Boats, jail and love: an odyssey

When he was a child in Croatia, Tony Burica first got wind of sailing. He'd watch large schooners coming and going from the port. Images of ketches sailing the Mediterranean hang from his shop walls.

One night in Communist Croatia, Burica fled the party, which wanted to conscript him, he said: "You'd have to be a fanatic, or not have a brain."

He bid goodbye to his childhood sweetheart Tereza and sailed across the Adriatic Sea, from Croatia to Italy, in 1951. Without papers, Burica wound up in a labor camp, he said. That was just the first of his detentions, in his journey which included a trip across the Atlantic in an 18-foot boat. Throughout Western Europe, and in South and Central America, he and a friend were arrested and jailed 10 times for not having proper documentation.

Eventually, they ended up in Arizona, and after a couple odd jobs, they landed at Shock Boats in Newport Beach. Burica worked there for a few years and then returned to Croatia for Tereza, whom he married — 16 years after he left the country. Now the couple lives in Costa Mesa near Tony's Boat Shop.

— Mike Reicher

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