|Phoenix in San Francisco, 2007|
The first time he offered me the boat was after he and Akie sailed from Japan to California in 1967. I was in Multnomah Bible College in Portland, Oregon, living in a dorm. I had no way to keep a yacht.
Again when he and Akie settled in a cabin among the redwoods near Santa Cruz, California, he offered me the boat. I was married and living in Long Beach then, with two children. He offered me the Phoenix and I believe he offered it to each of my brothers.
I thought we all said no. Ted says Earle actually promised, in a casual sort of way, it would be his someday.
For a long time she was docked at Moss Landing, south of San Francisco. Finally, Dad told me, he sold her to another American family with two kids and dreams of sailing around the world. Once or twice my husband Jerry and I drove past Moss Landing and I strained in vain to see a double-ended wooden ketch among the other boats. I knew I would recognize her anywhere.
Jerry and I couldn’t seriously consider taking on the responsibility for a boat, even the Phoenix. Neither of us knew how to sail. I had kept a journal and kept the cats warm. I knew the points of the compass, the names of a few stars, how to make a few knots. I could tell a yawl from a schooner and the boom from the bilge. I knew ropes were called “lines” and the tires we put out to keep from bumping into docks and other boats were fenders, not bumpers. I’d made baggywrinkle to keep the sails from chafing against the halyards. That hardly qualified me to sail and maintain a 30-ton yacht.
I didn’t consider taking over her care but suddenly I had an intense desire to see the Phoenix again. I had grown up with her. She had been my home for ten years. She had taken our family safely around the world and into two nuclear test zones.
Besides my personal connection to the boat, this boat mattered. Historically, she had made a difference. For her place in working toward world peace, she had been declared a Japanese national shrine. The Hiroshima city bus line had changed its route to include her. Several times a day, we used to hear demure, white-gloved conductresses announcing into a microphone, “Here is the famous anti-nuclear yacht!” The Phoenix was officially declared a god.
So Jerry and I drove up to San Francisco.
I only recognized her from the words “Phoenix of Hiroshima” on her hull. Her masts were gone and her bow-and sternsprits. There was some kind of clear coating, with a gritty texture, on her decks.
Below she had been gutted. All the bunks were gone. Clutter had been stuffed into what had been the captain’s cabin in the stern. Nothing was left but the head and the beautiful original wood paneling. In the center of the ship, where the main cabin and galley had been, there was a monstrous diesel engine.
When Jerry and I turned her down, LeeAnn put her on craigslist: "FREE: 50-foot yacht."