Lessons Learned OVER A CRUIS­ING Life­time


Cruising World - - Front Page - By Lin Pardey

Life throws its rough mo­ments at you. I am in the midst of one right now as I help Larry, my hus­band and com­pan­ion of more than 50 years, through the late stages of Parkin­son’s dis­ease. But as I stand on the end of the jetty, watch­ing Noel and Li­tara Bar­rott sail Sina through the en­trance to North Cove, near our New Zealand home on the is­land of Kawau, my thoughts are drawn back to a com­ment Larry made the sec­ond time we met this in­trepid voy­ag­ing cou­ple.

The first time was in the south­ern reaches of Canal Bea­gle. Stormy weather had forced us to seek shel­ter at the Chilean out­post of Puerto Wil­liams and wait for a break be­fore we headed back out into the South At­lantic for a sec­ond at­tempt at dou­bling Cape Horn aboard Taleisin. Noel and Li­tara were headed home to­ward New Zealand via the canals of south­ern Chile in their hand­some self-built 53-foot yawl af­ter a voy­age to Ice­land. Be­cause Larry and Noel both love build­ing wooden boats al­most as much as they love sail­ing, the bond was im­me­di­ate.

The sec­ond time we shared an an­chor­age was a month later, at Puerto Montt, af­ter we’d suc­cess­fully sailed back out into the At­lantic, then headed south of Cape Horn be­fore beat­ing north past the wind-blasted, rock-strewn lee shore of Chilean Patag­o­nia. Noel and Li­tara, with their daugh­ter Sina on board, had taken a far dif­fer­ent route, ex­plor­ing the glaciers and fjords of Canal Bea­gle be­fore es­cap­ing into the open wa­ters of the Pa­cific Ocean through Canal Trinidad. The first hours of that re­union were spent re­hash­ing the four days of hur­ri­cane-force winds each of us had en­coun­tered just af­ter sail­ing clear of the Fu­ri­ous 50s. Now, as I watch Noel and Li­tara round up into the 35-knot wind that roars across the cove, I re­mem­ber Larry sum­ming up our mu­tual heavy-weather sto­ries by say­ing, “Only good thing about storms: They teach you pa­tience.”

It is an im­por­tant les­son to re­call at this mo­ment. And as I wait for Noel and Li­tara to se­cure their boat, launch the dinghy and row ashore, other lessons cruis­ing taught me be­gin to leap into my mind, lessons that have stood me in good stead both at sea and ashore.


Strangely, we ac­tu­ally found the storms we en­coun­tered at sea eas­ier to en­dure than some of the storms that kept us har­bor-bound in for­eign ports. But in each case, as I look back, I re­al­ize the time did slide by. In hind­sight, these try­ing times of­ten cre­ated the best sense of

shared pur­pose. I have mem­o­ries of the en­cour­age­ment we gave each other dur­ing stormy times at sea, re­mind­ing each other we’d worked hard to pre­pare our­selves and our boat to face these con­di­tions and now had a chance to test our en­durance and pa­tience. But most of all, when the winds abated and we sailed into calmer wa­ters, I re­mem­ber the feel­ing of con­fi­dence gained and the sense of ac­com­plish­ment.

Calms, too, pass. That is a les­son that slowly grows in im­por­tance the longer you cruise. To some sailors, calms rep­re­sent frus­tra­tion. But to oth­ers who have learned to put aside sched­ules, calms can be a time of quiet in­tro­spec­tion. To Larry and me, sail­ing en­gine-free as we did, calms at sea were of­ten our fa­vorite times. Time to for­get about sail trim­ming, to catch up with sim­ple on­board chores so when we reached shore we had lit­tle left on our work list. Though we were rarely truly be­calmed — when we couldn’t keep the boat mov­ing even with our largest ny­lon sails — for more than a few hours at a time, we once had sev­eral days of com­plete calm as we crossed the Ara­bian Sea. The pas­sage had so lit­tle wind, the 2,200-mile voy­age took al­most 36 days. So how does this trans­late to a use­ful les­son once you spend more time ashore than cruis­ing? Once again, the les­son I learned is this: All calms even­tu­ally pass. Now, when I find my­self look­ing at my cal­en­dar and think­ing,

Not much in­ter­est­ing planned for the next while, in­stead of rush­ing about look­ing for some­thing to add, I re­mind my­self to sit back, re­lax and drift with the mo­ment.


One sum­mer when we were cruis­ing through the is­lands of Maine, I was in­vited to crew on a race boat with sev­eral very high-pow­ered busi­ness­men. As of­ten hap­pens in those wa­ters, we were sur­rounded by heavy fog for four out of the five days. One day we’d been sit­ting on the rail for sev­eral hours, keep­ing as quiet as pos­si­ble to en­sure we would hear any ap­proach­ing boat. We had noth­ing at all to look at but a sheet of gray drip­ping fog. The crewmem­ber next to me broke the si­lence. “If some­one caught me sit­ting and star­ing at a blank wall for two or three hours at a time they’d say I’d gone crazy,” he stated. “But if they saw me right now they’d just say, ‘He’s out sail­ing.’”

