A dozen veterans and other Santa Barbara citizens gathered at the front landing of the Maritime Museum Thursday afternoon to hail the arrival of the Golden Rule, a 57-year-old wooden sailing vessel restored recently by the Veterans For Peace as part of an anti-nuclear campaign.
The boat’s visit from September 1-4 was the first of six planned stops on a coastal voyage from San Diego back up to its home port in Humboldt Bay. The crew of four, captained by veteran and competitive sailor Ron Cole, sails in the name of nuclear disarmament, with a mission to “encourage dialogue with the rest of the world to reduce and eventually end nuclear arms,” according to crewmember Helen Jaccard.
The ship’s original sail began and ended in 1958, when a group of anti-nuclear activists steered her from the San Pedro Harbor toward the Marshall Islands to disrupt nuclear weapons testing by the United States government in the Pacific Ocean. Once the Golden Rule reached Hawaii, the U.S. Coast Guard managed to board the ship and arrest the entire crew, to later be tried and jailed in Honolulu.
The 30-foot wooden sailboat resurfaced in late 2010 after a coastal storm drove it to the Zerlang and Zerlang Marine Services Boat Yard in Samoa, a small town on the Humboldt Bay. Leroy and Dalene Zerlang reached out to the Smithsonian Institution and the Quakers, who informed them of the ship’s historic value. Soon after, the Quakers launched a campaign with Veterans For Peace to have it restored.
The restoration team, led by coordinator Chuck DeWitt and master shipwright David Peterson, worked tirelessly aboard the Golden Rule’s decks for four years to finish the work. Wood sculptor Michael Gonzalez, who joined the effort in mid 2012, stood before the maritime museum on Thursday as a living testament to the labor required by the project. He and Captain Cole spoke briefly, after encouragement by Jaccard, and the crew accepted a $500 donation from the local Veterans For Peace chapter to continue the Golden Rule’s mission.
The peace vessel is currently docked in Morro Bay and will continue to Monterey Bay on Wednesday. Its journey will total around six weeks in length, with a change in captains at the San Francisco Bay. The crew accepts donations online at vfpgoldenruleproject.org.