Zaca, Errol Flynn’s Haunted Yacht
by Owen James Burke
Modeled after the fastest fishing schooner ever built, Bluenose of Canada, Zaca is a 118′ schooner once owned by Australian actor and playboy Errol Flynn a commissioned to be the most luxurious yacht constructed in her day, and for years, laying dormant in a ship yard in the south of France, she was haunted.
Zaca was built to replace a 75′ ketch of the same name which had been lost the previous year in Mexico during a revolution. Her keel, too large to fit in any shipwright’s shop along San Francisco Bay, was laid right on main street in Sausalito, alongside the Nunes Brothers’ shop in August of 1929.
She was taken to the south pacific for exploration on her maiden voyage in 1930, and in 1941 she was requisitioned by the U.S. Navy for WWII. Decommissioned shortly after the war, Errol Flynn purchased her in 1945.
Sailing to Acapulco, Flynn rented her to Orson Welles and Rita Hayworth for the filming of “The Lady from Shanghai.” Mr. Welles did not return her until 1947, when Flynn was in Jamaica. Flynn, Zaca and a Jamaican crew crossed the Mediterranean in 1950, finally resting at Club Náutico in Palma de Mallorca, where he lived aboard with his third wife, Patrice Wymore.
Flynn passed away in 1959 after years of drinking and self-medication with heroin. Zaca, too expensive for Patrice to maintain, began to fall into disrepair and was entrusted to English millionaire playboy Freddie Tinsley, who ultimately left it in a Villefranche boat yard to accrue storage fees beyond her worth. At some point, she was claimed for non-payment of rent, and continued to sit and rot even further.
The people of Villefranche claimed that Flynn would walk the deck of Zaca (now considered a “ghost ship) at night, and the sounds of laughter and glasses clinking (by which it should be understood that he was always accompanied) were heard by the people throughout the town, until an Anglican-Catholic exorcism was reportedly performed in 1979, from which point on the sounds of Flynn were never heard again (so the story goes).