This yacht owner has turned his love for the sea into a business, Grace Trofa discovers
I was born and raised in Split, Croatia, but on my mother’s side my origins are from a little place called Omiš, south of Split. As a child, as soon as school was over, I spent the summers at our house in Omiš, across the road from the beach. The whole family, 30, 40 of us, would be together. I would go fishing with my grandfather in his 15ft (4.5m) boat and that gave me my first love of the sea. I loved that boat; I cleaned it every day. My grandfather died when I was 10 and it wasn’t until I was 15 that my parents let me use it on my own.
I kept fishing, but I was using it more to pick up girls and drive my friends around. I started to learn how to fix little things and it reminded me of my grandfather. I majored in finance and moved into the banking business. As a relationship manager, I was working with cruise ship owners who were converting old wooden cargo vessels into small passenger cruise boats. Being their banker, doing the P&L analysis, I learned it could be a good business. It lit a spark in me and reminded me of my history and love for the sea.
In 2013 I bought my first wooden boat, a 66-footer built in 1941, with 10 cabins and only three baths; it was like a hostel on the water. I kept working at the bank and recruited my brother, who was about to graduate in economics, to help me for the summer. We did 13 weeks of charter so that encouraged me to buy another boat with more cabins. I knew how to write a loan, what to hide, and what to say.
My brother and I formed a partnership, and I left the bank and focused on our charter business in Croatia from late April to mid-October. Before long I was selling the wooden boats to upgrade, starting with our first steel yacht, the 131ft (40m), 19-cabin Almissa. The shipyard built the hull, I worked as project manager, and six months later we had our first guests on board. We sold the second wooden boat and bought the 141ft (43m), 14-cabin Lupus Mare. We did a complete refit and she is further being upgraded to include luxury features like a cinema, jacuzzi, and a gym.
Working with just a steel hull, we built the 157ft (48m) Corsario. When we did the blessing of Lupus Mare and Almissa, the priest said, “I know I will see you again,”and my wife said, “If you do then you know he will be divorced!”
I did buy for us a small (7.6m) speedboat and named it after my wife, Tea. We don’t have much time to use it, except in the summer, exploring the hidden bays around Korčula and Brač islands, going out to dinner, eating ice cream, and going to the beach with my childhood friends.
Our growth has been quick, but we don’t want a huge fleet. We hand-pick our staff from locals. The response has been positive, and we are still young; I am 43, and my brother 33, so there are many years ahead to be productive.