It is my caprice! This was a response of a 65-year old man to everyone who kept asking him what he was thinking when he started building his first boat. The old man was Ramiro Bujas, the founder of Croatian modern psychology, and as an experienced psychologist, he obviously new very well how to deal with stupid questions. In the end, he named his boat ‘Caprice’ (Hir). At the time he probably never expected to make such a huge impact that his grandson will name his first two boats after his – Caprice.
This cool story would end there, if the grandson wasn’t, the man himself – Mladan Šutej who sailed with ‘Hir 3’ three times across the Atlantic (once solo), and around the World via the notorious Cape Horn.
Šutej wrote two books about these voyages – ‘The Atlantic Challenge’ and ‘Sailing around Cape Horn’ and his yacht ‘Hir 3’ was a star in a documentary series ‘Sailing around the World’. This 35 episode documentary series directed by Mario Saletto was aired on Croatian national television and it’s for sure one of the most popular sailing TV shows. It’s also worth to mention that a lot of people have learned to sail on ‘Hir 3’.
What’s in a name (nomen est omen)
Latin saying ‘nomen est omen’ proved to be correct in the 90s as well. The urban legend says that Šutej managed to negotiate a deal to take the boat out of the bombed and soon to be occupied marina in Dubrovnik with 286 bullet holes in the hull and saved her.
All of this is surely more than enough to make this 34 foot sailing yacht an important part of the Croatian maritime heritage. Tradition in great seafaring nations is very important, so books are written and documentaries for National Geographic are made, but it goes without saying that in Croatia this is not the case.
But, we won’t complain here about the destiny of the Croatian national heritage, because this is actually a story about stubbornness of a caprice that lasts for generations, and it’s persistence and will for life.
After all the glorious voyages and surviving the war, ‘Hir 3’ got a new owner and was forgotten. If you take Toma Bebić’s verse ‘Boats are the same as people’ (Brodovi su isti ka’ i ljudi), you can say that ‘Hir 3’ had a destiny of a man. If you agree with that, than you must admit that like any fallen man, thanks’ to Pandora who eventually managed to close the box in time, there is always hope.
Love at first sail
‘Hir 3’ waited patiently for almost twenty years, until a man who lives for sailing decided to bring her back to life. A sailing instructor, blogger, editor of iJedrenje portal, founder of Dobro More Yacht Club, Sports TV commentator and much more than that, but first of all, a real enthusiast – Saša Fegić.
To make the story even more interesting, it was a ‘love at first sail’, because Fegić sailed his first sea miles as a 14-year old kid in Mladen Šutej’s sailing school on board of ‘Hir 3’ and he still keeps a framed diploma from that time on a wall at his house as a reminder. More than twenty years later, the same ‘kid’ bought ‘Hir 3’ and made a firm decision to restore her. It’s not really clear if it’s his caprice, or it just seems that way, because it actually looks like that behind it lies something much simpler and deeper than that – love.
“Everyone who knows something about boats told me that I was crazy when I told them I was thinking about restoring an abandoned boat and the less experienced people supported and encouraged me to do it. I was thinking what to do for quite a long time and in the end I realized that if I don’t at least try to do it, I would spend the rest of my life wondering what it would be like if I took that chance. I decided to try, because buying a boat is never a rational decision, you should let your heart decide”. That’s what Saša said after the initial shock when he found the boat in miserable condition and decided to buy ‘Hir 3’.
He admits that this irrational decision to purchase the boat wasn’t easy. Now a serious sailor, Fegić found her ten years after the first encounter in marina Vrsar. “It seemed that she was bored and wasn’t going anywhere”… another ten years have passed until their next, and this time ‘fatal’ encounter. She was at the same place as last time, it was the end of 2013. and it looked like she never moved.
“It was a sad sight, because it was obvious that the boat hasn’t sailed for years. Torn Croatian flag on the backstay, old genoa on the forestay, rotten sheets and halyards, stained deck and hull above the waterline, seashells and weed below. I was wandering what was hiding in the interior”, says Fegić.
After he returned to Zagreb, he was thinking a lot and finally decided to find the owner. He made the call and the man who answered the phone admitted that he made a mistake buying a boat he wasn’t able to maintain and that he would like to sell her. They arranged a meeting and scheduled a viewing of the boat.
