Sunday, November 30, 2008

World's Columbian Exposition - Large Gondola Photo

As you might imagine, I have a decent collection of gondola photos and other media.
While postcards make up most of my collection, I've got a few bigger images, and this is one of my favorites:
it was taken at the 1893 World's Fair in Chicago, also known as the "World's Columbian Exposition" - the first expo of it's kind to feature Venetian gondolas on American soil.

Back then, an expo or world's fair was just about the biggest thing that could come to your town.
Think about an Olympic-sized exposition, which has a small city built to accommodate it's many attractions, and is open for six months to a year.
And all this during a time when folks didn't have TV, internet, or a reasonable ability to travel.

For many, visiting an expo like this was the closest thing they'd get to "seeing the world".

Let's take a look at some close-ups:

Check out how the two gondoliers appear to be synchronized. I know that photography back then practically required posing, but I still think it looks great.
Also, I believe they're wearing suits!

Check out the deck detail; a classic format of the time.
Again, the guy appears to be in a suit.
The stance is consistent with posing for a shot.

The gondolas both have the lightweight "felze di tela" canopies which consist of a metal frame frame topped with a lightweight cloth cover.

As I've written in previous posts, the "small city" which was built to accommodate the 1893 World's Fair, was built quickly and with temporary use in mind, so most of the buildings in the image no longer exist.

It's no secret that I love postcards.
Looking back through history, we see that many things were first introduced at expos and world's fairs.

Many things we know and use today were introduced for the first time in 1893 at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

Among them - postcards.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Swamped in San Diego

Well, I've got to hand it to Sean Jamieson;
the other day I mentioned that there were some who would admit and others who would deny having sunken boats.

The next morning, Sean had sent me an e-mail with photos of his own from Coronado, California.

Here they are:
Kinda looks like a small whale.

The traffic cone is a nice touch.

He explained that it was a deliberate sinking in order to prevent termites (a clever idea, I might add).

But of course, not everyone understands:
"People look at me pretty funny when I drop a bilge pump into the bay and put the hose into the boat"

Here are a couple photos from a more exciting swamping that took place years ago, with Valentine's Day only two days away.

Sometimes you've just got to soak the wood.
Really, of all the swamping photos I've seen, this is by far the best.

Clever use of a pedal boat.

Sean said:

This was the first time I had a boat swamped and I remember thinking, "How am I going to get the whole bay out of the boat?"

Man! I know what you mean Sean.

To visit Sean's website, go to:

Friday, November 28, 2008

Shots from the Day

I had a nice marriage proposal dinner cruise tonight on one of our canopied motorized gondolas.
I really prefer to row, but it was nice to get out there tonight and enjoy the cool air and make sure my couple had a perfect evening.

Here are two shots I took of the Serena Lee while she was docked in front of the Charthouse in Newport Beach.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Top Ten - Swamped Boat

As a follow up to yesterday's post, here are my top ten things to say when you're on the dock dealing with a swamped gondola and someone walks by laughing.

1. I'm soaking the wood.

2. This is how I wash the gondola.

3. What, you've never seen a "lowrider gondola"?

4. No, we did this on purpose - we wanted to see how easy it was to sink one of these things. The insurance company needed to know.

5. It's normal for this gondola to ride so low - it helps us get under low bridges. (especially effective in Alamitos Bay)

6. It may look like a gondola, but it's really a semi-submersible.

7. Laugh all you want, but my "yacht" has a jacuzzi.

8. I'm doing an experiment in multi-level docking. Once this boat is deep enough, I'll be able to float another one in on top. If my plan works, I'll be able to cut my docking budget in half!

9. I knew I shouldn't have let that passenger on board wearing spiked golf shoes.

10. I keep fish in there!

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Raising My Own Titanic

photos and video by Cassandra MohrAhh, yes - there's nothing quite like showing up at the dock to examine your gondolas after a rainy night, only to find that one has, shall we say,
"surpassed it's rain-holding capacity".

That's right, one of my boats was swamped.

My daughter Cassandra, who is eleven, got a rare opportunity to see my facial expression as we came upon the scene.
Actually, I took it quite well, as this was not my first time dealing with such a situation.

In my opinion, there are gondola operators who will openly tell you about their boat sinking experiences, and then there are those who will lie, saying it's never happened.
And then there's the jackass who actually blogs about it.

