Legendary cruising sailor Lin Pardey talks about engineless cruising, big adventure, how times have changed and… love.
If you have ever done any serious cruising or thought about doing some, Lin and Larry Pardey have probably popped up on your radar. Through the decades they have logged over 200,000 nautical miles, including two circumnavigations east to west and west to east, mostly on boats under 30-feet. Along the way they have written dozens of magazine articles, 11 books and produced five informational videos. They have won a variety of awards and still hold the record for the smallest boat to have circumnavigated contrary to the prevailing winds around all the great southern capes.
ASA: You guys became rather famous in the cruising world. How did that happen?
Pardey: That was about two years into our cruising. I read an article in a magazine [Boating Magazine 1970] that I disagreed with and wrote a letter to the editor and he wrote back saying: “prove it.”
ASA: And once that was published the ball got rolling?
Pardey: It did – It was amazing. We were the only people talking about the fact that you didn’t need a lot of money to go sailing. We had a pretty boat, I had a very handsome husband, and I was voluptuous always wearing a bikini! We were young and cute. The pictures attracted people and then the idea that you could go off on a small boat without a lot of money and own the whole world.
ASA: How has cruising changed since those days?
Pardey: A major change I can tell you is when we were cruising in the early days, 95 percent of the people were cruising because they loved sailing and the fact that they could go places was fun. And now I would say that 95 percent of people are not the least bit interested in pure sailing – they go cruising because they’re destination oriented. I also think people are more afraid of being at sea than they’ve ever been.
ASA: Why do you think that is?
Pardey: Because the magazines peddle fear. I mean no skiing magazine ever talks about safety gear.
ASA: So what about the amount of cruisers? Are there many more than there used to be?
Pardey: Of course there’s a lot more than when we first set out. I mean I would say it’s 20 fold.
ASA: And as the numbers started to rise did you like it or did it feel like an invasion of a kind?
Pardey: We found that if we went 30 miles off the beaten track, especially if we went 30 miles to windward we could still find quiet anchorages to ourselves. And we found most of the time we tended to be off the beaten track. But when we came onto the beaten track we found it fun to meet these excited new sailors.
ASA: Once you started to write more articles and then the books and all that stuff, was the sharing of your knowledge just as rewarding as the sailing or never as much?
Pardey: I love writing. It’s fun to me the people who say that we’ve encouraged them , that’s pretty nice. But I’m going sailing in April again and I’m really excited about that! So it’s a mix of the two.
ASA: What about technology. You guys have gone bare bones – that’s what you’re known for.
Pardey: [interrupts]You say “bare bones” but that’s a relative term. We had beautiful china, we had a fabulous stove, our sheeting on our boat was designed by a top furniture designer- we were comfortable.
ASA: But what about electronics?
Pardey: What do we need it for?
ASA: Did you guys do everything celestially?
ASA: Have you used a GPS?
Pardey: The last voyage we did, we used one for racing and I felt it stole something from us because the routine of the navigation is a very nice routine. It’s a connection we enjoyed – going out and taking star sights – being out there. It’s just a connection with nature, with the ocean and with people of the past.
ASA: So that’s what kept you away from electronics and stuff like that.
Pardey: Also, we didn’t want to get too sure of ourselves. There’s insecurity, no matter how close your celestial is, could be as much as a mile and half off so therefore you’re keeping a watch. So we felt we might get a little slack. If we had GPS on board we might not have been quite as cautious and it was caution that kept us safe. I worry about chart plotters because people aren’t looking at the paper charts before hand and seeing the whole picture.
ASA: Considering the amount of time that you spent in all these incredible places. How does it shape your world view at this point in the game?
Pardey: It’s made me very aware that every country has beautiful advantages but there’s no perfect place to live . And people were amazingly friendly everywhere we’ve been. I always like to quote Eric Hiscock. He said: “All my voyaging has made me wonder if I live in the same world as I read about in the newspapers. The kindness that we’ve been shown, the friendship we’ve been shown, worldwide, is amazing.
ASA: What difficult sailing moments stand out in your memory?
Pardey: There are moments when you wonder if a current will set you the wrong way, are we going to make it through this entrance properly…I mean sailing into Tel Aviv entrance is really scary. Even motoring in there is scary, but we planned it carefully. We sat outside for seven hours waiting for the wind to shift so that we could safely reach in but you still have to lay just 12-feet off the back of the breakers to get in it. But it was part of the excitement – if you never get an adrenaline rush, why are doing it ?
ASA: How would you define a good sailor?
Pardey: Someone that’s not afraid of being at sea. He trusts his boat, he trusts his skills and he trusts his crew. It’s just a case of really knowing your boat and getting out there and getting sea time. If you want to be a sailor you got to go to sea. I’m an advocate of getting out all you can. I think that too many people are spending too much time outfitting their boat and setting a date to go cruising and they get a boat but they just don’t get to know it.
[Ed note] Before the phone call ended I asked how Larry was doing and Lin said he was in assisted living due to advanced Parkinsons disease. I said I was sorry and she said, “Hey, I had 47 fantastic years with a partner very few people could ever have and I just wore him out!”