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 Where the Winds Blow...
by Mark Steele, Auckland, New Zealand

 WTWB  October 2012

Golden Rule

Drawing of the Golden Rule at sea

Beached and abandoned

Starting to look good under restoration

On the cover of the April issue of my friend Bob Hicks monthly magazine Messing about in Boats, I stared then gawked, then sort of fell in love with a 30’ ketch of lovely lines called Golden Rule. This led me to firstly delve inside the issue to learn more of what the boat was all about, then go online to discover more on the story of the intentions of a four man crew to raise global concern by sailing the ketch into atomic tests proving grounds conducted on an atoll that was part of the Marshall Islands in the Western Pacific.

It was the late 1950’s and at a time in my life  when I was just married, the war was over and yachts and yachting were  not yet part of my interests as other things were on my mind.  Akin to Bob Hicks  I was riding and racing motorcycles in my homeland of British Guiana (now Guyana) so perhaps I can be forgiven for not having been aware of atomic testing in the distant Pacific.

The Golden Rule is believed to have been  built in Costa Rica and freighted up to San Pedro, California for outfitting.  Designed by Hugh Angleman she is an Angleman 30. Hugh is famous as the designer of the Sea Witch class and the boat is a `Baby Sea Witch’. Interesting  to note that the Sea Witches did well from 1949 to 1951 in the Transpac Races from California to Honolulu winning the 1951 race on corrected time.

The missions of the `Golden Rule Project’ of a formed Veterans for Peace was to repair, restore and renovate this now quite famous sailing boat once sailed by four crewmen under the leadership of Albert Bigelow who had tried to stop atmospheric testing in the area of the Marshall Islands in the late 1950’s. The yacht was twice boarded by the US Coast Guard, the crew arrested and the vessel towed back to Honolulu. The other members of the crew were Orion W Sherwood, William R Huntington and George Willoughby, four brave men doing their bit to raise awareness of the concerns of millions around the world about nuclear testing.

Golden Rule off Diamond Head

After the crew were released from prison the boat was sold and ended up in a neglected state in Humboldt Bay on the North coast of California where her hull was photographed by Sherry  Champagne. Purchased by the group Veterans for Peace a restoration fund was launched under Fredy Champagne, over a period of time to achieve the objective of bringing  her back to a `peace and protest; boat. Albert Bigelow meanwhile went onto to write a book The voyage of the Golden Rule.

I think in the current years we now all live in a different world in which  often irresponsible, totally naive and full of brainless  militant loonies with ill founded beliefs that they can win a nuclear war, have both access to and control of  weaponry of total world destruction. Misinformed they are indeed for in a nuclear war there can be no winners. 

New Zealand where I live still takes a firm  anti-nuclear stance for which I am glad but were a major nuclear war to eventuate it is foolish to believe that the country would be exempt from any involvement and/or would escape attack. Providing air bases for major Western powers and helping allies with troop movements or any such activity would without any doubt whatsoever  invite retaliation in a short space of time, so what would be achieved?  That is the question. 

Despite various difficulties, none the least being raising funds with the US not in the best of financial health, restoration of the boat has nonetheless gone ahead, help limited to a shipright and volunteers. The Golden Rule  is nearly afloat again and when complete will sail and  take her message of peace and opposition to militarism on all three US coasts. She is expected to be launched in late 2012 early 2013, a commendable effort indeed.

(click to enlarge)

Veterans for Peace members, Fredy Champagne (the restoration fund raiser (second from right) his wife Sheri (second from left) Project Treasurer, Lenny Anderson  (extreme left) and VFP Board member Elliott Adams (extreme right)

A little tribute this, to William Fife III and all because of two mouth-watering and utterly beautiful schooners he designed which were created at his boatyard at Fairlie on the Clyde river in Scotland many years ago. Their given names were Altair which still sails today, the other being Cicely which ended her days on a beach on the South Coast of England.   

Thanks to keen sailing model schooner man, Andrew Charters of South Carolina (and also Derek Nicholson of Auckland, New Zealand)  and no doubt one or two other ship modelers in 1950 after a name change to Lamora when being sailed with a cut-down rig and at the start of a world cruise. she is  remembered in models built, owned and sailed by them.

The schooner Altair

Altair, the 39.21 m gaff schooner by William Fife III was built in 1931 at the Fairlie yard on the Clyde river in Scotland and was said to be Fife’s very best and one of the most luxurious of schooners.  Named after one of the brightest stars. her hull was built of Burmese teak and she has continued to be acclaimed, even to the point of being revered as being among the most beautiful of ocean-going cruising yachts ever built.

New Zealander Keith Griffin's Altair

Years back when publishing my now defunct model sailing magazine Windling World, I was in touch with Sandy Cousins of Scotland who produced a fine sailing model of Altair whom I featured in the publications. We shared several letters before Sandy passed away and I could say that I was introduced to this grand schooner (that I had not hitherto heard of) by him.

Marine Modelling International’s plans based
on Sandy’s model are still available, the plan
number being MAR 2521 at $42.00 plus p & p.

