Seamen of Veli Lošinj

The people of Veli Lošinj have not always been seamen. When they arrived on the island more than 750 years ago with permission of Osor noblemen, they raised their first settlement and Sv. Nikola’s Church near fertile gardens, far from the sea. 

Their first maritime experiences were acquired on Venetian galleys as galley slaves, either as compulsory or paid galley rowers, and applied it to their robust little sailing ships (grips) for coastal sailing. Blaž Gladulić (Blasius Gladulich), the first renowned paron (shipmaster) of Veli Lošinj, is presented on one such grip on his tombstone dating back to 1604. 

In the 17th century, more and more residents of Veli Lošinj boarded Venetian merchant and war ships as sailors, officers and, ultimately, commanders. This was a time of extremely dangerous sailing due to constant Venetian wars with Turkey and attacks of Adriatic and North African pirates. 

. Many of them received medals for their courage, and many lost their lives. Now experienced seamen, they set off onto the ocean and became master mariners  (i.e. merchant ship captains). In the late 18th century, as many as 24 captains were registered in Veli Lošinj. 

Among the many maritime families in Veli Lošinj, one stands out for its generations and generations of superb captains – the Petrina family. Around 1650, Petar Petrina called Ride, the first renowned captain of Veli Lošinj sailed his ship from Trieste to London and back and was glorified for his victory in a sea battle with the Turks near Crete. His distant relative, captain Aldebrand Petrina, was the last of the great seamen of Veli Lošinj. After years of commanding the sailing ship Esempio built in Veli Lošinj, he demonstrated his superb maritime skill by commanding the steel ship Contessa Hilda, built in Glasgow in 1875 for the Veli Lošinj’s shipowner Franjo Leva (Francesco Leva). Having sailed from Trieste to Taltala in Chile via the Cape of Good Hope in 1906 in only 94 days, he broke the record set by the English clipper Cutty Sark and died that same year in distant Chile.

He was a captain for 40 years, crossed the Equator 55 times, and the legendary Contessa Hilda was sold for scrap in 1909. The sailing ships are now gone, but the memory of the ‘’golden age’’ of Veli Lošinj’s maritime activities still lives on

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