Book review: Bull Canyon by Lin Pardey

Posted May 19, 2011 by Heather in Book Reviews / 0 Comments

I received this book for free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Book review:  Bull Canyon by Lin PardeyBull Canyon: A Boatbuilder, a Writer and Other Wildlife by Lin Pardey
Published by Paradise Cay Publications on June 1, 2011
Genres: Nonfiction, Memoir
Format: Paperback
Pages: 320
Source: the publisher

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Lin Pardey and her husband (Larry) are known internationally for their sailing adventures.  They have sailed more than 200,000 miles and have won many sailing awards.  Lin has written ten books, and she and her husband have made several instructional sailing videos.  In 1980, after living on their boat—Seraffyn—for eleven years and sailing all over the world, they decided to head ashore and find a home in Southern California where they could build a new boat, allow Lin to test out her writing skills and reconnect with family and friends.

The place they chose for their new home was a sixty-year-old stone cottage in Bull Canyon:  fifty miles southeast of Los Angeles and sixty miles from the ocean.  At the time, Bull Canyon was sparsely populated and surrounded by dirt roads; there was no phone service and no electricity.  The cottage hadn’t been lived in for eight years, and packrats had made it their home.  But once they saw the cottage, Lin and Larry knew it would be their home, too.

Bull Canyon: A Boatbuilder, a Writer and Other Wildlife is the story of Lin and Larry’s four years in Bull Canyon, dealing with flood season and fire season, rattle snakes and the occasional cougar.  It is also a story about relationships: how working side-by-side 24/7 would test the Pardeys’ marriage, the relationships the Pardeys built with the other people who lived in the canyon, and the relationship everyone in the canyon shared with the land and the forces of nature.

When this book was offered to me for review, I had never heard of Lin and Larry Pardey.  They might be internationally known in the sailing community, but I’m not exactly up on all of the latest sailing news.  After doing some research and reading the book’s description, however, I was very curious:  How the heck do you build a twenty-nine foot boat in a remote canyon in southern California where there is no electricity?  Simpler than that, even, how does one man build a twenty-nine foot boat by himself?   And why wouldn’t they have chosen to build it somewhere on the coast instead of 60 miles inland?  I was also interested in hearing their story about living in a place like Bull Canyon.  I have always thought it would be lovely to live somewhere like that with no phone, no television and no noisy traffic.  I am also a huge wuss who would never really enjoy rugged living because of the parts of nature I’m not fond of (bugs, the lack of running water, bugs) so I enjoy reading these kinds of stories and pretending that I’m living the simple life, right from my own comfy couch.

Needless to say, their time in Bull Canyon wasn’t easy living.  It was a lot more work than they planned for.  Roads were washed out during flood season, they had to worry about their house and boat-in-progress being burned to cinders during fire season, Lin had to make weekly trips to the nearest small town in order to use the phone, and the boat-building itself was slow-going due to a bunch of different distractions and interruptions.  I had a lot of respect and admiration for their hard work and continuously positive attitudes in the face of so many challenges.  I got a lot of good laughs out of their story, too, from descriptions of—and conversations with—some of their unique neighbors, and from some of the situations they had to go through.

Bull Canyon is pretty well-written, and I found the boat-building process to be very interesting.  The only thing I think Pardey should have added to the book is a glossary in the back that defines all of the boat and sailing terms for people like me who really know nothing about those things.  If you decide to read Bull Canyon, just keep a dictionary handy for the boat/sailing speak, because it really will help you better visualize what she is talking about.

For someone who is used to writing instructional pieces about sailing—and voyages at sea—I thought Pardey did a pretty good job writing about life on land, human nature and relationships (both person-to-person and person-to-nature).  It got a little slow for me at times, but it kept me entertained in general.  I really enjoyed reading about Bull Canyon’s environment and I learned quite a bit.  If you are already a fan of Lin and Larry Pardey, you will definitely enjoy reading about their time in Bull Canyon.  If you are interested in sailing, sailboat-building, or reading about rugged living, you will enjoy Bull Canyon.  Overall, it is definitely an interesting read.


Bull Canyon will be available in bookstores on June 1, 2011.  It can be purchased now on Amazon, or through the official website for the book.

To learn more about Lin Pardey, please see the Pardeys’ official website.