the last time. I couldn’t believe it. I was practically heartbroken. They survived for so long; it’s not now they were going to give up the ghost! Both Michel and I looked at each other: The end of an era? All that history up in smoke, poof, just like that? This was silly. So emotional for a pair of cheap, and I really mean cheap, kitchen tongs!
No, this story wasn’t going to end like this. We shall overcome, and Michel was determined that these tongs could, and would, live to see another day! So, off he went on a quest to find a replacement spring. He came back empty handed. Then I remembered that I seen some cheap-type, similar looking tongs at our own local Ace Hardware in the kitchen-gadget department. Lo and behold, there was an almost identical pair, but I was only interested in getting the inside spring—the guts. Nevertheless, I purchased it, brought it back to my handy hubby, and he promptly cannibalized it, repairing our trusty old pair with the exact same spring, and eureka, it lives anew! If we can get another 30 years out of it, I’m quite sure it will outlive us, and my family can be sure that some lucky soul will be inheriting this storied item in my will.
Ah, the Lego. This ingenious toy that has thrived for at least three generations was our lifesaver for toys on Cowabunga. Once at anchor, Sean and Brendan could bring out the whole collection, building their trains, tractors, etc. all spread out on the deck, and then quickly dismantle the whole lot for storage below once under sail again. Lego was our solution to the toy problem on board. So many other toys were bulky, prone to rust, or too fragile. In the later years, Michel had completely configured the boys’ V-berth cabin up front with drawers and shelves uniquely dedicated and organized for the different Lego parts—alongside their schoolbooks. Nevertheless, despite our being so organized for Lego (we thought!) this still didn’t avoid the occasional and inescapable middle-of-the-night, inadvertent foot-stomp on that invisible tiny single stray piece of Lego!
And in a version of “what goes around comes around,” our boys, who are now fathers themselves, just recently rediscovered the stash of Lego that we have kept all these years in the garage for this very moment that they could hand it all down to their children.