While I assessed everything, Cassandra took some photos to blackmail me with later.
Here are a few for your laughing enjoyment.

The swamped gondola is a 30' boat built by Jack Fesenmeyer in Florida.

Here's Isabella taking photos of her own.

Getting the straps into place.

Making some adjustments.

I shopped for a sump pump and picked up my eight-year-old daughter Isabella, who decided to play news reporter.
Cassandra shot this video while her sister did the on-camera intro.

This is my first attempt at video here on the Gondola Blog, so if you weren't able to view it, here's a synopsis:
After Isabella opened the clip, I introduced some of the exciting items we'd be using, then I laid out my revolutionary plan, and lastly talked about eating a sandwich.

Here's a shot taken after the pump had been operating for about 20 minutes.

The amazing "sump pump and tie strap" plan was a success.
And as an added bonus, I managed to do it all without falling in the water.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

"Letting the Wood Rest"

I took this photo in the workshop of Franco Furlanetto.

Contrary to what one might expect, a remer doesn't usually carve a forcola from start to finish all at once. In many cases he'll do some of the preliminary cutting, and then let the wood "rest" for a time. I've heard "months" as well as "a year or two" given as the wait time before a remer completes the piece.

It's fun to examine each chunk of wood and try to determine the intended finished-product.

I once saw a bunch of huge stones in Florence known as "Michael Angelo's Unfinished Works". These are partially carved sculptures, which portray the appearance of people trying to break free from the marble they were being carved from.

Looking at this group of partially complete sculptures reminds me a little of Michael Angelo's Unfinished Works.

Monday, November 24, 2008


Here's a very old shot of a gondola with the bridge to Venice in the background.
We don't know exactly when the photo was taken.

We can be certain that it was after the bridge was constructed in 1933.

My instinct tells me that someone who reads this will be able to give us all a tighter focus on things based on the appearance of the bridge.

Throw your opinions at me!

Now let's talk about the boat.
The first thing most of you will notice is the ferro - four, count 'em, FOUR fingers on that baby.
We've discussed the five-fingered variations in the past.
I can't imagine the reason for four unless one or two were broken off.

The second thing that caught my eye with this image was the felze - that oh-so traditional cabin, which is rarely seen anywhere today but in old photos.

The third eye-catching detail can be seen on the bow deck - those diagonal trim pieces are hardly ever seen on newer gondolas. I heard once that they date back to a time when people boarded by stepping on the bow and walking back to the passenger area. I'm not sure if I believe it.

But the one thing that trumps all,
is the most subtle of all.
And yet, it involves something as big as the boat itself - the hull.
She's not nearly as "banana shaped" as the ones built today. You see, the current-day gondola rises out of the water so early at bow and stern, that only 55% of the boat's length is represented at the waterline.

The popular belief is that in 1850, Domenico Tramontin built the first asymmetric gondola based on the request of a gondolier. Previous to that, gondoliers who had for centuries rowed in pairs, found themselves rowing solo more frequently.
So it comes as no surprise that someone finally came up with the idea of giving the boat a twist.

After the application of the "Tramontin Twist", the gondola gradually rose out of the water at both ends. The gondola in this photo may or may not be asymmetric - the angle of the shot makes it hard to tell, but she's definitely sitting low in the water.

It's hard to say how old the photo is. I'd guess it was in the 30's
I wouldn't be surprised if the boat was built in the mid-1800's.

As for the ferro - it's a mystery
but it sure gives the boat a cool look.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Problem with Bugs is...

Well, there are many problems with bugs.

Some of them feel entitled to "our food".
Others feel the need to bite or sting us.

Still others like to eat our little tiny bite at a time.

And then there are the ones who have a mysterious need to "add texture" to my paint.

One evening, just after Sarah and I had finished painting one of the gondolas at Lake Las Vegas, we noticed a big swarm of tiny bugs swirling around near the boat.

Next morning, they weren't swarming anymore...because they were all stuck in my paint!

They gave their lives to add texture to my paint.

"No problem" I said, "we'll just brush them off" leaving little tiny legs in the paint.
This prompted a lively discussion about whether the presence of bug legs might affect the paint's adhesion down the road.
I guess we'll find out later.

I once heard a joke:

Q. "How can you tell a happy motorcyclist?"

A. "He's got bugs in his teeth."

So now we have the updated version:

Q. "How can you tell that Greg painted his gondola at sundown?"

A. "He's got
pulp in his paint!"

One unique aspect of painting in the desert is that you can lay paint as night falls, and as long as it doesn't get too cold, the paint will cure.

