"When we built our first boat, people starting giving us work fixing their boats," Lin Pardey said. "It feels good. It was a joy to build. It took us halfway around around the world. There's a romance about wooden boats that drew people to us everywhere we went. It helped us make friends. The local fishermen around the world still use wooden boats. And you can fix them anywhere."
It has made the Pardeys guests of honor when the community of wooden boat owners get together, as they did for the first time in Port Victoria, British Columbia, and Port Townsend, Wash., for their inaugural wooden boat festival in 1977. The Pardeys have been to similar gatherings in 14 countries, including one in France in 1996 that drew some 3,500 boats.
At the most recent Port Townsend festival, there were 30,000 in attendance and more than 350 boats.
"People didn't look at wooden boats one way or another, or as unique, until fast boats coming in," Lin Pardey said. "People were holding on to their wooden boats and passing them down through their families. When the first regatta was held, it took off. People started realizing that these were very special heirlooms."
The Pardeys have been to Annapolis a number of times over the years, mostly through their work with the Chesapeake Region Accessible Boating, a nonprofit organization that raises money and awareness to help those with disabilities get on the water.
The Pardeys — as well as Matt Rutherford, who this spring completed a round-the-world voyage in his 27-foot dinghy — will speak at a C.R.A.B event Oct. 3. They also plan on showing their boat at the annual Annapolis Boat Show, which runs Oct. 4-8.
"When the people heard that, they said, why not come sail with them," Lin Pardey said of this year's wooden boat regatta. "It was the first time we've heard about it."
Lin Pardey said she and her husband split their year living between New Zealand's summer and the United States'.
"We're in what some call our golden years, and we have so many summers left, so we try to double up," Lin Pardey said.
Larry Pardey, who grew up on the edge of an Indian reservation, came to boating accidentally. When he was 17 years old, he was charged with driving under the influence and lost his license. Rather than hitchhiking, Pardey started using the boats provided by some of the locals. He eventually started restoring boats and recently completed the restoration of a boat that dates to the 1800s.
The Pardeys estimate they have spent some 8,000 hours building their two boats.
Lee Tawney, executive director of the Annapolis-based National Sailing Center and Hall of Fame, said "we felt it important to call attention to sailing's contribution to the American experience, and part of that contribution are the the sailboats that have been involved in it, and in this case, the classic wooden boats that are on the Chesapeake Bay."
Four years ago, Tawney met with naval architect Paul Miller at the nearby U.S. Naval Academy with the idea of starting a wooden boat regatta similar to those held in other parts of the country.
"He, being a wooden boat owner and afficianado, jumped right on it," Tawney recalled.
Tawney said there are fewer wooden boats on the Chesapeake than in other parts of the country mainly because of the water temperature. The boats are more popular in New York, Connecticut and New England, as well as in Northern California and other places in the Great Northwest.
"The issue with wooden boats in the Chesapeake Bay is that the water is too warm and worms can grow quicker and better," Tawney said. "If you go up to Maine, there are wooden boats all over the place. Our effort here is and continues to be to tease out the wooden boats on the Chesapeake Bay."
Lin Pardey said she is hoping a new generation discovers the pleasures of building wooden boats.
"A lot of young people are told that they can't use their own hands to build things," she said." They can't afford to go sailing. They discover that they can build a 12- or 14-foot wooden sailboat with almost no money and they can get out on the water. And that leads to bigger things. In today's world, there's a shortage of people who know how to do things with their hands. They go on to fulfilling careers and they're using their hands."
More information about the Classic Wooden Boat Rendezvous Rendevous and Regatta can be found at http://nshof.org.