On the fifteenth day of September in 1964, Larry Pardey snipped some small lengths of twine, tied together the pages of some loose-leaf notebook paper with a pair of tidy square knots, and, in green ink, commenced with the first entry of his brand-new journal. He’d just arrived in San Francisco after driving from Vancouver with a sailing buddy named Brian Saunders, who had a spiffy Volvo Sport coupe. Nothing much happened on his first day in America, but in his report for Day 2, things were already starting to get interesting:
“Brian had to take some gal out to dinner so I went down to one of the nearby drinking establishments called the Pierce Street Annex. Had a scotch on the rocks and left (no action). Started across the street to the Camelot Bar when a man about 50 years of age stopped me. He was English, an ex-RAF pilot and had lost his money on a business venture. His name was Robert Young. I staked him to $40 plus a bus ticket to Vancouver where he could work and get on his feet again.”
The Good Samaritan from north of the border had one thing in common with Robert Young. They both needed a job. It would be hard to imagine that Mr. Young found one faster.
The entries from his makeshift diary tell the tale. After two quick days in San Francisco, during which he wandered the docks and picked up a name or two of possible contacts in Southern California, he and Brian hopped a plane to Los Angeles and immediately parted ways, with the latter off to Pasadena to see his parents. Meanwhile, Larry caught a Greyhound bus to Newport Beach, checked into a motel, and “went to a bar called the Tiki Tavern. Met a blonde named Lil and the bartender, Roy. Hit the sack early.”
On the nineteenth, he checked out the waterfront, “trying to hit a boat leaving for a cruise,” but came up empty. Instead, he had a drink at the Balboa Yacht Club, got the name of a bar in town, and there met a schoolteacher named Rosie, who was kind enough to return him to his motel.
The twentieth was a Sunday, and, in the small-world department, on a stroll through the Sea Sport Boatyard he met a sailor named Ralph Peel who owned, of all things, a Tumlaren sloop — just like good ol’ Annalisa, the boat he’d sold for $5 grand back in Canada to subsidize this adventure — and took him for a sail. Afterwards, he rendezvoused with Rosie, rented a small sailboat, and took his new friend for a sail followed by a nice walk on the beach.
Alas, a future with Rosie was not to be, for the following evening, while listening to the organ player at a bar called the Surfside, he got to “talking to the cocktail waitress named Jo.” Two nights later, after work, he caught up with Jo “outside the Surfside and proceeded to get happy and take her to my motel. What a gal!”
More important, perhaps, between dates he also got a lead on a boat heading west — into the Pacific and on to Hawaii — that might need a hand. Better still, it wasn’t just any old boat, but a husky 85-foot, 140-ton Bahamian schooner not unlike the Tiki III in his favorite TV show,_ Adventures in Paradise_. Apparently one of the regular crew aboard the split-rigged Double Eagle “had just got married and might not be able to get away from the Old Lady.”
What a chump.
What an opportunity.
It seemed Double Eagle was bound for the islands on charter to a film crew from Screen Gems, who’d be shooting background footage of paradise for a TV show called The Wackiest Ship in the Army. (Built in the Bahamas of a local timber similar to pine called horseflesh, Double Eagle, with four-inch planks and six-by-six deck beams, was a substantial vessel. Larry thought of her as “island built and pretty rough” and enjoyed relating the story of how her considerable ballast was installed: “They just poured concrete in with the ready-mix truck until she was on her lines.”) At first Larry missed finding the skipper, but he eventually tracked him down. Before the week was out, he was already making himself extremely useful by fixing the forward hatch, putting the finishing touches on new sail covers, and re-stitching a boltrope on the jib.
And on Tuesday, September 29 — precisely two short but eventful weeks after arriving in the USA — when Double Eagle motored past Santa Catalina Island and set a course for Honolulu, Larry was not only the newest crewman aboard but also on the same watch as the skipper. Though he didn’t know it at the time, he was in very good company indeed, for the ship’s captain just happened to be one of the best, most accomplished, and most renowned schoonermen on either side of the Pacific — a true seaman, a real character, a living legend.
His name was Bob Sloan.