There are NO humidity issues in the Nevada desert my friends.

I've got a bloody nose to prove it.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Spinning with Tim and Dawn

Tim and Dawn Reinard, my daughter Cassandra, and I took some experimental photos tonight on board my gondola "The Phoenix" in Newport Harbor.

Romantic guy that he is, Tim had just returned from a sojourn on the gondola, which had been a surprise for Dawn. Cassandra and I met them as they were pulling in.

I mounted the camera on a low tripod,
set it up for long exposures,
and activated a remote trigger.

Then, I rowed us out,
told Tim and Dawn to hold still,
and spun the boat.

Cassandra illuminated Tim and Dawn with a small flashlight,
and I pushed the trigger button.

As usual, I took a truckload of photos, and most were substandard, but I like the three below.

I thought everything would be perfect with this one, but hadn't taken into account, the tip of the boat due to her asymmetry. The horizon ended up at an angle.

Cassandra did something different with the lighting on this one. I think maybe "silhouette" is a good look for me.
I'm trying to figure out how we managed to acquire a curved horizon.

This one is my favorite.
We got all the elements right.

Big thanks to Tim and Dawn for serving as my Guinea Pigs on this one.
It was a lot of fun.

And of course, I'm already thinking about doing this again. Maybe at Tim's place - Sunset Gondola.

Long Lense Sniping in Alamitos Bay - Gray November Day

I spun through Long Beach again today and had to take some more photos of the Alamitos Bay operation.

I wonder if they know I'm taking pictures of their boats.

Hey, do you guys know that I'm taking pictures of your boats?

Hmm, I wonder if they read this blog.

Hey, do you guys read this blog?

Well, I guess we'll find out soon enough.

I know some of the gondoliers do.

Hiding behind small sailboats, a sandolo and pupparin wait for passengers.
The double-morso forcola and pedana (foot-wedge) of the pupparin can be seen with the black sandolo in front.

Canvas covers of different colors make even covered boats interesting to look at.
Signs that Christmas is coming are present, including the floating trees in the background.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Nighttime Exposures at Sunset Gondol

I dropped in on Tim and Tyson tonight as I was driving on PCH.
I just can't stop by Sunset Gondola without taking a few photos.

As winter approaches, and it gets dark earlier, I find myself fiddling with some different settings on the camera.

The gondola in both of these shots is Sunset's first gondola, which was built in Venice at Squero dei Rossi.

It took a while before I was able to get off long exposures without having the boat move.
Next time I take these kind of photos, I think I'll save some time by securing the boat better.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Women in Regatas

Most folks associate Venetian rowing with gondoliers, and with certain recent exceptions, gondoliers are usually men.
But anyone who knows Italian women (I happen to be married to one), knows that they are not generally

With rowing as popular as it is in Venice, it should come as no surprise that there are a number of women's regatas to follow these days.

The first official women's regata was held in 1493, in honor of the wife of the Duke of Milan.
So only a year after "Columbus sailed the ocean blue", women were racing down the Grand Canal.

Last week I posted about a women's regata at the GSVVM, with a link to Nereo Zane's blog on this alla valesana contest.

Here are some images I captured in 2005 during the Regata Storica.

As rowers on the 14-man quattordesona "Mestrina", we were visited by many other boats, including a yellow mascareta with two women who were associated with our club.

The yellow mascareta races by.

The women tie-up and visit with the crew of the "Mestrina".
The man in the foreground is my old rowing coach Arturo Moruccio.

The women easily capture the attention of the crew, telling stories about the race.

If you've got photos of regatas in Venice, and you'd like to see them up on the Gondola Blog, send them to

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

New Posts on Bepi's Blog

Bepi Venexiano at Sunset Gondola has updated his blog with a couple posts that are well-worth looking at.

The first post has some great photos taken on the Lido of old boats.
The retired gondola is particularly hard to look at.

The other post is a great piece of video.
Bepi washes a only Bepi can do.
Now, folks, this isn't a Paris Hilton carwash. Bepi goes about things in a more dignified way.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Aussie beer commercial - with gondola

Sean Jamieson in Coronado, California sent this to me and I felt it would be a crime not to share it with all of you.

