©REESE PALLEY from GOOD OLD BOAT June, 2000
Good Old Boat Interview
(Questions by Michelle Potter)
At the request of Karen Larson, the editor of Good Old Boat magazine, I
would like to conduct a brief e-mail interview with you. Unfortunately, I
won't be able to travel down to Key West to do the interview in person. My
husband and I are setting sail on Moondancer, the 34-foot boat we built in
our (oversized) garage. We're trying to head north before the hurricanes
start hitting Florida.
Here are my questions. Take them with a grain of salt. I have about 1000
words to sum up your amazing adventures (which is impossible), but I'll do
the best I can. The theme of the article is contained in questions # 2 &
3, the other questions are mainly for background information.
(MP) How old were you when you started sailing? How were you introduced to
sailing? What do you remember about your first sailing experience?
(Reese) About 35. At the time I was up to my armpits in people. Buyer, seller, wives, lovers, kids, lawyers and the whole panoply of other folk who need something from you. We lived by a quiet enclosed bay in New Jersey and in a blind attempt to save something of me for me I bought a little sailboat. I thought that I was seeking adventure but I found something so much more valuable.....solitude.
My first summer on my boat was spent with my jib sheeted to windward.....I was too proud to ask and, with hubricity, I was certain that I could figure it out for myself....actually you only really learn to sail by sailing.
(MP)How did you reach the decision to spend your retirement on a
boat? What were your expectations when you set off in Unlikely VII?
(Reese) I never retired...I quit my business after 20 years when I had a stroke of financial luck. I bought a 32 footer and discovered in me a need to cross an ocean...an enormous conceit since I really knew nothing about sailing. My initial discovery was that it is easier to contemplate the 3000 miles ahead than the 100 miles astern. You kind of get into the habit of going on and a reluctance to face the land and its toxicity. Later I learned that Moitessier
went around again rather than deal with the prospect of fame and admiration.
Expectations??? I think that I had a vague and formless expectaation that, at sea, I would discover somedthing of value in myself.
(MP) In your prologue to Unlikely Passages, you address the idea of older
people going to sea. What is it about sailing that an older person might
enjoy more than a younger person? Other than meeting fascinating people,
losing weight, avoiding pollutants, and keeping mentally sharp, what will
an older person get out of cruising? (Why not just stay home and putt
around the golf course or plant a few more shrubs in the garden?)
(Reese) Putting around the golf course is my idea of nothing to do...well not exactly...it is my idea of death. Why die before your time? I never use the word 'older' That is a cop out....when we get OLD, we need to use that unsavory condition in a manner that exceeds the young.
We are perforce slower and weaker than the young apes and since sailing needs neither speed nor excessive muscle....we can sail forever. The real attraction of sailing for an old guy (or gal) is that there is essentially no end....Chichester sailed his last circumnavigation and achieved his first 200 mile day alone in a 55 footer dying of cancer.
(MP) How many years were you an art dealer? About 20 years Is there any relationship
between your former life as an art dealer and your current life as a sailor
(Reese) None...except in the arrogant conviction that I could succeed against the two most dangerous competitors of all...the Art Mafia and the Sea.
(MP) In what order were your books written? Are you working on a new book
at this time? (Do you want to drop any hints about the subject matter?)
(Reese)The Porcelein Art of Edward Marshall Boehm, Unlikely Passages, There Be No Dragons, Unlikely People.
A MS tentatively titled 23 THINGS TO DO WITH AN OLD HUSBAND is awaiting the generosity of a publisher.
Presently we, Marilyn (to whom I am husband) and I, are in Denmark compiling an encyclypedia (How the hell do you spell that) of 20th Century Danish furniture.
(MP) Do you still sail? Do you still cruise? Do you have any sailing or
cruising goals that you would like to share with our readers?
(Reese) I cannot conceive of ending my sailing life. UNLIKELY was beaten about by Hurricane Georges and has had a year long refit. We were in preparation for a passage to retrace the death of Fantome in Hurricane Mitch, for which I had been gathering material for a book, when the summons to Denmark arrived.
(MP) What is your favorite memory of cruising or sailing? (And, no, I don't
know if my editor will print,
The Night Betty Dumped on My Persian Rug. :-)
(Reese) My favorite memory is of dropping anchor in a quite cove in the Gulf of Suez on Christmas Eve with a very pregnant lady aboard and looking up to the East where a bright star shone. For a moment we were the Magi (Let me add that I am totally without religion but I am terminally romantic.)
(MP) Other than sailing and writing, what else do you do to keep a finger on
the pulse of the sailing community? What is it about the people in the
sailing community that you find so appealing?
(Reese) Other than an occasional talk to sailing groups....not much. The whole purpose of sailing to me is to create distance from people...even from other sailors.
(MP) Do you have children who sail? Do you sail with them?
(Reese) My son is a fine sailor...the girls do not sail. There have been occasions when I have sailed with them....but not entirely successfully.
(MP) Have you ever built a boat, taught a sailing class or done some other
nautically-related activity that could be covered in a short bio?
(Reese) In a summer of profound discontent I bought a wreck of a 26 footer and dissipated my personal pain in making her whole. That was the same summer that I undertook to teach sailing.....my system of teaching is to admonish my student to closely observe where the wind is coming from. After that I usually doze off.
(MP) Any other thoughts?
(Reese) Sure...a million of them...what did you have in mind? At 79 I am somewhat interested in dying but much more interested in what curious project will I ('we' I should say) be involved in next year.
(MP) Thank you for your time.