After four years of labor, the Golden rule floats once more. Photos by John Ross Ferrara
Hundreds of supporters looked on as Hiroshima bomb survivor Shigeko Sasamori drew back her bottle of champagne. The 83-year old sent it crashing into the ship’s bow, and for the first time in five years, the Golden Rule reeled back into Humboldt bay.
After a four-year effort to rebuild the sunken vessel, The Golden Rule was ceremoniously re-launched into the ocean this afternoon.
“I’m so honored to be here for the christening,” Sasamori said. “The ship has been brought back like a phoenix.”
The Golden Rule is renowned for its 1958 voyage to Marshall Island in an attempt to halt atmospheric nuclear weapons tests. The crew was arrested in Hawaii before they reached their destination. However, the act became a model for future peace vessels and directly inspired the organization Greenpeace.
Sally Willowbee, daughter of peace activist and 1958 crew member George Willoughby was a guest speaker at the re-launch. Willowbee said her father was involved in many important protests. However, she is especially captivated by the historical significance of the Golden Rule voyage.
“What I’m interested in is the ripple,” Willowbee said. “They didn’t expect what they did to have this kind of effect.”
The Golden Rule will remain docked in Humboldt Bay until mid July, as the crew continues to make adjustments. The boat is expected to arrive in San Diego by August for the annual Veterans for Peace convention.
However, due to an ongoing debate over the vessel’s historical significance, the City of San Diego has not yet permitted the ship to dock in its harbor. Shipwright Breckin “The Dutchman” Van Veldhuizen said if the ship isn’t permitted soon, the crew will have to decide between remaining in Humboldt or making the journey with no guaranteed place to dock. This would be upsetting news for the Veterans For Peace organization, who financed most of the restoration and plans to take ownership of the vessel when it arrives in San Diego.
After years grueling restoration work, Van Veldhuizen said she will not make the voyage to San Diego. Instead, she plans to return to Portland and attempt to recoup her sanity.
“Building a wooden ship is an effort of love.” Van Veldhuizen said. “To be on a wooden boat feels incredibly different. She flexes, and breathes and creaks like an old door.”