Thursday, July 17, 2008

To Cover or Not to Cover – the Follow-up

Well, I asked the question, and I got some great answers.

I was impressed by how well thought-out the answers were.

John Synco, congrats for being the first to respond…and from Portland, no less!

Your comment cracked me up. Yes, the elements can “party hard” on a boat. You seem to be quite adept at describing pretend situations.

Maximus, your quote “We all know that the Earth will take everything back eventually, and really we're just trying to find the quickest easiest way to slow that process down” was awesome – profound and almost philosophical.

Sean, thanks for calling me a jack-ass – it keeps me humble. HA HA HA!

Bepi, you are absolutely right about heat and moisture, and your comment about guys in Orseolo propping up their floorboards intrigued me.

Each one of you who bothered to comment, brought wisdom and insight into a seemingly boring and simple question.

As promised, I’m going to give you my take on things now. I must admit though, that you guys are a hard act to follow, so I may shamelessly quote you in a few places.

I think that the location and operating season can have an impact on how and whether a gondola is covered.

Bepi pointed out an interesting contrast between the gondoliers in Piazza San Marco – who never completely remove their covers vs. gondoliers in Bacino Orseolo, who’s boats spend most of their time in the shade – they tend more towards covering only the seats overnight. I’m guessing they cover the seats to keep rain and dew off the upholstery.

Moisture, heat, dust, and UV rays from the sun are all good reasons to keep a boat covered.

As for the “not to cover” option - Convenience, quick departures, and not having to spend the money on canvas are some of the benefits mentioned in the comments. One thing nobody touched on though was how an uncovered boat, especially one as beautiful as a gondola, can catch the eyes of folks passing by.

Some gondola operations are “on display”, and count on the visibility of their boats as part of their marketing.

In my Newport Beach location, we have hundreds of yacht charter guests each weekend, who wait to board one of the many charter vessels. Most of the time, this happens on weekends and evenings – when my boats are taking passengers and the whole operation is "on display". With any luck, they'll see the gondolas, notice my brochures in the holder, grab one and call to book a cruise later. But sometimes the yacht guests are there when things are quiet, or the gondolas I have booked that night are away on cruises. If the gondolas in my docks are draped in canvas, not everyone will notice them and I stand to lose business.

So this brings me to the question about whether or not it’s worth letting the elements “party hard” on my gondolas.

My wedding gondola, which is over fifty years old, isn’t worth the risk. As beautiful as she is, the reasons to keep a boat covered really come in to play with her. For years I’ve covered her with the red, white and green cover. Canvas likes to shrink though, and recently the cover has shrunk down too much – it’s time to make a modification.

here's an old shot of my full cover - with red, white and green panels. It zips into three sections and even has a Velcro flap for the forcola! Now if I can just shrink my boat by about two feet, I'm sure the cover will fit like it did when this photo was taken.

With some of my non-venetian boats, like the ones with varnished decks, we often leave them “on display”, choosing to give them some refresher coats of varnish once or twice a year. For years they were covered whenever they weren't booked for cruises, but we noticed a jump in our walk-by bookings and inquiries when they weren't under canvas.

Because those boats have a big canopy, they are more difficult to cover and uncover without stepping on the varnished deck. I am always careful when stepping on the decks, but I don’t know about all the other gondoliers. As you know, it only takes one guy, stepping in the wrong place, to leave a nasty scratch. In the coming months, I’ll be covering one of those boats to see what differences present themselves.

Another area that is worthy of mention is that fully-covered boats are often not as inviting to the hooligans of the world. Sure, I've had a few scattered experiences where someone actually crawled into one of my boats to take advantage of the cover (to hide, make-out, or just to find a place to sleep), but in general, a boat with the visual appeal of a gondola, is less likely to get "messed with" if she's got a full cover.

I was hoping that we'd hear from a few people in seasonal operations. It seems to me that if I were running gondolas for part of the year, and had the opportunity to focus on maintenance for a few months - I might be able to justify the "on display" time, knowing that I'd have time to repaint later.

Sean, you and E.J. ran seasonally in New York for a while. Any thoughts on the subject?

