Thursday, May 22, 2008

The Seated Sandolisti in Scottsdale

A big thanks to Tony Brinkley for sending me these photos from Scottsdale, Arizona.
The boats are American-built Sandoli.

The "Isabella at dock".

Sandoli come in many shapes and sizes, and are designed to perform numerous tasks.
To a certain degree, the word "sandolo" is to Venetian boats, what "sedan" is to cars - there are many types. When fitted out for passenger service, sandoli are painted black, and in many ways are operated like gondolas...except that most gondoliers don't sit in chairs.

Marcus rows the "Sandolina".

Tony Brinkley got his start rowing in the Venetian style at the Hyatt resort in Scottsdale.
Years later he took a position at The Venetian for a few years, and then served as our manager in Irving, Texas for Gondola Adventures, Inc.

Tony was one of my very favorite managers, and I often wish we could have him back. After working for us in Irving, Tony went back to Arizona to pursue his dream of teaching. Over the years we've stayed in-touch because Tony is that kind of guy; he's as great a friend as he is a gondola manager.
While he did end up teaching, Tony seems to have had a difficult time staying away from Venetian boats - as he ended up back at the sandolo operation at the Hyatt in Scottsdale.

Now, about the sitting:
They haven't always rowed sitting down at the Hyatt. The seated rowing is a fairly recent phenomenon. I'm not clear on exactly when the official launch took place, but I'm told the sandolo operation has been at the Hyatt in Scottsdale since the late 80's or early 90's.

As far as I can tell, this folding-chair approach began within the last year or two.
It's a bit of a mystery as to how it all got started, but eventually platforms were installed to provide level floorspace to support the chairs. The drawback of the new platforms, of course, is that they make standing and rowing difficult.
I'm not ready to criticize this unique seated-rowing technique though - after all, they are rowing in the Arizona desert where it can get extremely hot.

I welcome your comments on this post.
It would be great to solve the mystery of why they are seated and when it all began.


DG Beat said...

Hey Greg. I have a couple of questions for you. First, have you ever done any research into the Balboa gondola in 1900-1905 time period? I think the gondolier was from Venice and he used to transport people across that body of water the car-carrying ferries cross. Second, I have a photo of an oar in Venice and the blade is riddled with holes. Have you ever seen such an oar? Do you know what it would be used for?

Gondola Greg said...

Hi John.
Thanks for the questions.
First: the "Balboa Gondola". If you mean the Balboa area in Newport, then yes, I've written about it a few times, but not much on the blog. His name was John Scarpa, and he's responsible for a lot of things in the gondola world here in So. Cal. I mentioned Scarpa and posted a photo in my post on October 15th of '07.
If you are taling about another Balboa ('cause there are far too many Balboas in the area) then it may be news to me.

As for "holy remi" (sorry, couldn't resist), I can think of a number of possibilities:
1. It was left in the water and worms got to it. I'm not an expert on wood-worms, but it's a possibility.

2. Someone used it for target practice, or maybe he was rowing near an island he shouldn't have and took some "double-ot-buck". Ask the gondolier to show his backside, check for scars.

3. Holes were drilled deliberately to affect the blade's ability to push water because:
a. the gondolier wanted to practice-row while the gondola was tied to the dock.
b. the gondolier was rowing tandem with someone not as strong so they weakened their remo's efficiency.
c. for some add reason, the gondolier wanted to have to execute more strokes to accomplish the same goal - perhaps for training purposes

4. the owner of the remo pissed somebody off...somebody who owns a drill.

5. a drinking game and a dare might have been involved.

6. It has to do with fraternity-like hazing within the traghetto.

7. It was once used on a traditional s'ciopon (the little sandolo with a big duck gun"), and the blade was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

8. The wood chosen by the remer who fabricated the oar had holes in it. The remer filled the holes, completed the piece, and either:
a. didn't tell the gondolier about the problem. Surprize!
b. told the gondolier to keep the remo varnished to protect the plugged holes, but the gondolier never got around to it, and now he rows with Swiss Cheese.

Please send me the photo. I'm dying of curiosity. I'd love to post it up.

DG Beat said...

ha! So many different possibilities. I'll have to send a scanned copy since I took the photo on film. I'll send it today. Oh and yeah, I was talking about the Newport Balboa. I'll go back in your blog to that post and read up on it.

Bepi Venexiano said...

I went to visit them with high hopes. I was very, very, disappointed.



I was hired back in the 80's to put gondolas at the Hyatt, I talked them into Sandoli for Gondolas would not fit neath the bridges. I went to Venezia and commisioned 3 to be built at my friends yard in Serenella and 1 at my buddies uncle Bonaldo. I loaded them into the container in Venezia and met the containers in Long Beach where we unloaded our Puparin and a Sandolo and a then met the container in Scotsdale to unload and have a commissioning party. I then trained them for 2 weeks on the Venetian art of rowing, worked with them on there "Sandolo" restaurant concept and built the dock facility and had a grand opening. They would not sign onto to a maintenence or training program for the future at that time. Later when they called I sent one of my Gondoliers and boat repair guy to check it out. The boats were in great disrepair. My guy sort of snagged the opportunity for himself and the rest is history. He built them some boats and I am not sure when they became seated.

Michael O'Toole