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Bull Canyon

Posted by on January 26, 2011
Bull Canyon
Lin Pardey and her husband Larry are internationally famous for their sailing adventures. But in 1980 – fresh from an eleven years-long sailing journey, where they forged the early years of their marriage on high seas and in exotic locales – they came to California looking for a good spot to build a boat, test Lin’s skills as a writer and taste the apparent security life ashore could offer.

Nestled in a rocky outcropping of winding, sparsely populated dirt roads, 60 miles from the sea and 50 miles from Los Angeles, Bull Canyon would seem an unlikely place for boat-building. But when Lin and Larry set eyes on the abandoned stone cottage at the top of a rutted, dusty lane, it was love at first sight. The house was certainly a fixer-upper, but there was plenty of room to build a boat, not to mention peace, quiet, and an abundance of natural beauty. They knew they’d come home.

Bull Canyon would bring them joy, victories and failures – but also packrats in the pantries, flooding rains that would make Noah himself cower, the occasional cougar, and an oddball collection of neighbors as ready to assist these hapless appearing newcomers as they were to gossip or occasionally cause trouble. It would be a life lived close to the land, coaxing vegetables out of acrid soil, living side-by-side with wildlife of all types, navigating dangerous roads to simply get to the nearest grocery store, no piped in water, no electricity, no phones – not even a proper address to receive mail. Their marriage would be tested, too, working side-by-side, 24/7. Life in the canyon would prove daunting, gritty, and dangerous, and a tougher bargain in the end than what they’d signed up for.

But as tough as life could be there, Bull Canyon was, indeed, the place where dreams could come true. It was here that Lin and Larry tapped into the affirming core of their marriage, accomplished back-breaking physical feats (moving enormous boulders and pouring tons of hot lead, among others), and grew to love the magical yet difficult environment.

In the tradition of Under the Tuscan Sun and A Year in Provence, Pardey takes readers on a voyage – landlocked, but a voyage nonetheless – of the heart, sharing candidly and with great humor the four years she and her determined husband spent in Bull Canyon. From the Thanksgiving when they had to hang the turkey from a ceiling hook to keep it safe from invading animals, to their constant companion, Dog (who is actually a cat), to Lin’s run-in with a couple of drunk hunters, to Larry’s careful coaxing of rough-sawn timber into the beautiful boat, Taleisin, their story, related in the warm, personal voice of the fireside storyteller, is a funny, tender, and engrossing tale. Bull Canyon is the story of two “dreamers and schemers” who have taken life by the horns – and bring the reader along for the wild and joyous ride.


“Lin Pardey has captured the very heart of a full life (the good, the bad, and the uncomfortable) in Bull Canyon. It is a must read for anyone with an adventurous spirit or those who need to be encouraged to follow their dreams.”
·Lee Stanley, Award-winning filmmaker, producer (Grid Iron Gang)

“It’s great. Very very funny and insightful. Captures a time and place.”
·Herb McCormick, Editor at Large, Cruising World/Sailing World.

“Lin Pardey makes it clear why she has such a following among her sailing readers: she’s a great observer of human nature and a natural storyteller. With Bull Canyon, she has bridged the divide between sailors and landsmen and will touch readers of every inclination.”
·Karen Larsen, founder and editor, Good Old Boat

“Bull Canyon is the story of Lin Pardey and her husband Larry. Both are well known for their sailing adventures. In 1980, after sailing for 11 years, they decide to come to California to find a spot for Larry to build a boat and for Lin to work as a writer. What follows in this book is the tale of nearly four years in Bull Canyon, an area sixty miles from the sea. The house is a fixer upper with no electricity or phone lines, and the neighbors are all quirky characters.

They battle rats, bugs, frogs, fire, floods, and earthquakes, yet despite all this, they fall in love with Bull Canyon and the simple, unspoiled life it offers to them. There are many black and white photos throughout the book of their time in California. I was in awe of the boat that was built in this remote canyon.

I loved this book! Each chapter reads like a travel memoir. Lin and Larry have chosen a non-traditional lifestyle that was fascinating to read about. I loved picking up this book and traveling back thirty years in time to hear about this couple’s adventures and trials while trying to adjust to a life back on land. Lin’s writing style was easy to read and pretty much grabbed me from the first few pages. I was sad when the story came to an end. I had a wonderful glimpse into their lives for the many years they worked and lived in Bull Canyon. Whether one has been sailing or not, does not matter, this story is an amazing book that would be a recommended read to anyone who has dreamed of doing something different or reading about it. I want to thank the goodreads giveaway program and Lin for this book!”

