Many hangdog old boats docked out in the Delta look abandoned and worthless. But some hulks bear fascinating histories, even historical importance.

The Phoenix of Hiroshima, for instance. A 50-foot double-end ketch – a sailboat – the boat played a significant role in American pacifist history.  For that reason, numerous institutions and individuals across the country want to restore and enshrine the Phoenix. The problem is, the Phoenix has disappeared.

Though long tied up on the Sacramento River, and on the North Fork Mokelumne, nobody can find the boat. Or its last known owner.

“There’s a whole onslaught of people now who are trying to find her,” said Leeann Roxx of Guerneville, a former owner. “Because she’s such a historical vessel.”

What is that history?   In the early 1950s, the Atomic Energy Commission sent anthropologist Earle L. Reynolds to study the effects of radiation on Hiroshima’s children. Reynolds took along his family.  While in Hiroshima, the Reynolds family commissioned construction of the Phoenix. A sampan builder on the Sea of Japan built the boat and launched it in 1954.

The Reynoldses and several other sailors embarked on a four-year pleasure cruise around the world.  They got as far as Honolulu on their way back to Japan, but found their way blocked. The U.S. was conducting nuclear tests in the Bikini Atoll. A vast swath of the Pacific was off limits.

On the docks of Honolulu, the Reynoldses met a group of Quaker pacifists. The Quakers had sailed toward the test zone in protest. Uncle Sam turned them back.  Deeply impressed, the Reynoldses, too, decided to sail into the test zone in protest. On July 1, 1958, they sailed the Phoenix into the forbidden waters.  The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted them 65 miles inside it. Reynolds was arrested, ushered out by destroyer escort (!) and tried in Honolulu.

Perhaps because Earle Reynolds was a leading radiation authority, the protest and trial made global headlines. Reynolds became a world-famous pacifist.  His conviction was reversed on appeal.

The Phoenix became venerated in Japan. The Reynoldses sailed on another protest voyage, to Russia. But ultimately, the Reynoldses divorced.  Earle and his new wife, expelled from Japan for their political activities, sailed to Hanoi, to Shanghai and finally to Moss Landing.  Ultimately, they sold the Phoenix, which changed hands a couple of times.

A man named John Gardner of Lodi took it. A recovering drug addict, Gardner announced big plans to restore the vessel and sally forth on new humanitarian missions.  It never happened. The boat languished near Isleton and Walnut Grove.

Recently, interest in the Phoenix surged. Numerous prospective buyers contacted Roxx. A Bay Area writer expressed interest in writing a book about it.  “We would love to have it here,” said Jim Boland, director of the Peace Resource Center of Wilmington College of Ohio. “And I have the perfect place for it.”

But Gardner has gone incommunicado.  And the boat has disappeared, perhaps into a Delta backwater, or drydock, or somewhere ashore.

“I did see it,” reported Mark Marias, owner of Giusti’s restaurant on the North Fork Mokelumne River. “It was up in the Sacramento River. Then it moved here.”     Then it sailed to parts unknown.

“We have a number of people who are going up the Sacramento River looking for it,” said Jessica Renshaw, the 66-year old daughter of Earle Reynolds.

So, for the time being, the Phoenix of Hiroshima is the Flying Dutchman of the Delta. “It’s a shame,” said Boland. “We’d love to have it. And in the perfect world, we would.”

 Here is a link to a photo that I think you may enjoy! Check it out:

Excerpt from the Stockton Record

Update!   Boat Found – Sunk: