Lin and Larry Pardey are world renown authors who sailed thousands of miles around the world more than once on yachts they built. They did this by maintaining a minimalist approach to the point where neither of their yachts had an engine. In addition to their great accomplishments on their own yachts they sailed thousands of miles delivering other people’s yachts across oceans. The knowledge that Lin shares through the many books and magazine articles written has inspired and motivated people all around the world to live a life less ordinary on the sea. In this interview, Lin shares with us some of her more personal memories and feelings about her life and why they made the decisions they did. I hope you enjoy this podcast, get some useful information from it and subscribe to this site for email notifications when I publish other podcasts and knowledge articles.
LINDSAY: Hi I’m Lindsay Turvey and today I’m interviewing Lin Pardey. Lin and her husband Larry have had an awesome life cruising around the world with an amazing two-hundred thousand nautical miles passing beneath the keel of the yachts they’ve owned and crewed. They’ve won many awards and broken incredible records throughout their adventures. Lin’s become quite an authority on cruising lifestyles. Her knowledge is not limited to the systems used onboard their yachts – Seraffyn and Taleisin, which they built and lived aboard. Lin and Larry also delivered twenty yachts over sixty-thousand miles around the globe.
With all the experience and the hours and hours they spent having in depth conversations with hundreds of cruising people they met during their travels, their knowledge runs deep into the world of boating lifestyles. You’re all about to get access to knowledge that some will see as pure gold and others will use as rocket fuel for their own plans, hopes and dreams.
So let’s get started. Lin, we need you to cast your mind back to before your cruising life started. We’d like you to share with us please what it was like growing up in Los Angeles and your early sailing experiences. What was it like when you were young and the feelings you had growing up and when you first started learning to sail? Can you tell us a bit about that please?
LIN: Well, when I was young sailing was very far from my mind. I had only sailed a little bit with my father up until I was 6 years old. We had the sail boat when we lived in Michigan, but when we moved to Los Angeles it just wasn’t possible. So sailing was not in my radar at all and I was a very bright student. I loved school. I loved learning. I was excited about learning, but I really never thought about what I would do when I grew up. I never could find any single thing that really held my interest. Although, I did want to be a civil engineer because I liked numbers – that was the only thing I could think of that would let me use numbers the way I liked. I liked seeing things built.
Then I happened to meet a sailor. Off the ball – it’s a long story about how we met. It’s fun. I ran away with him three days later and what interested me most was not the sailing, but the fact that he was building a boat. The sailing sounded romantic, but actually helping build something was what attracted me most of all. Being with someone who had a dream.
LINDSAY: So it was Larry that you’d met and he had this big dream of building a boat that really inspired you. Is that correct?
LIN: Definitely inspired me. It’s the first thing that really, in all my life, inspired me completely – was someone who had a dream, someone who had been working directly towards that dream for many years. He was a yacht skipper and professional racing sailor when I met, but he had started building a boat and he had a keel timber roughed out. That’s where he was when I first met him. Working as this yacht skipper half the week, and building a boat half the week.
Yes, the idea of going off sailing and not working full-time sounded interesting, but building something sounded even more interesting.
LINDSAY: I also learned a little bit about you – did a wee bit of research before we started here. You studied accounting and music. You started down the path of most people, working for wages. What were you feeling when you were working for wages as an accountant and going down that path?
LIN: Well as I mentioned, accounting was not my first choice in life. I got into accounting because I couldn’t get into civil engineering. Professors could literally say, “We don’t want women in our class” back when I started.
Music was something I loved and did. I actually did earn money playing piano in a piano bar in the evenings. But the accounting was something I fell into. It was the early days of computers. I found it interesting. I didn’t particularly life working for wages because the guy sitting next to me was making twice as much doing the same work as I was doing. Getting ahead didn’t seem to be something that…Getting some finances together by just working for wages. It frustrated me. It really did. I was considered a very good employee, but I was a restless one and when I met Larry I was very glad to leave a very good accounting job and find out what was next. As Larry said, “If you’ve got skills, you’ve got energy, you’ll find another job. Come and live near here. I’ll help you find a job.”
