Saturday, April 23, 2016

PHOENIX: Open letter from new owner, Capt. Naomi Reynolds

Open Letter to Family, Friends, Phoenix of Hiroshima fans, and anyone else who may be reading this,


As many of you know, my grandfather, Earle Reynolds, went to Japan to study the after-effects of atomic radiation on children.  His wife (Barbara) and two younger children (Ted and Jessica) went with him.  They all developed a horror of war in general and of atomic weapons in particular.

At the same time, he had a 50-foot sailing yacht built for him and his family.  They spent years sailing around the globe, including into the Pacific islands nuclear test zone as a nuclear-weapons protest during the time of US atomic weapons testing.  You can read more about the Phoenix, Earle, and Barbara on Wikipedia.

I grew up hearing stories about the Phoenix.  Not just the anti-war stories, but all the stories -- about the Galapagos tortoise named Jonathan Mushmouth for his sloppy eating habits, about being blown off course (and the maps) and having to extrapolate from the available star charts, about crossing the international dateline and having a birthday two days in a row.  I always dreamed of having adventures like my father, Ted, had with the Phoenix.  Unfortunately, by the time I came around, the boat was no longer in the family, and her whereabouts were unknown to us … until recently.


Thanks in part to a curious and persistent reporter (Mike Fitzgerald of RecordNet), the Phoenix has been found.  She is currently sunk in the North Mokulumne River, near Isleton, California.  I hired a boat salvage company, Parker Diving and Salvage, and one of their divers went looking for the Phoenix last Tuesday.  I know many of you want details and specifics, so I will quote from the report that I received.

“Vessel is sunk in 25 feet of water.  Vessel is resting on its side.  It is not sunk in the mud and there is not very much mud inside.  The rudder is intact although the propeller and shaft are gone.  There is a large bow eye that APPEARS to be sturdy.  Some dry rot is felt.  There are 3 or 4 hatches but only one hatch cover; the rest are missing.  There are six straps (mast tie downs) on each side of hull 2” x ½”.  The diver cannot detect any popped planks.  There is some patchwork felt on the bottom of the vessel.  There is not much debris in or around vessel.”

Basically, this is pretty good news, in terms of the relative difficulty or ease in raising her:  she is pretty intact, she is not stuck in the mud, she is not full of heavy debris.  The task is made a little more difficult by the fact that she is lying on her side, but other than that things look good.  The estimate I got for raising her and towing her to a dry dock is approximately $17,000.


Right now, the most pressing need is for funds to raise the Phoenix, before she becomes more seriously damaged or becomes embedded in the mud.  I have set up a separate bank account for any donations, as well as a separate mail box.  I am pursuing several options for donations, large and small.  Unfortunately, several other possibilities have already turned out to be dead ends.  If anyone reading this has any suggestions for organizations that might be able to help, please let me know.  Types of organizations that might be interested include peace groups, sailing groups, and historical groups.  Alternatively, if you wish to send a donation yourself, it would be greatly appreciated.  The mailing address is The Phoenix, c/o Naomi Reynolds, 150 East F. Street, Suite L147, Oakdale, CA 95361.  At this time, checks need to be made payable to me.  This may change in the future.  If you wish to email mail me with suggestions or comments, my email address is

Once sufficient funds are raised, Parker Diving will raise the Phoenix and tow her to a dry dock.  The current default facility is Ladd’s Marine in Stockton, which is fairly close and has expertise in wooden boats.  However, this decision has not yet been finalized.  If anyone reading this can recommend another facility in the central California or  San Francisco Bay area, I would appreciate it.  It would need to be a place that has experience with wooden boats and can handle a 50-footer.  I am hoping that there might be someone who would be willing to do this for a discount, given the historic nature of this boat. 

I could also use some volunteers.  Does anyone know about setting up a charitable organization (503(c))?  Is anyone good at fundraising?  Can anyone make us a website?  Any other suggestions?  Email me at  (If you put “Phoenix” in the subject line, it will help me keep all my emails straight!)

Thank you all so much for your interest in the Phoenix. 


Naomi Reynolds

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