Interview: Gordon Naranča, captain of Sail Croatia's Queen Jelena
By Claire Benktander | 22 Aug 2022
We spoke to Gordon Naranča, captain and owner of Queen Jelena, cruising on Sail Croatia’s Elegance Cruise.
Queen Jelena is one of the most elegant ships in the Sail Croatia fleet. Used for Sail Croatia’s Elegance cruises, the ship offers a unique, modern design and excellent facilities. Find out more about the ship and the voyages it departs on with our interview with Queen Jelena’s captain below.
What first attracted you to a career in sailing?
Sailing has been passed down in my family from generation to generation for more than 200 years, so it was a natural career choice for me.
How did you end up as a skipper in Croatia?
As a kid I would join my father onboard his boat each and every time I had school holidays, so the nautical industry has always been ingrained in me. I went to a maritime specific high school, and after my father’s first boat, we bought another boat, then another and another, and now I own and operate this boat, Sail Croatia’s Queen Jelena.
It is tough for me to leave the sea, I was born here, and it is so beautiful and challenging. If you don’t love this job, you can’t do it. This is a very particular job, and you must love it to make it work.
What is day-to-day life like on board and what would be a typical day for you?
Each morning I wake up around 6am and start my chores. I go to the store to buy myself some fresh bread, remove the trash from the boat, fill up the onboard water tanks and check that my deck crew is ready for the day. After that, it is time to set sail.
After a few hours of navigation, we start planning a swim stop, and once I’ve chosen the perfect spot to stop for a swim (calm, protected and private) the sailors and I prepare the anchor. I always try to get as close to the shore as possible, and guests are surprised how I manage it with such a big boat!
Guests can swim and enjoy themselves for a few hours whilst myself and the crew keep a watchful eye. After a swim stop, lunch is served onboard, and we raise the anchor and sail to the next port while everyone is enjoying lunch. Once we arrive at the port we will dock the boat and guests will go and explore their new surroundings.
In the evening, around 10pm, I will walk through the boat and check everything is in order for the morning’s departure before retiring to bed.
How many crew are onboard and what are the crew’s living quarters like?
There are seven of us onboard this 50 meter vessel. Each crew cabin has its own toilet, bathroom, and air conditioning. Without that, people couldn’t live and work on a boat, as crew members are often working for a few months at a time! Crew members also have access to a self-contained communal crew kitchen.
What is your favourite aspect of your job?
I love the Captain’s Dinner each week where I get to sit down for a meal with the guests and learn all about them! I also have to admit that my favourite part of my job is having a lot of happy guests onboard!
Is there anything you don’t like?!
I hate to see people that are doing their job without passion.
Do you have a favourite place that you take guests to and what makes it special for you?
I love places where there aren’t many other boats. If there are too many boats, it can be overcrowded and stressful for myself and my guests. That is why I love Vela Luka!
Vela Luka is a quiet town on the island of Korcula which is really quaint and there are usually no more than 2-3 boats in the port. When guests have previously visited destinations like Hvar, they comment that Vela Luka is peaceful and relaxing. Hvar is a beautiful destination, but it is very busy!
Do you ever go anywhere that is a bit unusual or that offers a different experience from the usual tourist hotspots?
Vis is one of the most outlying islands in Dalmatia and has only recently opened to tourism, so it offers a very traditional and slow way of life. I love taking guests to Vis as they can slow down a little and enjoy the natural beauty of the island.
What kind of guests do you get on board?
Queen Jelena operates on Elegance Cruises which are the most luxurious cruises Sail Croatia offer, so a lot of the guests are around my age or older. These mature travellers generally join the cruise as a couple or a group of friends, and we are seeing more and more solo travellers joining us this season!
What do you find they enjoy most about life onboard? What are they most surprised by?
Guests love the natural beauty on the islands, and they also love our climate! What we have here in Croatia is very special, and we are providing our guests with a unique natural perspective – the beautiful Adriatic sea, amazing islands and rugged coastlines.
What is the strangest request you’ve had from guests?
On my last boat, I had two or three weddings in one season, and it was beautiful. I officiated the ceremonies onboard and the couples were surrounded by their friends and family. The boat was decorated with flowers and it was just beautiful – like a little church mass on the sea!
What do you do when guests are ashore, exploring towns or villages?
Maintenance! There is a lot of maintenance required on a boat that can’t be done when guests are onboard, such as cleaning the boat and mechanical repairs.
When do you get to take a holiday, and where do you go?
Since I started this job, I must admit, I haven’t gone anywhere for a holiday! However, at the end of this season my wife and I are planning to go to Rotterdam.
Sail Croatia’s Elegance Cruise on Queen Jelena departs weekly between August-October 2022, from £1,099pp. Head to sail-croatia.com to find and more and book.