Saturday, February 16, 2019

On the Job: The Gondolier

It's always great to see a gondola operation 
get good attention in the press.

Sean, or if he's in stripes, "Saverio" got a nice piece in San Diego Magazine.

Here's the link:
"On the Job:The Gondolier"

Thursday, February 14, 2019

A Very Different Valentine's Day

Today did not start out the way we'd hoped it would.

For weeks we've been preparing ourselves for full-capacity, 
every boat on the water, total Valentine's Day madness.

You know, the kind of day that helps pay our bills through winter.

The kind of day we need to physically recover from.
It starts early and guys row cruises past midnight.

But it was not meant to be.

Instead, we listened to the rain as it pelted the roof all night, 
and John and I found ourselves on the docks this morning in torrential rain,
pumping out gallons of rainwater.

 Not how I'd planned on spending the first part of Valentine's Day.

 The double-balance-beam portion of this morning's program.

 John of Minnesota is a very good sport.

The rain comes.  Sometimes you just have to embrace it.

In the thick of it, I had rainwater trickling down into my underwear and it was coming down in sheets.  Normally I would've been swearing under my breath with a permanent scowl on my face.
But just then John shouted out "Happy Valentine's Day!" 

with a goofy grin on his face, and I just started laughing.

Later I looked up to the sky and shouted "Is that the best you can do?"

We got all the boats pumped out and headed home,
looking forward to lunch and dry clothes.

Returning to the dock a few hours later we found Eddie getting everything ready for cruises.
The sun peeked out between the clouds and all was right in the world.
(Ok, it was a bit windy, but we didn't care at that point)

 Eddie and Kyle - such awesome guys!

 John moving a semi-covered boat into place 
before prepping for his passengers.

And was time.
My clients arrived, we shoved off, and I was rowing.

No, it wasn't the 8-10 cruises I'd planned on rowing, 

but I was thrilled to be on the back of the boat.

There's how it could go,
how you hoped and planned and wanted it to go,
and then there's how it actually goes.

We don't always have control over what happens to us.

But we do have control over how we react to it.

Robert waves from Lucia.

As the hours went by, the wind eased up, and it was a beautiful evening.


photo by C. Wilson Photography

Where do I begin?

For 25+ years I've been telling people that Valentine's Day is the "Superbowl of gondola cruises".  We start preparing for it in the fall and expect to row as many cruises as we physically can.
It's the busiest day of the year, surrounded by the busiest week of the year.

This year...not so much.

We were hoping that the break in the rain would hold until the 14th had passed, but it wasn't meant to be.

This Valentine's Day the gondoliers in southern California will likely see something like the above photo.

Umbrellas can mean all the difference.

And this year we've got a whole box of them - waiting to be used by any of our clients who are determined to get out on the water.

In the words of my Minnesota friend John Kerschbaum:
"If you're crazy enough to go out in this...
Then I'm crazy enough to row the boat."

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Minnesota Returns

Each year around this time, my friend John Kerschbaum makes his way from his servizio in Stillwater Minnesota down to California where he rows with us before, during, and after Valentine's Day. 
This evening I caught him as he was returning to dock with happy passengers at the end of a cruise.

Teaching, Racing, and Giving Back

Elena Costantini and Elisa Costantini 
after winning the 2018 Regata de la Sensa.
photo courtesy of Row Venice

One of my very favorite businesses in Venice is one that breaks boundaries in many directions.
Founded and operated almost entirely by women, 
Row Venice has a two-pronged approach:
1. teach people to row

2. support and encourage female competitors

It might sound simple, but there's so much going on at Row Venice.

The first boundary they break is that of experiencing Venice.
Visitors typically walk around, take passenger boats, and try to get a gondola cruise.  In each boating situation - they are passengers.
What Row Venice does, is instruct their clients in the remarkable art of Venetian rowing, allowing them to actually row the boat.  It's an incredible way to not only see Venice, but to experience it.  Take a lesson with them and you'll see parts of Venice that might not be so crawling with tourists, you'll see things from the water, and unlike motorized rides, you'll get to experience this beautiful city at a much more relaxing pace.
Clients come away with great memories, a new skill, and some photos that are way better than the typical tourist snaps.

A client rows in front, 
his family ride and snap photos, 
and the instructor prepares to snap one as well.

The Row Venice instructors have given lessons to students of three high schools in the area - all for free.

Row Venice has also provided boats and instructors during clean up efforts to try and keep Venice plastic free.

Oh, and when they're not teaching - these women race!
I first saw the Row Venice team in action at the Regata di Burano in 2015.
Nereo Zane, Simon Atkins and I were there to watch it all happen.
I saw Nena Almansi at the Pre-Race Huddle in a Row Venice shirt.

Over the years Row Venice has sponsored women in races throughout the Veneto and even the Regata circuito VIP (national competitions).

So when you step on a Row Venice boat, you're getting a lesson from a serious rower, often someone who's won or placed in a recent regata. 

Luigina (left) and Jane (the woman who started it all) 
Celebrating after a race.

I think the best part of it all though, is that Row Venice takes a large portion of the income they generate...and puts it back out there in support of voga-alla-Veneta, especially for women.
As the father of daughters, I love this.

The pupparin race in Burano.

As I mentioned above, Row Venice supports women in rowing competitions.
Many of these women train all year for these regatas. Some work as instructors as well.  But athletes at the top level of any sport, unless given a professional-level paycheck, rely on sponsorship.

Romina and Maika on an orange pupparin in Burano.

Recently Row Venice published a statement which outlines the levels which they've gone to support women in this fantastic sport.

Please, click on the link and read it here:
Thank You 25,000 times!

While Row Venice has been supporting and giving back for years, 
for the first time they are sharing the actual numbers.

Bravo, Row Venice!
The world needs more of this type of thing.

Monday, February 4, 2019

Moon Shimmer

We've had a fair amount of rain here lately.
I'm sure it's some sort of karmic payback for all the times I've posted about beautiful weather.  

Honestly, I don't really care...just as long as we don't get 
rain on Valentine's Day.

Even so, when I'm pumping rainwater out of my boats, 
the dark clouds are rumbling overhead, 
and the sky is either falling or about to fall again, 
I miss the moon.

Here's a shot I took a few weeks ago in honor 
of that bright beacon in the sky.
May we all see her again soon - shimmering on the water 
and adding to the mood.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019


Video provided by Black Swan Gondola

My friend Drew put this up last month, and I've been meaning to post it here.

More and more these days, businesses are finding that drone video footage is a great way for promoting their products or services.
That's definitely the case with gondolas.
Drew got into drones early, and we've had some fun conversations about them.

The thing about this video that surprised me was that Drew did the drone piloting WHILE also rowing his gondola.
Now THAT'S multitasking!

Tuesday, January 29, 2019


photo by Amrin Anastasi

I hear that it’s gonna rain soon. 
But it was glorious on the water tonight!