So as I say, three days after meeting him I turned in my notice, and two weeks later I was living full-time with him, two-hundred miles away from where my job had been.
LINDSAY: Now I think a lot of people can relate to that. A lot of us are in jobs that we’re good at and happy enough, but we feel like there’s something more.
So what did you have to do to change your situation in order to begin your cruising lifestyle. There’s quite a bit of work involved in that I should imagine from having a nice secure job and having money coming in. What was it like? What did you have to do to make that transition?
LIN: Well, as I said, I’d met someone who had a dream. He and I decided to pool forces. I worked at a regular job for about 6 months after I met Larry. I was fortunate and found a really interesting job working at an electronics company helping them get their computer systems set up because I had been trained as a computer programmer in my first big job.
But after 6 months Larry said to me “Lin, I don’t like this arrangement.” He said, “Every morning you get up here and you’re rushing madly around, grouchy as can be because you’re trying to get out of here and get to work. For 8 hours a day you give these people at work the very best of you, just for cash, and then you come home in the evening and give me what’s left over just for love” and he said, “That’s not a fair deal.” He says, “I really don’t even know what you do when you’re not here.” He says, “How about quitting your job and finding some way you can work from the boat shop here and then I can get the best of you, and we’ll figure out how to make it work so we earn enough.”
He was the one that changed my situation because he said, “Look, I’ve saved up five-thousand dollars from selling a previous boat.” He says, “I’ll stick you the six months while you find some kind of work you can do that gives you the days with me.” I looked at him – he says, “You tell me that you’re really good at taxes and accounting. I’ve got lots of friends who’ve got small businesses and they’re desperate for someone to help.” So I said, “Why not? What do I have to lose? I’m twenty-one years old. I don’t have to plan for the whole rest of my life right now. Let’s try something.” And I quit my job and went to visit some of his boat building friends and surfboard makers and within five weeks I was earning more money doing freelance work than I had at my other job and I was only working twenty hours a week. And I was there to help Larry hold down a piece of timber when he needed it. He got involved and helped me out. He had great suggestions for my little business and working together became an absolute treat and a way of life for us.
LINDSAY: That’s incredible to hear that. I’ve heard that story many times where people have moved on to a different way of doing things and improved their situation so much. More than they could’ve ever dreamt. That’s really good to hear that you did the same thing.
Obviously there was a period where you had to build the boat and you still kept the cash flow coming in by doing this freelance work, and you got to the stage where the boat was ready to go. How hard was it to actually slip those mooring lines and head out cruising, knowing that you didn’t have any more income coming in and you had to live off your savings. What was that like?
LIN: Well by the time the boat was finished, which was 3 years after I met Larry, we not only had my little business going rather pleasantly, but we’d also started a small chandlery business in our boat shop and we represented a British sailmaker. That way Larry could earn money in the evenings selling sails and helping people out with their boats. When the boat was finished, we had several potential contracts that would have – quote “ Set us up for life” so we wouldn’t have had to worry about working. Then we had a contract that if we waited you know, 6 months they promised us one that would’ve given us fifty-four thousand dollars. You gotta remember, in our day that was like getting a half a million dollar contract.
Larry and I looked at each other and said, “Let’s put this all on paper. If we stay for another year, we can even earn enough money to put an engine on the boat if we want. If we go now, we got eight thousand dollars in the bank and the bills all paid off.” We thought about it for a week and we said, “You know, we can come back in 6 or 8 months if we don’t like it and start something new in our lives. But if we don’t go now, we’ll always keep saying – I don’t have enough money. If we wait a little while longer we’ll have more.”
It took a week to make the decision and that was the only thing that held us back, because our sailing friends all urged us to go. They said, “Oh we wish we had a boat like that and could go.” Our families were all far away. Larry and I had met and we’re two-thousand miles from our families. We were just so excited to have made the decision, we never looked back.
