Image: the Gig Harbor community comes together to christen the batana on September 3rd.
After two months of long hours and hard work, Mike Vlahovich and his passionate team of volunteers officially launched the batana amidst community celebrations on Saturday, September 3. The day-long celebration at the Gig Harbor BoatShop’s historic Eddon Boatyard culminated in the christening of the batana to the tunes of a traditional Croatian band. The batana was then officially launched into the waters of Gig Harbor before heading to Port Townsend for the 45th annual Wooden Boat Festival, where it served as a centerpiece for this year’s theme of Croatian maritime heritage.
The batana itself, however, is just a part of the story: the real heart of the project has been the celebration and passing on of traditional maritime practices shared between Puget Sound and Croatia. “The project was never seen in my view as something that would necessarily produce a product as much as an opportunity to create a process and program for people to experience,” says Mike. “The batana project I think primarily has been a way to make a personal statement and a personal commitment regarding the skills and stories that I learned over a lifetime from Croatian-Americans in both the shipbuilding and the commercial fishing trades here in the Northwest.”
And those seeds have spread far. Over the past few months, the batana project became a true community effort, bringing together many organizations, local businesses, and a crew of dedicated volunteers to turn vision into reality. Through demonstrations, open houses, and hands-on programming, the building of the batana became an opportunity for the entire community to learn about traditional boatbuilding and the Croatian influence on Washington’s maritime landscape. “It exceeded my expectations and surprised me in many ways, the camaraderie that was built and the generosity from so many people and just the desire to be part of it, the want to be part of an exciting project,” says Mike.
“Passing on those skills and stories has been my passion for several years now. You never know what happens when you plant seeds like that but this particular project, I just have a lot of confidence that the seeds that have been planted in these people are going to spring forth with great ideas and new efforts. That’s what I’m proudest of.”Michael Vlahovich
So what’s next for the batana? After its starring role at the Wooden Boat Festival, the batana will continue to serve as a way for us to learn about Croatian-American heritage and boatbuilding. Maritime organizations from across the region—including the Maritime Washington National Heritage Area—are working with Mike to find a permanent home for the batana that will continue the project’s spirit of celebration and education surrounding our region’s rich and diverse maritime heritage.