Back when we were cruis­ing full time, I had a lot of time to my­self dur­ing night watches, or times when Larry was tak­ing a day­time nap. I didn’t al­ways par­tic­u­larly feel like read­ing a book, but I didn’t feel the need to fill these hours with ac­tiv­ity. It felt nor­mal at the time be­cause we were sail­ing. This too is a use­ful les­son cruis­ing taught me. It is OK to some­times do ab­so­lutely noth­ing, to let your mind rest or wan­der lazily among dozens of thoughts that would oth­er­wise be drowned out in the noise of every­day life. Some truly re­fresh­ing and orig­i­nal ideas have oc­curred to me be­cause I brought this prac­tice to shore.


We’d risen early one morn­ing and worked our way free of the reef sur­round­ing Huahine, French Poly­ne­sia. We were bound for the is­land of Ra­iatea. This was the sec­ond time we’d set off to make this 26-mile pas­sage. The first time, we’d been be­calmed ex­actly half­way across. Then the nor­mal east­erly trade winds re­versed and came in strongly from the west. With dark fall­ing, we de­cided it would be pru­dent to turn around and run back to Huahine. We would wait for a fa­vor­able wind and full day­light to pick our way through the reefs and coral heads sur­round­ing the an­chor­age we wanted to reach in Ra­iatea.

Two days later, on our sec­ond at­tempt, we had won­der­ful sail­ing, with no sign of fal­ter­ing trade winds. We’d been un­der way for just two hours when we no­ticed fa­mil­iar-look­ing sails ap­proach­ing from the west. Soon, two friends we’d first met a year pre­vi­ously in Mex­ico were along­side. “We’ve been work­ing our tails off, fix­ing boats for the char­ter fleet in Ra­iatea,” Mike called as we hove-to a few dozen yards from each other. “We’re headed for Huahine to rent some mo­tor scoot­ers, catch up with some friends at the south of the is­land, do some div­ing and have a few days’ fun,” Mike con­tin­ued. “Why don’t you turn around, come and play with us?” I didn’t have time to protest be­fore Larry yelled, “Sure thing.” A week later, as we reached eas­ily (and this time suc­cess­fully) to­ward Ra­iatea, we had a fine time talk­ing about the peo­ple Mike had in­tro­duced us to: Poly­ne­sians who wel­comed us into their home, shared their meals, took us out fish­ing on the reef and gave us an insight into their cul­ture.

When we first set off cruis­ing and first came across op­por­tu­ni­ties like this, I re­mem­ber re­mark­ing to Larry that it was easy to change plans be­cause we didn’t re­ally have any — just the de­sire to set sail and ex­plore for four or five months. But plans did form, and some­times I had to re­mem­ber how im­por­tant that spon­tane­ity, that will­ing­ness to change plans, could be. It was def­i­nitely a les­son we brought to our on­shore life.


In a way, this les­son goes hand in hand with the pre­vi­ous one. We’d had a fast, wet, windy and squall-prone run across the In­dian Ocean, bound for the in­trigu­ing, iso­lated and de­serted atolls of the Cha­gos Ar­chi­pel­ago. It was a des­ti­na­tion that had been on our wish list for years. When we were about 400 miles from the un­marked, un­lit atolls, the weather be­came even more un­sta­ble: squalls with tor­ren­tial rain over­tak­ing us some­times twice in an hour; 15to 20-foot fol­low­ing seas; and gray and cloudy skies with low vis­i­bil­ity be­tween the squalls. “I’m just not will­ing to risk run­ning down on a maze of un­der­wa­ter atolls in these con­di­tions,” Larry said that evening. “We wouldn’t know we were in dan­ger un­til we were al­ready on top of a reef. Let’s slow the boat down and hope this weather sys­tem passes over us.” We reefed down to just a storm try­sail. Our speed dropped from 7.4 knots to about 4.5 knots. Two days later, we were within 125 miles of the first un­der­wa­ter reef we’d have to ne­go­ti­ate to reach a safe an­chor­age. The weather had not im­proved. “OK, let’s heave to and wait for things to change,” I sug­gested. For two days we lay hove-to. Life was not un­com­fort­able; I didn’t re­sent the wait. But on the third morn­ing, with squalls com­ing through just as of­ten and the barom­e­ter un­changed, I agreed when Larry stated, “I don’t think Cha­gos is in the cards for us this time. Let’s go for a Plan B so­lu­tion. Let’s reach south to­ward Ro­drigues Is­land.” A day later, we sailed out of the near-gale-force winds, squalls and gray­ness into bright sun­shine. Four days later, we were se­cured along­side a clean, palm-frond-cov­ered stone quay right in the cen­ter of the cap­i­tal of Ro­drigues Is­land, en­meshed in one of the more mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ences of our cruis­ing lives.

