Friday, February 29, 2008

Mermaid Cavallo

There's nothing quite like well-polished brass.

I've seen a lot of different casting designs, or "cavalli", which means "horses".

Most of the designs are as familiar to me as the familiar faces in my neighborhood.

When you obsess over gondolas long enough, these kinds of things happen.

All the same, I had not seen these little mermaids or "sirens" until I visited Sunset Gondola.

They are actually quite small, but they make up for it in shine, and whoever did the polishing deserves credit.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Perfect Moment in Boston

photo by Thom Price
After about a week of solid training in Boston, Joe Gibbons and his guys were ready to row. Eric and Sean from The Gondola Company were coming out from San Diego to pick up where I'd left off (and fix any mistakes I may have made). Joe, Thom Price and I had spent a lot of time together - Thom concentrating on the gondolas, and me training the gondoliers. Joe decided to get some publicity photos, so we suited up and were followed by Thom in the chase boat. Thom took some dynamite images that day, some of which are still on the Gondola di Venezia website today. This shot was taken as we passed under one of the bridges of the Esplanade, which lines the shore of the Charles River. The year was 2000, but it seems like it was just a few months ago.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008


The Riverwalk in San Antonio, Texas was first considered as a gondola waterway by Robert Hugman - the man who designed and developed the famous Riverwalk. The idea of gondolas in Texas was a bit exotic in 1929; in fact when Hugman proposed the idea of “beautiful gondolas gliding across the waters of San Antonio” to one of the less traveled city officials, the official loved the idea but told Hugman that instead of importing several gondolas they could save money by just importing two and breeding them! Clearly the man had a different definition for "gondola". While the gondola is certainly as graceful and elegant as a swan, she is not a bird!
During the 1920’s a fleet of gondolas graced the waters of the Riverwalk. These gondolas plied the waters of the San Antonio River for several years; in fact the above postcard from 1942 depicts gondolas in a basin adjacent to the Plaza Hotel. This postcard is actually an artists rendering, but the history books confirm the presence of the gondolas.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Shots from the boat at Sunset Gondola

Here are some shots I took when John Kerschbaum and I were rowing the Sunset Gondola sandolo through Huntington Harbour.
I can't say enough about the boat - it was so much fun to row, and the guys from Sunset were totally gracious.
So this is how you "tirare".
"Hey Greg, are done with that camera yet?"
Oooh, watch the fancy hand change folks.
leisurely rowing.

I just had coffee with Tyson and Joanna. The guys from Sunset are on their way to Venice soon. I'm totally jealous, but I wish them the very best.
Have a great time guys - I hope it's an epic trip.
And once again, thanks for letting John and I putz around on your boat.

Monday, February 25, 2008

POSTCARD HISTORY LESSON - Different Colors in Venice, California

This postcard comes from a time when Venice, California had been established for about 15 years and things were a lot more developed. The big, Coney Island-style roller coaster in the background is evidence of that. The postmark on the back of this card is stamped 1921. By this time, the gondoliers, or the people who maintained the gondolas, had taken to painting them new colors besides black. White or tan decks had been common for some time there, but in this postcard image, we see new hull colors too. The gondola in the foreground has a distinctly red tone while the one behind it is green. Many of the postcards we have from this era began as black-and-white images which were then colored by hand, so it could be that these two boats were black in real life, and only red and green on paper. I doubt it though, because there are so many different images showing gondolas of different colors, including one from another post card which I'll show you in another post.
That gondola is
all white.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Images of the day - Newport post V-Day

As "head chef and bottle washer" of my establishment, I find myself doing some amazing things, and then some "unamazing things". I get to take NBA stars out when they call for a gondola cruise...I also get to show up when it rains and spend a ridiculous amount of time with a shopvac.
I took these photos in between boat drainings. The above photo is of the Phoenix.

From back to front: Serena Lee, Wedding Gondola, Phoenix, Crystal Swan.

Gondolier Matt Schenk leaving the marina on the Elisa Marie.

Prow of the Cassandra Anne.

Gondolier Will Lineberry on the Cassandra Anne.

Matt on the water.

A wide shot of Matt on the water.