Bepi mentioned moisture as a problem. We are truly spoiled here in Southern California - with temperatures and humidity levels almost always within the optimum range, both for humans and for gondolas.

(if you're reading this from out of state - don't move here! There are way too many people here. Our traffic and cost of living will quickly convince you to go least I hope so)

Getting back to moisture, I'd venture to guess that some folks in parts of the South could learn a lesson from the gondoliers in Bacino Orseolo, and prop their floorboards up to keep things dry. Anyone from a "moist port" want to weigh in here?

Now let's talk about laziness. We'd all like to think that our fellow gondoliers will do their best every night, to cover the gondolas we own and/or operate.
We'd all like to think those gondoliers were capable of doing so without ripping the canvas.
And of course, it would be nice to think that the covers always got put on the right way, with the front part actually on the ferro and so on.
Mr. Synco, how am I doing so far in creating a "pretend situation"?
With energetic guys, mostly in their twenties, guys who get paid to row, you'd think taking a few minutes to put some canvas on the boat wouldn't be too much to ask. Oh, but at the end of a long night, it's easy for a lot of guys to assume that another gondolier will probably be using the boat later on, or rationalize that since he'll be the first one on the dock in the morning - he can cover the gondola then.
Yeah, like that'll happen.

There's one more factor that deserves mention, and it is one of the most damaging, unsightly, and irritating things to have on your boat. It can immediately spoil your client's perception of the gondola, and your operation.
It shall I say...the stuff that comes out of the back end of a seagull.
Yes, poop, my friends.
I'm sure you've got all sorts of other words for it, but since I'm trying to keep the gondolablog at least PG rated, I'll try to stick with "poop".
Of course, poop of any type is bad - that's why it is expelled.
All bad stuff.
Seagulls, pelicans, ducks, herons - they all eject corrosive badness.
But seagull poop is among the worst.
It is so corrosive, there should be warning labels duct taped to the rear end of each and every seagull.
If UN weapons inspectors came upon containers of it, they'd have a difficult time deciding whether it was chemical, biological, or nuclear.
Either way - definitely WMD material.

Seagull poop bothers me on so many levels:
1. It's usually white, and on a black boat it really stands out.

2. It's highly corrosive - there's stomach acid in there for Pete's sake!

3. It can land on the boat at any time, and according to Murphy's Law, will land on a freshly washed boat.

4. it makes no difference to me that it's a bird and not a person - when I see it on my boat, I can't help but think:

5. Those of you reading this who are psychology majors have probably already determined that I've been pooped on a few times! - Makes you wanna carry a shotgun on the boat!

alright, end of poop rant.

Ok now, here comes the summary.
First, I must reiterate my statement that "the location and operating season can have an impact on how and whether a gondola is covered".

I thought about weaving a nice two-paragraph summation, but I think the following format makes more sense:

Got sun beating down on your decks? - cover the gondola.

Got your boat in a moist environment in the shade? - don't cover, and prop up your floorboards (thanks Tim).

Expecting the cover to keep water out? - keep dreamin', and buy a shopvac (good call Sean).

Got lots of potential clients walking by the boat? - put it "on display" when you need to - and paint it now and then.

Got hooligans? - cover, and chain a guard dog to the nearest cleat (one pit-bull, ten chihuahuas, it doesn't matter, you just need a deterrent, and tell those dogs no peeing on the boat!).

Lazy gondoliers? - show them that the front part goes on the front, and the back on the back.

Got torn canvas? - you probably need some new ones. Heck! These things only last about eight years. Don't be cheap! Spend the money.

Got bird poop? - cover, get the hose, and buy a Remington.

I had a great idea for a wordy closing, but I believe I've written enough in this post.
Instead, I can find no statement more appropriate than the one Maximus gave us:
"We all know that the Earth will take everything back eventually, and really we're just trying to find the quickest easiest way to slow that process down".


1 comment:

DG Beat said...

Great post Greg. I hate seagulls while I'm rowing too. Especially when one comes to rest on the bow, stares at you then the guests, then you, then the guests, then drops a whitey, then stares at the guests, then stares at you, then flies away laughing. Maybe it's a squawk, but it sure sounds like a laugh to me.