As an af­firm­ing foot­note, the Ro­drigues weather sta­tion, which tracks In­dian Ocean weather sys­tems, recorded al­most three more weeks of heavy cloud cover, squalls and near-gale­force winds over Cha­gos. Sev­eral months later, in south­ern Africa, we met two sailors who had been bound from Malaysia to­ward Cha­gos just a week af­ter us. They had radar and GPS on board, and car­ried on in spite of the weather, only to end

up hit­ting the ex­act reef that had wor­ried us most. They were for­tu­nate to get their boat free af­ter three weeks of very hard work. Re­pair­ing the dam­age once they reached South Africa cost them a year’s cruis­ing funds.

Yes, this is a les­son we have car­ried into non­sail­ing sit­u­a­tions, real­iz­ing when to step back and rethink a project, plan or scheme, to take a dif­fer­ent tack. Some­times we even have to ad­mit that some­thing just isn’t go­ing to work and it’s time to let go and head in a new di­rec­tion.


This is the most im­por­tant les­son of all. Ev­ery­one com­ments about the amaz­ing friend­ships that de­velop when you are cruis­ing. I’ve heard ex­pla­na­tions such as, “I had some­thing in com­mon with ev­ery­one I met.” Or, “Ev­ery­one was so will­ing to be help­ful with in­for­ma­tion and ideas.” But I think the real rea­son we found it so easy to make quick and last­ing con­nec­tions with peo­ple when we headed out cruis­ing was that we ac­tu­ally took the time to do so, and once we came to know some­one, we went out of our way to spend time with them. I can re­call lit­er­ally hun­dreds of af­ter­noons when we lounged in our cock­pit or lazed on the fore­shore with some­one we’d just met — other sailors, fish­er­men, the lo­cal cou­ple we chat­ted with ashore and then in­vited on board for their very first visit to a yacht. Once we set­tled in the cock­pit, the only dis­trac­tions were the birds fly­ing over­head, the fish break­ing the sur­face, maybe a boat­man rowing past. This un­in­ter­rupted time let us leisurely find the com­mon ground that tends to make all peo­ple ap­pear help­ful, friendly and in­ter­est­ing. These af­ter­noons some­times stretched right through din­ner and late into the evening. We al­most al­ways felt the time had been well-spent. And once we made these new friends, we went out of our way to spend lots of time with them over the next days, know­ing we might not ever get to spend time with them again. This is harder to do ashore, but us­ing this cruis­ing les­son — mak­ing ex­tra time for new peo­ple I meet, turn­ing off my tele­phone, loos­en­ing up any sched­ules and be­ing open to each per­son who comes into my life — has def­i­nitely paid div­i­dends.

Yes, cruis­ing taught me many lessons, and when I use them, life does seem to flow more smoothly. The hard part is re­call­ing them through the hus­tle of shore­side life. But to­day, stand­ing on the jetty, I re­mem­ber to use the lessons. Though I hadn’t ex­pected Noel and Li­tara to sail in, though I had a list of “im­por­tant” things that needed do­ing, I men­tally re-pri­or­i­tized plans as I watched them row to­ward me. I have no qualms about putting ev­ery­thing aside for a day, or even two, to de­vote my­self to do­ing noth­ing but en­joy­ing their com­pany.

Over 45 years, Lin and Larry Pardey sailed the equiv­a­lent of three times around the world, vis­it­ing 75 coun­tries. They now live ashore on the is­land of Kawau in New Zealand.

Lin and Larry Pardey cir­cum­nav­i­gated east-about aboard their first boat, Ser­affyn. Then they built Taleisin (left) and did it again — in the other di­rec­tion.

Lin and Larry built Taleisin, their Lyle Hess-de­signed 29-foot-6-inch cut­ter, in a Cal­i­for­nia canyon (above left). All the pa­tience and hard work paid off when they launched on Novem­ber 2, 1983, amid the cheers of dozens of friends (above right).

Lin and Larry met in 1965 and be­came in­sep­a­ra­ble al­most in­stantly (top left). They had the good for­tune to grow older to­gether (above) over the course of more than 180,000 nau­ti­cal miles.

Whether for a quick gam on the wa­ter, like this ren­dezvous of Ser­affyn and Taleisin on Ch­e­sa­peake Bay in 1999 (above left), or a shore­side potluck (above right), the Pardeys make time to en­joy the com­pany of new and old friends. While cruis­ing, they de­vel­oped pro­to­cols for en­ter­tain­ing, in­clud­ing a sig­nal to tell each other “Let’s in­vite this per­son to stay for din­ner.” Find Lin’s tips for so­cial­iz­ing aboard at cruis­ing­world.com/en­ter­tain­ing-afloat.

More than four decades of sail­ing saw the Pardeys through the full gamut of con­di­tions. Big breeze and spray kept them on their toes, in­clud­ing on their voy­age to Cape Horn (above left), and light air that only sup­ported their ny­lon sails tested their pa­tience (above right). All the storms and calms passed, and com­ing out the other side to stun­ning sun­shine filled them with a sense of ac­com­plish­ment (top right).

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