Photoseries from Sunset Gondola - Nico's departure

I took this series of photos on February 15th at Sunset Gondola.

John Kerschbaum and I had dropped by to visit and gondolier Nico was taking out a group of six on the gondola.

Getting ready for the push.

Beginning the push.

Getting the right angle.

Stepping on like a skateboard.

grabbing the remo.

placing the remo in the morso of the forcola.

Beginning the first stroke.

Nicely done, Nico!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

STEREOVIEW - St. Louis 1903

This stereoview comes from the Louisiana Purchase exposition that took place in St. Louis in 1903.
There are many aspects of this stereoview that intrigue me:

- The buildings, like those in many other expos, are probably not still standing.

- These twin images are over 105 years old.

- The gondolier is wearing a rather tall hat - at least by gondolier standards.

- I am, of course, drawn to examine the details of the boat.
But what really surprises me about this stereoview, is the couple.
Sure, they don't look like they're doing anything wrong by today's standards, but back then you just didn't take pictures like this one.
Heck! by 1903 standards, this photo was rated R. Back then they needed to "get a room"...but of course it wasn't polite to say such a thing back then.

And of course, I wonder about the gondola: how did it get there? where did it go after that expo, and what finally became of it?
We may never know.
I could ask similar questions about the couple, but I'm sure their children and grandchildren know. By the photo, I think it's safe to assume that they had children. Good gravy, just look at them!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Swamped Mascareta

From deep in the "what the heck happened here?" territory, Nereo Zane sends us this image of a swamped mascareta. It's an official Commune di Venezia racing vessel, and another one is entering the frame in the foreground. The presence of Commune boats tells us that this took place during a regata, and I'm guessing that whatever caused the swamping, took place during competition. Unfortunately, we don't really know what lead to this situation, but I'm sure that you, my readers can come up with some logical and amusing possibilities.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Newport from the air

I took this out the window of a screaming 737 as we took off from John Wayne Airport (yes, we really do have an airport here named after The Duke). I recently added a 70-300mm lens so I could really "reach out" for those gondola shots that are way out in the lagoon. With image stabilization, I was able to grab these images a few weeks ago. Before you start thinking all sorts of positive things about my photography skills, be aware that these are the best two of the many shots I took.

In the above image you can plainly see the Newport Boulevard bridge - the gateway to a canal neighborhood which I often refer to as "my favorite square mile in the world". It was in these canals that I proposed to my wife almost 15 years ago, and I've taken almost every single cruise of my career around Newport Island (the island which the canals surround).

The photo below shows one of the canals on the far right, and the unmistakable beach of north Newport with its many jetties. The pier at the bottom is the Newport Pier.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008


Nereo Zane sent me this one of the Basilica at San Marco. As you can imagine, I've seen a heck of a lot of great shots of one of the most famous and photographed churches in Europe, but this is probably my favorite photo of it to date.
Bravo Nereo!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Images of the day - Just me and Giuseppe out tonight

Things definitely quiet down after Valentine's Day is past and we get beyond the weekend that follows it. Tonight was very peaceful and things were as they are expected to be at this time of year; cool, a bit breezy, and quite uncrowded.

While working with photographer Cindy Meadors, I learned about someting called "the golden hour" - a time when the lighting is perfect for dramatic photos. These days I bring my camera with me on every cruise, and it's a nice coincidence that I find myself out during "the golden hour" so often. Couples always want the sunset.

This dramatic shot, brought to you by "the golden hour".

While cruising, we ran into "Lefty" the duck. He's got a broken left wing, so he's easy to pick out and is always bold about approaching the gondola.

"Lefty" the duck.

Just as I returned to the dock, Joe Munday took off with his passengers, destined to enjoy an amazing sunset.
Joe pilots the Crystal Swan through the marina...

...and out into the placid waters of Newport Harbor.

Monday, February 18, 2008

My best forcola photo yet

I'm still getting to know my camera, and I've got a heck of a lot to learn about photography, but I'm pretty happy with this image. Of course it doesn't hurt to have a beautiful subject, and this forcola at Sunset Gondola was perfect. After John Kerschbaum and I returned from taking the sandolo out on the 15th, I took some photos of her.

