We named Reese in part after the world-famous sailor and author, Reese Palley. This is an article I wrote but never sold about the how and why:


Recently my wife and I had a son.  As the new father I took on the commission of selecting a name for this new human being.  Even though I’d named two daughters rather successfully, I felt only slightly qualified for this momentous and significant task.  A name is not just a label.  It colors the life of the anointed one perhaps as much as skin tone or religion.  My choice had to be relevant, unique but not bizarre, masculine but not testosterone-laden.  Should I name this little guy after my father, a man I love and respect, or after a lost brother?  Somehow looking to the past for inspiration seemed counterintuitive.  Here was this new life, a boy-child who at the age of 96 will witness the unimaginable world of 2100 AD.  A name looking to the future, to dreams, to the celebration of life, seemed more appropriate.  The names of great thinkers, dignified scientists, gifted authors and profound philosophers leapt to mind.  Richard Feynman, Carl Sagan, Ray Bradbury, Albert Einstein, Mark Twain, and Arthur C. Clarke were only a sampling of the possibilities.  Each and every one were exceptional candidates.
Like diamonds on black velvet the names glittered at me.  How to select amongst so many sparkling choices the one diamond that fit our setting?
Then I started to think about connections.
My wife and I would appear to most observers to be normal suburbanite dwellers.  We have a nice home near the water, good jobs with large corporations, a couple of lawn mowers, a mortgage, even a minivan; all the trappings of modern society.  Upon closer inspection one would discover a hidden agenda.  The first clue might be the bookshelves lined with sailing books; dozens and dozens of dog-eared volumes.  Another clue lies in the allocation of our combined incomes, half of which goes into something called a “cruising kitty”.  Not half our budget, but half our income.  Then there are the vacations, wrested from the corporations each year, spent on sailboats in warmer climes in order to gain much-valued experience.  Someone looking closely would see a pattern emerge, a blueprint for escape.  Our raison d'être is to escape the routine; to flee the benign but deadly numbness of suburbia for a life afloat on our own boat.  A chance to live life next to nature instead of insulated from it by the tinted windows and paved acres of the city.  A chance to show this new person we’re responsible for a balanced, rational look at the world into which he’s been thrust.  A life free of Playstations and the incessant mindless rattle of what so many call “entertainment”.  A name reflecting that dream, those goals, would be ideal.  A name that connected this new little man to the remarkable sailing tradition of “cruising” would be perfect.
The advent of cruising whereby a man or a family sets sail to explore the world is a relatively recent event.  Only since the end of World War Two has it emerged as a lifestyle for a few plucky individuals.  Even now with the availability of fiberglass hulls and high technology only a few hardy souls out of the world’s teeming millions choose to cruise.  Most, to their eternal loss, prefer their experiences with nature to be displayed on a high definition wide screen.  It is the few who made the conscious choice to brave the elements and risk their financial stability so that they might experience a life of adventure and challenge whom I most admire and respect, from the first intrepid explorers in their creaky wooden hulls to the contemporary escapees from modern suburbia afloat in gleaming fiberglass.  Because I sought a connection with our dream I discarded the many names I had listed except for those who sailed as cruisers.
But that winnowing still left many diamonds on the black velvet from which to choose.  Names any sailor would recognize.  Names that evoke both the freedom of the sea and the character of the men who sailed her.  The choices ranged from the early pioneers; Bernard Moitessier, Joshua Slocum, Sterling Hayden, Hal Roth, Eric Hiscock and Tristan Jones to the more modern wanderers; Reese Palley, Herb Payson, Bob Bitchin, Peter Hancock, Jim Moore and Larry Pardey; with yet dozens more from which to choose.

The name Tristan was first to mind.  A better example of pure grit, independence and determination is not to be found.  Tristan was also one of the first authors I discovered as my sailing interests grew so he holds a special place in my heart.  But Tristan didn’t quite fit our little man.  I wanted a name that clicked like a key in a lock so I pondered further.  The name Reese moved to center stage.  Reese Palley was another early discovery when I found his first book, “Unlikely Passages” in a used bookstore back about 1985.  Reese Palley circumnavigated the Earth over a twenty year period after he was 50, giving great hope to guys like me who discovered sailing later in life and have yet to unshackle ourselves from the intricacies of modern life.  Mr. Palley’s writings convey the indefinable and wondrous attitude that life is a grand adventure and so must be consumed like some fantastic and astonishing meal; something I hope to inculcate in my new son.
Not only does the name evoke the elusive attitude I was looking for the name Reese has its own historical and enigmatic connections.  Reese Palley knew Tristan Jones, for instance, who met Bernard Moitessier, who knew Sterling Hayden.  Men who were making cruising history in the narrow spectrum of time from before I was born till past when I was sitting in a high school classroom.  Just to have been alive while the great names in cruising were sailing is, historically, an extraordinary coincidence.  It thrills me to think that I could have met any of these now-famous names from my books if only perhaps I’d been in the right place at the right time.  (I should have cut that geography class in high school and hitchhiked to Thailand to meet Tristan while he was alive.)  I like the notion that through this selection of a name there is, perhaps, the most tenuous bit of connection with some of cruising’s great pioneers to my son.
Maybe, just maybe, someday as Reese looks through my faded library he’ll feel that elusive connection swirl about him, a glisk of the wonder and freedom of the sea; he’ll hear the swish of turquoise blue against the hull and feel the pull of far shores like so many before him.


We wrote Reese Palley a letter telling him that we named our kid after him, which seemed to surprise him somewhat. He wrote us back a really nice letter. You'll want to know this:

Definition of: remis velisque

remis velisque: With oars and sails; with all one's might.