Kapetanova ruta falkuša

The falkuša is a boat of remarkable maritime capabilities,
hiding two boats within one:
a low rowboat suitable for fishing
(especially for the hauling of the nets),
and a sail boat with high strakes
suitable for sailing and carrying freight.


The fishermen of Komiža developed a special type of gajeta by adapting it to the navigation and fishing conditions of the most remote routes. Thus, the falkuša became the first Croatian fishing boat courageous enough to leave the Adriatic, reach the vast Mediterranean Sea and sail to the faraway island of Malta.
The gajeta is a boat about 9 meters in length by 2.55 metres wide. It has a lateen sail and a flock with the total surface of 90 m² (similar to a two-bedroom apartment) along with removable side strakes called falks. This impressive boat can achieve speeds of up to 11 knots!
A triangular lateen sail is falkuša’s distinguishing feature. It is set on a long yard mounted at an angle on the mast running in a fore-and-aft direction which makes it very suitable for side winds. Falkuša’s oars are operated while standing up, and the crew, družina is made up of a captain, svićor and two to four crewmembers.


Over the centuries, the European pilchard marked the fishing world of Komiža being the foundation of existence on the territory of the Vis Archipelago whilst, in the past millennium, the gajeta falkuša made it possible for fishermen to catch much more sardines than any other type of boat in the Adriatic. Thanks to the gajeta, until the 19th century the fishermen of Komiža were the only offshore fishermen in the Mediterranean. In addition to that, it is interesting to learn that inhabitants of Komiža laid the foundation for the Spanish fish industry.
Falkuša enabled Croatian fishermen to maintain their presence on the island of Palagruža located only 27 nautical miles away from the Italian coast and having one of the richest fishing grounds in the Adriatic.
A number of documents dating back to 1553 mention the catch of 120 tons of blue fish in a single day! Komiža used to be the most important exporter of salted fish in the Adriatic and the epicentre of fish industry until the end of the 20th century. Komiža is the place where the very first fish cannery in the Adriatic was established in 1870 and later on there were as many as seven factories for fish canning.
Many fishermen’s families moved to California and consequently took over a large portion of the US fish industry. Thus, in 1917, the fishermen from Komiža started a small factory in San Pedro which, by the 1950s, evolved into the biggest fish canning company not only in the US but also in the world. There was hardly a person from Komiža who, after moving to the USA did not start his or her life there working in this factory. For that reason, it does not come as a surprise that today there are many more people from Komiža in San Pedro than in actual Komiža on the island of Vis.


As the protector of fishermen, travellers and the city of Komiža, Saint Nicholas the Traveller watched over fishermen and gajetas and consecrated their dangerous work and hardship for many generations. Every year, on the 6th of December when Saint Nicholas day was observed, the fishermen of Komiža set an old wooden boat on fire in his honour as a token of salvation for all other boats and those who sail on them. That tradition has been preserved to this day.
However, wooden boats are hard to find nowadays… Ever since the first motor engine had been started on a boat, authentic types of vessels designed during centuries by many generations of shipbuilders, fishermen and seafarers started disappearing. Overnight, the motor engine and the logic behind the concept transformed ships, customs, habits and knowledge.


During the 16th century, 74 falkušas anchored in the bay of Komiža. Nowadays, three gajeta falkušas in Komiža are the only remaining boats of that kind in the world and only a few people know how to operate them.
Falkuša is a symbol of Croatian maritime heritage. We take great pride in passing on the experience of gajeta falkuša and being able to have an impact on the promotion of the Croatian maritime heritage as well as on the development of ecotourism and cultural and adventure tourism both on the island of Vis and nationwide.
In accordance with the decision of the Ministry of Culture, the experience of gajeta falkuša – folk heritage related to the falkuša, art of shipbuilding, navigation, sailing, fishing and the language – comprises all the characteristics of intangible cultural good.
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On the occasion of the 1998 Lisbon World Exhibition (Expo ’98), the Croatian National Bank minted a coin denominated to 25 HRK decorated with a gajeta falkuša. 
marka 1998 mThe postage stamp named Gajeta falkuša won the third place at the international philatelic exhibition PhilexFrance in 1999.
By telling a story about a small boat that, for many centuries, has been the centre of gravity of a small island community and saving the traditional knowledge and skills from oblivion, on the one hand the identity based on one’s own cultural milieu is preserved and on the other the national and total international cultural heritage enriched.
Ropes, fishnetsnets, braces (imbroji and škota), lateens, sails… The tradition continues, and the falkuša is still cutting through the waves, devouring nautical miles.

ALTERNATURA putnička agencija d.o.o.
Hrvatskih mučenika 2, 21485 Komiža, Hrvatska, HR-AB-21-060191881
telefoni: +385 21 717 239, +385 91 945 8003;
email: alternatura@alternatura.hr

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