·Melanie Coombes-

“I loved Lin’s book! I was absolutely thrilled to see her lifestyle described in such a way that make the book more than a memoir but a journey of adventure and love. Bull Canyon showed the hardships of Lin and her husband, Larry’s life. They chose to live on land after their many years at sea. The canyon had presented its challenges each testing the couple more and more, but it still was a place for their dreams and aspirations. Their love for each other and dedication for their work was amazing. The descriptions come alive and I often found myself picturing the scene as if I was part of it too and got lost in the book. It was beautifully written. Their life out at sea and land had its ups and downs but in the end it was all worthwhile. Any reader would appreciate that. The pictures were great too as it helped me picture more of what I thought was happening. I reread my book twice because I just couldn’t get enough. “

·Linda Dao’s review in Goodreads

The following Review is by Deb Fowler, book reviewer and a member of the National Book Critics Circle

Lin was a Southern Californian girl who was swept up in the dreams of the freedom she’d have when she was old enough to leave home. When she finally did leave, it was one of those ‘don’t let the door hit you on the way out’ moments, but she was determined to make her way in life on her own terms. Working as a “glorified accounting clerk” and taking on other low level jobs to maintain that hard won freedom gave her a good dose of reality. It was a busy life, but there was no dreaming to be done until a twenty-six-year old Canadian unexpectedly waltzed into her life regaling her with tales of cruising around the world on a sailboat he was making. A whirlwind courtship and the lure of the high seas was the elusive dream she had been searching for. Lin had met Larry Pardey and with the announcement to her family that “I’m going to grab hold of my own life with this Canadian yacht skipper and see the whole world full-time, not just on two-week vacations,” she was on her way.

They worked hard building the twenty-four foot “Seraffyn,” the boat that would cement their lives together. “She’ll take care of us if we build her tight,” Larry would tell Lin. Marriage vows, with the word ‘obey’ included, sent them on their way. The “Seraffyn” would prove to be their home for eleven adventurous years, years in which Lin would begin writing about their lives as they sailed the world. Toward the end of their time with the “Seraffyn,” during a gale south of the Aleutian Islands, Larry began to dream of another boat, an interlude in which the “Taleisin” would be born. Larry’s “dreaming and scheming” soon brought them to Bull Canyon where they set up shop in a little stone cottage Old Man Payonessa had built many years ago.

The cottage was not silent nor were they alone in the beginning. “I felt something race across the blankets covering my feet,” Lin would later say about their “rat-filled night.” The “Taleisin” would take shape in Bull Canyon, but there was much work to do even before the first plank could be laid. Larry’s “amazingly mechanical mind” and determination laid the groundwork for the boat while Lin would write to finance the venture. It wasn’t long before they would meet the rest of Bull Canyon, the place they would call home for a time. Sandy Shomler told Lin that she shot through the cracks in the ceiling to kill the rats. Oh, and she also mentioned that she’d met her husband, Pete, in the “Orange County Jail.” Bob Steele, a man who had a way with machines, quickly showed up to help them with the framework or the boatshed. Lin and Larry had only begun to meet the quirky inhabitants of Bull Canyon, the place where they hoped to create yet another dream.

This intriguing tale of Lin and Larry Pardey’s life in Bull Canyon will mesmerize the reader. The soft, gentle way Lin captured the goings on of the Canyon made me feel as if I too wanted to live beyond the sidewalks for a while. This time capsule of the four years they spent building the “Taleisin,” even though at one point as Lin said, “the charm began to wear off,” gives everyone a nice glimpse into their relationship and life together as they pursued yet another dream. Life in Bull Canyon didn’t always prove to be easy and they wondered about their decision…”Had we made a mistake in trading the freedom of our sailing life for the constraints that now molded our days and nights?” I enjoyed meeting their endearing, albeit somewhat whacky, neighbors who were able to make a go at life sans the benefit of telephones and electricity. This is a story of an interlude in the life of the Pardeys, a life well spent. In Larry’s words, “I’m the luckiest guy alive. I’m not spending the best part of my life working for ‘the man.’ I’ve got a grand partner to share my ideas." This lilting memoir will complete those who read the Seraffyn books and send the rest of its readers to them in search of that dream and adventure!

Bull Canyon is available in online at (click here to order) and bookstores everywhere. The ebook is also available at (click here for more info).

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