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Robert Paradise Interview

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Robert Paradise, of Scarsdale, New York, has lived a nautical life rich in experience. He’s sailed the seven seas as part of the U.S. Navy, completed transatlantic voyages onboard pleasure craft, and even helped design a yacht that went into production as her own line. He spoke to Senior Editor Kevin Koenig about what’s he’s learned, what he’s seen, and why he’s got no intention to slow down.

Robert Paradise

Power & Motoryacht: I understand you have some experience with designing boats?
PARADISE: Yes well, the boat we had before our current boat was a 35-foot Albin. My wife took issue with it because she didn’t like cruising with another couple if we only had one head. So I got talking with Fred Peters, who owns Albin, and I told him I wanted a boat with two heads, and as luck would have it he had one on the drawing board. I knew him pretty well by then, and he invited me to help design the interior. So we went in on a joint effort to create a new boat for Albin. We decided this would be the number one hull in a new class for them. Sparkman & Stephens did the hull. I originally tried to get two heads into a 40-foot boat but I couldn’t do it. It went all the way up to a 46 to get the heads. That’s the boat I own now. It was completed in ’08, right as the boating market died. It actually ended up being the only hull in the line, though as far as I know Albin is ready and willing to build more.

Power & Motoryacht: Why did they let you design it? Did you have some expertise?
PARADISE: I’m the only customer I know of that he extended that offer to. I guess he knew I was knowledgeable. I had it drawn out on graph paper, which of course is two-dimensional. So they’d take that and pop it into three dimensions and sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. The galley was a big thing. I wanted it up, they wanted it down. It ended up being midway, two steps up and two steps down. Building a boat seems to go that way sometimes.

Power & Motoryacht: How’d you get to that level of knowledge? What’s your boating background?
PARADISE: Well for one I was in the Navy for five years; from 1956 to 1961. I just missed Korea, and got out before the embargos and everything. If you wanted to pick five years to have no conflict that was my five years.

I’ve been doing this a long time. A while ago you featured a guy in this column who was talking about how you get two yardsticks, 72 years [see After Word, January 2014] but I’m well past that. I’ll be 80 this year and I have no plans for stopping.

Power & Motoryacht: Duly noted! Did the Navy teach you anything about boating that you still apply?
PARADISE: Sure. Rules of the Road for one, and a love of the water. I was on a radar picket ship and we were at sea all the time. I was the navigator so I knew celestial navigation. Back then there was just LORAN for navigation, which wasn’t all that great, so if you knew celestial navigation you were a pretty popular guy to have onboard I’ll tell ya. It still comes in handy actually.

Power & Motoryacht: How’s that?
PARADISE: Back in ’02 one of the guys I knew from one of the boards I served on had a boat built in London, and we took it from London around the North Sea to Spain, down to Portugal, to Grand Canary, and then at the end of November we took the boat from Grand Canary to St. Lucia. It was a 55-foot sloop, six people onboard. I served as navigator and maintenance. A trip like that everybody says they want to go. But when it comes time to go, everybody has a pretty good reason why they can’t. 

Power & Motoryacht: Wow, that’s pretty cool. What are some of the things you would tell someone with less boating 

experience than you?
PARADISE: Start small. I know a few people who got a bunch of dough all of a sudden and they get a big boat and it ends in disaster. You gotta get your feet on the ground, y’know? And also figure out what you really want to do with a boat. Daytime cruising, trips, or what? Also take courses. You can pick up a ton of information at them. I still take them. I took one last year. There’s always something. You think you know everything and you don’t. You’d be surprised.

Oh one more thing, when you’re docking—and really with most things—it’s always better to take it slow.

This article originally appeared in the May 2014 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.