This is the best I've done so far, in the area of "forcola photography".

I like the way the sun illuminates the inside edges of the morsi and shines off the stainless steel trim and a remo resting along the rail.

The dark shadow on the water to the right is gondolier Nico leaning over as he prepares his gondola for a cruise.

Images of the day - Steve Elkins

One of my favorite gondoliers here at Gondola Adventures, is Steve Elkins.

He found us (way back when) on a date, and just felt drawn to the gondolas.

That was many years ago, and he inevitably became my right-hand-man for quite a long time.

As things usually go, Steve finally moved on to more "serious" pursuits than messing around with boats (and dealing with a crazy boss).

But as is common with gondoliers in my operation, he comes back when his schedule allows, and is "there for me" when I need him - a fact that is not lost with me.

Over the years I've come to really appreciate my gondoliers, especially those who've gone above and beyond. I'm happy to report that there have been many.

Steve is one of those "alumni gondoliers" who I hope to see return again and again for many years.

Steve unwraps the champagne cork.

In true Gondola Adventures form, Steve shoots the cork at his boss.

Two nice departure shots.

The obligatory bow shot from my gondola tonight.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

A Visit to Sunset Gondola

After a successful but exhausting Valentine's Day, John Kerschbaum and I finally turned in at around 4am. I slept better than I have in months.

After a leisurely morning, punctuated by at least eight cups of coffee, John and I drove up the coast a bit to visit with Sunset Gondola.

Sunset Gondola operates in Huntington Harbour from the Sunset Beach area off of Pacific Coast Highway. They currently have three boats: a beautiful standard gondola, a passenger pupparin, and a sandolo which is primarily a "club boat" - used for recreational rowing.

Tim Reinard was there when we arrived, we talked and joked for a while and then John and I took out the sandolo for a row through this port which I'd heard so many great things about.

After setting the forcolas for us, Tim gave a brief rundown of the boat, handed me a map of the waterway, and we were off.

Tim sets the forcolas while John makes sure that piling doesn't fall over.

John and I rowing the sandolo.
photo by Joanna Herrera

I had arrived with high expectations of this port, but Huntington Harbour still exceeded my expectations.

We had a blast exploring many of the different canals, and the weather, while a bit windy at times, was beautiful.

The sandolo was a real treat to row; she was quick and responsive - a perfect boat for two "gondola fanatics" out for a workout.

A view from the back of the sandolo. If you click this photo to enlarge, you can see the snow-capped mountains in the distance.

When we got back to the dock, Tyson and Joanna had arrived and we all had a great time telling stories and cracking each other up.

Tyson wrangling furniture.

Another gondolier, Nico, showed up and took six passengers out in the gondola; he had a nice departure and a good, strong stroke.

Nico shoves-off "skateboard style".

As usual, when gondola operators get together and talk, everybody comes away with new ideas to try, and this day was no exception.

Everybody enjoyed getting to know John and I know he looks forward to seeing them all again next time he's out here from Minnesota.

Tim, Tyson and Joanna were gracious and hospitable. They clearly love what they do and they are just the type of folks I like to see in the gondola business.

From left to right: Tim Reinard, Greg Mohr, John Kerschbaum, and Tyson Davis.
photo by Joanna Herrera

To learn more about Sunset Gondola, go to

Images of the day - Gondolier Cole Martens

Cole cruised by my gondola today and smiled for the camera.
Cole is one of our "surf instructor gondoliers"; he and Will Lineberry both teach at surf camp in the warmer months.
I've found that guys who surf often have an edge when it comes to learning how to operate a gondola. There's something about the balance and having the ability to transmit one's desires to a floating object to make it go where you want it to.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Images from Valentine's Day 2008 - part 4

My daughters Cassandra and Isabella like to help out on the docks during our busiest day of the year.

Isabella, ready for the big day.

Images from Valentine's Day 2008 - part 3

From left to right: "Fish", Cassandra and Isabella Mohr, Matt Kepple.

Same people as above, but with Joey hamming it up.

The Anna Maria shows her patriotism.