David Schermerhorn, Orcas Island Resident on Captured Boat to Gaza, Is Giving Up--for Now

As of this morning, 81-year-old David Schermerhorn was still on The Audacity of Hope, the American boat that is part of an international flotilla challenging the Israeli blockade of Gaza. But he won't be for long. After an eventful week that saw the flotilla's plans thwarted by Greek authorities, Schermerhorn says he plans to return home to Orcas Island on Friday.

Schermerhorn spoke to SW from a Greek Coast Guard compound where The Audacity of Hope is being held. On Friday, the Americans--including writer Alice Walker and three other Washington state residents (see bios)--tried to set sail. They were met by a Greek Coast Guard vessel that ordered their boat to turn back.

The Americans were defying a Greek directive banning boats from departing for Gaza, and had been specifically told not to leave the harbor before the results of a safety inspection were released. The Americans portrayed the economically distressed Greeks as doing the bidding of the Israelis.

The Coast Guard "had armed commandos on the boat, who were prepared to shoot us if we didn't accompany them," Schermerhorn says. The American captain, John Klusmire, was jailed. Greek prosecutors charged him with several crimes, including a felony related to "disturbing sea traffic and endangering passengers."

Just hours ago, however, Klusmire was released on his own recognizance and told he was free to leave the country, according to Schermerhorn.

As a member of The Audacity of Hope's crew, Schermerhorn says that initially he was not allowed to leave the boat once it was docked in the Coast Guard facility. Although he can do so now, he has been sleeping on the boat anyway and remained on it today in order to ensure its safety, as other passengers went to a demonstration in Athens.

He says, however, that "there's no telling when the boat will ever leave," hence his decision to come home. But he's says he's not giving up for good, even though this is his second failed mission to Gaza. Last year, he was briefly jailed by the Israelis while participating in another flotilla. Before that, though, he made it to Gaza three times on similar boats. "I will keep trying," he says.

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