These Hahn commercials are hilarious.
You Tube them all.
You'll laugh out loud.
Just make sure there's nobody sleeping in the next room.

Here's the link:

Monday, November 17, 2008

Traveling Home through Fire Ravaged Lands

As you read this, I'm making Wednesday's journey again in reverse.

As before, I'm dragging an enormous trailer, behind an SUV jammed with family, luggage, tools and now, Christmas presents (while I was working, the family was shopping).

But this time, we'll be driving through some areas that have been on fire recently.

Earlier today, we weren't even sure we'd be able to get home because a number of freeways were closed.

I realize that this past seven days have become the "Lake Las Vegas" week here on the Gondola Blog. I hope you've enjoyed it, and if not, thanks for your patience.

I promise to show some "real gondolas" again soon.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Another Beautiful Day in Lake Las Vegas

With three boats painted and a night full of cruises, I enjoyed sleeping in till 11am this morning. I think I could have slept a lot longer if I wasn't so hungry.

I made a point to take it easy today, working on some of the "little things" that still needed to be taken care of, like rolling on non-skid, fixing the rope-lights, and just cleaning up after myself.

Here are some shots from the day:
The gondola known as "Tan" for her seat color, rests at dock.

"Green" in the foreground, and "Red" in the background, glimmer in the sun with new paint and boot striping.

The gondola known as "Red" sits at dock. All three gondolas have fancy names, (this one is "La Fenice"), but most of the gondoliers just use the seat color designations.

Orange and yellow hues blend together, forming another gorgeous Nevada sunset.

The view from on board after sunset.
After it got too dark to continue, I treated myself to the Guinness I'd been savoring for days.
Eric Johnson - former gondolier and owner, has done well for himself in the Irish pub business, he's got a bunch of them and I make it a point to drop into his Auld Dubliner in Lake Las Vegas every time I'm in town.
Maybe someone out there pours a better pint of stout, but I have yet to find one better than Auld Dubliner.
After such a demanding week, the simple act of sitting, drinking stout, eating fish & chips, and watching the Cowboys beat the Redskins, was almost zen-like.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Three Gondolas in Three Days - DONE!

Well, it wasn't easy,
and to be honest, I wasn't sure we could do it,
but with a little determination and a few spaz-attacks, we accomplished our goal.
I couldn't be happier.

Here are a few images from the day:
The bow of gondola number two as the sun illuminated the sky but hadn't yet risen.

Stars and Stripes wave with the moon on high.

Gondola number three after all the work was done, and just before launch.

All three gondolas in the water with their fresh paint, hosting a three boat flotilla with four passengers on each gondola.
After I finished painting the third gondola, I showered, drove two cruises, had dinner, napped, and drove an 11:45 proposal cruise.
Exhausted doesn't begin to describe how I feel.
But I'm quite satisfied with all that we've done.
Buono notte my friends.
Thanks for reading.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Two Gondolas Painted, One to Go, and MAN! Am I Sore!

We got the first gondola striped and splashed bright and early.

Sarah showed up with gondola number two just in time to throw it on the trailer after gondola number one was wet again.

The sanding, scraping, and painting went much more quickly the second time around, but I discovered all sorts of muscles that were sore today.

There's nothing like aches and pains to remind you that you're not invincible anymore.

Sarah was awesome, making the whole "hey, let's paint a boat in one day" thing possible.

Thanks Sarah - you rock!

Here are a few shots from the day:

Gondola number one on the way back to dock with fresh paint. Not too terrible of a shot, considering the sun was in the exact wrong place.

As you can see from this shot, today was windy. Really windy.

The ferro reflects the illuminated sky, with the lights from lakefront homes in the background.

Tomorrow, we'll make a run at gondola number three.

I've gotta get some sleep!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

One Boat Done, Two to Go.

The goal today was to get the first gondola painted and ready to launch by the end of the day.

We accomplished our goal, although if we were in an area that had any humidity to speak of, I'd be showing up tomorrow to milky flat paint.

Sarah Longson and I finished just in time to clean up as it was getting dark.
Once the tools were packed, I grabbed my camera, tripod, remote trigger, and the all-important thermos full of coffee, and took a bunch of photos.
Most of them were so-so, but I'm happy with the two posted here.

The sun sets in the west behind a freshly painted Lake Las Vegas gondola.

