A Cove of Their Own

Voyagers Lin and Larry Pardey find a New Zealand refuge at the water's edge. "Herb's Watch" for our September 2, 2010, CW Reckonings

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Lin and Larry Pardey, at home on New Zealand's Kawau Island, pose with their well-traveled 29-footer, Taleisin.Herb Mccormick

Some 25 years ago, right around the midway point between their two circumnavigations aboard boats they built themselves-the Lyle Hess-designed Seraffyn and Taleisin-voyaging authors and icons Lin and Larry Pardey started to think about the future. They began to realize that they couldn't cruise forever and that at some point, the time would come to, well, settle down. By happenstance, they were en route to New Zealand to rendezvous with another couple well known for their travels and writings, the late Eric and Susan Hiscock.

The trip to the antipodes proved to be an eventful one, indeed.

The sailors had agreed to meet on the small island of Kawau, in the Hauraki Gulf some 30 miles north of Auckland. Many long-distance voyagers have dropped their hooks in the historic harbor of Bon Accord, at one time a Maori stronghold. Later, just around the corner at Mansion House Bay, the country's colorful former premier, Governor George Grey, purchased the property and turned it into his island getaway. To this day, it's still a popular destination for picnics and parties.

On the afternoon that the Pardeys sailed in, however, it was blowing hard out of the west, and the exposed anchorage was bouncy and tenuous. Scanning their charts, it was clear that there was a far better option just to the north, a fully enclosed inlet called North Cove. Like their previous boat, Seraffyn, which they'd eventually sold for US$40,000, Taleisin was engineless, so they weighed anchor and made the short sail to the sheltered cove. It looked good on the chart, but once they arrived, they were taken aback. It was blowing a gale outside, but in the protected bay, surrounded by steep, tree-lined hills, there was barely a ripple on the waters. In a word, it was perfect.

It wasn't too long before they began asking around. Was there anything for sale?

Herb McCormick| |Taleisin lies to the jetty at the Pardey's place in North Cove.|

Yes, there was, a simple home with several hundred feet of waterfront property and a dilapidated jetty that had been on the market for nearly a decade. The house was nothing special, the foreshore was a wreck, the docks were a mess; there were good reasons it had lingered for so long. But the Pardeys were in no rush to actually move in, they knew how to build things, and they could live on their boat while they were working on the place.
And the price was just right: US$40K.

Herb McCormick| |The anchorage in North Cove is quiet during the New Zealand winter.|

For the last week, I've been hanging out with the Pardeys in the little guest house they've only recently finished, a lovely little spot they call Heron Cabin. (In the interests of full-disclosure, I'm at work on a book about the couple's life and voyages.) Leafing through the picture albums, it's clear they've done a lot of work in the decades since they bought the place; in fact, it's nearly unrecognizable. There are several other buildings in place now, all safe and secure behind the formidable seawall that took years to erect. Larry runs a boatyard here, called Mickey Mouse Marine (a "Three-M Company," says the sign on the door), and there are a handful of boats on the hard for winter storage. Lin has her own office in a separate cabin. The main house has been completely renovated. Taleisin rests easily at the dock out front.

For a pair of sailors in from the sea, it's pretty darn sweet.

Of course, it's winter in New Zealand, and the Pardeys are just wrapping up their first ever in North Cove. Some of the neighbors made bets that they wouldn't make it. It looks like they'll be paying up.

Governor Grey, of course, is long gone, but he and the Pardeys now share something in common. On the little island of Kawau, they all found peace and happiness, as well as shelter from the storm.