The Unsinkable Passions of Sailor Lin Pardey

Lin Pardey isn’t merely a dear and diminutive friend; she is a larger-than-life intellectual tour-de-force
Lin with Michael Marris, editor of Kookaburra Magazine of Kawau.
Lin Pardey with Michael Marris, editor of Kookaburra Magazine of Kawau.

This is a story about Thanksgiving—my favorite American holiday. Why do I enjoy Thanksgiving so much? Because it is a non-commercial holiday about being grateful. What am I grateful for? I’m grateful for people who encourage others—and I’m especially grateful for people who encourage aspiring sailors to live their watery dreams. 

My favorite destination to celebrate American Thanksgiving—where I’ve joyously celebrated many of them over the last two decades—is a tiny island off the east coast of New Zealand. 

Another trendy topic I’m currently intrigued with is decluttering, downsizing, and simplifying. I really believe in the mantra of ‘go simple, go small, go now.’ 

I am not alone. Many sailors, as our planet burns, desire a more minimalistic, less carbon-intensive lifestyle. 

Of course, there’s nothing new under the sun. I’ve already lived through one ‘back to the farm’ youth movement and I am sure there will be others. The truth is that more doesn’t necessarily translate to better. Good things can come in small packages. 

This brings us to the pint-sized author/sailor named Lin Pardey. She isn’t merely a dear and diminutive friend; she is a larger-than-life intellectual tour-de-force. Her back-to-basics cruising concepts have nurtured my wife Carolyn and I for nearly half a century of offshore sailing—while inspiring thousands of hopeful sailors at the same time. 

In many regards, Lin is our marine community’s first strong-willed feminist—a traditional Renaissance woman of all things nautical.  Her literary and life accomplishments are almost too numerous to mention. Legend is a word often misused—but not in relationship to Lin.

Lin is more than a skillful fellow marine writer—she has been a lifelong moral compass.

How? By having firm convictions and steadfastly acting on them. Do I agree with all of them? Of course not. But I respect Lin because she has earned the right to her opinions. Anyone can say they prefer the purity of not having a stinky, oil-smeared engine aboard—few can back those words with an east-to-west circumnavigation, a west-to-east circumnavigation, and then toss in a rounding of Cape Horn just for good measure. 

Parts of Lin’s life story are familiar: she, along with her Canadian husband Larry, built a Lyle Hess 24-foot engineless cutter named Seraffyn in the late ‘60s. They promptly sailed that traditional wooden craft around the world, then built Taleisin, a 29-foot version of the same concept, for their second circ. Along the watery way they collected the Cruising Club of America’s Far Horizon Award and the Seven Seas Cruising Association’s Lifetime Achievement Award—as well at the Ocean Cruising Club’s Merit Award. 

Concurrently, in order to fund their adventures, Lin penned a dozen marine books such as Cruising in Seraffyn, Seraffyn’s European (and Mediterranean and Oriental) Adventures, Storm Tactics, The Cost Conscious Cruiser, The Self Sufficient Sailor, The Capable Cruiser, Taleisin’s Tales, The Care and Feeding of the Offshore Crew, Bull Canyon, and Details of Classic Boat Construction. 

What else? Plenty!

Herb McCormick, one of my editors at Cruising World, wrote their biography As Long as It’s Fun: the Epic Voyages and Extraordinary Times of Lin and Larry Pardey. In between hustling books at boat shows and regularly giving cruising seminars in America and Europe, Lin continued to write her how-to articles—and even produced a series of popular how-to DVD videos (long before the YouTube era).

Not content with mere writing, Lin then started publishing other marine books under the L&L imprint as well. Titles include Blown Away by Herb Payson and Voyaging with Kids: a Guide to Family Life Afloat written by Behan Gifford, Sara Dawn Johnson, and Michael Robertson (with an introduction by that crazy Cap’n Fatty). 

All of the above is, as noted, well documented. 

What people might not realize is that Lin is a fun-loving, gregarious, wine-swilling party gal as well—a hostess equally adept at entertaining her guests in a tiny cockpit or a commodious beach house along the shore. 

I guess what I’m hinting at is that Lin and Larry eventually washed ashore on a tiny rock in New Zealand called Kawau. 

Grateful for discovering their own Shangri-la, they celebrated their first Thanksgiving on Kawau by having a great feast—and inviting both their cruising friends and some locals. 

Thus began a culinary tradition that is not only locally famous but well-known in distant foreign cruising ports as well. “We spent Turkey Day with the Pardey’s on Kawau,” is whispered with pride not only at the NY and San Francisco yacht clubs—and the Royal New Zealand Yacht Squadron—but also in numerous fist-banged rumshops from Borneo to Madagascar, from Cocos Keeling to Cape Town.  

This year (2018), there were 37 guests—and while some of the local Kiwis attending resided ashore, all shared a lust of adventure and a love of Lin. 

Of course, in every life some rain must fall—and perhaps the most cherished marine marriage (48 wonderful years) dimmed as Larry fell ill with Parkinson’s and slipped into dementia in 2016. He is currently in a full-care facility close to Kawau. Lin visits often. 

But Lin is an indomitable spirit—and Americans are known for reinventing themselves during their Second Acts. And at 75, Lin is still a sassy romantic. And you know what they say about sailors and every port. 

This year’s festivities were co-hosted by Lin Pardey and an Aussie legal environmentalist named David Haigh. Yes, of course he has circumnavigated aboard his Van de Stadt-designed 40-foot Sahula—who hasn’t made a global circle or two in Lin’s worldwide watery entourage?

How was the perfectly staged sit-down Thanksgiving meal that took two hours plus to consume? 

The dueling turkeys—one oven cooked and the other barbequed—were perfect. And this year I was wise enough not to gorge on bird alone—so I had plenty of room for the six (homemade whipped cream was to die for) desserts. 

Where, in our humble opinion, is the best port on the planet for a sailor to spend an American Thanksgiving? Why, Kawau Island on the northern rim of the Gulf of Hauraki, of course.

Cap'n Fatty Goodlander
Cap’n Fatty Goodlander has lived aboard for 53 of his 60 years, and has circumnavigated twice. He is the author of Chasing the Horizon and numerous other marine books. His latest, Buy, Outfit, and Sail is out now. Visit: fattygoodlander.com