The lighted homes reflect on the lake with a painted sky overhead. The tail of the gondola has a unique metal cap decorated with a seahorse.
Tomorrow we launch, haul another boat, and try to make it happen again in a day.
Wish me luck!

Alive and Kickin' in Vegas

Well, my friends, I'm happy to report that we made it safely across the desert.
Take my advice:
Never drive to Vegas on four and a half hours of sleep.
I ended up drinking so much coffee that I discovered all the bathroom stops along the way.

So yesterday, after our trek across the wasteland, I dropped the family off at the hotel and made my way out to the launch ramp at Lake Las Vegas.

Once at the ramp, I removed everything from the trailer (which ammounted to four jackstands, a table, an old ice chest, and a big dockbox full of paints and supplies) - all of which had been lashed, tie-strapped and duct taped down. Because I am known to travel at speeds well above the posted limits, my gondolier in Newport, Steve Elkins, took his duct taping job seriously (Steve has had the misfortune of driving with me a time or two).

Fortunately we had no problems with things trying to rattle off the trailer and get run over by semi-trucks, but it wasn't easy gettin' it all off once I was there.

After the trailer was empty, I hauled the first gondola out.
My Manager in Lake Las Vegas, Sarah Longson, had left the boat at the ramp earlier in the day.

Everything went as planned, until I attempted to remove the trailer from the ball-hitch on the back of my truck.
It didn't want to come loose.
I tried all kinds of colorful language and that didn't help.

After some fighting with the above mentioned hardware, my wish came true: the tongue of the trailer released from the ball and the whole thing began to rise...
at an alarming rate of speed.

Yes,I had hauled out with the gondola too far back and the trailer was in the act of "popping a wheelie"!
By the grace of God, I had the sense to jump on it and prevent the truly horrible things that would have followed had the wheelie come to completion.
Disaster avoided,
at least temporarily.
I was alone in the desert, middle of nowhere.

I had enough weight to hold the tongue down, but not quite enough to get it back on the ball.
I cursed myself for having recently lost some weight.
While weighing down the front of the trailer, I opened the back of my SUV and searched for something heavy, no dice.
I tried hooking the catch-chains from the trailer but they were too long.
finally, I found a smaller cable coming off the trailer tongue which had a hook on it. It was the perfect length.
"Thank God I paid extra for trailer brakes" I said to myself, because that cable was attached to the emergency braking system.
Once the wheelie-prone trailer tongue was secure, I ran and got two jackstands, and propped up the stern of the gondola.
I can't remember the last time I moved that fast.

Just as I was tightenning up the last stand, a security guard drove by.
Five minutes earlier and he would have been able to help me.
Of course, five minutes earlier and he probably would have fallen in the dirt laughing at me.
Ah yes my friends, this is what I call one of those "remember me this way" moments.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Crossing the Desert

I leave this morning for lake Las Vegas.
As you read this, I'm probably in the act of dragging an enormous trailer across the desert, with all the tools and materials needed to haul, scrape, sand, and paint all three of my gondolas out there.

It's an ambitious plan - to haul and paint all three boats in four days.

Am I ready? I think so.

Am I psyched? Oh yeah!

Am I crazy? Well, there's never been any doubt about that.

Am I glad to be doing this in November rather than July? Hmmm, ya think?

Will I succeed? Only time will tell.

But if I don't, I'm sure I'll be able to come up with some lame excuse to justify it.

And of course, while I'm out there, I'll keep up my personal tradition of "supporting" Eric Johnson's Auld Dubliner there in the village. Anyone want to drive all the way out there to have a pint of Guinness?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Squero San Trovaso - circa 2000

I snuck into Venice's most well-known gondola yard in September of 2000 and took these photos.
The stern quarter of a gondola da traghetto, stripped of her parecio and undergoing repair. The original gondola builders came to Venice from the timber producing regions of the Italian Alps. Their heritage is seen in the architecture of many current squero buildings. I got the impression while watching these two guys that they were gondoliers, either working on their own boats or on boats that belong to their cooperative. Notice the Venetian version of a refridgerated truck going by in the background.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

The GSVVM Mascareta Fleet

Many of you know that in a Venetian regata, there are typically nine boats, which are identical except for their colors.

The Commune di Venezia owns nine-boat fleets of several types; all are painted in the same rainbow of colors.

But what about club boats?
Rowing clubs do have their own "in-club" regatas.

