The rebuilding of Golden Rule, the first protest boat
Ocean Navigator|September - October 2020
It’s a misty day in the photo and the sand is brownish gray, setting off the white paint of the derelict hull as if the boat were lit by a ray of sunshine.
Ann Hoffner

She had sunk after being battered by a storm while tied to pilings nearby. No name shows on her transom and her wooden sides are stove in, her insides a mess. Two days later, the boat was hauled out by Leroy Zerlang of Zerlang & Zerlang Marine Services on Humboldt Bay in Northern California. Zerlang specializes in resurrecting wooden boats — and a shipwright said she could be repaired, but renovation is an expensive proposition without a fixed end. Had she been an ordinary yacht, this would have been her end. But this was the sailboat Golden Rule, the first boat to try to sail into an H-bomb testing area to protest nuclear weapons in 1958. Fifty-two years after exiting the known world, Golden Rule had reappeared.

Zerlang knew enough of her history to be intrigued and send out feelers for funding. The call was answered by Veterans for Peace, a group founded in 1985 by U.S. veterans concerned about the global nuclear arms race. Its mission to build “a culture of peace” by nonviolent means fits the beliefs of the Quakers who first sailed Golden Rule.

Based on Sea Witch

Golden Rule is an A-30 Alpha ketch designed and built by Hugh Angelman and Charles Davies in Los Angeles in 1957. The A-30 is a smaller version of Sea Witch, a beamy clipper-bowed, 36-foot, gaff-rigged ketch that won the Transpac race in 1951. The Sea Witch design is still in use in the cruising community, especially on the South Pacific run where the design works well for trade wind sailing. Herb “Dynamite” Payson owned a Sea Witch, about which he wrote his cruising books.

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