Walking the Plank: Linda and Steve Dashew

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If you’ve ever seen Wind Horse — or any of the Dashew-designed FPBs (fast pilot boats) — you’d know it.

Photo by Steve Dashew

They are unmistakably spare-looking, with long, elegant lines and unpainted, all-aluminum construction. Inside they offer fantastic views, well-thought-out systems and comfortable accommodations. They have always struck us as the perfect combination of utility and luxury, designed for exploring the world in safety. But long before there were FPBs, which range from 64 feet to a 130-footer that’s on the way, there were the legendary sail designs: Deerfoot, Sundeer and Beowulf among them. The Dashews have launched more than 50 boats, based on their work together, and have cruised more than 250,000 ocean miles as they published books, wrote magazine articles and raised their daughters. We’re so glad they took the time to Walk the Plank for Soundings.

First memory of being on a boat: (Steve) Three years old and helping my dad get off a sandbar on the Mississippi River. Just the two of us moving our 46-foot motorsailer to Florida from Lake Michigan. I was having a difficult time with the gear shift lever, which was taller than I was, as my dad operated the windlass and kedge. I could sense we were in trouble as dad calmly asked me to move that big bronze shift lever back and forward. His laid-back demeanor that day was a lesson that has stayed with me.

(Linda) It was a spur-of-the-moment trip to Los Angeles, Labor Day weekend 1965, and I ended up sailing to Catalina with Steve and his family. And we’ve been sailing together ever since.

First boat you owned: A 17-foot Thistle, which in the 1950s was a hot class in the light airs of New-port Beach.

In general, power or sail: We have been sailors and looked askance until recently at stinkpots. However, after 60,000 nautical miles of easy cruising on board the FPB 83 Wind Horse, we are now more tolerant.

Last or current boat: We have a new design, the FPB 78, launching early next year, and we cannot wait to get back on the water.

Favorite boat you’ve owned: A tossup between Beowulf, our 78-foot water-ballasted ketch, and the FPB prototype Wind Horse.

Favorite boat you’ve designed: That’s like asking our favorite child. We love most of them equally.

Most rewarding professional experience: Hearing from our owners as they use their yachts to explore far from home.

Scariest adventure on board: Being in heavy fog and ice off the southwest corner of Greenland with a gale due in the next 24 hours. At times, visibility was down to a boat length or less. We’d have to slow down, then we’d get a brief opening and hit the throttles. It was the most difficult 18 hours in over 250,000 miles of cruising.

Most memorable experience on board: Crossing 80 degrees latitude at the edge of the ice pack north of the Svalbard Islands aboard Wind Horse. The weather had been stable as we negotiated the open leads. Just after seeing the magic “80” on the GPS, the weather changed and the leads began to close. We beat a hasty retreat to Magdalena Fjord, where a lemon meringue pie was consumed in celebration.

Longest time you’ve spent aboard: Six years during our circumnavigation. Longest passage was 36 days aboard the 50-foot ketch Intermezzo — Cape Town, South Africa, to the British Virgins — 5,800 nautical miles nonstop.

Favorite destination so far: Tossup between Magdalena Bay, Svalbard, at 79°34’60” N and 10°58’0” E, and Hanavave Bay, Fatu Hiva, in the Marquesas Islands.

Place you still want to get to on your own bottom: South Georgia Islands.

Favorite nautical book: Rockwell Kent, Voyaging Southward From the Strait of Magellan.

Favorite nautical cause you support and why: Anything that works to ban personal watercraft being operated near other vessels.

Favorite quote about the sea:

“I must go down to the sea again

For the call of the running tide

It’s a wild call and a clear call

that may not be denied.”

— John Masefield

This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue.