In the 1950s, the Reynolds family consisted of Dr. Earle Reynolds, a professor of physical anthropology (otherwise known as Daddy), his wife Barbara Reynolds ("Mummy"), a housewife and an author, mostly of children's books, and their three children: Tim, Ted, and Jessica. (That's me.)
Daddy had been sent by our Atomic Energy Commission to do a 3-year study on the effects of the A-bomb on Japanese children. In his spare time, he designed and built a 50-foot yacht. She was christened "Phoenix of Hiroshima" and launched in 1954. Daddy took a sabbatical and the Phoenix took our family (except for Tim, who went back to the States for college) and three Japanese yachtsmen around the world. I was 10 when we started the trip. Ted was 16.
Our voyage was for pleasure and ended up taking almost 4 years. We arrived back in Honolulu with just one more leg to get to Hiroshima and make the circumnavigation official. But it was 1958 and the United States was testing atmospheric nuclear tests on and around the Marshall Islands, between us and Japan. Our government had declared 390,000 square miles of the Pacific ocean off-limits to American citizens. Our necessary route back to Japan (winds, currents, time of year) went right through this zone.
Four American men in Golden Rule, a small yacht down the dock from us were preparing to sail into the zone as an anti-nuclear protest. On June 4, on their way out of the harbor, they were intercepted by the Coast Guard, brought back and jailed.
Now our own voyage took on a more serious purpose. My father was an expert on the damage radiation causes. He knew even nuclear tests release death into the air and sea currents around the planet--and he believed somebody ought to do something about it. He was a scientist and at that point he also became an activist.
Our family and our Hiroshiman first mate sailed from Honolulu bound for Hiroshima and on July 1 we entered the test zone to protest the testing of nuclear weapons. Three years later we would sail from Japan to the USSR for the same reason. . . Later Dad would sail through the 7th Fleet, protesting the Vietnam War by taking humanitarian supplies to the Red Cross in Haiphong.
The Golden Rule and Phoenix were only together for those few weeks in 1958. They changed owners. The crew members lost touch with each other. Some of them died.
Then, in 2010, out of the blue, both boats were found separately 225 miles apart--on the coast of northern California. The Golden Rule had been abandoned, her masts gone, with a hole in her side, lying on a beach in northern California. Almost at the same time, an ad for the Phoenix appeared on Craig's List, "FREE: 50-foot yacht." Her masts were gone. The man who answered the ad towed her up the Sacramento River to work on her, hit a dock which gashed a hole in her side. She sank. He abandoned her.
The Golden Rule was restored by Veterans for Peace (http://vfpgoldenruleproject.org/ ) and re-launched into Humboldt Bay, California in 2015.
The Phoenix is still at the bottom of the Mokelumne River off Tyler Island in northern California. In her day she changed our family's lives and then thousands of other lives. We hope she will change thousands more. This boat gets into the blood and imagination of everyone who comes to know about her.
But first we have to get her out of the river. A small but swelling group of us is trying to get the word out, get set up as a non-profit so donations can be tax-deductible and raise interest and money to restore the Phoenix as a (mobile) historical monument. There is lots of enthusiasm to see the Phoenix rise over the next 4 years, to sail with the Golden Rule again for a nuclear-free world.
Following posts about The Reynolds Family, The Nuclear Age, and a Brave Wooden Boat are current updates about her condition and progress on restoring her.
To be added to our email list for updates on Raising the Phoenix, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. We also have a Twitter account at https://twitter.com/RaisethePhoenix and hope to be on Facebook soon.
Jessica Reynolds Shaver Renshaw
Phoenix of Hiroshima, 1954-64