The Bokovac family workshop in Bar creates wooden boats admired by sailors from around the world.

 Radomir Petrić

“This is not just work, it’s love. That has been instilled in me since I was little, there is nothing else I could do.”  This is how Nenad Bokovac (53) from Bar describes his profession.

Nenad is a caulker – an entrepreneur, a craftsman, and an artist. He has been servicing and building wooden boats for decades. Today, his boats sail in the Netherlands, Italy, Croatia, the United Arab Emirates…

“A caulker is a handyman who drives tows between the boards of a boat. The wood disintegrates at a certain temperature, and when it is moisture-compressed only trained shipbuilding masters can complete the work.”

Croats say that the most complex work after building a cathedral is building a ship, because every part of it is important, and they don’t say that for nothing – if you leave out one of the 50 or so items, the ship will suffer at sea.

“Caulking workshop Bokovac” is globally renowned in shipbuilding circles. It has been around for almost 60 years, stationed in barracks near the administrative building of Bar Port.

“My father, Petar, started caulking in 1965. There was a fishing union at the time, and those boats needed to be repaired. He is the chief master and I can only be an apprentice as long as he lives, and have been here since I was born. Wooden constructions are some of the first things I remember. We used to repair them, and now we are building them”, says Neno.

Wooden boats of up to 12 meters’ length are born on this “shipyard”, and their design and navigable characteristics are admired by sailors from around the world.

The first branded final product “Made in Montenegro” exported to the UAE was created there – three sailed boats, all with the Bokovac stamp, were sent to the fleet of the ruling family in Abu Dhabi on May 11, 2018.

“They are amazed by our work, which is a great honor and pleasure for us. We have become globally famous in the world of small wooden construction. They gave us a difficult task, to make three versions of one model in lengths of 6.5m, 7.5m and 12 meters. We called them Baranke (translator’s note: women from Bar)”, says Bokovac.

Pero and Neno don’t have working hours, “you come in the morning, and you stay well into the evening, there are no Saturdays or Sundays, we only take time off on religious holidays”.

– Our product is branded, all the materials are from Montenegro. The wood is mostly different kinds of mulberry, and there are a few aesthetic details made of  teak.

Him and his father build seven to ten ships a year, even when they don’t have as many orders because the routine has to be maintained, “a break makes you lose symmetry.”

The caulking tool is the same as it was two millennia ago. Our hosts say: “Tradition cannot be kept by adding new trinkets.”

“This delights guests from abroad. The key is a cauldron for steaming planks and clamps, there are also chisels, a hammer and a rope. If it were up to me, I would bring back pegula, it is similar to tar, but a natural material. Tradition and epoxy resin do not go well together” concludes Bokovac.

The specificity of the Bar “masterpiece” is that Nenad tests ships aside from building them, as he is an excellent sailor.

“It’s very difficult to find someone who can do absolutely everything, from building a boat, sailing it and installing an engine, and testing it at sea. You get a ready-made tested product, and you can choose five more models” he says jokingly.

Bokovac boats adorn the docks of Porto Montenegro in Tivat. They welcomed them with open arms, as they were also aesthetically interesting. They “break” the whiteness of the exclusive marina with paint. In the last ten years, Bokovac boats have not missed a single regatta in the Boka bay.


Radomir Petric, journalist, lives in Bar and runs the “Feral” online portal