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Herb Payson crosses the bar

Oct 2, 2015

Longtime cruising sailor and author Herb Payson passed away on July 28, 2015. He was 88 years old.

Born in Cambridge, Mass., on May 14, 1927, he spent his youth in Falmouth, Maine, where he was a part of the large Payson family and found his love of being on the water with his brother Mike. At 18 he joined the Navy wanting to be a pilot, but WWII ended before he attained that goal.

He began playing piano at a young age and attended Yale, where he studied musical composition. He was a founding member of the university’s choral group Baker’s Dozen. He graduated from Yale with a bachelor’s in Music Composition and received his master’s at the New England Conservatory of Music. He then moved to California where he formed his own jazz trio and wrote commercials for Hollywood. 

Herb began cruising full time in 1973 aboard a 25-year-old, 36-foot-long wooden sailboat named Sea Foam and sailed 45,000 miles in 15 different countries throughout the Pacific. He and his wife Nancy sailed and explored the lakes of North America from Great Slave Lake in Canada to Sea of Cortez in Mexico, towing a sailboat behind a 32-foot RV. They sailed and lived on their boat Red Shoes, venturing as far as the Amazon River.

Herb began to write for SAIL magazine in a humorous and self-effacing style. He also wrote three books, dozens of articles for various magazines and was on the masthead of SAIL as contributing editor for 20 years. Upon coming ashore, he and Nancy built a house in Port Townsend where they lived together for the past 17 years. Herb was also a minority shareholder in Navigator Publishing, the parent company of Ocean Navigator. 

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