is an old saying of people who live by the sea that one doesn't have to
live, but has to sail, and it is definitely true of Neretva. A
multitude of river backwaters, ponds, channels led to the creation of two
specific kinds of boats. The smaller boat is called 'trupa', the
origin of the
comes from the first human boats- monoxils, made by hollowing a tree trunk.
The bigger boat called –'lađa' preserved that name, namely keel- the
main beam is called
(trup), although none really mentions 'lađa'. The boat bearing
the same features was described in a couple of historical sources. It was
also probably used by the famous Neretva pirates. Both 'lađa'
and 'trupa' were built exclusively of wooden parts. They have their
sides, ribs, seats and rows. They can be sailed by the sail or sailing
blanket that is attached to the mast. Neretva trupa is a small
boat, with a flat bottom, fairly light (30-50 kg) so it can be easily
carried by two men. If necessary the owner himself can transport it from one
channel to another, so the saying 'A bit of me in it, a bit of it in me'
describes how irreplaceable it was and still is in these natural conditions.
It can be used for fishing, catching of frogs, leeches, for bird hunting,
for the transportation of crops and people. One person can sit comfortably
in it, two people can be driven but then they have to take care that they
don't lean forward; it is driven while sitting, kneeling or the expert can
do it by standing. The bigger boat- 'lađa' was used for the
transportation of animals, fruits from the fields, wood, furniture (dowry)
when getting married, for celebrations and funerals. 35 people can sit in it
comfortably, or really big cargo can be transported. Both boats were used
the whole year round. Their durability depended on their owners and the
quality of the wooden construction- fir-timber, larch and mulberry-tree. All
'lađas' were launched solemnly into the sea, after they had been
finished, a feast was organized and they were christened with a bottle of
prosecco. Because of the high cost of their construction 'lađas'
were carefully taken care of and some of them lasted for a hundred years.
They were used upstream, rowed, against the water, sailed down the wind
or 'trupas' were pushed by a pole. There is a special custom that is
connected with them- pulling upstream. Namely, the citizens of lower
Neretva had their land that they cultivated under Gabela above
Metković. When the season of working in the field started there was no
other way to bring vessels there but by ropes, because they were heavily
loaded. They would tie a rope to the mast and a group of people, mostly
women, would pull the boats by walking along the river bank. The rope was
some ten centimeters thick and fifty meters long and was carried over the
shoulders. They would stand in a row, so that the highest of them was at the
end of the row, so that the rope could be thrown above the high objects
along the river bank. If two boats that were carried in this way met, then
the one with a higher mast went further from the bank where the river stream
was stronger so that between them and their boat the other smaller boat
could pass under their rope. Since those boats were very stable vessels,
accidents happened only rarely. Those that did happen are still remembered;
like the one when the boat full of beach stones from Strug in
Herzegowina turned over in front of the Metković port. After the
roads had been built through the valley these boats lost their function and
were slowly forgotten. They were abandoned to the mercy of time, stranded on
the river banks, and they have remained a silent memory of some past times
of hard life.
is today again present in the Neretva. In the village of Vid,
not far from Metković, on the top of a little hill that dominates
over the swampy valley and the source of drinking water, there is a
magnificent statue made by sculpture Stjepan Skoko. The name of the
statue is Domagoj's boat and it represents Croatian prince Domagoj,
three archers and one spearman. It is the symbol of the persistent fight for
water and curious historical winds.
It is this integrity with history,
the silent presence of stranded boats on the Neretva banks that
influenced the Neretva people during the recent war to take to the
rows bravely. Their strength and endurance, as well as the skill of the
builders to revive old measures and secrets of construction (stable and
fast), is shown to the great joy of all the people of Neretva and
their guests on the marathon of boats, that is held in August from
Metković to Ploče in the length of 23 km. In the first years only
the citizens of Neretva settlements competed but the fighting pirate
spirit of all the Neretva descendants from all over the world has
been awoken and they send their teams from far Australia, Moliseo in
Italy, the Czech Republic and Slowakia. The Marathon will save the boats
from oblivion and return them to the every day living of Neretva.