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In the Wake of the Zaca

History

Few modern sailing vessels are surrounded by more myth and legend than the yacht Zaca. Launched on the eve of the Great Depression, the 118' gaff-rigged schooner has sailed through seventy years of history from one remarkable adventure to the next. Today, berthed in Monaco, Zaca remains a topic of fascination in nautical circles.
 

ORIGINS
1928

In 1929, San Francisco socialite and railroad heir Templeton Crocker hired naval architect Garland Rotch to design one of the most luxurious yachts yet constructed. This vessel was to replace a 75’ ketch that Crocker had lost the previous year during a revolution in Mexico. Rotch borrowed the lines for the second Zaca from Canada’s famed Bluenose, the fastest fishing schooner ever built, and in August of 1929 the keel was laid down alongside the Nunes Brothers boatyard in Sausalito, California.

Bluenose Plans

Bluenose Launch

Bluenose Undersail

CONSTRUCTION
1930

To build a schooner of the size of Zaca was not an easy proposition. Designer Garland Rotch and owner Templeton Crocker looked across San Francisco Bay to Sausalito based boat builders Ernie and Antonio Nunes. The 118' feet vessel was too large to be built in the Nunes Brothers yard so, in August of 1929, the keel was laid alongside the shop — in the middle of Sausalito's Main Street. A week later, the stock market crashed. But even as the Great Depression swept the nation, construction of the new Zaca went full speed ahead. TOP

Zaca Under Contruction

Boat Yard Workers

Zaca Being Painted

EXPEDITION
1933

During Zaca’s maiden voyage in 1930, Templeton Crocker met S.M. Lambert in Fiji. Lambert, a doctor in tropical medicine for the Rockefeller Foundation, entertained Crocker with tales of isolated and unexplored regions in the Solomon Islands. There, said Lambert, lived a tribe of Polynesians who, having had no contact with white men, were twenty thousand years behind modern man and the only relics of a prehistoric civilization. TOP

Templeton Crocker - Soloman Islands

Zaca at anchor in Soloman Islands

Polynesians in Soloman Islands

WORLD WAR II
1943

With war in 1941, every seaworthy private yacht was requisitioned by the U.S. Navy. Crocker was paid just $35,000 for his beloved $350,000 schooner. Zaca was painted battleship gray, renamed IX-73, and ordered on patrol 500 miles off of Eureka, California. She once spotted a Japanese fleet sailing down the coast and her radio report had them turn tail and retreat. Zaca’s normal duty was as a radio beacon station, although she did carry two .50 caliber machine guns ‘just in case’. When she returned to Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay every three weeks, her freezer was reliably full of salmon. In 1944, Zaca was replaced by a diesel patrol boat and in 1945 was decommissioned and, along with several other well-worn yachts, auctioned off. TOP

Zaca alongside Navy Vessel - WWII

IX-73 Zaca painted grey for WWII service

Zaca WWII Service Ribbon: American Campaign MedalZaca WWII Service Ribbon: WWII Victory Medal

ERROL FLYNN
19
46

In 1945, Errol Flynn purchased his ‘dream ship’ Zaca from speculator Joe Rosenberg. Flynn completely refurbished her, painted her white and, in 1946, in the company of a pick-up crew, his scientist father, marine biologist Carl Hubbs, and an assortment of actors, relatives, and a documentary film crew, sailed to Acapulco on a ‘scientific expedition’ that turned into a fiasco. After everyone jumped ship in Acapulco, Flynn trained a Mexican crew and rented Zaca to Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth for the filming of The Lady from Shanghai. In 1947, Zaca reappeared in Port Antonio, Jamaica, which Flynn would call home. Sailing to the Mediterranean in 1950 with a Jamaican crew, Zaca would eventually wind up at the Club Nautico in Palma de Mallorca where he and third wife Patrice Wymore would live on board. TOP

Errol Flynn at aboard Zaca

Flynn party aboard Zaca

Errol Flynn with wife, Pat

Errol Flynn at aboard Zaca

ABANDONED
1985

After Flynn’s death in 1959, Zaca stayed at her berth at the Club Nautico, the crew keeping her up with the little money Patrice could get them. The attorneys for Flynn’s Estate in the meanwhile were plotting to get rid of her. Eventually they agreed to consign her to English millionaire playboy Freddie Tinsley who promised he could sell her in France. Once in France, Tinsley stripped Zaca of everything of value and, in 1965, abandoned her in the boatyard of Bernard Voisin in Villefranche. Voisin eventually claimed Zaca for non-payment of rent. Zaca further deteriorated and turned into a ghost ship. The locals claimed there were emanations of Errol Flynn coming from the vessel and the sound of wild parties at night. This all ceased after a dual Anglican-Catholic exorcism in 1979. In 1987 English electronics mogul Phillip Coussins purchased Voisin’s boat yard just to get Zaca but the deal ended up in French courts for two years. In 1990 Coussins wound up selling a now sunken Zaca to Italian businessman Roberto Memmo. TOP

Zaca abandoned, Villefranche boatyard

Newspaper Articles about abandoned Zaca

RESTORED
Today

After two years of extensive rebuilding in Toulon, Zaca made her grand reappearance at Monaco’s classic Regatta in 1993. Zaca is regaled as one of the finest yachts in the world. Skipper, Bruno Dal Pias, and a regular crew of four keep Zaca busy, visiting such ports as Punta Ala, Gaeta, Capri, Cagliari, and the Aegean. Owner Roberto Memmo has Zaca again hosting world leaders, writers, movie stars and the occasional documentary filmmaker. During the summer, Zaca can be seen in person at important Regattas in the Mediterranean. In the winter she can be found in her berth in Port de Fontvieille, Monte Carlo. TOP

Repairing Zaca's Hull

Repairing Zaca's Hull

Zaca Restored

Zaca sailing in Monaco’s classic Regatta

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