Saturday, August 16, 2008

Local Gondola Traditions – christening by spray

Back in 1996, when my wife and I commissioned our first gondola to be built, we thought about nearly every aspect of the gondola:
how we would run it, where we would dock it, who would be allowed to drive it, you name it – we planned it, including the traditional christening.

On launch day, the 25’ Curtis-built mahogany beauty with a highly varnished maple prow was extracted ever-so-carefully from the truck she’d arrived in, and placed on jack-stands. It was a grand event; a few news crews were on hand and we took a bunch of photos of our own.

In a short time we had strapped and hoisted the “Elisa Marie” (named after my wife), and were ready for the official christening.
The crowd gathered around, Elisa and I, (dressed in our best) stepped up near the front of the gondola, and readied ourselves with a few well-rehearsed words and a sacrificial bottle of champagne.

As the cameras were rolling, I delivered the speech I’d prepared and my wife tightened her grip on that bottle of champagne and took a good swing at the boat.


Everybody looked and tried not to laugh.


A few people couldn’t help but laugh.


This time everybody laughed.
It wasn’t working.
I thought maybe Elisa just needed to swing a little harder.
I took the bottle of champagne in my hands and swung it hard at the front end of the gondola.


Everybody laughed again, but this time they were laughing at me!
I swung harder.


I realized we were systematically damaging the perfect finish of our new gondola.

A few more swings and I couldn’t bear to add another ding to the small collection we’d been accumulating on the varnished maple prow.

I unwrapped the top, asked my wife to join me in holding the bottle, and we popped the cork.

As you can imagine, after all that whacking, the champagne was quite well-shaken and ready to spray.

As the champagne was sprayed onto the boat – a tradition was born.

Since then, we have christened more than twenty of our gondolas in the same shake-and-spray manner.

I’ll tell you my friends, it’s a lot easier to wash champagne off the boat instead of repairing and repainting.

After the boat was launched, we were caught up in carrying out all of those plans we’d made, and we didn’t think much about the christening until we saw it on the news that night.

To tell you the truth, we were pretty sure that what we had provided the news was worthless, and we were surprised to hear that there would be anything mentioned or shown.

We hadn’t ever considered that our news item might fall under “sports” but that’s where it ended up…in the “bloopers” department!

The local sportscaster and his editing crew, spliced it all together so the clip, which lasted about 20 seconds, was a fast-cut repeat of Elisa and I trying to break that dang bottle. It was hilarious. All of our friends called us and said “hey, we saw you guys on the news”.

Then something else happened: the blooper, our blooper, ended up on his “best of” reel, which meant that every month or two for the next few years, our friends would call again and say “hey we saw you on the news again trying to whack that boat”.

I must say that beating the heck out of the bow of that gondola proved to be some of the best advertisement we ever had.

Since that day, we have always christened our gondolas by spraying champagne on them rather than breaking a bottle, and now you know why.

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