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Croatia

Captain Ivo Tomaš Steers VBT Guests to Adventure Along His Beloved Dalmatian Coast

Posted on Thursday, August 12th, 2021

Story by: Ken Lovering | Travel Writer

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Captain Ivo Tomaš Steers VBT Guests to Adventure Along His Beloved Dalmatian Coast

Centuries ago, there was a boat for every son in the tiny Croatian village of Krilo Jesenice. They earned a living shipping sand from the River Neretva across the Adriatic. In the 1960s and 70s, demand for river sand died, and boat owners had to evolve. Ivo Tomaš—Captain of the Jadranska Kraljica on VBT’s new Croatia Bike & Boat: Split & the Dalmatian Islands tour—knows the story well because his family lived it.

We recently had the chance to sit with Captain Ivo for a “deep dive” into how his family adapted to the shifting nautical climate, how he came to helm the Jadranska Kraljica, and what’s so special about his splendid corner of the world.

How long have you been piloting ships?

I’ve been “captain” for more than 40 years, but I started working on my father’s boat at ten years old. My grandfather and father passed down a cargo wooden boat to me.

Any interesting history there?

Oh, yes. One story goes that during World War II, as Hitler’s troops arrived on the mainland, my father (then 12 years old) and grandfather ferried people to the island of Vis for protection. I do not know all the details, but some people say that my grandfather was killed by the Nazis, leaving my father to pilot the ship. Other people tell me that my father—at 12 years old!—saved people from a sinking ship.

Wow. You really got your sailing instincts from your father!

I did. I earned my first independent captain position at age 21, when I started working on one of the wooden cargo ships.

Is that the style of boat that VBT guests cruise on?

Goodness, no! We use completely different ships now. In the 1960s, we weren’t shipping sand anymore, so we had to quickly react to a difficult economic situation. So we refurbished the cargo ships into tourist boats.

In 1969, we started taking visitors out to the islands on day-long excursions. In 1974, we installed cabins and made them into small cruisers. They weren’t very comfortable—very basic—b t it worked well and the travelers appreciated how authentic they were. We like to say that it was not sand that was feeding the people of our village anymore, but tourism.

When did your current ship come to be?

During the late 1990s, demand for these refitted cargo ships went down. In 1997, I invested in a much better boat, the Jadranska Kraljica. It was built completely to my specifications as the first-ever touring steel boat made in Croatia. Now, 15-20 new steel-hull luxury cruisers are launched every year in Krilo Jesenice. There used to be one boat to every family. Today, in our small village of 70 people, there are 180 cruisers!

What makes traveling by boat here so special?

The combination of sun, sea, and being active on the Dalmatian Islands really casts a spell on everyone that comes on board. Guests can duck into remote places on a boat. They can swim in spectacular hidden bays, dock at charming village ports, and have great Mediterranean meals prepared for them by our chef. And of course, everything is organized for our guests, so the only thing they have to do is relax and do as little or as much as they’d like.

What is your favorite memory as a Captain?

My happiest and most emotional moment was the day I sailed out for the first time on my own boat. It was something I created and felt very proud of. But I truly do have wonderful moments every day. We have hosted several weddings on board. One couple fell in love as we were cruising among these beautiful islands. Their passion for this magnificent place must have gotten the best of them, because they asked me as Captain to marry them.

Meet Captain Ivo and hear more captivating stories of life on the Dalmatian Coast on VBT’s new  Croatia Bike & Boat trip.

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