Tuesday, November 3, 2009


Sometimes, things just fall into place.

Take Tim, for instance. It takes a special kind of person to wake up under a pile of baby diapers and not run screaming from the room. But Tim retained his good spirits, even when Silas rubbed premasticated cheese chunks in his hair, then woke up howling like a feral cat at three o’clock in the morning.

Tim crewed with us from Whangarei to Auckland, and therein lies another tale of great good luck. On the evening of October 30, we dropped the hook in a small bay just north of Auckland, hoping for a rest before dealing with the heavy boat traffic we’d find in the City of Sail.

This bay was ringed with thick green bush, twisted beech trees and giant mamaku ferns. There were a few homes along the shore, set at comfortable angles among the trees. We did a short circuit around the anchorage, looking for a good place to stop.

And that’s when we saw it.

Is that….?

It IS.

Taleisin belongs to Lin and Larry Pardey, two of our heroes in the sailing world. They started voyaging in a boat they built themselves more than forty years ago, circumnavigating the globe and writing stacks of books about their adventures. They belong to a sailing world that has mostly passed, one in which they navigated by the stars and sailed without an engine, through storm and silent calm.

And here they were.

We’d heard that the Pardeys had purchased some land on one of the islands near Auckland, but there are dozens of islands out here, with countless bays to choose from. We didn’t have any real hope of finding them, let alone meeting them in person. And here, it would seem, we’d not only stumbled on the right island, we’d sailed right into Lin and Larry’s bay.

And that’s not all.

The next day was October 31st. That night, on the beach, they were hosting a massive party for Larry’s 70th birthday. Needless to say, we crashed.

All day long, sailboats arrived in the bay, multicolored flags snapping in the rigging. By nightfall, the seashore was teeming with space aliens, pink bunny rabbits, and a Rastafarian beaver. It was, after all, Halloween.

Jittery and star-struck, we weren’t sure how to approach this famous pair. Our dinghy bounced along the dock, and we scrambled up on shore, juggling the baby in his awkward PFD. Larry is an enormous , regal man, with a snowy beard and clear blue eyes. He wore a thigh-length purple velvet tunic and a lace ascot at his throat. Lin was his queen, in a sparkling rhinestone tiara. They peered at us with curiosity.

“Um, hi.” Peter stuck out his hand. “I’m Peter, and this is my wife Antonia, and we’re huge fans!”

“Happy Birthday Larry!” I burbled. “I wrote you a poem!” And I shoved it into his hands.

The Pardeys weren’t sure if they should be frightened at first, but I think Silas broke the ice. Dangerous terrorists don’t accessorize with toddlers.

Lin’s face broke into an easy smile. “What’s a party without gate crashers?” she declared, and waved us down the dock.

“You’re very welcome to be here,” Larry assured us.

And so, we partied with the Pardeys. Two people who spent a lifetime doing what they loved, then shared their adventures with the world—and managed to make a living at it. Not only that, as I watched them dancing, I saw something even better: after all this time, they still love each other’s company.

Someone, hand me a wishbone. I wish for a life that’s half as rich as theirs.

Here’s our birthday poem for Larry Pardey:

Across the Prime Meridian
And all the seven seas
Lin and Larry Pardey
Have caught the slightest breeze.

They’ve sailed on waters halcyon
And raging with Typhoon
And if their boat had rocket fuel
They might have reached the moon.

But sailing to the stratosphere
Is not their cup of tea
Instead they wrote some damned good books
And set some sailors free.

They taught us not to muck things up
With gadgets, toys and tools
Like watermakers, GPS
And engines guzzlin’ fuel.

They taught us we could set sail now
Or just stay home and buy
So when time came to stock our boat
We stopped, and wondered “WHY?”

We saw those shiny Yanmars
And the new hot water showers
But figured we’d just ride the wind
And rub our skin with flowers.

We sailed across the ocean wide
Through gale and calm and storm
Grinding coffee beans by hand
And drinking cocktails warm.

We thought of Lin and Larry
As our food began to rot
We thought of all they’d taught us
And we muttered, “THANKS A LOT.”

But truth be told, having less stuff
Means there’s less stuff to break.
While other sailors ordered parts
We left them in our wake.

And so we honor Lin and Larry
Sailors without peer.
You showed us we could see the world


  1. So - what's your bra size?

  2. I remember going to hear them speak at the wooden boat festival in Port Townsend a few years ago... similar star struck fever took over my tongue. Then again, when Taleisin spent a winter at our friend's dock on Bainbridge Island. We toured with a bunch of other folks- tongue tied again. If I can ever make it to their corner of New Zealand (maybe next year!), maybe I'll try poetry.

    On the other hand, my poetry sucks. Working on a plan B.

  3. Crazy cool... what a magical evening - thank you for sharing! And what a sweet poem, you have a way with words in all forms.

  4. A gracious gift. Thank you for sharing.

  5. So cool. My two heros in one place.

    Andy in Mpls

  6. I'm surprised you (who seem aware)
    1) didn't name the very well known island
    2)didn't know the pardey's had bought a place there

    it's common knowledge in the cruising commnity

  7. I have shoved poems into a stranger's hands before so I know how firsthand how stupid you must have felt. I actually don't do that much anymore ;)
    That's one of the perks of having a boat as far as I am concerned; you can sail away from your shame right away.
    I didn't know Larry was a GIANT..just that he is such a hard worker.
    Thanks for 'fleshing out' two sailing gurus i have never met but always admired.
    The dancing photo is priceless: Happy Birthday Larry!
    Any chance of some spy shots of Talesin?

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  9. Beautiful poem Antonia. I am also a fan of the Pardeys, and have had the pleasure of meeting and partying with them both at the Spaulding Wooden Boat Center in Sausalito, CA. They were and are very gracious hosts, and took pleasure in showing us their wonderful boat. Did you know that Larry built a bathtub below the companion way for Lin? (Where the nonexistent engine would have been)