Merced County Times Newspaper
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The Ghost Ship Of Lake Yosemite

The Ghost Ship Of Lake Yosemite
The Ghost Ship Of Lake Yosemite

There are those who may recall the Rag Doll — the Ghost Ship of Lake Yosemite.

Years ago, there was a 1959, all-wood, Halberg 25 sailboat from Sweden which was brought to Lake Yosemite from the Bay Area by its owner.

The sailboat was actually only 25 feet at the waterline, but 29 feet on the deck. She was a sleek sailboat built in Nordic tradition with full keel. She moved through the water like a knife, so silent that she could not be heard as she cut through the lake water at sunset when the county allowed local sailors to sail for one hour after all other watercraft were chased off the lake.

Those were the days when the Lake Yosemite Sailing Association was much more active than it is today. The Rag Doll even joined the racing and was competitive on a downwind reach.

She was a joy to sail.

One year the owner just decided to leave the boat in the lake when the water was dropped. No one said that all boats needed to be off the lake.

However, when the county found out about it, the head of the Recreation Department demanded the boat be removed.

The owner said he would gladly remove the boat, but that would require the lake to be filled back with water, which of course he knew would not be done. The head of the Recreation Department said: “All right, but you must pay for a permit, and put a light on the boat, in addition to promising not to leave the boat on the lake the next year.”

That winter, the Rag Doll turned into the “Ghost Ship of Lake Yosemite.”

Not enough anchor line had been let out to keep the boat anchored in a good wind, so the boat wandered around the lake with its mast light all winter.

And when the next spring came, it was the first boat at the docks.

The following year, the owner needed to work on the bottom of the boat and decided the easiest way was just to lean it against the dock. When the water went down, the bottom work could be done, and then the boat would be ready for the next sailing season.

The head of the Recreation Department found out about this after the lake had been dropped. He was livid as he contacted the owner saying: “I thought you promised not to leave the Rag Doll in the lake again this winter.”.

“Clearly the Rag Doll is not in the lake,” replied the owner, and it was not as it was on dry land.

The department head turned red as a beet and was lost for words. He made the owner not only promise to not leave the boat in the lake, nor on the land where the lake was.

That would have been the end of the story, but the owner of the Rag Doll had one more trick up his sleeve. He decided to go the members of the Merced County Board of Supervisors, whom he knew well, and ask for special permission to have sailboats sail on the lake in the winter. Other power boats were allowed, why should sailboats be denied.

The Supervisors agreed and passed a resolution allowing the sailors to move their floating dock out to deeper waters so it could accommodate sailboats all year long.

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