Hollywood veteran Gene Hackman has an enjoyable way of unwinding between making movies - sailing around the world.

The actor, who is currently preparing to sail his boat from Florida to the Panama Canal with wife BETSY ARAKAWA, developed an ocean devotion 10 years ago when he was making The Firm with Tom Cruise.

Gene and Betsy began scuba lessons for his underwater scene in the 1993 flick and were so fascinated by the experience it literally changed both their lives.

Betsy has become a top underwater photographer, whose work was part of a travelling exposition put on in Japan by Steven Spielberg and NORMAN SCHWARZKOPF to benefit multiple sclerosis charities last year (02). The screen star ended up writing a diving adventure novel set in the 19th century, WAKE OF THE PERDIDO STAR, with America's FOREST SERVICE's chief marine biologist DANIEL LENIHAM.

The Hackmans have ventured to such exotic locales as Truk Island in Micronesia, where they explored the remains of World War II Japanese ships.