Mortgaging their house and putting all their family’s inheritance on the line, the Ercegovics were able to fund the build of their first yacht, the 37m Navilux, in Croatia in 2009. Intending to launch a successful charter business, the first of its kind in the country, the yacht was to be crewed and managed by family members. Now in the midst of their fourth, the business is blossoming and there are plans in place to build their next yacht. TSO speaks to Ivana Ercegovic, yacht manager, about the family’s unique position as both owners and crew.

Navilux in Croatia

“During the first year of the build we encountered several problems, the first and biggest being to convince the bank to give us a loan,” recalls Ivana Ercegovic, telling me about her family’s brave decision to risk their entire livelihood for their Navilux dream. “Navilux was a unique project at the time; there was no similar boat built in Croatia and the notion of a charter yacht was not familiar in the Croatian tourism or bank spheres. It took us many months until we made all the project evaluation to show them that this business had a future and was worth investing in.”

In June 2012 the boat was launched and the family were able to see the fruits of their labour. Their first summer season saw them secure eight weeks of charter, with 10 weeks the year after and 2014 saw them with an outstanding 17 weeks. Ercegovic believes their success is down to the unique experience they offer to the charter market. “We always knew that with our experience and knowledge in sailing we could deliver unique and great service to clients,” she explains. “Out of the eight crewmembers on board Navilux, four of them are family members, which we believe gives a very unique experience to clients. It means the atmosphere on board is very friendly and our clients always comment that they feel at home, which is what we always strive to achieve.”

The interior of Navilux

The Ercegovic’s local knowledge of cruising in Croatia also helps to set them apart. “Our knowledge of Croatia and every hidden bay allows us to make every charter unique and special for that client,” Ercegovic adds. “It is very important to get to know your client and create a unique experience they will remember a long time. We strive to show all the beauties of Croatia and give our clients a chance to discover every single bay or town that they didn't know existed.”
With Navilux operating exclusively in Croatia, and the region becoming more popular as a superyacht destination every year, it is important to ascertain what characterises the region for the Ercegovics. “Croatia has a beautiful coastline with over 1200 islands,” Ercegovic describes. “That many islands gives you opportunity of exploring many hidden bays and small towns and the islands are very close which means that there is no need for hours of navigation to go from one place to another. The bays give the opportunity to find peace and quiet. Croatia is a country that combines history and culture with modern; you have a lot of towns that were built while we were still ruled by the Romans to old but modernised towns such as Hvar, which have a party atmosphere but also a lot of history.”

Rendering of the family's next project, the 46m Aiaxaia

With the success of Navilux going from strength to strength, the family are now looking to expand their empire, with the build of their second boat, 46m Aiaxaia. “Once again we are taking care of every detail of the project and putting a lot of effort into creating our perfect yacht,” says Ercegovic. “The thing that is special for Aiaxaia is that she will sail in the Caribbean during the winter and the Mediterranean during the summer. Since we have decided to charter in the Caribbean, we are now adapting Aiaxaia with all the technical specs to match the weather conditions there, which are very different to Croatia. We are doing something new and challenging ourselves, but we love it! “