You can often discern much about a person by their nickname, and Bob Sloan had a beauty: “Slippery.” At 29, Slippery Sloan, by all accounts a bit of a rogue and a rascal, had already spent more than half his life at sea, having run away to it when he was just 15. Long of nose, short of hairline, and with his own special brand of charisma, his most distinguishable characteristic was the ever-present Band-Aid on his forehead, a badge of his occupation. Spend enough time on schooners, accidentally walking (or being tossed) into booms and rigging, and you’ll wind up with some serious dings on your noggin. At a restaurant called Josh Slocum’s in Newport Beach, the menu featured a caricature of the famous local sailors. Sloan was instantly recognizable by the bandage on his bean.A boatbuilder as well as a skilled offshore mariner, Sloan was in high demand when it came to the Transpac Race, one of the world’s classic ocean races from Los Angeles to Honolulu that ran every two years. Not only did he know how to keep boats together and to fix them when they broke, he also had an uncommon knack for spotting potential problems before they occurred. If Larry Pardey could’ve handpicked a blue-water mentor, he’d have been hard pressed to find one better than Bob Sloan.
“He was probably the best all-around sailor I ever met,” said Larry. “I learned how to splice wire from Bob, how to do celestial navigation. I was keen to learn everything. Sailing with him on my first ocean passage was a crash course in seamanship. I was just in heaven.”
His journal is a testament to his exalted state of mind.
The first few days were spent establishing a routine while the weather gods served up a potpourri of conditions ranging from boisterous — “sporty” in the sailor’s vernacular — to flat calms. Whether he was aloft in staunch double-digit breezes and 12-foot seas fixing parted halyards; fileting freshly caught dolphin for the grill; taking a swim and chucking beer cans into the drink for Sloan’s dog, Nicky, to retrieve while the engine was being repaired; setting or reefing sails; or learning to take noon sights with the sextant, Larry was lapping it all up. And he loved every minute of it. Many novice voyagers discover to their chagrin that once they actually head offshore they are either seasick or bored witless. Larry was neither.
“We are in the trades at last,” he wrote on October 6. “Wind is about 8 knots from the north. Clear, warm, brilliant blue water and sky. Have been at sea for 7 days today. Time sure rushes by.”
While Larry was certainly enjoying himself, his prodigious and swift grasp of long-distance sailing was also making an impression on Sloan, who quickly realized he didn’t have to explain anything to his newest hand twice. “Talked to the skipper this evening,” Larry wrote in mid-passage. “He wants me to make the return trip to Newport [Beach] and get a working visa to become permanent crew on the Double Eagle. I did not give him a firm answer to this inquiry. I wanted to see what the islands would bring first.”
Now that he’d tasted the salt air and found it so agreeable, keeping his options open was definitely a priority. At sea, he’d just begun reading actor Sterling Hayden’s autobiography, Wanderer, published just a year earlier, and found it riveting. Hayden — perhaps best known for his pitch-perfect portrayal of hysterical General Jack D. Ripper in Stanley Kubrick’s_ Dr. Strangelove_ — had walked out of Hollywood after a bitter divorce, defied a court order, and set sail with his four children for the South Seas. Hayden professed to hate acting, pursuing it solely as a means to an end, to chase far horizons.
“To be truly challenging, a voyage, like a life, must rest on a firm foundation of financial unrest,” wrote Hayden, who knew something about making a fortune and frittering it away. “Otherwise, you are doomed to a routine traverse… Voyaging belongs to seamen, and to the wanderers of the world who cannot, or will not, fit in. If you are contemplating a voyage and you have the means, abandon the venture until your fortunes change. Only then will you know what the sea is all about.”
This, of course, was music to Larry’s ears, a lilting song to the rapt chorus in his soul. If the chance to sail with a man like Hayden presented itself, he did not want to be tied down.
Still, the voyage across the Pacific could not have been more satisfying. On October 12, he penned this short entry: “Sighted the island of Hawaii. A lifelong dream has just materialized, to visit the Hawaiian group in a sailing vessel.” The next day, a fortnight after leaving California (and just a month since Larry departed Canada), Double Eagle tied up on the island of Maui in the homeport of one of her crewmen, the town of Lahaina.
