Thursday, April 18, 2019

Always Try to Row Towards a Great View

There are many disciplines we try to maintain while rowing gondolas.
Things like: 
Don't fall in the water
Don't let your passengers fall in the water
Avoid crashing into things.

But beyond the safety aspects of our unusual business,
We do our best to make sure that the people in the boat have the most enjoyable ride possible.

With this in mind, we try to maximize their view throughout the cruise.
Tonight I was on the water and followed my standard route - one that gives my passengers the best view of the post-sunset sky.

As usual, it did not disappoint.

My friend Kyle came rowing in our direction and I thought 
"Wow, too bad his passengers are missing this great view".

And then he passed me and I looked the other way...  

At that point I realized that Kyle had a different idea - a way better idea - as the big bright moon rose from the horizon.

Next time I'm heading out, I'm gonna take a good look at what the moon is predicted to do, and I might just change my plans.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Two Rings

Here's a new one.
I was rowing a cruise last week and the gentleman proposed.
(not new)

She said "yes".
(also not new)

He pulled out a ring and put it on her finger.
(Pretty much happens every time)

But then he pulled out another one.
She got all excited, saying "You remembered!"

He said that it was a fake and went on to explain that this ring could be worn at times when they might be worried about losing the real one.
Turned out they had actually talked about it long ago and she was so happy that he remembered.
Smart guy.

After 26 years on the back of a gondola, I thought I'd seen it all 
(but then again, I know better than to say such a thing).

 Proposal in action.

 TWO rings.
There were subtle differences so they could keep track of 
which one was the decoy, but it's hard to tell at first glance.

My hat's off to a guy who goes the extra mile on things.
In this case the gentleman had the two rings made by the same jeweler side-by-side. Very clever.

Big congrats to Jerry and Amanda.
I wish you all the best, 

and I hope you take that fake ring to some amazing places.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Photo

We are often asked to snap a photo or two of our passengers once they're on the gondola. I've been at this since '93 and the only thing that's changed is the thing I've been handed to take that photo.

First it was a film camera, then it was a small digital camera, 
and then it was one of a series of smartphones.
Whatever the case, to be a good gondolier - you've got to be able to take a good photo, no matter what they hand you to take that photo with.

Tonight I snapped this one of Mike O. snapping that ubiquitous shot with a phone, as Kyle rowed his passengers off towards that slowly setting sun.
It might seem like an unimportant photo 
(because we do this every day) 
but to that couple on the's a memory of a lifetime.
We take that very seriously.
(and we never take this amazing job for granted).

Friday, March 22, 2019


At the traditional varo for Alessandro Santini's new gondola, 
his wife Roberta Billi did the honors of christening the new boat 
with champagne - delivered, of course via a bottle-smash.

Fortunately the ferro of the new boat is a solid piece of steel, 
so she was able to proceed without concern of damaging the new boat.

Here's a great photo that was taken just as the smash took place.

To see more photos from the varo, view my previous post:
"Santini's Varo"

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Santini's Varo

I first met Alessandro Santini here in California.
He and his wife Roberta were vacationing with their kids in August of 2018.  In between family surf sessions and sightseeing, 
we had tacos and talked about gondolas.

He told me about the boat he was having built and I pretty much begged him to send me photos of the varo (a ceremonial launching party in Venice).
I had hoped to get to Venice in time to attend the varo, 
but it was not meant to be.

A career gondolier in Venezia, Alessandro had the boat custom built.
He chose the famous Venetian regata-winner-turned-boatbuilder Franco Crea.

 A beautiful work-in-progress.

There are only a handful of outfits producing gondolas in La Serenissima these days, and Crea is by far the most prolific.  He and his accomplished squerariolo Francesco began the process in July, and by late October she was complete - ready to kiss the waters of Venice.

But conditions weren't the best for a perfect new boat.
Strong scirocco winds, very high tides, and people away on holiday convinced Alessandro to wait for a better time with the right weather.
The perfect showpiece of a gondola waited patiently in Franco Crea's facility until the big day.

When you're an established gondolier, and you're having a boat built,
you have certain things custom-done according to your wishes. 
Signore Santini arranged with the accomplished Venetian carver "Marzio" to design and create some remarkable pieces to serve as the portela in the front, and the scimier mounted atop the seat-back.

Custom portela.

In addition, the pusioli (arm pieces) were custom carved, along with the decking areas in the stern around the forcola - complete with a flat charcoal black background to contrast the raised carvings.

Throw on a regal red carpet for the gondolier to stand on, and remi and forcola from Saverio Pastor, and she was almost complete.
Santini didn't scrimp on the details though - he chose crown-adorned fully shaped cavalli on either side and a traditional "delfino" as his canon decoration on the bow - all in flawlessly bright polished brass.
The ferro is stainless steel with a brushed finish.

 Cavallo with crown.

 Flag-bearing trident delfino.

Envy-worthy brushed stainless ferro with engraved initials.

After more than eight months of building, finishing, and then waiting...
it was finally time - the right time for her varo.

Friends and family assembled outside the Crea facility,
and on a brilliant day in March, Alessandro rolled her out into the sun. 

the roll out.

Alessandro's wife Roberta smiles for a shot with the new gondola.

Maestro Crea himself talks about the boat.

Signore Santini soaks up the moment with Matteo Sinibaldi -
a good friend and fellow gondolier.

The beautiful black boat was rolled into position for her christening.

And it was Roberta's duty to do the honors.

The proud owner cleaned her up, and she was ready to float.

With the aid of a hoist, she gently kisses the water for the first time.

This moment must have been fantastic for Alessandro. 
I wish I could have been there to witness it.

Taking her for a spin.

After the festivities, Alessandro's son Samuel stepped 
on the back to take a few strokes.
I wouldn't be surprised if we see him in stripes one day.

