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Charting a course for happiness

Professional sailors Lin and Larry Pardey are a love story on land and at sea. - Julie Busch photo
Professional sailors Lin and Larry Pardey are a love story on land and at sea.
— image credit: Julie Busch photo

Sailing the world is a good way to live.

With smiles as wide as sails and eyes as bright as the sun, Lin and Larry Pardey recount amazing tales of sailing the seven seas – and the exotic waterways in between.

Sailors for nigh on 40 years, they have circled the globe from end to end and back again, thriving on experiences that are the stuff of lore. From boats no larger than 30 feet that bore no engines, the Pardeys have sailed to ports big and small. Now in their 60s, their enthusiasm for people and places is just as strong.

The Pardeys recently docked in Port Madison to catch up with friends, and will make a lecture appearance Saturday at Island Center Hall.

“We’re sailing nuts,” said Lin, a piano-playing Southern California wild child who “joined forces” with Larry in 1965 after a three-week courtship, married him in 1968 and that day set sail from San Diego aboard their boat Seraffyn for a life she never before imagined.

“What we have is enough. We didn’t start at selling a house and having lots of money. (When we started) our personal insurance fund was $5,000 and a new sailboat that we built in 1968,” Lin explained. “We thought we were the richest people in the world. We had the confidence to go.”

Three days later, a seasick Lin was asking how she could get out of this. Larry told her Admiral Nelson got sick every time he sailed, but that didn’t help. Stopping the boat and laying there for eight hours did.

“She got over the farewell party and the fear,” Larry said.

In retrospect, Lin realizes fear played a big part in how she felt. She grappled with questions: “Can I live up to my expectations of me? Can I learn to cope with the situation? It was the fear of it.”

She learned to keep things simple and took comfort in knowing she and Larry were doing this together. She gets seasick occasionally now.

“Only a handful of people make voyaging a lifestyle that works for them,” Lin said, adding Larry is a very bold sailor, but he knows when to be.

Born in Victoria, B.C., Larry laid claim to a canoe at age 9. When he was a teen in Vancouver, he turned to sailing after losing his driver’s license and restored his first boat. He would sneak off to the library to read books by other sailors – especially noted yachtsman John Guzzwell – and ultimately became a master builder.

Larry taught Lin how to sail a dinghy and then build a boat. They would sail for nine months and work for three, stopping wherever they happened to be. Larry repaired other boats and they made boat deliveries for funds and they didn’t buy anything on credit.

“We weren’t looking for comfort,” Lin said. “People are on a quest for absolute comfort these days. We used to do all-day seminars and say, ‘Safety and comfort don’t equal confidence and adventure.’ It’s not about having the mattress you want.”

Added Larry: “It’s more like going mountain climbing with a backpack, from a comfort level. Sailing is more fun.”

They really enjoyed ourselves, Lin said, and learned a lot.

“By having no engine, we were comfortably honing our skills. It became a challenge for us.”

What made them continue this lifestyle for so long?

“The people,” Lin readily answered. “We invite people onboard and we’re part of their community. This boat’s opening the whole world for us.”

With colorful detail and charm, the Pardeys happily dip into their trove of cruising stories, from dealing with machine gun-toting Egyptian soldiers in a storm to spending seven months in the Kalahari Desert to rounding Cape Horn on their second try.

“We could just go on,” Lin said. “We liked those breaks. We got caught up with mail, did the banking. Breaks forced us to earn a living.”

The Pardeys clearly enjoy one another’s company as much as they do their lifestyle, laughing frequently and looking to one another to flesh out a story. Both have warm personalities and delight in nearly everything they do.

There have been trade-offs along the way. Their lifestyle is hard on their families, Larry said. Upsides include they can lift anchor and go anywhere, traveling and racing the world. They wanted to have children but, Lin said, it just didn’t happen.

Their home base is two acres in New Zealand, where both hold citizenship.

Lin, ever the accountant, keeps logs of their adventures, which she has parlayed into a series of books and DVDs. Her writing style is engaging and informative, whether one is a sailor or not.

Through the years, the Pardeys have won many racing competitions. They hold the record for being the smallest boat to circumnavigate contrary to the prevailing winds around all the great southern capes and the only couple to have circumnavigated both east-about and west-about on boats they built themselves, using traditional means of navigation and with no engine or sponsor.

Nowadays, the Pardeys give talks, publish books and hold fund-raisers for sailors with disabilities. Larry foresees them sailing “well into our 90s,” health permitting. They’re not crossing oceans as much as they used to and make sure to have two summers a year in the appropriate hemispheres.

The Pardeys will sail around the Puget Sound area for the summer, attending a favorite niece’s wedding and making good on a promise to do seminars.

“It’s a dream life,” Lin said. “We don’t have to work 50 weeks out of the year.”

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Sailing away

Lin and Larry Pardey discuss “Storm Tactics” at 7 p.m. June 17 at Island Center Hall. Tickets are $15 per person and $25 per couple. An open house at the Port Madison Yacht Club follows.

The Pardeys will sign copies of their books, including the recently released third edition of “The Care and Feeding of Sailing Crew.” Tickets are available at The Chandlery and at the door.

This event is co-sponsored by the BI Metro Park & Recreation District and organized by The Chandlery at Winslow Wharf. Information: 842-7245 or www.landlpardey.com.

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