After 17 months being built, Phoenix of Hiroshima was launched at high tide on May 5, 1954. A Shinto priest blessed the boat, Barbara Reynolds christened her with a bottle of champagne across her bow, and she slid into the Inland Sea of Japan, promptly ramming a small sampan whose occupants were crossing her path to get a better view from the other side. A “sympathy” payment requested by the sampan owner and agreed upon by Captain Earle Reynolds of the Phoenix restored everyone’s celebratory mood.
After a few weeks of practice sailing on the Inland Sea, the crew of seven–the Reynolds family and three Japanese yachtsmen, none of whom had ever sailed anything larger than 18′ or been to sea, aimed the 50′ ketch toward Hawaii, 4,000 miles away. Earle and Barbara’s son Ted, 16, taught himself navigation successfully enough to connect with the Hawaiian Islands 47 days later–on his first try.
Dr. Reynolds had told reporters, as well as the Japanese Coast Guard and the U.S. Navy, that he expected the Phoenix’s maiden voyage to Hawaii to take at least 45 days. He let them know there was a radio on board which could receive broadcasts but had no way of transmitting or responding. The passengers and crew of the Phoenix would be out of touch that whole time, and Reynolds told them not to expect to hear from them until they arrived. Still, Honolulu reporters, anxious for a story, reported them lost before the 45 days were up and then sold more papers when they declared her “found” upon her arrival a few days later.
Five months after thoroughly enjoying new friends and experiences in Hawaii, the Reynolds family with Nick, Mickey and Moto, headed south. By contrast with the rough, stormy weather of the maiden voyage, the trade winds in the South Seas made for idyllic sailing–to Tahiti, Moorea, Raiatea, Tahaa and Bora Bora in the Society Islands; Rarotonga, American Samoa, Fiji. From there they sailed to New Zealand (Auckland and Wellington); west to Australia (Sydney, the Great Barrier Reef, Cairns) and Indonesia (Bali, Java).
They weathered a typhoon off the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, touched in at Rodriguez and Mauritius and changed course to round the tip of South Africa (Durban, Cape Town) rather than go through the Mediterranean during the Suez crisis; Brazil (Fortaleza); the east coast of the United States from New York, then south to the West Indies. Two of the three Japanese men flew back to Japan from Panama. First mate Niichi (Nick) Mikami remained with the Phoenix.
The Reynoldses and Nick Mikami proceeded through the Panama Canal to the Galapagos Islands, on to the Marquesas and back to Hawaii. After 649 days at sea, 122 ports and 54,359 nautical miles (100,000 km), the Phoenix once again sailed into Honolulu harbor.
Here their pleasure cruise took on a more serious note, becoming a voyage of protest.