Smooth Sailing Service

Every spring Sea Cowboys, Awkward Turtles, Energy Pirates, Slovenian Sharks, and Hungarian Sea Lions line the coast of Croatia off the Adriatic Sea. These are just some of the creative names Lions have given their boats for the annual regatta organized by the District 126 Croatia Lions to raise money for prevention and rehabilitation programs for people with narcotics dependencies.

It began more than 20 years ago as an initiative from Lions clubs of Zagreb and Split. “The narcotics dependency in Croatia overall is possibly like in any other countries,” says PDG Drazen Melcic, who helps organize the event. “But this problem is bigger at the coast, where the economy is weak and relies heavily on summer tourism.”

Over the 21 years they’ve been doing the event, Melcic estimates they’ve donated between US$150,000 to $200,000.

For the first 16 years the regatta was limited to only Croatian crews. Five years ago they opened it up to crews in other nations, and in 2019 had 30 international crews from Albania, Austria, Bosnia & Hercegovina, England, Estonia, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Japan, Lebanon, Macedonia, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovenia, and Sweden in addition to 20 crews from host District 126 in Croatia.

“We invite the crews to have symbolic, fantasy, and funny names for their crews,” says Melcic. And the crews don’t let them down. One crew was named “Ah Sofia” in reference to where the eclectic crew met—at the Advanced Lions Leadership Institute (ALLI) in Sofia, Bulgaria during the Europa forum in 2016. That particular crew was made up of Lions from Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, and Slovenia.

“This big Lions event provides a perfect opportunity for many Lions from many countries to meet and serves at least two main goals: Promoting the fellowship of Lions and sharing our stories,” says Melcic.