Thursday, May 19, 2016

PHOENIX and GOLDEN RULE (5) Bert Bigelow's perspective

     In his book, The Voyage of the Golden Rule: An Experiment in Truth, Golden Rule skipper Albert Bigelow writes of meeting us (abridged), "While we were in jail awaiting trial a new yacht had come in. She was a husky, fifty-foot ketch. She had a weather-beaten, hard-working look, as if she had been to sea for a long time. She had. She had just completed a round-the-world passage. Her name was Phoenix. . .
     "The Reynolds had gathered from our trial that, while we were not grim about it, our voyage was in earnest; a deadly serious affair. Perhaps they'd had little chance to see the joy of our adventure. One of our first meetings with them took place aboard Phoenix shortly after the trial. We were still at the formal stage where Earle and I were addressing each other as 'Captain.' They invited us aboard for coffee. Jessica Reynolds is now fourteen, she is pretty and petite, she is eager, lively, joyous, and feminine. After about five minutes we went below and laid aft to a small cabin. The bulkheads and even the overhead were hung with all kinds of souvenirs from all over the world. Jessica stayed in the galley with her mother to prepare the coffee. She leaned over and hissed in her mother's ear, 'Mommy, Mommy. . . they have senses of humor!'
     "Niichi, or Nick Mikami, was the only one of the three Japanese yachtsmen still aboard Phoenix. He is a sensitive and intelligent man. He speaks English quite well and, as we were to find out, always with a plain, forthright clarity.
     "Ted is tall and slim with curly dark hair. We had interesting discussions about navigation.
     "Barbara has bright blue eyes, clear-cut features, gray hair brushed closely back along the sides and a small mouth that widens into a lovely smile. Her character is as lovely as her looks. Usually she is quiet, displaying a soft, tender simplicity; but she is strong, swift, and sure when aroused to defend what she feels is right and fair.
     "Earle Reynolds is alert and aware. He is not at all the absent-minded, unrealistic professor. He is slender, medium height, and has straight sandy hair, thinning on top. He wears gold-rimmed glasses. We had an affinity as skippers, we swapped and shared many yarns together.
     "Phoenix was bound for Hiroshima. They would have to sail within the next month and a half to get ahead of the typhoon season. The normal route for a sailing ship is not a straight line from Hawaii to Japan. To carry the trade winds as far as possible, it is necessary to head south to about fifteen degrees above the equator. Carrying one's westing about to the longitude of Guam, one can then strike up through the Carolines and Bonins toward Japan.
     "The bomb-test area, the zone now arbitrarily forbidden to U.S. citizens, lay right in the path of any sailing vessel bound from Honolulu to Hiroshima." [Note: Although the information was classified and not available at the time to sailors who needed to make a decision based on it, the last nuclear bomb of the Hardtack series would be exploded on August 18, about three months from this conversation, making our return to Japan that year without entering the zone impossible.]
     "The crew of Phoenix researched and caught up on scientific reports. They considered the role and right of conscience in this crisis. They weighed and analyzed the facts they had found. They were appalled.
     "But the crew of Phoenix were unable to remain mere observers. It had gone deeper than that. They were now face to face with evil. They were beginning to see that the responsibility was personal. It was a responsibility that could not be avoided. It was becoming clear that to stand by, to do nothing, was to consent, to collaborate, and to become guilty and evil.
     "And so they began critical reappraisal of the role they were to play. They were asking themselves: Are we here for a purpose? Have our backgrounds specially prepared us for that purpose? Do we have this boat, our beloved Phoenix, for a purpose? Is not the final leg of our ocean adventure a higher adventure? Are we not called perhaps to an adventure of the spirit?"

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