Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Gondola

photo by Cindy Meadors

The gondola we are using for this rowing expedition is a very special one. She is well-traveled and uniquely equipped for the adventure ahead. She was built in Venice, Italy in Squero Bonaldo by Thom Price under the direction of Maestro Daniele Bonaldo. I visited Mr. Bonaldo’s squero in 2000 and saw the gondola under construction. The gondola was finished in 2001 and shipped to The United States. First she was in Austin, Texas, then Houston, and eventually my company, Gondola Adventures ™, Inc. acquired her and she became a favorite in the Irving, Texas location. Chris Harrison, who is a member of the Expedition Team, learned how to row on this beautiful gondola. Her unique accent color, which can be seen on the floor-boards, is the color of the Texas State Flower, the Texas Bluebonnet, and was expertly applied by Irving, Texas gondolier Fred Craven. Near the end of her time in Texas, she developed a leak which continued as she came to our Newport Beach location in California. After she had swamped herself one too many times, I hauled her out, had extensive work done to ensure that she would remain on top of the water, and christened her “the Phoenix” after the mythical bird that rises from the ashes.
She is a well-traveled gondola, and while she wasn’t named after the city of Phoenix in Arizona, she may one day grace a waterway there.

The Phoenix is a genuine Venetian gondola, 36 feet long, asymmetric, and constructed from eight different types of wood. Venetian boatbuilders choose specific wood types for the various parts of the gondola – some parts of the vessel need flexibility while others require rigidity. About the only part of the boat not made from the best wood suited to the task is what we call the “bottom sheet”, which is often cut from Russian fir. Why choose a weak wood? Because the water borne ship worms in Venice are notorious – they can be relied on to eat away the “bottom sheet” in a dozen years. I’m told that it’s “business as usual” to replace the bottom of the gondola every ten years because 0f these wood-eating worms, which the Venetians refer to as “bissi” (a sort of snake) or my favorite: “water termites”.

In the past six years, the Phoenix has taken hundreds of passengers for relaxing cruises, witnessed innumerable marriage proposals, and enriched the lives of everyone who stepped aboard.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hello, I am looking to rent a Gondola in Houston in November. Do you rent to Houston or do you know of a contact here I could use.

Kate Brito