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AS LONG AS IT’S FUN: The Epic Voyages and Extraordinary Times of Lin and Larry Pardey

Herb McCormick

Published in paperback by Paradise Cay

I had heard Lin and Larry speak at seminars, had met them at boat shows, and had read Bull Canyon and Storm Tactics as well as their magazine articles for decades, but I never would have imagined Lin doing a striptease on top of a table in a yacht club! Herb McCormick, former Editor-in-Chief of Cruising World and yachting correspondent for the New York Times, has done a masterful job of telling the life stories of this legendary couple through two circumnavigations (eastabout and westabout), a sail across the Sahara desert, and adventures both by land and by sea.

Although it’s not divided physically, the story is essentially told in three parts: 1) Lin and Larry before Lin & Larry, 2) Seraffyn and 3) Taleisin. Larry, a Canadian, moves to California to build boats and go sailing. Lin, a renegade California girl, decides to buy a boat so she can meet people that aren’t so predictable. Boy meets girl. The rest is history. They sail together, build boats together, fight battles together, make friends together, and end up dropping anchor in New Zealand together, where they are now permanently resident as citizens of a country that resonated with their ethos.

What I came to appreciate most about their story is that their success was due to living for the day while continually positioning themselves for a loosely defined future. When the opportunity came to acquire logs that might be useful, they took it. When they had a chance for a delivery or a rebuild, they jumped at it. When they smelled a story, they investigated it, wrote it and sold it. When a piece of land came up for sale that might be in the right spot to drop anchor someday, they bought it. They worked very hard to get what they wanted – luck played a major role, but they added a healthy dose of ‘eyes wide open’ to recognise opportunity and snatch it when it came their way. With that attitude they were able to live fulfilling lives without sacrificing their ideals.

The accounts of their boat-building are interesting. The extraordinary partnership between Larry, who invests exacting detail in his boats, and OCC member Lin, who has a head for numbers and artful negotiation, enabled completion of remarkably seaworthy vessels at reasonable cost and in acceptable time frames. They have lived their mantra: ‘Go simple. Go small. Go now’.

Throughout, their views on seamanship, which have on occasion stirred up controversies, come through loud and clear. Rules like staying at least 120 miles off a lee shore and heaving-to in storms are invaluable for surviving fierce conditions in a small, engineless boat. They also espouse two important dictates to avoid danger and disappointment: never sail on a schedule and don’t tell anyone where you’re ultimately heading. And still they have a habit of ‘interesting’ arrivals.

It is as much a human interest story as a sea yarn, however. I must admit to times when I did not like one or both of them. They are both strong personalities, which has led to marital issues on more than one occasion. Kudos to Herb McCormick for telling the raw story without censure when needed. It’s not all roses – life usually isn’t. The open honesty ‘warts and all’ is part of the charm of this book.

Legends of sailing from various continents show up throughout the story. The Hiscocks and Moitessier are personal friends, Tristan Jones gets a special gift in exchange for a favour, Beth Leonard and Evans Starzinger meet up with them in South America, and the Barrett family may well have averted disaster because of them. There is also coverage of the rise of publishing and the great rivalry between the editors of America’s SAIL magazine and Cruising World. These hstories and many more are great fun to read.

Then there is the part when they finally decided to round the last of the Great Capes – Larry’s lifelong dream to double the Horn. It is a most gripping account of what it takes with no engine and a little wooden boat sailed short-handed. I felt their angst, their joy, their prowess. I was exhausted by Larry’s determination (obsession) and Lin’s patience. In terms of today’s world, where a circumnavigation is no longer such an unusual achievement, their battle around the Horn was a remarkable and exhilarating feat (for which they were awarded the OCC Award of Merit, one of numerous awards they have received from the OCC, CCA, SSCA and others).

Interesting also is that they became a two-boat family. For years they kept Taleisin in the northern hemisphere, where they cruised during summer, while spending the winters in New Zealand. Then Larry lovingly restored a classic wooden yacht named Thelma, which they raced intensively in New Zealand. I did not realise what accomplished racers they were, yet it makes sense – the Pardeys are all about being the best possible sailors. Not cruisers, not racers – sailors. And this they have achieved.

As Long As It’s Fun is bound to become a new classic which should find its way into every sailor’s library. It is an entertaining account not only of the lives of two people dedicated to cruising, but also of the evolution of cruising during the golden years of cruising under sail. The Pardeys lived authentic lives that inspired so many, especially in North America, to follow in their wake. It’s good to know they’ve had fun almost all of the way.

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