As Long as It’s Fun: The Epic Voyages and Extraordinary Times of Lin and Larry Pardey

Published on February 11th, 2014

While not known for their racing exploits, few sailors in North America are as well known as Lin and Larry Pardey. Their cruising adventures have filled books and magazines, lecture halls , and video documentaries. With over 200,000 sailing miles, the Pardey’s are now the subject of a newly released book by Herb McCormick titled ‘As Long as It’s Fun‘ .

Here’s a review of the book by Angus Phillips which was recently published in the Wall Street Journal

BOOKAfter nearly half a century of adventures in small boats on big oceans, sailing legends Lin and Larry Pardey have hung up their sea boots and retired to Kawau Island in New Zealand’s Hauraki Gulf. You’d think that would provide time for Lin, who had a busy career writing about their exploits, to sum it all up in a tell-all autobiography.

But she didn’t. For reasons unknown, the Pardeys, who have done everything their own way since first laying eyes on each other in California nearly five decades ago, farmed their last big job out, and we’re richer for it.

“If they told me once, they told me a hundred times, ‘Warts and all, we want it warts and all,’ ” says Herb McCormick, the author of the easy-reading treasure “As Long as It’s Fun: The Epic Voyages and Extraordinary Times of Lin and Larry Pardey.”

This isn’t to belittle Lin Pardey’s writing. Her books and magazine articles were tight and tidy, informative and readable. They left readers lusting after the moonlit shores and starlit nights, the trade winds and palm groves and secluded anchorages, the nude swimming and hand-caught lobsters for lunch. Yet hardened seafarers knew something was missing. What about the puking? The dinners that wound up plastered to the overhead? The threats and fights, the hurricanes, the dragging anchors and those days on some far, friendless shore when the money ran out?

As their editor for close to 30 years at the magazine Cruising World, Mr. McCormick had heard plenty of Pardey stories that didn’t make it into print, and he scatters enough around the book to make the narrative downright lively.

Like the time Lin spilled bottom paint all over Larry’s polished, hand-hewn teak flooring, and he threatened to kill her, then settled for just throwing her overboard. Or the time they stomped off in separate directions, she to Rome by train, he to wherever by boat, and agreed to meet three weeks hence in the little seaside town of Manfredonia unless one or the other chose to just keep going. (As it happened, when Lin arrived four days early, Larry was already there, looking nonplused. “I can’t find my underpants!” he complained.)

Well, what do you expect when two people spend 24 hours a day, seven days a week cooped up together on a 24-foot wooden boat with a bucket for a toilet, no electricity, no engine, no modern navigation gear and a living area about the size of a motel bathroom?

Given all that, what the Pardeys accomplished isn’t just remarkable; it’s unbelievable. They started with nothing in 1965. Little Lin Zatkin, all of 4-foot-11, was doing accounting in the West Coast headquarters of Bob’s Big Boy restaurants, and Larry was roaming Southern California looking for a job on a sailboat so he could gin up the cash to build a boat of his own. Lin was a zaftig looker, with long black hair and the figure for bikinis, but Mr. McCormick thinks Larry may have been more attracted by her size. “He’s an engineer working on a tiny little boat. He’d have to think, ‘Hmm, this could work.’ ”

The attraction was mutual. When Larry took Lin to his workshop and showed her the bones of his dream, a 24-foot Lyle Hess-designed cutter he wanted to build of wood with his own hands, she bought into the whole package. He bought into her not long after. He had begged off taking her to dinner because he owed $400 in taxes. She demanded to see the forms, reworked the numbers and got a $400 rebate. And her supper. And her man.

Four thousand work hours later, on Nov. 2, 1968, they launched Seraffyn of Victoria, a pocket yacht so finely crafted and beautifully finished that she carried them safely around the globe and back again and still sails today, tight as a tick and pretty as ever.

The Pardeys left with two guiding principles, Mr. McCormick reports: They would keep going “as long as it’s fun” (hence the title), and they would “go small, go simple, go now.”

Mr. McCormick’s narrative follows their tracks and what a ride: first in Seraffyn to Mexico, Panama, the Caribbean, Miami, the Chesapeake, trans-Atlantic to the North Sea, the Baltic, down to the Bay of Biscay, Gibraltar, the Mediterranean, North Africa on a modest smuggling mission, the Suez Canal, the Middle East, Malaysia, Japan and back across the Pacific to America nonstop in 1978, at 49 days the longest single passage they ever made.

There, Larry found a parcel of dry land in the California hills where he could start work on Seraffyn’s successor, 5 feet longer but still with no engine, electronics or toilet. (When the wind died, he pushed his boats with a long sweep oar mounted on the transom.) His one concession to civility was a little tub, mounted under the companionway where an engine normally goes, so they could take baths.

It took three years to build Taleisin, which carried them everywhere a sailor might aspire to go over the next quarter-century: Bermuda, the Azores, Cape Town, Rio, Mar del Plata, around Cape Horn (the world’s most fearsome headland) to Chile and across the South Pacific to the Marquesas, Samoa, Tonga, New Zealand and Australia, and back again, of course, with stops aplenty to replenish the little stash of “freedom chips” (dollars) that kept them going. When the money ran out, they’d find some friendly port and set to work, Larry fixing boats and Lin writing or accounting.

In all, the Pardeys reckon they put 170,000 miles under the keel, a bit more on Taleisin than Seraffyn but fairly evenly divided. When they visited the Chesapeake Bay in 2000, I got the VIP tour. Itwas like a Steinway grand piano, so flawless was the detail, so fine the finish.

Surrounded by perfection softly glowing in lamplight, it was tempting to imagine nothing but bliss aboard the Pardeys’ pretty boat. What it really reflected, Mr. McCormick makes clear, was hard work and steely resolve, some times of terror and a lot of fun. Glorious, in the end, but not always pretty.

Source:  Wall Street Journal.

Note: Mr. Phillips was the outdoors editor of the Washington Post for 30 years.

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