Restoring the Golden Rule

Remember the Golden Rule? In 1958 when retired U.S. Navy Captain Albert Bigelow tried to sail this 30-foot boat to the Marshall Islands, where the United States was conducting atmospheric tests of nuclear bombs, the arrests of his four-man Quaker crew launched a surge of anti-nuclear activism across the United States, contributing to the 1963 Partial Test Ban Treaty.

A half-century later, a new generation of nonviolent activists is promising to return the iconic ketch to the service of peace. The Golden Rule is holed up in the sand near Eureka, California, where restoration is underway by volunteers with Veterans For Peace. They hope to have her seaworthy by late summer. The plan is to sail the Golden Rule up and down the Pacific and Atlantic coasts, challenging the traditional display of military power known as Fleet Week. “She’s going to be a peace boat again, protesting nuclear radiation and the militarism of the USA,” says Fredy Champagne, an energetic Vietnam veteran who is coordinating the restoration effort.

He and other GIs-turned-pacifists have their work cut out for them. After dropping out of sight for more than four decades, the Golden Rule recently surfaced in northern California in sorry shape. She had a hole the size of a bathtub gaping in her hull, nine broken ribs, missing planking, and more. Several West Coast chapters of Veterans For Peace have banded together to raise funds for the restoration. They are well into the work of replacing the deck, building a new cabin, and installing the crew interior. Somehow the original sails, mainmast, gear, and hardware have been saved and are in usable condition, but the Golden Rule needs a marine engine, new or used.

Daunting as it is, the effort to make the Golden Rule seaworthy pales beside the challenge of eliminating war from the planet, says Champagne. The Golden Rule project aims to carry on the 1958 legacy of Bigelow and his crew. “In their challenge to nuclear weapons testing, they set a high bar for future activists to follow,”?says Champagne. “This boat deserves to sail the seas again and carry the message of peace, oppose violent conflict, and ignite new generations of activists.”

For information about the Golden Rule project, contact Veterans For Peace at P.O. Box 5097, Eureka, CA, 95502-5097 or visit