Saturday, February 18, 2017

Final Burst

photo by Eddie Rivera

Eddie captured this brilliant image tonight in Newport as the sun was bursting through from under the clouds, right before touching down for the night.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

V-Day Snapshot

As the sun set behind the buildings across the water from our docks,
I caught this shot of John Kerschbaum from Gondola Romantica in Minnesota - heading out on a cruise with happy passengers,
as one of Newport's ubiquitous crew boats paused between runs.

Monday, February 13, 2017


A trio of gondolas awaits their passengers
on a clear day in February in Newport Beach.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Jack Takes Off

I caught a few glimpses of Jack's departure this evening in Newport,
as he and his passengers headed out into weather conditions
that we surely do not deserve (but will happily accept).

A marina full of gondolas.
I never get tired of reflection images if these boats.

Everybody is happy.
 And then there's that:
A brilliant sunset in early February.


Sunday, January 29, 2017

Summer Weather Tonight

Summer made an unexpected limited-time appearance this evening
here in Newport.  The Santa Ana winds, that blow warm, dry air
from the inland deserts brought us some relief from the pattern of storms swinging in from the Pacific, and my gondoliers and I enjoyed conditions
that we all agreed were more than we deserved.
Here are some shots from the back of the boat tonight in Newport:
Rowing towards that bright fiery ball
(and snapping a few pictures along the way)
Stalking Simon as he drops a message-in-a-bottle in the water...
...she picks it up, reads the message...
...and says "YES!"
Kyle cruises by with happy passengers.
true, pure, perfect serenity.
Simon catches up with me and stalks my boat...

...and snaps a photo of us as my passengers and I
as we cruise under the Newport Blvd. bridge.

It was a wonderful evening.
I'm really not sure if we all deserved it,
but I will say that I have spent quite a lot of time
pumping rainwater out of my gondolas,
So I'll take it.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Synco at the Seattle Boat Show

Our friend John Synco has some terrific support
from his home port of Gig Harbor.
It seems that everybody knows him and loves him.
If you know John, this should come as no surprise.
John writes:
A couple of weeks before the Seattle boat show,
the Gig Harbor tourism and communications director Karen Scott contacted me to ask my permission to use a life size cutout of Nelly and I.
She wanted to use it for the Gig Harbor city booth at the show and offer guests a chance to take pictures with their faces in the cutouts that replaced the faces of my original passengers.

I had to think long and hard about this.
After about a second I said, "um... heck yeah!"

So I sent them a few high resolution photos and kept my fingers crossed. I wasn't sure if the plan would actually work out,
but when I got to the boat show I was greeted by the city booth with that huge photo.
What a treat!

Tricia and I feel very fortunate to have landed in a town
where I've been fully accepted by the community.

I can't wait to see how a Gondola Nationals would go here.

Grazie, Greg. I'm on my way out soon for another day where I get to walk around in stripes and a Giuliana Longo cappello.
I'll again be chatting with the public about Gig Harbor,
Venezia and gondolas in America.
Keep a look out on Facebook and Instagram for more photos!

In the photo above, John managed to create
an image of himself...rowing himself!

Continuing the fun, here's a shot of the
gondola with passengers...walking towards you.

Thanks for the great photos, John.
I'm so glad to see that things are going well for you there.

Monday, January 23, 2017

The Tie-Strap Trick

photo by Matt Kilgore

Yesterday I professed my undying affection
for a wonderful device known as the sump pump.

I spent plenty of time pumping out boats,

and then placing a "Stella system" on each boat,
so I could sleep through the night.

Well, I slept.  Slept through more rain, and even hail.
When I arrived, I was reminded that "Murphy" might as well be
my middle name.
I pumped out fifteen boats yesterday.

This morning, fourteen of them were still floating on the surface.

But then there was Stella.
She had a battery that didn't fulfill it's duties,
and was summarily baptized in salt water.

No, the irony is not lost on me.
The very boat that I chose to use when I named the "Stella system",
was the one that had tried to make a mad dash for the bottom of the bay.

She failed, of course, because Venetian boats are made of wood.
But there she sat, a lowrider gondola.

If gondolas could speak, this one would be saying:
"you haven't given me enough attention lately,

but today I made sure that you would."

My friend Matt and I had stopped by the docks
to just clean a few things up.
But then...your plans don't always
work out the way you thought they would.
I told Matt that our "plans" had changed,
and we went about the business of reviving Stella.
This wasn't the first time we'd done this.
In fact, we've dealt with submerged gondolas several times before.
Some have been on purpose - to soak the wood.
Some have been on accident (even though not always admittedly so).
We started by pulling the other boat out of the slip,
so Stella was alone, and we could give her all the attention she needed.