Most rowing clubs paint their whole fleet in the club's color scheme, with the exception of some of the more dramatic ones kept only for special occasions.
The boats at the GSVVM are prime examples.

The club has a builder on-site, and he does an amazing job.
Sometimes I want to just kidnap him and bring him back to California.

The mascaretas in the above photo, which I took in 2006, were built for the GSVVM. They bear the orange and blue which are the club's colors. The decks are kept in varnish, and every detail of each boat is identical the the other eight mascaretas...except one:
You'll notice that there's a funny curved piece on the starboard side of each boat - it sticks up above the rail. That piece is there for the forward rower to rest his or her right knee against for balance.

It comes in really handy when a big moto-topo goes blasting by in the afternoon. Believe me!

The GSVVM, in an effort to keep track of the different boats in a race, has painted each knee-rest a different color. All nine boats are in the shot - you can tell by picking out all nine colors.

These same boats are available for viewing on Nereo Zane's blog, which I linked to in a previous post, but here it is again:
The post is from the 30th of October, 2008.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Tim Reinard Rescues Photos from a Dying Phone

Tim over at Sunset Gondola has just published an excellent post on his blog with some great photos.
What's more interesting is where he got them and how.

Go to:

and enjoy!

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Women's Valesana Regata

photo by Nereo ZaneRecently the Gruppo Sportivo Voga Veneta in Mestre held a regata for women who row in Valesana style. Not surprisingly, Nereo Zane was there and caught some great photos.

If you're just joining us here, the Valesana style involves two oars, one in each hand, and they're crossed.

Talk about a left-brain, right-brain confusion.
The left-brain controls the right hand-which controls the left-oar, and vice versa.

Once you get it, there's a remarkable amount of control.
It's an old method used by Venetians in the lagoon while coming and going - mostly for hunting and fishing, but it's become popular for sport as well.

There aren't many gondoliers in the US who know how to row this style.
Tim at Sunset Gondola is a big fan of the crossed oars.

I've done it a few times in Venice, and it's fun, but I always find myself needing to itch my nose in the middle of it, and that can really mess things up.

I'm getting way off track here.

On the 26th of October, the GSVVM launched all nine of their mascarete, each with the proper forcola configuration for Valesana, and the race was on!

I could yank a bunch of Nereo's photos from his blog and paste them here, but it makes more sense for you to click over and enjoy his post firsthand.

and while you're there, check out Nereo's other posts and leave him a comment or two.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The "Adirondack Lucia"

René Seindal commented on my last post about "Lucia" boats on Lake Como.
It got me thinking and researching.
As far as I can tell, these boats are referred to as "Lucias", although it might be a nickname for a boat called a "batell".

You could be right René. Thanks for the info.

Whatever the case, the boat is unique and has a special place in the hearts of many who live in the lake regions of Northern Italy.

I did find one Lucia outside Italy.
It's in the US of all places.

Here's a photo I shamelessly snagged off the website:
and here's a link to the site.
They do call it a "gondola", but hey, who am I to criticize?
Some of my "gondolas" look more like something stolen from Norway!

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

The "Lucia" - Traditional Rowing Boat

While walking around the town of Cernobbio on the shore of Lake Como a few years ago, I spotted this interesting boat on display.
My immediate reaction was:
"Oh, hey, a sandolo!"
As I took a closer look, I realized that while the boat shared many traits with sandoli and other traditional Venetian boats, it was different.
After further research, I learned that it was a traditional "Lucia" - a well-known boat from the region.
There aren't as many of them around any more, but I understand they've been around a long time, and used to be quite common for fishing and recreation.
Realistically, the hull shape is not too different from several other boat designs.
The real identifying feature of a Lucia is her canopy frame.
It's a sort of "covered wagon" hoop design, which is seen both bare and covered depending on the needs of the boat operator at the time.
The rowing style looks familiar, especially if you're a fan of the valesana style...or if you've ever rowed in Alamitos Bay in Naples, California.
Here's a close-up of one of the Lucia's oarlocks that somewhat resembles a forcola.

The rowers (one or two) row with an oar in each hand, facing forward, usually standing up.
The oars are not crossed as they would be in valesana, but are used in similar fashion to the way gondoliers row in Alamitos Bay, as mentioned above.
Today, people still row these boats for sport on Lake Como.
In fact on the day I took the photos in Cernobbio, I spotted one such Lucia being rowed across the lake by two guys who were clearly out for a workout.