Monday, January 25, 2010
Lin and Larry Pardey are yacht cruising "royalty". They've done it all: 200,000 ocean miles, most of those miles on their self-built, engineless cutters Seraffyn and Taleisin. Circumnavigated both east about and west about the world, and gone westward around all the great southern capes including Cape Horn.
Perhaps even more importantly, through their books, videos and seminars they have inspired a whole generation of young couples to do what they did: take up the live-aboard lifestyle and follow the Pardey mantra, "Go small, go simple, go now."
Of course I've been aware of the Pardeys for almost as long as I've been interested in sailing, but I have to confess that until recently I had never read any of their books. Then, the other day, while browsing in the musty, dusty shelves of our local public library, I came across a copy of the 25th Anniversary Edition of Cruising in Seraffyn. The first edition of this book published in 1976 was the first of a whole series of books by the Pardeys about their cruising life; this edition from 2001 is updated with many color photos and some new retrospectives by the Pardeys on the "affordable, attainable dream" of bluewater cruising.
I was excited to read this famous book and to understand why Lin and Larry had inspired so many and won so many fans. My good friend O Docker even fantasized that the Pardeys, The Pied Pipers of Newport Beach, may have been "the original sailing bloggers"! So I settled by the fireside with Cruising in Seraffyn at the TillerCottage on a recent wintry evening and prepared myself for a treat...
I have to say I was disappointed...
Maybe I took unnecessary offense at the stance taken by Lin in a new introductory chapter for the 25th edition entitled Anyone Can Go Cruising. Because she wasn't really arguing that "anyone can go cruising"; she was actually advocating that people should start cruising while they are still young. The chapter is peppered with put-downs of older folk (like me)... if you are 60 or 70 it might be too hard for you to get up at 3am to fight off a lee shore to a safer anchorage in 45 knots of wind... when you are 65 it will be hard to come by a temporary job to supplement cruising funds... you won't want to go cruising when you're older because you might not be there when the grandchildren are born... and so on.
I'm sure there's some merit in the argument, but it didn't endear me immediately to Mrs Pardey. But I thought to myself, "OK. Maybe she's right. The book is aimed at young couples. So let me imagine myself reading this book when I was 25, say. Would it have inspired me to drop everything and go cruising?"
So I plowed on and started reading chapter one of the original book, which is all about how Larry and Lin built Seraffyn. As someone who is hopeless at carpentry I stand in awe of someone who can turn trees into a working sailing boat. Except I couldn't understand half of what Larry was talking about. I have no idea what a deadwood, a cutwater or a rabbet are; I couldn't tell you the difference between buttocks and futtocks; and I have no clue how to scarf, nibb or where to find a ribband. And I was no wiser about these mysteries after reading this chapter than I was before.
I'm sure it's my fault. Larry and Lin have tens of thousands of fans. I'm just not wired to get excited about futtocks and rabbets.
But I kept on reading. To be honest the next few chapters are a bit more interesting, describing how Lin and Larry sailed down the coast of California Baja and into the Gulf of Cortez. Meeting other cruisers; eating local fish; getting to know the local people. There are useful pieces of advice for other cruisers from time to time: a recipe for chowder, a very technical looking diagram of trip lines and thimbles and shackles and chain that did something important. There's a picture of a very young Lin in a wide-brimmed hat; a picture of a Mexican dude called Jesus in a wide-brimmed hat; a picture of a very young Lin in a bikini; a picture of Lin in bed... after a while I found myself starting to nod off... the book wasn't holding my attention. It reminded me of one of those office bores telling me what a wonderful vacation he had had in Costa Rica and all about this marvellous little restaurant and this fabulous picturesque fishing village and how you just have to try fig brandy and look at this amazing picture of Jose in a wide-brimmed hat and my wife in a bikini and....
I'm sorry. I just didn't get it. I don't think this book would have inspired the young Tillerman to go cruising. It left me cold. I couldn't finish it. Sorry, all you Pardey fans.
Posted by Tillerman at 1:46 PM