Old popular boats

There 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 word 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 hull (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

Lađa 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.

                Copyright© GKS & Tourist board of Metkovic 2001.

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