Cicely (left) in close tussle with another
Andrew Charters model Columbia

Battles with George Surgents fast schooner, Bay Boy have been frequent and this one shows how close some finishes have been

Photo by Judy Bonnano

Andrew Charters enjoys sailing his big schooners and pushing them hard, on occasions having to carry out post-regatta repairs. His Cicely does not escape
race opportunities nor does his Columbia, shown above just ahead of David Querin's 60" schooner.

Khristenko's motorcycle

There are some wonderfully talented craftsmen and craftswomen in the world, creative, nimble of fingers, patient in the execution of their respective talents and dare I say it, absolutely amazing in their skills. Someone sent me an image by email way back in early May  of a photograph of Dmitry Khristenko’s wonderful wee motorcycles which he makes entirely of watch parts including the ultra tiny and fiddly bits.

I think this man’s work is absolutely  fantastic and the work of a creative genius. He lives from what I have read these days in the United States but comes from the Ukraine  If you want to know more he is on Facebook and I believe that his work is available on the market as beautiful collectors pieces of rarity.


Was it the big scow Herald? 

It is said (but no living soul really can prove it) that there are many ghost ships at sea, ships that have disappeared over the years and assumed as having been lost at sea in mysterious circumstances.  Not entirely so the 83’ hold schooner built by Geo Niccol in Auckland, New Zealand in 1898.

Thirty years later in 1928, Herald when coming down the coast of the North Island   struck a rock outside of Kawau Island, screwed off and was never seen again. Her Captain and small crew scrambled onto the rock.  Well several fishermen over the years that followed, as well as journalist Paul Titchenor say otherwise, and claim that the big scow was seen by them at close quarters in eerie circumstances  running crewless under sail at night.

She is now considered and spoken about in some New Zealand quarters as being a `Phantom ship’ and those who have seen her are convinced that after hitting the rock she sailed on for many years and perhaps still does on occasions appearing briefly at night off New Zealand.

Now to the difficult part (everything in life has difficult parts and times!).  It has now become clearer in my mind that continuing this column on a monthly basis is going to be difficult if not well nigh impossible as there is simply not enough to write about.  Put in nautical terms,` the tides may possibly run less often in the new year ahead.’  (I’ll let you know in December)

I have looked at an issue every other month but it may be better to aim lower (like quarterly giving four issues a year) and if things were to improve (which I somehow  doubt will happen!) then step up the frequency to every other month and six issues a year.

Earlier this year I chose to take a two month `breather’ and look at getting an increased flow of news and also instituted a blog section (not altogether with model yacht content) which  a few readers say they like and find interesting but it is not enough. At this point I think I can go through to January 2013 and have put it to my friend and publisher of Duckworks, Chuck who understands the difficulties. Time will tell, it always does.

Mustang una rig boats at Fleetwood

I have noted with interest that at the Fleetwood Model Yacht & Power Boat Club in the UK, a devoted few (about 15) still sail the single sail or una-rig  one design Mustang yachts for fun sailing every Tuesday. I believe that there are still a few that form a small fleet in Christchurch, New Zealand.

They were originally designed and built at the Fleetwood club in the 1980’s and were the forerunners to the Lasers. they lost favour to some extent when the single sail Laser model yachts came into vogue, but I am told that a few are still sailed at other clubs in Britain.

I’m aware of ones earthly remains, in other cases ones ashes being thrown into the sea off Cape Horn, but recently I read that the remains of Star Trek’s  `Scotty’ (actor James M Doohan) were launched into space at Cape Canaveral sometime in May aboard a SpaceX  Falcon 9 two-stage rocket.

It has been established I think that many people now want to be `different’ and for those able to afford it, having earthly parts sent into space certainly is just that. What you send up will burn on the re-entry as the rocket comes down, so it is just a more expensive form of cremation I guess.

She was some pooch Mo was, a dog that owned Bob Walters instead of the other way around, a dog that wormed her way into the hearts of many of the Auckland, New Zealand Ancient Mariners just a mere handful of years ago.

Mo Walters would be there every Thursday without fail, strutting along beside Bob and the pack of sailors up and down the pond or she would  hop up on the bench table and lie unladylike for one or two others she trusted to scratch her belly just the way she liked it. The year after she died I named a Starlet regatta-ish kind of day after her, and we kind of unofficially `raced’ for a mouldy dog biscuit!  (Someone will probably tell me one day that Mo was a fella!)

Chompers of gold worth security

I’ve heard tell of a country where it is said that if residents and visitors have gold teeth, what with the world price of gold they should sleep with their mouthes firmly clenched (and their lips preferably padlocked!)  otherwise said gold might well be missing in the morning! Sad but true, a country in the Pacific I know of is learning fast the many areas of atrocity already plaguing other countries of the world.  No baloney!

HMS Surprise

HMS Surprise (shown above) that featured in a You Tube video that was embedded in this column some issues back has been sold to a new owner in California by previous builder and owner, Ray Grosser of Kentucky.

The cannon-firing frigate’s owner `Captain Raymbo’ (alias Ray) has switched hobby interests to garden model railways.  Dan Lewandowski of Minnesota whose period schooner Syren featured in the sea battle with Surprise, says he is sorry to hear of the sale and will miss their occasional battles on the water. 

Enjoy this issue of  Where the winds blow and I will have some more news for you next month.


Click Here for a List of Articles and Columns by Mark Steele