Next, we ran a few ratcheting tie-straps across the slip.
These are the same tie-straps I like to use to secure a boat to my trailer.
we attached them to opposing cleats - using extensions of rope
to make the stretch.

The gondola was moved into the center of the slip.
Each tie-strap ran under the boat.
In all we set up five of them.
As we tightened the straps, the rails of the boat rose above the water.
As Stella lifted, we ratcheted the tie-straps a few clicks
every five minutes or so, thus helping the process,
and preventing the boat from "whaling over".
Once that was accomplished, I tossed my trusty sump pump in the boat
and began the process of pulling out the water within her. 

Twenty minutes later we'd lifted the rails
a comfortable distance from the surface.
We were beginning to win our battle with the waters of the Pacific.

photo by Matt Kilgore
Next, I stepped onto the back of the gondola
and plugged in a second sump pump.

About an hour later, Matt and I were going compartment to compartment, drawing the last bit of water out of the gondola.

And there she was, floating on the surface once again.
The sun had set and the cool of the night had crept in,
but in a little over an hour, we'd won the battle for positive buoyancy.
Two guys,
a handful of tie-straps,
two sump pumps,
and some determination.
The "Tie-Strap Trick".
Next time you find yourself doing this,
consult my post "Top Ten - Swamped Boat" list of excuses
to use with annoying inquisitors.
Also, see my 2008 post "Raising My Own Titanic"

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Let Me Tell You Sump'in

After years and years of living in drought conditions, Southern California
is enjoying some major relief in the form of rain - LOTS of rain.

And while I know we need it, it's not always soothing.
As I sit here typing,
I can hear the clatter of strong rainfall
as it hits the roof and the sides of the house.

It reminds me of a few things:
First, it reminds me of the many hours I spent today,
pumping out boats that were sloshingly full of fresh water.

Second, it reminds me that I'll be doing more of the same tomorrow morning.

Third, it reminds me of the summer of '89, when I lived in Nome, Alaska. 
We liked to joke that we had two seasons up there - frozen and wet
But Mother Nature really took us to task that year. 
I think we only had about five days all summer when it wasn't pouring down relentlessly.

As a rule, I like to have a bilge pump and a battery set up on each boat
(you can read more about it in my post "The Stella System").
But after so many storms, I found that many of my batteries were either discharged or no longer functioning.

Enter the sump pump.
This is not something I picked up at the local boating store.
It's a hardware store item.
The sump pump is mostly popular with folks who have flooded basements,
but when the rain gets serious, I reach for one too.

The one I got to spend so much quality time with today is a Flotec "Intellipump" model that boasts a 1/4 horsepower motor that will blow standing water out of a boat at 1,790 gallons per hour. 
They retail at about $145, plus the hose. 
If you don't either step on or tie down the end,
it'll shoot all over the place like a firehose.

The sump pump doing it's thing down in the bilge.

A well-secured hose is imperative
(unless you want it shooting back into the boat)
Just to clarify, I'm not really a fan of running around in the rain
with pumps and hoses and such, but when the rain falls,
it's good to have the right tools for the job.
And the sump pump is, well, she's "sump'in special".
(sorry, I just couldn't resist the pun)

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

"Build Me a Crooked One"

photo by Isabella Mohr

For the longest time, gondolas in Venice were symmetric:
perfectly even in their design, with the port and starboard sides
measuring the same exact numbers.

But in the mid 1800's, as the story goes, Venice fell upon hard times,

and the gondola went from a two-man boat to a one-man boat.
Up until then, the boat was rowed by a master on the back of the gondola,

and an apprentice up front. 

At some point a conversation took place between a builder and his client.
The client's name is unknown,
but the builder was a guy named Domenico Tramontin.

Recently, the city had fallen on hard times.
The apprentice got a pink slip,
while the maestro ended up doing twice as much work.
(yes, this is a familiar story these days)
The iconic gondola had become a one-man-boat.

There was probably wine involved in this conversation.
The client said "build me a crooked one".
Mr. Tramontin is believed to have said:
"they're all gonna laugh at you,
'cause you're the one who's gonna be rowing it, so what do I care?"

The client was tired of correcting hard to compensate for a missing front man.
Domenico built the very first asymmetric gondola.
Sure enough - when the owner of this new lopsided boat rowed her,
other gondoliers laughed...until they saw how easy she was to row.
Next they wanted to try rowing her.

Then they wanted one of their own.
It is said that from that point,
nobody build another symmetric gondola in La Serenissima.

At the time, Domenico Tramontin was just one of many gondola builders.

but his decision to create an asymmetric gondola,
Well, that elevated him to "gondola royalty."
I can't speak from a boat builder's perspective.
But I can tell you that as a guy who rows these remarkable vessels,
the asymmetry is fantastic, and if I could go back in time,
I'd love to shake hands with Domenico Tramontin.