“We came to the boat and the owner opened the hatch. When I entered, I was shocked. I expected to see the interior in bad shape, but nothing could have prepared me for the horror I found down below. The bilges were flooded, almost everything was already taken out, most of the wooden interior was covered in mould and a terrible smell only made everything even worse. My first instinct was telling me to run away and never come back. But I didn’t.”, says Fegić.
Out of respect, we won’t discuss the price, but Fegić bought the boat in ‘as is condition’ despite the economic crisis that hit hard the Croatian nautical industry. Although he knows that logic and common sense have nothing to do with it, anyway he is trying to justify his decision. Besides healthy lifestyle and advantages of life aboard, he smiles and says it’s a good investment.
“Believe it or not, buying a boat is the best investment ever. Seriously! You gamble and take risks all the time, no matter what you do with your money. After the markets crashed, stocks proved to be a bad investment, real estates are also depreciating and cars have never kept their value. Your money is only the one you have already spent. In this case, I spent my money on something I love and that makes me happy, so now I will probably be more productive at work when I have a good motivation. Spending money on buying a boat is actually the only smart thing you can do”, says Saša.
Around the World
If all this didin’t seem reasonable, keep reading… Fegić is not only planning on restoring ‘Hir 3’, but also to sail around the World again! It looks like well known Croatian writer and sailor Joža Horvat was right when he wrote “Of all the drugs, sea is the most addictive”, because it seems that Fegić is seriously hooked. But, for him “Ship is safe in a harbor, but this is not what ships (and we might add man either) are made for”.
As a really experienced skipper, Fegić is responsible and he knows very well to respect Eol’s and Poseidon’s wishes. He is more than aware that when sailing, the destination is never final, but the answer is ‘blowing with the wind’, so he is not worried too much about the final goal. Instead, he is enjoying the journey, saving the energy for the ‘stormy’ moments.
“Restoration of Hir 3 that has already started is only the beginning of a much bigger dream to sail around the World. Hir already proved that she could do it. Now, it is up to us to make the effort and try harder. First of all, we have to make the boat seaworthy, equip her for offshore sailing, learn a few things about high seas, plan the route, sort the finances, take enough time… and sail away!”, says Fegić, and adds that this is a long term project, so he doesn’t want to talk about the dates.
With a little help from his friends
That’s actually a good thing, because shortly after the purchase, Fegić had to face the truth. With a little help from his friends, he started to clean and restore the boat. First, they took down torn sails, rotten sheets, halyards and ropes, and then they took out everything they could from the interior and cleaned the deck. Fegić himself started dealing with the horror in the interior.
“There was 300+ liters of water in the bilges, so I first took care of that, then we threw out everything we could from the interior – floorboards, cupboards… and then my ‘crew’ started cleaning all of that on the pontoon, and I continued to work down below where working conditions were impossible. I had to wear the protection mask for breathing all the time, because of the horrible smell that was a combination of rotten wood and mould”, Fegić describes. All wooden elements had to be sanded, painted and varnished, and the ones that were taken out, Fegić took to Zagreb to restore them in his ‘shipyard in front of Dobro More Yacht Club.
But, this was just a tip of an iceberg. All the hatches and seacocks had to be replaced. This was actually the main concern, because they were in bad shape and the boat leaked everywhere. He threw out the old radio, stove and gas bottles as well.
After more than four months of hard work, the boat was finally ready to go out of the water. “It was a moment of truth, because I wasn’t sure what I would find under the waterline under all the seashells and seaweed”, Fegić says.
“Yes!”, was his first reaction at the moment he saw that the hull was in good condition and that there was no sign of osmosis. It was a big relief too. Again, with some help from his friends, Fegić scraped and sanded the hull, painted it with a coat of primer and she was ready for the first layer of antifouling paint. After that, he polished the hull above the waterline, replaced all the seacocks and Hir 3 was ready to go back to her natural environment – sea.
Now, when he put her keel where it belongs, the only thing that he needs is a fair wind, so that Hir 3 can prove one more time that the Earth is round.
You can follow the restoration of Hir 3 on Saša’s blog: HIR 3 – logbook