Alright my friends, the time has come to follow up on the “what’s in your bag” forum from July 30th, and to answer the question myself.
First, I need to point out that there’s fantasy, and then there’s reality.
I sat down and composed my list. Then I went and got my bag, to dig through it and see if I’d forgotten anything.
The sad truth was that many of the items on my list were not in the bag!
I have since remedied that situation, and my bag weighs a lot more than it did last week!
I guess not every item in the gondolier’s bag of tricks is necessary on every cruise.
Now, to address the comments from our beloved readers:
Sean gets the award for being the first to respond, for being a minimalist, and for mentioning one thing I never considered – a bottle of wine.
All of our cruises come with a bottle of champagne or sparkling cider. I’m guessing that in a BYO operation, having a bottle for the clueless guy who forgot to bring one, can do wonders for a gondolier’s tip.
Then there’s the issue of drinking while rowing.
I think in Newport, I’d get nabbed by the Harbor Patrol in a New York minute If I were caught drinking on the back of a passenger vessel.
I know that certain other gondola operations have, shall we say, “lax rules” on such things, and all I can say, to any of you lax rules gondoliers is…I envy you.
Cassandra was the next person to comment.
She’s not a gondolier…yet.
She’s actually my eleven-year-old daughter.
(everybody say “oooooohhh” like someone just opened a gift at a baby shower)
This year Cassandra will be learning to row.
It’ll be an awesome father-daughter experience, which you’ll probably read about here, whether you like it or not.
Bepi, paisano, you were right about some of the items, but you brought up one that I hadn’t thought of – baby wipes. You’re a dad, I shouldn’t be surprised. Those things have easily got a thousand-and-one uses. When we travel, my wife has always got them handy.
I’ve considered getting a small GPS, I probably will for the next expedition, and I’d probably need one in your harbor, but I know my canals well enough that I don’t need one in Newport.
There have been times when I wished I had a bull-horn, and as I think back, it’s probably a good thing that I didn’t.
Forcola lube is kept on each boat, but I have been known to fall back on my Chap Stick when someone swipes my Crisco.
John Synco, your post made me laugh out loud.
I want to hear about the fight that almost happened – tell me about it at Captain Jack’s.
A safety whistle is a good idea.
I carry a bosun’s whistle on my keychain, it’s great for calling the kids, but it’s also handy when there’s a drunken Duffy driver headed right at me.
The paint brush is another clever item.
Some boats need that more than others. Heck! Some boats need to be dipped in chemical stripper, hosed off with acetone, and then dipped in paint or varnish, repeatedly.
You probably know some boats like that.
I received an e-mailed response from Pierre Meunier in Miami, he wrote:
“Whats in my bag? well hummm let me think.
You know I’m French, so in my bag is a bottle of red and damn good cheese, then a knife (very handy with the cheese), a flashlight to find the food at night,
then a cell phone (if I ever run out of food I can order in) and on one of my knives I have a tiny corkscrew opener in case I forgot to ask the client if he had one.”
Pierre is a very funny guy.
If you find yourself in Miami, definitely look him up, if only for the cheese.
And now for my list:
Messermeister corkscrew/bottle opener – at some point I thought I’d be a better gondolier if I got a really good corkscrew.
Later I realized that all I’d done was spend more money than I needed to on a stupid corkscrew.
Small bottle of water – lately, I try to always keep a small 8 ounce bottle in my bag. Most of the time I step on the boat with a larger bottle, and sometimes a Thermos of coffee too. But now and then I forget, and that little bottle can be a lifesaver, especially when you need to sing.
Laminated bird chart – it weighs nothing and can make a huge difference for that passenger who starts asking about the different shorebirds they see.
Protein bar – I don’t go anywhere without one of these. You never know when your one cruise is going to become three cruises with no time to eat in between.
Sunscreen – just a little for the beak.
Duct tape – small travel-size or the end of a regular roll – preferably black.
Zip ties – for years I’ve said “If it can be solved with zip ties, duct tape, a bungee cord or a little bit of cash – it’s not a real problem”.
Sharpie marker – a great “quick-hide” for scratches in black paint
Counter duster – this is a small hand-broom that makes cleaning up crumbs, rose petals, and other debris go a lot faster and easier.
Tissues – little mini Kleenex or Tempo tissues.
Small battery tester – no bigger than a Bic lighter. I hate throwing out good batteries.
Pitch-pipe – a long time ago, I went through a phase where the singing was my highest priority. I learned a lot of the stuff I sing today during that period. I bought a pitch-pipe which has stayed in my gondola bag since. I think I’ve used it a dozen times in the last eight years.
Towel – it’s a small one, often lines the bottom of the bag. Anybody see Hitchhiker’s Guide?
Mini Maglite – the AA size Mini Maglite fits perfectly in the canon (little brass rose vase piece on the bow), and when you twist off the lid, it becomes a great running light.
In my pockets
Typical pocketknife w/ 3” blade and pocket clip.
Victorinox Swiss Army Knife – I like the smaller ones that have a little red flashlight and ball-point pen built in. Also, a cap lifter (that would be a bottle opener) is essential when you need to open someone’s Martinelli’s…or your own frosty beverage of choice at the end of the evening.
Micro-light on my keychain – this is a true life-saver. It’s the size of a nickel and weighs about as much. It’s a pinch-light with a super bright diode. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a drunken Duffy driver heading my way, completely oblivious of my running lights, and by pointing the Micro-light at him and flashing it, I’ve gotten his attention and avoided a nightmare.
Chap Stick – gotta have it. Good for lubing a forcola in a pinch.
And yes, Bepi, I do carry a camera – in a separate bag. After a certain “adventure”, I like to keep my lenses in ziplock bags. ;o)
Other things I’ve seen and heard of
Translation guide – in some areas, the passengers are from other countries, and communicating with them requires additional study, or text.
Big Mac meal from McDonalds – obviously this one works better on a canopied gondola with a motor. It’s very hard to row while eating a Big Mac.
Change of underwear (insert you favorite wise crack here)
Night vision scope – Yep, I once saw a gondolier carry a night vision scope with him on his gondola. I’m not quite sure if he was paranoid of black helicopters, or just hoping to see something “interesting” on the shore. He had way too much time on his hands.
Personal wine glass – this has to be one of my favorite “optional items”. For reasons of liability, I’ll keep the identity of this guy under wraps, but I will say that he’s one of the most skilled and established gondoliers outside Venice. He operates on a lake where there are no other boats or authorities to worry about. He also has many passengers that bring their own wine on cruises. Because so many passengers offer him a taste of their vino, he often carries his own wine glass on the back of the boat. As I mentioned earlier, drinking while rowing would probably get the “Exxon Valdez treatment” in Newport. But every time someone comes aboard my boat with a really impressive vintage, and offers me some, I think of this guy…and how I should’ve brought an extra glass!
I grew up in the Boy Scouts, and the motto “Be Prepared” has served me well over the years, but the best way to end this post has got to be with a quote from John Kerschbaum in Minnesota:
“Better to have it and not need it, than need it and not have it”.