We’re very lucky in Vrboska to have such a thriving community of boat owners, enthusiastically keeping the heritage of the traditional wooden boats alive. Sadly that’s not so everywhere on the Adriatic coast, where generic fibreglass boats are now the norm. So, it’s good to have an exhibition of the next best thing – a display of meticulously-detailed working models by Luciano Keber.
Mediterranean Winds – traditional boats of the Adriatic by Luciano Keber
Open 14 August – 17 October, 2019 in the Hvar Arsenal
Luciano Keber is an experienced boatman, by day a captain in the Harbour Master’s office in Bakar, Rijeka. His passion, though, is traditional wooden boats, which he painstakingly reproduces at 1:10 scale (mostly) in most realistic detail. It pays to peer into every doorway of his boats, as there are some fun features lurking in there – the feet indicating a bunk in the fishing boat, and the toilet with girlie pinup calendar in the cabin of the sand excavator!
The bracera (or brazzera) used to be the most common type of cargo boat up and down the Adriatic. Originating in Dalmatia, they first appeared in Venetian records of 1556 as brazzera. The style of boat most likely originated on the island of Brač, which was then known as Brazza. It’s a solid boat design, very mobile and ideal for carrying loads of cargo in and out of smaller island ports. Smaller than trabakuls and peligs, they were cheaper and easier to build, and could get into less accessible places. By the 19th century, there were 800 bracera registered with the Austro-Hungarian fleet.
The trabakul or trabaccolo was one of the workhorses of the Adriatic coastal sailing fleet. This was a typical Venetian boat design dating back to the early 1400s that became popular throughout the Adriatic. Trabakuls were slow but reliable, with blunt bows and sterns, and a good stowage capacity. They had two masts, a bowsprit, a rudder that extended well below the keel, and were around 20 metres long, and one third as wide in the beam. A typical crew would be 10-20 trabaccolos.During the late 18th and early 19th Centuries, trabakuls were equipped with cannon, as they tended to be targeted by pirates and other countries’ Navies.
Largest of all the cargo sailing boats in the eastern Adriatic were the peligs. Used mainly for fishing and cargo transportation in coastal areas, these two-masted ships averaged around 16-22 meters in length, and carried a crew of 5 or 6 sailors. At the end of the 19th century, larger peligs sailed as far as the Pacific Ocean. After World War II, many of the vessels were converted into motor sailers.
At the lower end of the scale in utility boats we have the sabjuners, which collected sand for construction. This is clearly a live-aboard boat as the cabin features a bunk and a toilet.
For the smaller working boats, there are different names and styles in the northern part of the Adriatic from the Dalmatian boats. Here’s some of the varieties from around Istria and the Kvarner Gulf, batiels, bragocs, batanas and passaras.
Further south in Dalmatia, leuts and gajetas, the most common fishing boats come in different forms depending on which island they’re from. For instance, the Betina boats tend to have a more rounded back end, while those from Korčula are more pointed.
The exhibition is still on for another week, so you can still catch it!