Paddle Across the Atlantic: Two Croatian Veterans Complete 83 Days of Rowing

Daniela Rogulj

Updated on:

Saša Filipin
Saša Filipin

After almost three months, two Croatian veterans succeeded in the historic endeavor of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in a rowing boat. Martin Cruickshank (61 years old) and Werner Ilić (55 years old) successfully rowed to Barbados on Earth Day after 83 days spent on the ocean. Within the project ‘Paddle Across the Atlantic Ocean’, the veterans included Croatia in the league of countries of overseas rowers, in which, in addition to Croatia, there are only 31 countries. Furthermore, the two Homeland War volunteers paid tribute to the homeland by sailing in an environmentally friendly Fenix boat. They made the public aware of protecting natural resources, especially the oceans and seas.


Saša Filipin

Martin and Werner are retired Homeland War veterans who returned from abroad to defend the Croatian homeland in the 1990s and have now completed the historic ‘Paddle Across the Atlantic’ venture in honor of Croatia. These two veterans managed to cross 5,500 kilometers of the relentless Atlantic Ocean in a boat for overseas navigation and using only oars. They began their endeavor in honor and glory of the homeland on January 15, 2022, the 30-year anniversary of Croatia’s international recognition, and ended it on Earth Day, more than three months later.

The two veterans rowed across the Atlantic for days, a route only a few brave rowers had traveled before them. Finally, they set off from the Spanish Canary Islands and planned to get to Martinique in the Caribbean Sea. However, due to unfavorable natural conditions and a strong storm that hit them on one part of the road, their boat Fenix landed happily in Barbados. The veterans proved that love for the homeland is a powerful driver for success in a superhumanly demanding endeavor.

“We knew it would not be easy. We expected difficult conditions and exceptional physical effort while rowing, but for the homeland’s glory and faith in God, nothing was difficult for us. We did not expect that such a strong storm would completely change our route, so we are proud and grateful that we managed to sail to Barbados alive and with an undamaged boat. We are happy that from now on, Croatia will be known in the world for successfully crossing the Atlantic Ocean only in a rowing boat,” said Werner Ilić.


Saša Filipin

“We only had each other, humility towards the powerful nature around us, and a desire to celebrate our beloved homeland,” Martin Cruickshank said during their historic visit to Barbados.

Arriving in Barbados on Earth Day, which marks the importance of caring for the environment, the veterans highlighted the need to protect the ocean and sea closer to the world by using an environmentally friendly rowing boat, additionally equipped with a desalinator powered exclusively by solar energy.

The organizer of the unique project is the Association of Veterans, Soldiers, and Patriots from Zagreb, ensuring this event will be marked in Croatian history and that Croatia is included in the list of countries that have successfully crossed the Atlantic with the dedication of their crews. They emphasize that this would not have been possible without the individuals and companies that financially supported them. With the help of Martin and Werner, the League of Overseas Rowers gained another member state, and Croatia once again went down in history thanks to the defenders.

On Saturday, the President of the Republic, Zoran Milanović, congratulated Werner Ilić and Martin Cruickshank. 

“In 83 days of traveling across the Atlantic, you have shown courage, bravery, indomitable spirit, and honorable human qualities that you have already proven yourself in the Homeland War,” said the Croatian President.

“Not only did you achieve the goal that you announced to us when we met before your trip, but you included Croatia among only 30 countries with brave people like you, ready for such an endeavor. Croatia is proud of you because you have shown the world the strength of Croatian patriotism and the greatness of our maritime tradition,” the congratulatory message reads.

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