Sunday, August 20, 2017

Viva Mariachis

For the record, I am the worlds foremost gringo,
but for whatever reason, I totally love mariachi music.
Really the whole mariachi thing.
In some ways they remind me of gondoliers:
the uniform, the music, plus they're ambassadors of their culture.
Oh, and then there's the fact that they are super loud.
Ask my mother - I've always been super loud too.
Tonight, for the first time ever, I got to take a boat full of mariachis out on the water - to drop them off on a charter yacht in Newport.
Sunset over Mariachis
We had a ball.
One guy sang a piece of "O Sole' Mio",
Another said "Do you sing?"
and then, of course, I broke out in full Bocelli mode.
He pulled out his guitar, another broke out his phone to record.
It was a party on the water.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Pupparin Workout

photo by Simon Atkins

Kalev and I jumped into the Contessa today for a rowing workout,
and Simon caught us as we passed by in front of the Newport Boulevard bridge.

This year the two-man pupparin time-trial will be part of the events once again at Nationals.
Unlike the gondolas, this boat is lighter, and tips easily. 
Sometimes rowing her feels like a balancing act.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Nationals is Coming!

photo by Mindy Schauer
The 6th annual US Gondola Nationals are only ten weeks away.
Are you ready?
As in 2013, Tim "Bepi" Reinard of Sunset Gondola will be hosting the 2017 US Gondola Nationals in Huntington Harbour.
The dates are October 28th-29th.
Read more at:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Thar She Blows!

On Tuesday, August 8th, there was an eye-catching report
of a "baby Gray Whale in Dana Point harbor".
"How cool is that!" I said.
"I wish that happened in Newport".
Two days later, it did.
One of my gondoliers, Jack Maskrey texted me a video of that same whale...gliding beneath one of our gondolas at dock.
Here's a clip that was put together using that footage:
video by Jay Morris
There it was - a Gray Whale in Newport Harbor.
Later that day, the passengers on one of our gondolas
shot this while cruising:

We often get calls from people looking for whale-watching cruises.
For a limited time in Newport, we were actually providing it!

For more details and some good photos,
check out this article in the Orange County Register:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ten Years of the Gondola Blog!

photos by Nereo Zane

Ten years ago today,
I stepped off of a gondola,
and sat down to write my very first blog entry here.
A decade has passed, and as of now there are 2,800 posts on the Gondola Blog.
I didn't expect it to happen.

As some of you already know, the Gondola Blog started as a short-term web journal that was to follow the preparation and progress of a gondola expedition down the Hudson River in New York.

I was excited about this adventure, and thought it would be a shame not to write about it and post photos as we made our way from the state capitol of Albany, all the way down to Ground Zero in Manhattan.

The gondola arrives in Albany, New York
 A proud arrival in Manhattan

We covered 150 miles in six days on my gondola The Phoenix,
rowing in tribute to the "Fallen Heroes of 9/11".
The memories, and experiences were invaluable,
and thanks to Nereo Zane - so were the photos.

John Kerschbaum of Gondola Romantica, Chris Harrison of Gondola Adventures in Texas and I represented the US, while three legendary Venetians rounded out our six man team.
Chris, John and I were lucky enough to row with Vittorio Orio, Bepi Suste, and Enzo Lizska - who were all in their sixties, and rowed circles around us. 
We learned a lot about rowing that week.

Group shot at Ground Zero

After the expedition, I posted photos and wrote about various details and experiences on and around the Hudson River.
My thinking was that eventually I'd run out of expedition content,
and cap it off with a nice closing post.

But there were other stories to tell,
and a wealth of photos that begged to be posted.

Several friends encouraged me to keep writing.
Again, I thought
"I'll just keep posting until I run out of things to write about".

Ten years have gone by, and there are still stories to tell,
still photos to post, and thanks to the efforts of some friends in Providence and Huntington Harbour - there are some fantastic events to report on.

Friends in Boston, Minnesota, Coronado, and New Orleans have sent great photos and content.
More recently Oxnard, Lake Tahoe and Gig Harbor have seen new operations launch on their waters, and those boat owners have allowed me to post about their servizios.

In the last ten years, I've been blessed with so many new friends in and around this crazy, romantic, unusual business.
I've lost a few as well - my rowing coach Arturo Moruccio and most rerecently, expedition rower Enzo Lizska passed away earlier this year.

In the last ten years the gondola world has changed.
several operations have opened, dozens of new boats have been launched in various locations, and a few servizios have closed or relocated.

As of this writing there are thirty gondola operations in the United States, with dozens of Venice-built boats, and lots of US-built craft as well.
We have an annual competition called the US Gondola Nationals, which has strengthened friendships among gondoliers all over the country. 
This annual event has also changed the way so many of us look at rowing, and has turbocharged our enthusiasm.

Of course there are so many other places around the world where gondolas or similar boats are operated, and then there's Venice herself.

With all of this and so much more to write about,
I have kept going with the Gondola Blog.
I owe each and every one of you a debt of gratitude for reading,
contributing, and commenting.
Every day I am thankful to have fallen into this unique business,
and there is nothing I would rather do.

The Gondola Blog is ten years old today.
Here's to many more great years on the water for all of us.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Incredible Flying Ruffino

Here's one of my all-time favorite photos from the US Gondola Nationals
in Stillwater, Minnesota. 
Funny enough - it's not a dramatic racing photo,
not a fun group shot, and not an image of someone receiving a medal.

This is a split-second image of a remarkable jump,
performed by Michael Angelo Ruffino.
He managed to do it while rowing,
and yes, he landed perfectly on the deck and kept on rowing.

Here's a close-up, just because, well, a shot like this deserves a close-up.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Waterfire from Above

photo by John Simonetti

This is an image that begs to be clicked on for enlargement.
Here we see one of Simonetti's wonderful photos of Waterfire in Providence, Rhode Island.

In the lower left-hand corner you can see a gondola just emerging from beneath a bridge.

The gondoliers at La Gondola are fortunate enough to get to row through this event many times each year, and when they hosted Nationals last time, they let some of us out-of-towners give it a try as well.

We've talked about this event here on the Gondola Blog many times, determining that as amazing as it really defies description.
Even so, a strong attempt was made in the post "What is WaterFire?"

I can't wait to see and experience it all again one day.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Always Alaskan

As I write this, and summer is getting into full swing here in
Southern California, The sun is also shining on Alaska.
In fact this time of year, it shines a lot up there.

Two of my favorite gondoliers are currently working on a fishing boat in Alaskan waters, enjoying the Midnight Sun, and having the kinds of adventures that young men dream of.
Jakob Easton lived in Alaska for many years, while Hunter Mitchell is experiencing the 49th state for the first time.

But when the season winds down, they will return to Newport,
and begin training for this year's US Gondola Nationals.

If you've ever lived in Alaska, you know that no matter how long ago you lived there, it'll always be in your blood.
I lived in Nome, Alaska in my twenties,
and even now, a piece of my heart is still up there.

The other day I was watching a show about a woman who lives in Alaska,
far north of the Arctic Circle, and her motto stuck with me:
"If it hurts, don't think about it."
- Sue Aikens

If ever there were a perfect quote for arctic survival - that's the one.
Rest assured, that this October, as we set out on the water to compete with our esteemed rowing colleagues at Nationals, I will be shouting that little piece of wisdom from Sue Aikens.