17 September, 2019
The only Croatian Captain on the crew manifest of Ocean Victory, one of the largest yachts in the world at 140 meters
Native of Baška Voda, Ivan Jurišić is the captain of currently one of the largest yachts in the world and the only Croat in such a prominent position in the yachting world. Ocean Victory, 140 meters long, was built by Fincantieri, and has turned many heads when sailing through Croatian waters last summer. We talked to the captain about childhood dreams coming true. ‘Even as a kid I insisted I wanted to be a ship captain when I grew up, just like my father, who spent 40 years at sea. My mother, Ana, didn’t take me seriously back then, so she made sure I went to a gymnasium, a grammar school, instead of choosing my path immediately after elementary school. Still, as the years passed, my desire to sail the sea hasn’t decreased, so I went on to study at the Faculty of Maritime studies in Rijeka. After that, I took my lieutenant’s exam in Split. Just like most of my colleagues, I began my career on large container ships, then moved onto cruisers, and in 2008 into yachting industry. For the last two years, I have been the Captain of a 140-meter long yacht, which everyone who knows even a little about yachting will tell you is something very hard to achieve in general, and especially being from outside the English-speaking domain.
Ocean Victory is 140 meters long, 18,6 meters wide, has seven decks and cabins for 26 guests. What daily challenges does one face on a yacht like that?
Every day is a new challenge, as there is always a possibility of something unexpected happening. Sometimes things can go wrong in just one minute, which means every issue must be dealt with promptly and as simply as we can. Sailing the world seas and sailing the Med, familiar to me as the back of my hand, are two completely different things. One of the biggest challenges on a yacht this size is sailing through regions of the world where the charts/maps are an approximations and the ECDIS is inaccurate, like the Maldives, Thailand or Indonesia. You might laugh to hear this, but in the Maldives, we use Google Earth maps.
How many crew does a yacht that size need and which positions are the most important?
Ocean Victory is privately owned and has 13 suites for 26 people, but the yacht demands up to 70 crew. I know that sounds like more than enough or just too much, but believe me, you can never have too many crew. That problem rears its head even during building, as builders and designers never talk to the right people about housing the crew. Big yachts, especially those available for charter, demand many crew members for everything to run smoothly, seeing how their owners or guests expect everything to be perfect, and they don’t care how many crew it takes to make it. Every crew member down to the lowest ranked deck hand is equally important, and often I am sad I don’t have the time to get to know every crew member personally. My most important helpers are team leaders, with whom I communicate on daily basis. Those crew members must have impeccable work ethics and be independent workers. If I can select crew members, I make sure my Chief Engineer and first officers are Croatian, as proper communication is of utmost importance. The engineer of Ocean Victory is from island Hvar, Starigrad, for example.
Ocean Victory uses crew rotation. What are the good and the bad sides of such schedule?
The bad side is adaptation time. The other Captain and I don’t have the same leadership style, so it takes both of us some time to get used to the job, so to speak. The good sides are everything else. I am on duty every eight weeks, which is rather unique and result of our own personal agreement, as most megayachts use ten-week shifts, and means I get to spent more time often with my wife Iluta and my son, Tomislav. They give me energy for the next assignment, for the challenges of my workplace. Our job is rather stressful, and every day means something unexpected can go wrong.
What is the best part of your job, and what is the worst?
The best part is working with disciplined professionals. The worst parts are mostly related to the crew, seeing how a large yacht needs a large crew, and the industry is overflowing with unskilled, uneducated people. Up to 70 percent of all crew in the yachting industry has not received proper education for their position – agencies hire farmers, waiters and people in similar professions who feel like seeing what the yachting life is all about and don’t think of it as long-term career; who just want to spend some time doing something fun, like being a deck hand or a hostess. Little do they know of the risks: at sea, it’s every man for himself, and accidents are always possible when the crew isn’t properly trained. There are fires, injuries and whatnot, and those who aren’t ready for that usually quit soon after that, finally aware of the seriousness of this job.
Were you ever met with unusually difficult demands made by guests?
Guests always expect impeccable service, and most of their demands revolve around hard-to-come-by food or drinks. The charter agency is usually the one to take care of those demands. We once had a guest ask for a vegetable not available in the place we were sailing at the time, and the agency put one of their people on a plane to bring it to us. Guests also make difficult demands just to test the crew, especially on yachts available for charter, where the crew is at their disposal 24 hours a day.
What is the highlight of your career so far?
The definite highlight of my career was the day the owner of Ocean Victory offered me the Captain position. I had always wanted to be the captain, so that was a dream come true, especially seeing how by then I had only been the first officer for a year. One of the captains quit due to unforeseen circumstances, and the owner, having made notice of my good work, offered me his position. I accepted immediately.
Is there any location in the world that made special impact on you?
The Maldives are quite difficult to navigate; those waters are a stressful challenge, so to speak. The Seychelles are very beautiful, but those waters are difficult for tenders due to the big swell, so boarding is not an easy manoeuver. And then there’s Thailand, difficult to sail for big yachts, as the waters are packed with fishing boats and their nets.
What is your most traveled route in Croatia?
In Croatia we begin the cruise in Istria and end it in Dubrovnik, meaning we sail around the Kvarner Gulf, visit Mali Lošinj, Kornati, Šibenik, Split, Hvar, Vis, Mljet and Lastovo and as well my place Baška Voda, very proud of that.
Is Croatia a good superyacht destination?
I remember newspapers from maybe ten years ago: new marinas were being opened all along the coast. Sadly, most of them are only suitable for the sailing and motor yachts up to 30 or 40 meters, but not for the super large yachts like Ocean Victory. Montenegro, on the other hand, is more than ready to welcome superyachts. The Tivat marina is excellent, and a superb example of what Croatia must do to be considered a superyacht destination. Superyachts bring in a lot of income; fuel, refit, food, agency fees, there’s water and electricity, there’s mooring and maintenance, and of course, crew expenses. The beauty of this coast, the nature and the 1244 islands big and small, islets and crags, simply Croatia has a huge potential to grow into a true yachting destination – we are getting there; slowly, but surely.
Photos by Mario Jelavić & Boris Kačan