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Pete Hogan Remembers Bluewater Legend Larry Pardey 1939-2020

5th August 2020
Larry Pardey - a consummate cruising sailor and boat builder Larry Pardey - a consummate cruising sailor and boat builder

Ireland's solo Round the World sailor Pete Hogan gives a personal memoir of Canadian author and bluewater sailor Larry Pardey, who circumnavigated the world both east-about and west-about, and who died last month aged 81.

Many Irish sailors will have read, heard of, or met the US/Canadian cruising couple Lin and Larry Pardey. They overwintered here in Ireland at least once during their cruises. Sadly, Larry died recently in his adopted home of New Zealand. He had suffered for several years from Parkinson’s and Parkinsonian dementia.

Larry was part of the early ‘sail away into the sunset’ craze which developed with the explosion of sailing, boats and boating technology in the 1960s. Being from Vancouver, BC he was brought up in the rich British yachting tradition which the English and Scottish settlers brought to that most wonderful yachting region. He was the natural successor and friend of, Eric Hiscock who did so much in his writings and films to instruct on the correct way to go cruising.

When he moved to California in the mid-60s Larry worked on yachts and started building the 24-ft Seraffyn. It is indicative of his sailing philosophy that the boat was based on the Bristol Channel pilot cutters (though tiny), was built of wood, had no engine and that he built it himself. It was while building Seraffyn that he met Lin, a music student with no sailing experience and they sailed off together. They initially financed their cruising by working on boats and deliveries but increasingly writing about their adventures and techniques provided a full-time income. Later they were to make videos. Lin was largely responsible for the writing and the bubbly, accessible, magazine-style was key to their wide appeal. Larry was responsible for the technical side of things, boat building, maintenance and seamanship. He used a sextant right up to the end, when GPS had become universal on cruising boats.

Larry and Lin PardeyLin and Larry Pardey 

As well as being a consummate cruising sailor and boat builder, Larry enjoyed nothing better than to race boats and was always getting involved in club racing or at a higher level whenever he could. They sailed under the Canadian flag and completed two circumnavigations. They received many awards and published at least 12 books. They eventually settled in New Zealand.

I was honoured to meet the pair on two occasions. (Their popularity was such that they had to conceal their planned destinations to avoid a flotilla of cruisers following them). The first time was in Freemantle in 1992. I was on my own circumnavigation and they were on an extended stop while they made instructional videos. They were on board their second boat, the slightly bigger Taleisin (30 ft.) (Both their boats were designed by Californian Lyle Hess and it is probably true to say that they established him as a designer.) By this time they were a celebrity couple as sailors but they could not have been more welcoming to me. While the Hiscock’s were famously stand- offish, Lin and Larry were the exact opposite.

Pete Hogan's boat next to Larry Pardey's on a marinaDubliner Pete Hogan's Molly B (left) and Larry Pardey's Taleisin in Fremantle, Australia in 1992

They spent their days on board their showcase boat, Lin working at the paperwork and Larry on maintenance. Everyone who came to meet them and to see their boat was welcomed. Larry was constantly in demand for advice on nautical matters. They gave a talk at the yacht club. The talk was as much about the voyaging as the lifestyle and beautiful places visited. Lin had a special interest in on-board food and the provisioning of the cruising yacht. That was their working day and I would meet them in the evenings when we would go and explore the town. I think there was no electric light on the boat. Entertainment on the pristine Talesin was always done with a lot of style, from the exotic local food to the crystal wine flutes. They loved to sing, accompanied by guitar and had a big repertoire of sea shanties and folk songs from the sixties.

I asked Larry where I should dock in Sydney harbour, whence I was then headed. He said ‘the Cruising Yacht Club, Rushcutters Bay’. I wrote to the yacht club and asked them to keep post for me. (In those days before E-mail.) One of the messages the club held for me was a note to call a girl called Micaela, who I eventually married! So maybe Larry introduced me to my wife!

The second time I met Lin and Larry was in Cornwall a few years later while I was crossing from Ireland to France in Molly B. I was sheltering from atrocious weather in Penzance and they invited me to dinner in the house close to the boatyard where they were staying, in Falmouth. They were wintering ashore and Talesin was hauled in a traditional boatyard, the sort of place Larry felt at home in.

I lost touch with Lin and Larry when my boat sank. Indeed I was a bit concerned they might use my experience as an example of how NOT to go cruising in one of their books or an article. Then I sent them a copy of my book about Molly B when it was belatedly published. It contains an illustration of the two boats berthed together in Freo. I sent it to ‘Kawau Island, NZ’ thinking that would be sufficient address to reach them. However, the book was returned. So I left it at that.

I am friends with Lin on Facebook, though she has so many friends that she has exceeded the number which Facebook permit. (5000) She sails on and I leave the last words to her. Her favourite quote from Larry and the one which sums him up: ‘We were put on this earth to help each other’.

Lin Pardey has created a fund to remember Larry. Details here

She explains:
To keep Larry's memory alive for a good long time. He loved Camp Bentzon and the sound of children’s laughter which is right across the cove from our home base. As a memorial to him, his best friend (and one of our most long term mutual friends) donated the funds to build an observatory at Camp Bentzon. Almost 5000 school children now have a chance to see the night sky unimpeded by city lights. Funds will go towards maintenance and upgrading of the observatory.

Published in Cruising Team

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