Double Eagle‘s short, eventful, weeklong layover in Hawaii was a whirlwind of activity and shenanigans — which is also an apt description of Larry’s visit. First there was the quick trip to Honolulu, where they berthed at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and Larry met a local sailor named Marsh Oden. Together they “picked up” a pair of stunning Japanese/Hawaiian identical twins named Mickie and Vickie, who had the disconcerting habit of playing the “old switcheroo” so the lads often were not exactly sure who was with whom. Not that it really mattered, one would guess, after reading this description of one of the quartet’s dates: “Got stopped by a motorcycle cop for driving 4 in the front seat of Marsh’s Fiat roadster.”
Larry also made the acquaintance of Bill King, another legendary Pacific skipper, who was off to Tahiti to pick up Hayden’s_ Wanderer_ and deliver her all the way to Miami. He went so far as to ask King for a berth, to which he agreed. But when Sloan got wind of the plan, he essentially put the kibosh on it by having a quiet word with King, who withdrew his offer. (“Boy would I have loved to go with him,” Larry confessed to his diary.) And of course there was the filming for The Wackiest Ship in the Army; the Double Eagle crewmembers were enlisted as extras, and Larry eventually appeared “for about three seconds” on network television wearing a hula skirt.
“Low point of my career,” he later said, correctly.
Ultimately, Larry took up Sloan’s offer to sail home aboard Double Eagle. Though the return trip to the mainland involved a lot of motoring, there were a few memorable episodes, including the special baked-ham dinner with all the fixings in honor of his twenty-fifth birthday on October 31. There was also the time Larry jumped into the drink with Sloan’s big black Labrador retriever, Nicky, while the schooner drifted on the swells with the engine shut down during a change of injectors. Both the dog and the sailor realized at the same time that the boat was slipping away, and the former proved to be a faster swimmer than the latter on the long swim back. It was a valuable lesson for Larry: Never, under any circumstances, go overboard at sea.
The last bit of drama came when the main halyard parted and Larry volunteered to go aloft for the repair, which took nearly three hours in big seas with Double Eagle rolling from gunwale to gunwale in long, 60-degree arcs. The motion was awful — with the main down, sailing under staysail alone, several crewmembers became seasick — and Larry was black and blue all over once he’d spliced the halyard. But what really pissed off his shipmates were his first words once he hit the deck: “God, I’m hungry.”
Once back in California, there were several more weeks of filming, and Larry befriended one of the show’s stars, Diana Hyland, who lent him her car for a trip to Mexico and urged him to take a swing at the big screen. (Later, she became John Travolta’s paramour before succumbing to cancer, reportedly in his arms, in 1977.) Tan, blue-eyed and strapping (and at the time clean-shaven), Larry was a good-looking dude, but not necessarily Hollywood handsome. He was something better. He was authentic, a young man on a mission to sail far. And the purity of that quest could be very attractive.
“Diana said she’d mentor me,” he said later, “but I wasn’t interested in this acting stuff. I wanted to do the real stuff, like sailing to Tahiti.” In any event, on November 12, 1964, Larry made one brief, final entry in his journal — “Shot various scenes of Eagle sailing, hoisting sails” — then closed it for good. That chapter in his life, though thrilling, educational and unforgettable, was over.
Six months later and a few miles inland, in the Pasadena corporate offices of Bob’s Big Boy Hamburgers, Lin Zatkin was ready to stir things up in her life. It was late May of 1965. Always more comfortable in the company of men than women, though she was dating regularly — her brother Allen was in graduate school at USC, and his fraternity brothers provided a steady stream of prospects — she had few real friends. And her dates, while pleasant, weren’t exactly setting her on fire.
One day, out of the blue, she said as much to the fellow who’d occupied the desk next to hers for the previous six months. She enjoyed her job well enough — she had begun to realize she had a real aptitude with numbers — and when it came to company benefits, Bob Wian, the owner of the burger chain, was years ahead of his time, offering profit-sharing and stock-option plans to his employees. Had Lin stayed there, she might well have eventually become a millionaire retiree, like many of Wian’s former line cooks and waitresses. But she was about to put into motion a chain of events that would lead her down a far different path.
“You know,” she said to her coworker, thinking about the $200 of discretionary cash she had available, “I’d like to buy a sailboat.” This was surprising, since Lin’s boating experience consisted of a few short sails with her parents on Michigan lakes in the family’s Old Town sloop, and on rented sailboats in Balboa Bay. She really had no clue how to sail. But she had her reasons.
