photos by Pierre MeunierMy first encounter with this unique gondola was in 2000.
I was visiting Mike Novack in Moonachie, New Jersey, and while showing me his one-hundred-year-old gondola, he mentioned another gondola in the area.
He said, "there's another gondola just up the road at a restaurant. I don't know if you want to see it - it's not from Venice".
My response was something along the lines of "Are you kidding me? if they call it a gondola, I want to see it".
I love Venetian boats, and comparing them often involves identifying subtleties. Conversely, when examining non-Venetian gondolas, the differences are usually extreme. You never know what strange or brilliant approaches you might see - in the design, construction, appointments or propulsion.
We drove up to see the gondola, which was operating out of a waterfront restaurant.
I was impressed with how big and solid the boat was. She reminded me of some of the gondolas we've seen here in Southern California that have electric golf-cart motors, but much bigger and stouter.
After just the first glance, I knew she wasn't a rowing boat. The size, and obvious weight of the vessel precluded that option
...and then there was the helm station.
The passenger area was enclosed with a hard-top and had the feel of a small luxury cabin-cruiser.
The ferro was obviously custom made for the boat, and while quite different from the standard Venetian blade, had an artful and pleasing look.
Next, I lifted a hatch in the back, expecting to see an electric motor.
Instead, I saw a full-blown Yanmar diesel engine - it blew my mind. I physically jumped back. Mike hadn't mentioned the powerplant and my reaction was almost akin to having discovered a wild animal in the compartment.
In 2005, Mike Novack bought the Diesel Gondola from her original owners.
While the boat was still in New Jersey, Mike took passenger cruises and featured her in parades.
Next, the boat was relocated to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, where Mike has been operating out of Stork's Cafe for a while now. Mike's manager there, Pierre Meunier, fell in love with the unique gondola and the two quickly established a partnership on the boat.
While visiting Florida in March of this year, I met Pierre and saw the gondola again.
He had been hard at work, installing a boarding hatch on top of one side of the canopy.
Every inch of the boat had received, or would receive new paint and whatever TLC might be needed.
I made Pierre promise to send photos once she was done, and he kept his word; all of these photos were shot recently in Ft. Lauderdale.
Here's a shot of Captain Pierre and his first mate, ready to take a couple out for a cruise.
When Pierre sent these photos, he included the following text:
Ciao Gondola Greg!
Believe it or not the Diesel gondola is finally ready, and already did her first debut in a movie shoot, done by Bollywood at the Viscaya Castle in Miami.
What a trek and adventure it was for me. I took the boat on it's own power to Miami, a 9 hour ordeal (should have been 6 hours) but on our way there we hit the worst storm I have seen in years, and this just at the entrance of Biscayne Bay (my mate is still shaken).
Beside the storm, all went very well and the return was very nice, the boat is doing excellent on the water and is now ready to go to work. I am now working on the publicity and my website should be ready in a few weeks. As soon as it is in operation I will send you the link, and also I would like to put yours on my site too.
I was very pleased by your visit because I don't get to talk very often about gondolas with people as enthusiastic as you about this business.
I think what he really meant was that he didn't often run into people as ridiculously obsessed with gondolas as me.
Thanks for phrasing it as a compliment Pierre.
And thanks for the photos, the gondola looks great!