Alessandro Santini is a well-established gondolier in Venezia, 
who now rows a gorgeous new boat.

you can see the gondola and her gondolier in action along the Grand Canal.
Alessandro operates from a docking area in front of the Monaco Grand Canal hotel - just steps from the famous Harry's Bar.

So grab a spritz at Harry's, and then take a ride with Alessandro. 
You'll be glad you did. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


photos and video by Martina and Nereo Zane

My dear friends Nereo and Martina Zane (father and daughter) 
sent these gems from a recent parade in Venezia.

To say that "things get a little crazy around Carnivale" would be an understatement.
It's not the kind of naked street parade stuff you might see in Rio, 
but those Venetians do know how to make things memorable.
There are definitely costumes.

Nereo captaining a GSVVM caorlina full of "Mickeys"
(I think the sunglasses really make the outfit work).

Among the many boats that took part, 
the remarkable "Fruit Crate Gondola".

I first mentioned this unique craft in January of 2018.
A guy named Angelo Boscolo built the boat using those wooden crates that fruit vendors often receive their produce in.

To read more, go to "The Fruit Crate Gondola".

See what I mean: actual fruit crates!

Here's the video that Nereo sent me from the same event last year.
You can see the famous "Fruit Crate Gondola" at the twelve minute mark.

The direct link to this video is here: 

Imagine a multitude of rowing boats, with rowers in various costumes, 
all assembling at Punta della Dogana.  
They row down the Canale Grande, 
pass under the Rialto, 
then head up the Canale di Cannaregio - stopping just before the Ponte dei Tre Archi. 

At the heart of the whole thing is a caorlina with a huge rat 
(they call it a "pantegana").
As a grand finale, the pantegana bursts open with colored smoke and a bunch of multicolored balloons are released into the sky.

Nereo was honored to row as captain of the caorlina he was on this year, so video wasn't really an option, but he did get a few snaps of the pantegana as it was opening up.

The colored smoke begins.

It's probably getting hard to breathe on that thing.

And here come the balloons.

Meanwhile, over on the Fruit Crate Gondola, 
they had a rather clever sort of "felze". 
Shaped like a traditional carnivale mask, 
and bordered by lots of greenery, 
this new addition to the boat looked great - especially with two gondoliers rowing in full white angel costumes.

A side view of the "mask felze".

And check out those wings and the traditional tricorn hat.

Big thanks to Nereo and Martina Zane for showing us another side of Venezia.

I'm thinking about adding "row the Fruit Crate Gondola" to my bucket list.

Saturday, February 23, 2019

600 in NOLA!

Gondolier Roberto runs his operation in a beautiful park in New Orleans.
He's committed to the job - so much so that he's modified his boat to fit under the lowest bridge on his waterway.

A man who has truly answered the "calling" of this job, 
Roberto did something I wish I'd had the good sense to do...
keep count of things.
In this case: proposals.
From Florida to Alabama to Louisiana, this gondolier has kept on rowing...and kept on counting.

In July of 2014 I posted about his milestone of 300.

Yesterday he reached the big 600.
Six hundred marriage proposals, all on his boat.

A big congrats to Roberto, and also to the couple.
They met in church, traveled out from Virginia for Mardi Gras,
Roberto didn't know it was going to happen until the gentleman was reading something serious and reaching for a ring.
"When I saw him reading the message, 
I knew what was about to happen"

Six hundred proposals on one gondola.
This really is a cool job.

I highly recommend reading the previous post "NOLA 300"
It gives some good background on Roberto and his operation.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Gondola Servizios for Sale

photos courtesy Angelino Sandri and Gondola Servizio

After twenty years of successful operation, my friend Angelino is looking to pass the torch of both his Oakland and Napa operations. 
The company is aptly named Gondola Servizio.

This is bittersweet for me, as Angelino taught me how to row, 
both in Newport Beach and up in his location in Oakland.  
He has maintained the most traditional and high quality servizio west of the Atlantic. I wish him the very best, but will miss having him in the business.

Up for purchase: 
Gondola Servizio in Oakland, California 
- with two gondolas and a gorgeous varnished sandolo. 
The operation has a great relationship with the city, 
is a fixture in the community, 
has been running for 20 years with established clientele, 
and currently has a 10 year contract.
The rent includes docks and a large office/store front on the patio of the popular restaurant The Lake Chalet - with excellent walk-up potential (click on the link to see an overhead video of the restaurant and docks).
Use of a hoist and a 60' bay for work/repair/storage of boats are also included.

Asking price for Gondola Servizio in Oakland: $300k

Truth be told, I've always been a bit jealous of the arrangement Angelino has up there.  If I were in a better position, I'd be buying this place myself.

Gondola Servizio in Napa, California 
- with arguably the most beautiful new gondola in the country. 
The contract took 10 years to establish with the city.
A trailer is included in the sale.
Located in the heart of wine country, there's great potential for events with wineries and private parties, and winery cultural events.

Yes, this is the boat I've posted about a few times here, including:
"The New Boat in Oakland"
and "It's All About the Wood"

Asking price for Gondola Servizio Napa: $180k

 Two gondolas on Lake Merritt in Oakland.

 Fully varnished sandolo - ready for passengers.

The view from the back of the Napa gondola 
when she was on Lake Merritt in Oakland.

This is a rare opportunity to buy one or both of these servizios, 
which are in fully-functioning turn key condition.
Serious inquiries can be made to:

Gondola operations. 

Angelino Sandri

April Quinn
For financial info etc.

 Trailer with Napa gondola.

 Beautiful bow in front of The Lake Chalet.

Napa Gondola moored in Oakland.

The dock in Napa.

 The hoist in Oakland.

On the water in the sandolo.

The Napa gondola being finished in Venice.

On the water in Oakland.