Since ancient times, the indented coastline of the Eastern Adriatic has been a major sea route and the shortest distance between central Europe and the Mediterranean.
The Illyrians, the Etruscan, the Greeks, the Romans, the Venetians sailed this route, but most of all, Croatian sailors who embarked from here on voyages to world seas.
The boats of all kinds such as argosy or ragusan carrack also know as karaka from Dubrovnik Republic, fast clipper ships of our captains from Pelješac penninsula, the island of Korčula and the island of Lošinj or boats known as braceras and logers which used to sail by the coast or fisherman boats built in local shipyards have always been an important part of living in these parts.
This tradition is deeply built into the minds of local people and was never abandoned not with the arrival of modern shipbuilding. In time, however, one after another, the wooden boats simply started to vanish from the sea. Those which remained were the ones moored in harbours of small Adriatic towns but soon there were only a few left. New generations chose plastic. It was an inevitable trend, but eventually a twist happened. The development of modern nautical industry raised awareness of belonging to old traditons in a a completely new way.
At the beginning of this year, a boat known as loger Nerezinac, so far the biggest Croatian project of wooden boat restoration, was moored at the waterfront of Mali Lošinj in its full splendor.
This temporarily marked an end to twenty-five-year long efforts which began by building Comesa Lisboa – a boat known as gajeta falkuša built by famous Croatian fishermen from Komiža. The boat was made to boast Komiža’s fishing and maritime heritage at the world exhibition EXPO 1998 in Portugal. It was a cry for preserving traditional shipbuilding in the age of plastic and an industrial stampede of boats and yachts which shut down local shipyards, where for centuries the craft had been passed from father to son, from master to apprentice, thus taking away their future. Even though this tiny quantum of light brightened what we had not so long ago, the future of thousands of wooden boats known as gajetas, leuts and braceras remained uncertain and at best, destined for a museum backyard or an art installation entitled „ As it once was“.
The wooden boats were stlll losing the battle to pricing policy, low maintenance costs and delivery dates of modern shipbuilding. For something more they had to preserve their dignity, return the purpose, be sent to sea. And as impossible as it may have seemed, it happened. At first as a flash of several independant initiatives such as Latinsko idro on the island of Murter, Mala barka in Mošćenička Draga, Kuće o batani in Rovinj, which soon became a real movement to restore the old wooden boats but also to build new ones – new gajetas and leuts which grew out of an enormous desire of thousands of local people who do care what happens to their wooden boats.
So, when sailing the Adriatic coast you see by chance a wooden boat such as a gajeta, leut, pasara, guc or batana with their lateens flying freely or if you are lucky enough to see one of their regatta, for instance Rota Palagružona, Latinsko idro, Burtiž, Regata batana in Rovinj or Nerezine regatta of traditional boats, enjoy the view and rest assured that tomorrow, there will be even more of them.