Historic peace boat makes way through Penn Cove


Whidbey News Group

The golden rule — to treat others as you would like to be treated — is one imparted to us as children, a sort of general guideline laid out for humans in hopes they will abide by it by being respectful, considerate and kind.

On Aug. 17, the Golden Rule Peace Boat made its way into Penn Cove, an emblem of its namesake and a piece of history.

The vessel first made waves in 1958, when a crew of Quaker anti-nuclear weapons activists sailed defiantly from San Pedro en route to the nuclear test zone at Eniwetok atoll in the Marshall Islands in an attempt to intervene in U.S. government’s atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons in the area.

At that time, both the United States and Soviet Union were conducting aboveground nuclear weapons tests, producing radioactive fallout and contamination, according to the vessel’s sponsoring organization, Veterans for Peace.

The crew’s mission was thwarted, and each of the members of that first expedition were jailed in Honolulu. Their very public protest, however, brought the dangers of nuclear testing to the forefront of Americans’ minds and led to the movement resulting in the Limited Nuclear Test Ban Treaty of 1963.

The guiding principle of the Golden Rule’s crew has always been, and continues to be, the use of nonviolent direct action.

In August, the current crew stopped by to give a presentation at the Coupeville Rec Hall while in the middle of a four-month tour of the Pacific Northwest.

The event was sponsored by Veterans for Peace and the Citizens of Ebey’s Reserve.

During the presentation, Helen Jaccard, Veterans for Peace Golden Rule project manager, explained that their voyage through the Salish Sea is timely because of the U.S. government’s announcement that one trillion dollars will be allocated over the next 30 years to “modernize” the nation’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

It is, according to the vessel’s crew, a violation of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty signed by the U.S. July 1, 1968.

Veterans for Peace, along with a group of Quakers, were largely responsible for restoring the Golden Rule when it was sold in a state of disrepair in 2010.

It had changed hands a few times in the decades since its first sailing, and a fierce gale had nearly demolished it where it had been docked in California.

The then-owner, unaware of the wooden boat’s history, nearly torched it in a bonfire but spared it from the flames upon hearing its tale.

The extensive restoration project was completed in June 2015, at which time the vessel made its way onto the water once again to continue its mission of peace.

Its first destination was the Veterans for Peace Conference. In June 2016, the boat also protested in the waters of Fleet Week in Portland. Jaccard explained that the parade of war ships, like the Blue Angels, is aimed at recruiting young people.

“It makes war sexy and we don’t like that,” she said.

The boat also protested in Port Townsend against the Indian Islands munitions transfer station.

“Not many wooden boats have had a mission in their lives,” Jaccard said.

She noted that in each of the ports they have visited, local residents have expressed their own concerns related to nuclear energy or other military-related subjects.

She and other members of the crew encouraged attendees to become activists themselves, taking a stand on issues to enforce change.

Tom Ewell, a member of COER and one of the event coordinators, extended a special thanks to veterans in this regard.

“Veterans are key in addressing some of these military issues,” he said.