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A Giant Felled: Two-time Circumnavigator Larry Pardey (1939-2020)

DATE POSTED:July 30, 2020
Larry Pardey at sea aboard <em>Taleisin</em>
Larry Pardey at sea aboard Taleisin (Courtesy of Lin Pardey/)

The cruising world lost yet another major presence and contributor earlier this week when two-time circumnavigator, master boatbuilder, prolific author and all-around good guy Larry Pardey passed away in New Zealand after a long illness. He was 81.

With his wife, sailing partner and longtime co-author Lin (the couple penned nearly a dozen books, along with countless magazine articles and a long series of videos), Pardey completed two long and rambling circumnavigations on a pair of engineless wooden boats he built with his own hands: the 24′ 6″ Seraffyn and the 29′ 6″ Taleisin. Both boats, styled after the long-keeled Bristol Channel Cutters, were designed by Lyle Hess. Each one was basically a museum piece, exquisitely and lovingly crafted by Larry to the highest standards possible. They were stout, rugged and sailed like banshees. Just like the man who built them.

Born in Canada in 1939, Pardey moved to Southern California in his early 20s in search of seagoing adventures, and began his voyaging career as a deckhand on a schooner called Double Eagle on a long trip across the Pacific. Soon after, he began work on Seraffyn and met a young lady named Lin Zatkin, an enthusiastic but novice sailor. They married in 1968 and set off on an open-ended cruise, which ultimately turned into a decade-long spin around the planet.

Upon their return, the couple moved to a remote California mountain and commenced work on their second boat, Taleisin, so named by fellow voyager Tristan Jones after a legendary Welsh poet. Taleisin became their vehicle for a second circumnavigation, one that took them deep into the South Atlantic and around Cape Horn. It was a highlight of their distinguished long-range voyaging career.

Along the way, they found a home in a perfect, protected cove on tiny Kawau Island off the coast of New Zealand, which became their base for many years; there, Larry had a small boat-repair business and yard he called Mickey Mouse Marine, “a 3-M company.” 

Over the course of their sailing lives, the Pardeys came to be known as “the first couple of cruising,” and collaborated on a small library of how-to books and first-person narratives based on their own extensive travels and hard-earned knowledge. It’s difficult if not impossible to detail the influence they had in the realm of cruising under sail. The crux of their advice became their motto: “Go simple, go small, go now.”

Ultimately, Larry Pardey became one of the greatest all-around sailors of all time, in any era. He was a consummate seaman, a precise navigator, a peerless boatbuilder. He was also a mentor and friend to countless cruisers and sailors he met along his eventful life’s journey. His passing truly marks the end of a remarkable era. Yes, there are still many gifted and passionate mariners still out there. But there was only one Larry Pardey.