Early in 1976, WHN Radio negotiated and signed a new contract with Local 1212 of IBEW. Because the WHN Transmitter in East Rutherford, NJ had recently been unmanned, the contract called for a reduction of 2 members of the Engineering Department. The contract detailed a generous separation pay of one year’s salary, along with one year of medical benefits, as well as the ability for those leaving to collect NYS Unemployment Insurance. One of the older guys in the department took the “buy out”, but when no one else was interested in leaving the department, after 4 years at the station, and being on the lowest rung of the seniority ladder, I was tapped to take the “buy out”. The one year of salary for me came to a figure somewhere in the mid $20,000, and what did I do with it? Well, I bought a boat!
For somewhere around $10,000, I traded in my 17 foot bow rider outboard for a brand new 1975 Wellcraft 21 foot Weekender. With a Ford 302 V/8 and an outdrive, a small cabin with two bunks, a place for a “head”, and a cockpit table, the boat was what kept me busy from my separation date in the early spring of 1976, till I started at WABC in August. It was a lot of fun setting up the boat at Coastwise Marine in Westport, Connecticut, and then when the weather turned to “boating weather”, getting a handle on running my new boat up and down the Saugatuck River, and in Long Island Sound! I was 26 years old, had money in the bank, a year of health insurance, and time on my hands. I immersed myself in the nautical way of life! In addition to buying and working on the boat, I took a Coast Guard Reserve Small Boat course, and joined a Nautical Book of the Month Club!
My book choices included things like Chapman Piloting: Seamanship & Small Boat Handling, Bowditch’s American Practical Navigator, as well as other useful books in my endeavor to master the act of running my small boat. There were also books about adventures people were having in small boats, and one of them that I still remember to this day was Lin and Larry Pardey’s Cruising in Seraffyn. The book told the story of Seraffyn, their wooden 24-foot engineless cutter and and how Lin and Larry built her with the hope of setting off for a few months of true freedom in spite of their limited finances. Their few months turned out to be a lifetime of sailing around the world, but that first book also turned out to be a carefully thought-out guide to living aboard a small boat, with fun and good seamanship as guiding principles. It was a true love story of Lin and Larry and a boat named Seraffyn, and the life it gave them!
I was captivated with the story and their adventures of first building, then launching, and ultimately cruising in Seraffyn. I was so captivated that when I was finished with the book, I wrote Lin and Larry a “fan letter” and sent it to them care of their publisher! About 6 months later, one day in the mail, I received a very obviously foreign Air Mail letter that was postmarked from Spain. It turned out that their publisher had forwarded my letter to them, and had it had finally caught up with them in Spain. The letter I got was from Lin, and she told me how happy they were to get my letter and that it had showed up at just the right time. Turns out they were in the midst of re-writing the follow up book called Seraffyn’s European Adventure. They’d had a particularly tough day, trying to work through some re-writes that their editor had asked for, and were at the breaking point. They really wondered if it was worth all the work, and if anyone cared. Then my letter showed up in the mail! Lin thanked me to expressing just what they needed to hear….to know that there was an audience out there in the literary world that cared about their life aboard Seraffyn, and that the work they were struggling with was indeed worth it. I treasured that letter and my connection with these two people, and in the end, I was very happy that I’d taken the time to write them and to encourage their continued effort to share their story with the rest of us.
The reason this memory came back to me, and I’m writing this now is because at the end of August, I was very sad to read in the NY Times that Larry Parday had died at the age of 80. During his lifetime, he had circumnavigated the world twice on wooden boats he had built, and along with his wife Lin, had told the tail of the life they lived. They were an incredible couple, led an extraordinary life, and were an inspiration to many, including a 26 year old between jobs with a new boat, and a love of a good sea tale!
Thank you Lin and Larry for your spirit of adventure. I hope the warm memory of their shared 55 year adventure will sustain Lin as she moves forward in life. Thank you for living the life many only dream about, and for connecting with me all those many years ago via that thin air mail stationary that contained your kind words of thanks. I have never forgotten you, or your letter!
Fair Winds and Following Seas sir, and thank you for sharing a life well lived with us!
Larry Parday’s NY Times Obituary from August 28th….