LINDSAY: That’s awesome. I’ve been in that situation myself where time was dragging on, we kept spending money on the boat improving it and I know exactly what that feels like. You’ve gotta draw a line in the sand and say, “We’re going now.” You know?
LIN: Well one of the things I didn’t mention is that Larry was a professional sailor. It was all about sailing to us. It wasn’t about cruising in quite the same way as today’s cruisers. It wasn’t about lifestyle. It was about being free to go where we wanted with no set end date to our holiday, except when the money ran out and being sailing. Our boats were utterly simple. To us, comfort was money in the bank not anything more than just having a good bunk to sleep in and a very sturdy boat that kept us dry and sailed well. It was easier for us than it is for people today who try to take a lifestyle with them.
LINDSAY: That’s one of your very strong points in all the books and things that you’ve written, is that you kept things very minimalist and you kept your costs down. That’s awesome. I really admire that. The most common reason why people have to give up their boating lifestyle and dreams and goals, is a lack of funds. Not having enough money to maintain the vessel or do the things that they want to, takes a lot of the fun factor out of boating. You needed to generate more income, obviously, while you were cruising because you carried on after the 8 months that you originally planned. What did it feel like when you worked out the various ways that gave you the freedom to continue?
LIN: Especially with Larry’s skills and reputation, people started to offer us delivery jobs – just offer up – you know we’d sail somewhere and someone would say, “Oh, I’ve heard about you” or got to know us and say, “Could you help me move my boat home because I don’t have time to do it.” So, five months after we were cruising and when we were getting low on funds the first delivery job came along and that became a not consistent source of income, but quite often a very nice source of income. We tended to deliver a boat every year to…One year we delivered 3 in a row, but Larry’s boat building skills and rigging skills really worked along the way. And I had – by the time we were sailing, I was good at the finish work.
We didn’t often like the jobs we took on, but it was money that we could earn in foreign countries, because we could sign on as crew of the vessel and we didn’t have to worry about work permits. We did everything from re-rigging a sixty foot ketch, splicing up all the wire by hand, to fixing up a little speedboat so somebody could sell it. A little plywood speedboat – that was our least favourite job. But there always seemed to be work if we were willing to turn our hands to something different. We couldn’t expect to do exactly what we liked, and we always tried to give people really good work and make the work match the boat we were working on.
It was quite amazing that many years into our cruise I discovered I had some things to say and an editor willing to publish them and I started writing and that was our first just, fun money. After fifteen years it turned into our main source of income – was the articles we wrote, books we wrote. Then presenting seminars in various places. My favourite work – still quite often working alongside Larry fixing someone else’s boat was very enjoyable and writing is a sort of madness that only madmen know. There’s a joy in madness that only madmen know. I do like writing and I like the people it has introduced me to.
Best of all is still presenting seminars and seeing people’s faces light up when I give them some information that helps them do what they already knew they could do. I give them permission in a way to go and do the things that are waiting there for them that they’re just a little bit nervous about grabbing hold of.
LINDSAY: That’s really interesting. So, you really like working alongside Larry and helping him do up the boats. Later on after you’d been cruising for some time you found out that writing was a good thing and you wrote hundreds of magazine articles over the years. Then wrote a few books as well and created some videos. They were all various income streams that you got later on in your cruising life. That’s awesome.
LIN: What’s interesting is that it’s now led onto me publishing books for other people – from other nautical writers that I like. At first my books were published by a big New York publisher – I was very fortunate. He was a sailor and the head of the company and discovered our books and liked them. Then, when he retired Larry suggested we publish our own, and so did the publishing house – they helped us set up as an independent publisher. With their help I learned enough. I just finished publishing a book I’m really proud of called “Voyaging with Kids” that was written by 3 other authors. It kept leading to new things for me.
LINDSAY: That’s often the way isn’t it. You just keep building on your successes. You couldn’t have seen that coming when you first set off – it would’ve just been something that happened as you went along, as you had time up your sleeve to think about things and you needed to express yourself. So I understand things happen once you actually slip the lines – things fall into place.
