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Local members of the Veterans for Peace Chapter 22 and the Golden Rule Project sailed into the Garberville Rotary Club last week.

Humboldt Bay tugboat operator and master mariner Leroy Zerlang gave the audience some background on the Golden Rule and the project to restore the 30-foot Angelman-Davies gaff ketch built in Costa Rica in 1958.

During this period in history both the U.S. and the Soviet Union were conducting aboveground tests of nuclear weapons. A crew headed by former U.S. Naval Commander Albert Bigelow, set sail on the Golden Rule out of San Pedro in Southern California bound for the nuclear test zone at Eniwetok Atoll in the Marshall Islands. Bigelow and the crew of the Golden Rule were determined to bring attention to the radiation contamination caused by the clouds of radioactive fallout from these tests. Other crewmembers were William Huntington, George Willoughby, Orion Sherwood, and James Peck. They were all committed to non-violence and promoting peace.

But the Golden Rule and her ship never made it to the Marshalls. The crew were arrested and jailed in Hawaii while on their journey to protest the testing. Fortunately, due to others and these Veterans for Peace, the Limited Test Ban Treaty was put into effect in 1963 and is still working today to abolish weapons of mass destruction.

Very little is known about what happened to the Golden Rule after returning from Hawaii.


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The ketch was purchased by a Eureka doctor at one point and ended up moored temporarily to Zerlang's boat dock in Fairhaven until she broke loose during a winter storm.

Zerlang said, “I walked outside in the morning and she was just gone.” The ship had hit the dock and punctured a large hole in her side and sunk.

”We couldn't just leave her there at the bottom, so we pulled her out and up onto the beach,” he said.

That's when he did a little bit of research on her and found out she was famous. So, he advertised her for sale all over the place. Various organizations called him asking questions. Then, Fredy and Sherry Champagne showed up to check her out.

When Fredy asked how much it might cost to restore her, Zerlang told him, “$25,0000 and that's just to fix the hole in her side.”

Fredy and Sherry said they could raise the funds.

Zerlang said, “I've heard that over and over again. Hundreds of restoration projects start, but few ever finish. This one is going to be the rare exception. The Golden Rule is going to be a success.”

Many, many hours have been donated to work on the Golden Rule and she is 85% complete.

He commended the hard work of all the volunteers and said it was truly amazing how many people have worked on her. Once the whiskey plank, which is the last plank to go into the hull, was in place the group celebrated with a big party. But the work was not done by any means.

When it is completed it will be 60% original, 30-feet long and with the riggings 36-37 feet long. A crew of four can live on the boat, although it will be tight quarters. There are hopes that it will be ready to sail to the America's Cup in San Francisco in October, but that is a tall order at this point and there is still quite a bit to be done.

Zerlang said, “The dirty work is done. But we need around $20,000 to finish things off.”

He described the Golden Rule as, “A very strong, very small boat. She has a deep, lead keel weighing around 8,000-10,000 pounds. She is classified as a tall ship and is one of the best built boats on the entire west coast.”

The Golden Rule will belong to the Veterans for Peace Chapter 22 and will be used as an educational tool, much like the Lady Washington that has made many trips into the Humboldt Bay over the years. There are hopes she will one day return to Hawaii.

Plans are to take her around the United States on a peace mission to abolish war and promote peaceful diplomacy. She and her crew will travel up the coastlines and up the nation's waterways for people to see and learn about her history and to promote peace.

Champagne said they want to prevent any more of our kids being sent off to fight and lose their lives in a foreign country in an unnecessary war. 

If you would like to make a donation to the Golden Rule Project, send your payment to Veterans for Peace, Golden Rule Project, P.O. Box 352, Redway, CA 95560. Veterans for Peace is a 501 (c)(3) nonprofit organization.

photo caption:

REDWOOD TIMES PHOTO BY SUSAN GARDNER

Garberville Rotary Club president David Katz, left, with Leroy Zerlang, Fredy Champagne, Garberville Rotarian Jim Truitt, and Chuck DeWitt from the Golden Rule restoration project. (Not shown is master welder Dennis Miller who was also at the meeting.)