The Golden Rule's crew made way through February conditions to arrive in the Bay region in March. Facebook photo

Historic Peace Protest Sailboat Visits Bay Ports on Great Loop Voyage

A sailboat on a mission has been making its way from Virginia to D.C. and next it heads to Annapolis Harbor. On Monday, April 24, Annapolis will welcome the historic sailboat Golden Rule, with an official welcome ceremony and educational presentation to follow. The ship is currently tracing the Great Loop as a campaigner for peace, spreading a message opposing nuclear war. 

Golden Rule has a storied history in the nonviolent movement. Originally designed by Hugh Angelman and launched in 1958, the 34-foot gaff rig ketch was crewed by a group of Quakers who sailed toward the Marshall Islands to disrupt a nuclear test. Her skipper at the time was former U.S. Navy Commander Albert Bigelow, and the aim was to sail into the proving grounds to disrupt any testing. 

The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted Golden Rule just outside Honolulu, and Bigelow and his crew were arrested. Their efforts made a significant impact, though, as many private vessels soon joined the movement by entering nuclear test zones in protest. 

Despite gaining worldwide attention for nonviolent disruption, Golden Rule later suffered calamities when she sank in 1970 and again in 2010. After the second sinking, the nonprofit Veterans for Peace got involved and decided to rebuild her. But very quickly the mission of nuclear disarmament changed. 

“Shortly after the Golden Rule was rebuilt in 2010, the Fukushima meltdown occurred,” says Helen Jaccard, the Golden Rule’s project manager. “That really changed our bylaws and purposes. More than simply eliminating nuclear weapons, we realized just how important the uranium pathway is to our mission.”

Veterans for Peace began broadening the scope of their work, building a mission that focused not only on weapons disarmament but also nonviolent diplomacy. 

“We realized that in order to get rid of the threat of nuclear war, we have to address the aggressive nature of the culture of war,” Jaccard says. “We need to build a movement that dismantles the warrior culture and instead work on a cooperative culture with other countries.”

Today, the Golden Rule is a beacon of peace traveling on a 15-month journey around the Great Loop. Having begun their journey in Minneapolis, the vessel’s crew has a plan to visit more than 100 ports of call as they travels around the southern and eastern United States. As a catalyst for change, Jaccard says Golden Rule is more of an educational vessel than a protest boat. 

“People love this boat,” she says. “You can see us coming from a mile away, and the excitement keeps building.”

Golden Rule has opportunities for deckhands of all experience levels as she traverses the Great Loop. For more information, and to get involved, visit vfpgoldenruleproject.org/ or attend the welcome ceremony on Tuesday, April 25, at 11 a.m. in Annapolis Yacht Basin. 

You can also learn more about Golden Rule and her mission in a presentation on Wednesday, April 26 at 7 p.m. in the First Presbyterian Church located at 171 Duke of Gloucester Street, Annapolis. 

-Duffy Perkins