You’ve written eleven books and you’ve done five videos. The videos are awesome. I’ve read some of the books but not all of them, I must admit, which I probably should because they’re all incredible content. These books have given you freedom to retire in Kawau Island which is a beautiful spot. It’s one of my favourite spots in the Hauraki Gulf. What’s that like? Having that freedom. Knowing that there’s still income coming in and you don’t have to rely on pensions?
LIN: Well freedom and retirement are two interesting words. Having income from the books, which does require that I write some more so people keep knowing they’re out there – sure they’ll keep moving along, but the more I keep active the better I do. They have given me the freedom to take on work for the community because with Larry’s declining health we can’t voyage anymore. What it’s led to is like I say, having the income from the books that we’ve written through the years has let me become a representative for the island community, learn a bit about politics, learn that it’s fun to come into politics late in life instead of early in life. We take it a little bit less serious late in life and be a little calmer. It’s been a gift. An absolute gift to have found writing and created the lifestyle that we have.
LINDSAY: It’s certainly something that I’m aiming towards. Having options as I get older and I’m sure there’s many people out there that would like to be in that situation.
LIN: You say retirement, and it’s interesting – very few people who go cruising for more than a few years ever talk about retiring. They can talk about a less sail involved cruising life, but to retire sounds frightening actually. I think they would talk about there’s other things I want to do, and in my case it’s more community involvement. Without that same sense of community and now I have it and it’s really enjoyable. The combination of the writing and community projects is a wonderful non-retirement in my seventies.
LINDSAY: Yeah, they say that when you retire you die in a lot of cases so keeping busy is the secret isn’t it. Keep moving.
LIN: That’s right.
LINDSAY: Keep creating…
It’s likely to be a lot of people out there listening to this interview, is there anything more you offer them to help them get started at gaining momentum and realise their hopes and dreams? Anything that you’ve got that you can point them in the direction for just getting them started. You’ve done a lot of work in the background. Just give them a few pointers on where they can go to get started and how they can do it.
LIN: The first thing that I can tell them is nobody wants you to go cruising. Why is that important to remember? The minute you choose to go on a different path than the norm, a lot of people are going to say “Oh, you shouldn’t do that. That’s crazy. You’ll ruin your future.” The reason they say that is – if it’s your parents they’re afraid if you go off cruising, do something different, or give up your big job and take a flyer on the unusual, that they’ll lose touch with you. They’ll lose the you that they know.
Your friends don’t want you to do it because most people dream of doing something different, and if you do it and are successful than they have to look to themselves and say, “Oh my gosh, why aren’t I doing that?”
Your children if you have them don’t want you to go off and do something like voyaging off because they’ll say, “Well you won’t be here to take care of me and my grandchildren.”
Of course, the commercial interest never want you to get out of the straight and narrow because the printing magazines – well you’ll stop subscribing won’t you. You’ll be out there doing it instead. The marine chandlers they’re going to put all sorts of road blocks your way and saying, “You shouldn’t do this yet. You’re not ready. You don’t have enough gear,” because you stop being a good consumer.
So just right from the beginning, be ready for everybody saying negatives towards your dream.
The second thing is, no matter what you do in life you’re going to miss out on millions of things, but if you choose something you really want to do, you are doing something. Not missing out. When you’re looking at the options ahead of you, don’t look at what you’re going to miss out on, because I guarantee I’ve missed out on all sorts of things. But as I look back over my whole life I can only tell you about the amazing opportunities I’ve had. I can’t tell you what I missed.
LINDSAY: That’s fantastic Lin. I really appreciate that. I can’t thank you enough for sharing with us some of the more personal assets of your life. Your wisdom and knowledge. You’re truly an inspiration to those adventurous souls out there. I’m sure there’s a lot of people out there, just because of what you’ve already published.
I really enjoyed our chat and look forward to working out what more we can do to help people start to live their boating lifestyles without being financially stressed. I know you’re busy it’s taken us awhile to get together. Very happy. Thank you very much Lin.
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