“I have an idea if I learn to sail I’ll meet different people than I’m meeting,” she continued. “My brother’s friends are nice but they’re straight arrows. Maybe I’d get to know people who actually went outdoors and did things.”
Lin’s colleague pointed to a picture on the wall of a large sailboat originally purchased as a “mother ship” to the company’s fleet of shrimp boats — the shellfish were a popular item on the Big Boy menu. Though technically the boat was still part of the firm’s assets, Wian had basically appropriated it for his own use as his personal yacht. “You should ring up the captain,” said Lin’s associate. “Maybe he can help you out.”
She took his advice and made the call: “I’m Miss Zatkin in accounting at the head office, and I’d like to buy a small boat and learn how to sail.” Incredibly, the skipper said he actually had a tiny eight-foot tender for sale and she should come down to Newport Beach and have a look.
Lin drove straight from work. Her heels were high, her skirt tight, her raven hair down to her waist. She was cuter than the buttons on her blouse. When she took her first look at her boss’s boat, she gasped. She’d never seen anything afloat so mighty and substantial. She rapped on the black hull and was startled when a big Labrador retriever appeared and barked at her. His master followed him up on deck. “So you’re the hag from the home office?” he cracked, giving her the once-over.
Little did Lin know, but the man standing before her was a bit of a lout; married multiple times, he had a wandering eye for the ladies, particularly pretty petite ones, just like the gal she saw in the mirror every morning.
His name was Bob Sloan, the well-traveled honcho who ran Wian’s beautiful schooner, Double Eagle. At your service.
Before the night was through, Sloan would launch every bit of his not-inconsiderable charm in Lin’s direction, even though she could “smell he was married.” By evening’s end, before he asked her to come around the next day for breakfast and a closer look at the little dinghy for sale and a quick sailing lesson, he even broke out his guitar and strummed South Seas melodies to her on Double Eagle‘s afterdeck. Slippery Sloan was one smooth operator.
Prior to the songfest, however, he took her to dinner at the house of a friend (a salty tugboat captain who made quite an impression — she was already accomplishing her mission of leaving the frat boys behind) and also to his favorite haunt, a bar with swinging doors called the Anchor Cove. A couple of guys were shooting pool, and one of them, after getting a load of Lin (sipping a cocktail, she’d failed to mention she was still a few months shy of her twenty-first birthday), came bounding up like a yappy little schnauzer.
“Hey, Sloan, who’s the chick?” he said. Yes, people still talked like that in 1965.
The other pool player was a bit more reserved, though certainly curious about what appeared to be Sloan’s latest conquest, a fresh notch on his figurative tiller. When he strolled over, Sloan went through perfunctory introductions before making it very clear the gal was with him and they should buzz off back to their billiards.
“Larry,” he said, dismissively, “this is Lin.”
Advance Praise for As Long As It’s Fun
“The fascinating tale of Lin and Larry Pardey stretches across nearly half a century and touches most of the Earth and its oceans, shared lives pulsing with adventure, creativity and passion. Herb McCormick navigates the Pardeys’ sprawling journey like one of their own cutters skimming along the surface of a calm sea. They lived in many worlds and McCormick’s prose slips seamlessly among them, whether describing the complexities of boat construction, the breathtaking beauty and harrowing danger of global navigation or the economics of life on the fly. Lin and Larry thrived in an esoteric life of their own making; McCormick is a genial and informed guide with an insider’s knowledge and a poet’s voice. In his hands, their journey is ours.”
— Tim Layden, senior writer, Sports Illustrated
“Herb McCormick’s [biography] of Lin and Larry Pardey blew me away. This is in fact the rarest of tales, a story of the life two people lived that is as fabulous as the Arabian Nights, as Stanley in Africa, as any exploration of the Right Stuff in space. No one — not even the Pardeys — could frame this story as clearly and contextually as McCormick has in this magnificent book. This is a life story to set alongside Slocum, Scott, Amundsen, Lindbergh or Odysseus.”
— Peter Nichols, author of international bestsellers Evolution’s Captain and A Voyage for Madmen