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Home arrow News and articles arrow Gajeta falkusa at the Marine Biology Station Piran
Gajeta falkusa at the Marine Biology Station Piran Print E-mail
23. 01. 2007
Preppared by: Vlado Bernetic   

Image The Marine Biology Station of the National Institute of Bioloogy hosted between January 15th and 17th a distinguished scientist from Split - the headmistress of the Croatian Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries Prof. Ivona Marasovic, Ph.D. In what was her first visit to the new facilities of the Marine Biology Station, the leading Croatian marine biologist presented to the Piran-based institution an interesting model of the fishing boat gajeta - the Vis falkusa. This type of fishing boat had been built for 300 years at Komiza on the island of Vis. It was intended for coastal fishing as well as sailing on the open seas. The model was built this year (2007) by the master Lojpur Velimir

Komiza at Vis was first mentioned in written documents in the 12th century. The historical records show that from the 16th century onwards Komiza was a leading fishing village in Dalmatia. To increase their catch the fishermen went fishing on the open seas towards the islands of Palagruza and Svetac, which is why boat builders had to make a boat that would be suited for coastal waters as well as open seas. Hence the Komiza falkusa, an autochthonous Croatian boat that has excellent sailing characteristics on open seas.

The falkusa is a special type of gajeta with a rounded hull, pointed stern and bow, sails and five oars for standing oarsmen. The boat can sail with the wind but the oars also allow it to sail during calm. It is between eight and ten metres long, 2.9 metres wide with a mast that is typically as high as the ship is long - around nine metres. What sets it apart from other boats is not just the dimensions but also the material. The falkusa was built exclusively from pine from the island of Svetac. This volcanic island has a very thin layer of topsoil and is exposed to frequent strong winds. The pine trees that grow there are strong and resistant, which makes the wood exceptionally tough and ideal for this type of boat. The keel was made of oak and the shell of larch. The boat behaved well in high waves and lasted for years despite tough conditions. Another distinct feature of the boat was two removable side strakes for open seas, which raise the rim of the boat by about half a metre to protect it from high waves. Upon arriving at their destination, the fishermen would simply remove the strakes.

The falkusa also had unique equipment without which the fishermen would never set sail. The crew typically carried three weeks’ worth of supplies, even firewood for cooking on the island. The deck housed wooden barrels for salted fish, a vessel for water and wine and wicker baskets which they filled with the catch. The fishermen used nets, a compass and the feral, a gas or petroleum lamp. Which boat got the best fishing ground at Palagruza was determined by a race to the island, which was 15 hours of oaring away. Given a favourable mistral, however, they could reach Palagruza in five hours with a speed of eight knots. Falkusa was used well into the first half of the 20th century. Nowadays it can be seen in the Fishing Museum at Komiza, which is located in a striking defence tower on the promenade.

model of the fishing boat gajeta - the Vis falkusa
(photo: T. Makovec)
model of the fishing boat gajeta - the Vis falkusa
(photo: T. Makovec)
Text on the bottom of the model of falkusa (photo: V. Bernetic)


In 1998 UNESCO put the Komiza falkusa on its World Heritage list. The same year the boat was featured at the EXPO in Lisbon as a unique Croatian showpiece. On the occasion the boat sailed the Mediterranean all the way to Malta as the first Croatian fishing boat with oars and sails to do so.


Vlado Bernetic (Text)
Photos: Tihomir Makovec and Vlado Bernetic


Last Updated ( 24. 01. 2007 )
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