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Eight Bells: Herb Payson & Reese Palley

Two sailors whose writing brought much pleasure to SAIL readers over the years passed over the horizon this summer. Herb Payson, 88, was a musician and cruising sailor who sailed more than 45,000 miles around the Pacific with his wife, Nancy and their six children aboard the 36ft wooden sloop Sea Foam in the 1970s and early ‘80s. Their adventures were chronicled in many articles for SAIL and in several books. An excerpt from Blown Away, one of these books, appeared in the August 2015 issue of SAIL.

With their children grown, Herb and Nancy spent another 10 years cruising on the Crealock 34 Red Shoes before becoming inland sailors, towing their Catalina 25 to a number of lakes around the United States and Canada. Herb led a full and rich life and is survived by Nancy and numerous children, grandchildren and great-children.

Reese Palley, 93, art dealer and adventurer, made a great deal of money in commercial real estate before putting it to good use by buying a 46ft Ted Brewer-designed sloop and heading off on a 20-year circumnavigation. He was proud of his three sailing “firsts:” the first private sailboat allowed into China (1982), into Russia’s (now Ukraine's) Black Sea port of Odessa (1989) and into Romania (1990).

Always on the lookout for an opportunity during what he described as “possibly the world’s longest and slowest circumnavigation,” Palley engaged in some weird and wonderful business dealings. In Odessa, he bought four surplus submarines from the local mafia only to find they were under 150ft of water. He was conned into building two factories in China. In Romania he started the country’s first ad agency. In the Maldives, he founded an airline.

Never afraid of laughing at himself, Palley’s writings were humorous, irreverent, sometimes profane and always intolerant of mindsets and preconceptions that stifled the pursuit of adventure. His books included Call of the Ancient Mariner—Reese Palley’s Guide to a Long Sailing Life, still the best (and possibly only) book aimed at sailors over 60. Palley is survived by his wife, artist Marilyn Arnold Palley.

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