Join Date: Sep 2007
Boat: Island Packet 380, now sold
'Bull Canyon' by Lin Pardey
Faithful readers of Lin and Larry Pardey’s Seraffyn cruising adventure series have no doubt been eagerly waiting and wondering when they would be treated to similar accounts of the Pardey’s further cruising adventures on their second hand-built boat, Taleisin. It’s been a long time--the last of the four-book Seraffyn series, Seraffyn’s Oriental Adventure, was published in 1983. Sure, the Pardeys have written a number of “how-to” books, like The Capable Cruiser, Storm Tactics Handbook, and The Cost Conscious Cruiser in the interim, and those excellent books are chock-full of valuable information for wannabe and seasoned cruisers alike, but darn it, we really love the sailing stories!
Happily, it seems the time may be near. In her preface to her latest book, Bull Canyon, Lin writes that after publishing the Seraffyn adventures and the practical books on cruising, she and Larry had really wanted to write the sailing narratives of the Taleisin years, but for some reason she couldn’t get started. Finally, she realized, “the genesis of the voyages we’ve had on board Taleisin lay in the story you now hold in your hand. This story had to be written before I could talk of going to sea. So though the action in this book takes place on land, I hope you enjoy Bull Canyon and see it as the prequel to Taleisin’s Tales.” So in telling the story of the four years that she and Larry lived in an isolated southern California canyon while building the Lyle Hess designed Taleisin, the stage is now set for tales of their voyages on their second cruiser.
It’s 1980. Back in the States after 11 years roaming the Globe in Seraffyn, Lin and Larry are looking for the ideal spot to build a second, larger cruising sailboat. A friend had offered the use of an old stone cottage up a nine mile long washed out road on 160 acres of land in Bull Canyon, a wild and remote area 60 miles southeast of Los Angeles. In spite of the fact that the canyon had no phone or electric lines, was hot, dusty and dry in the summer, and wet, muddy and chilly in the winter, alternately prone to wildfires and floods, the Pardeys saw it as a place where Larry could build the boat of their dreams and Lin could write, without the distractions of more civilized accommodations. The deal clincher was that rent would be free in return for their fixing the place up.
Leaving Seraffyn on a mooring in Newport Beach, Lin sets about evicting the resident pack rats and bees, and getting the abandoned cottage clean, leak-free and livable, while Larry, with the help of a neighbor with a big bulldozer, tackles the job of leveling a spot on the hillside where he could construct his boat-building shed. Their land-locked adventure has begun, and the book tells the story of their trials, tribulations, and victories as they work toward their goal of launching a new phase of life at sea in a new boat.
Although this book is a narrative account of the time they spent in Bull Canyon, at its core, it’s really about relationships. Their few neighbors in the canyon were an eclectic and colorful collection of independent and quirky personalities, and much of the book involves chronicling the sometimes hilarious, sometimes difficult personal interactions amongst Lin, Larry and the Canyon “locals”. This land-bound phase of their marriage puts new demands on their relationship as a couple as well, requiring adjustments and compromises, but it results in a deepening realization and appreciation for how much each can count on the other for empathy, support and counsel when personal challenges seem overwhelming. Lin’s writing is straightforward, honest and revealing. We’re given a clear picture of Larry’s competence as a boat builder and his single-minded focus and determination to get Taliesin built, no matter what the obstacles. His motto is, “If it was easy, everyone would be doing it!” Building the boat is priority number one for him, and anything or anyone standing in the way will be pushed aside.
We also share Lin’s fears and self-doubts as she struggles with the challenges of writing books and sailing magazine articles to provide the funds they must have to live, while maintaining a tenuous balance in her relationships with family and old friends, and maintaining a viable household under primitive conditions. She freely shares her innermost thoughts and beliefs with us, and we get to know her as a person. Her role is to provide support for Larry and his laser focus on building the boat, and she does it well, while striving mightily to maintain harmony in their relationships with family and friends who have no way of understanding the Pardeys’ lifestyle and their drive to finish Taleisin and put to sea once more.
With everything else she’s committed to, Lin takes on the monumental tasks of convincing the phone company and the electric company to extend their wires into the canyon. After months of hard work, the phone lines are built, but the advent of this “modern” technology plants the seeds of inevitable change in the fragile web of relationships in the canyon. Finally, after threatening to create a media circus by literally camping out in SoCal Edison’s main office lobby until the company agrees to install the electric lines, Lin tastes victory when the electric company capitulates. But, once again, change is on the horizon, for better or for worse.
Having both telephone and electric service now makes the area much more attractive to developers, and the advancing construction of a new freeway to the area seals the fate of Bull Canyon. Rather than seeing themselves as a community, one by one the canyon folk begin to focus on how they might individually profit from the coming prosperity that modern conveniences could bring, and the close-knit community begins to crumble. To Lin’s chagrin, even Larry seems momentarily bitten by the development bug, as he toys with the idea of buying the property as a speculative investment for the future.
It’s obvious to her that it’s time to move on, and Taleisin is completed just in time. Hauled to the sea on a borrowed flatbed trailer, she’s launched with a splash of champagne on her bow stem, cheered on by a huge crowd of Lin and Larry’s old friends and relatives. Looking over the crowd, Lin comments to her mother that she’s surprised that no one from Bull Canyon has come to the launching party, not even her good friend Ellie. From the book…
“Not surprised,” Mom said curtly,” She was just a neighbor. These folks are your friends.”
“Guess you’re right, “[Lin] said. “But I’m going to miss the canyon.”
“No you won’t,” [Mom] said as she took one of my hands in hers then swept her other hand across the open vista of water and boats around us. “This right here is your world. Bull Canyon was just one more foreign land you visited.”
In the Epilog, Lin writes…
“My confidence as a writer had received an amazing boost during the canyon years. My respect for Larry had grown immensely. He’d often joked that I was earning the money so he could build the capital. Time has proven his words true. Now we had a brand-new handsome, perfectly outfitted boat plus some more money in the bank to let us sail more comfortably toward new horizons.”
Bull Canyon was a great read and an intriguing insight into a seminal phase of the Pardeys’ life as a cruising couple. Now we can eagerly look forward to tales of their cruising adventures on Taleisin.