Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Messin' Around on New Year's Eve

My passengers this evening were stuck in traffic, so while I was waiting,
I devised a way to mount my camera to the tail of the gondola. 
It was a foggy night, which only added to the mystique of every shot.

So here's what it looks like when you put your camera on a tripod and lash the whole thing to the poppa.
I put it on a long exposure with no flash, and tried my best to hold still.

Here's the "official" test shot while still at dock.

This one was shot on a different setting
so there aren't any smears or trailing lights.

Once I got into the canals, I set the camera up with a remote trigger
on a two second delay, and got these shots:

It looks like I'm rowing really fast. 
Oh, go ahead and keep thinking I can row that fast.
Yep, we were traveling at "ludicrous speed".

Passing under the Newport Boulevard bridge, I caught some great trails and reflections of the navigational red and green lights.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008


With Christmas behind us and New Years approaching, today we hosted a tour group from Hyde's Encore Tours and Travel in Salt Lake City.

The folks from Hyde's are terrific. It's been a while since we cruised with them, so it was fun to catch-up and enjoy a near-perfect day on the water.

Flotillas are always great fun, both for passengers and gondoliers.
We cruise together as a group, trying to stay as close as possible without bumping into each other. The passengers can joke with each other between boats, and the gondoliers take turns singing for the group. The whole experience is more festive and performance-oriented, but it works perfectly for tour groups.

Several gondoliers have added new songs to their repertoires after hearing other guys sing them on flotillas.

Gondoliers get to see how the other gondoliers carry on with their passengers, and they also get to work on their boat handling skills.

We try to keep the crashing to a minimum.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Due Mascarete

photos by Bob Easton

Bob Easton sent us photos of two mascaretas he shot in Dorsoduro in July of '08.

What's a mascareta?

For starters, it's a member of the sandolo family of Venetian boats.

Sandoli come in several configurations; each version designed with a separate task in mind.

I sometimes call the sandolo design
“three sheets and a tiny transom”.

My “three sheets” reference doesn’t take into account the deck portions, but it is descriptive enough. We have a few dories out here in Newport, and I recognize the same beautiful simplicity in the dory design.

The mascarete are most easily identified by the way the bow and stern deck cut away with no visible trasto (thwart) and there’s almost always a little cutout in the very middle of that area.

Look closely at the bow and stern deck edges and you’ll see a familiar form:
it’s quite a bit like the shape of this bracket: }
but a little more drawn out. Look around Venice and you’re likely to see a similar “bracket” design in buildings.

The mascareta is a very lightweight boat used in recreational and competitive rowing. The women's race in the Regata Storica is rowed in these boats.

Thanks Bob for these great photos.

Saturday, December 27, 2008


An impulse shot, taken on a whim.
Lucky for me, the campanile of Piazza San Marco was in the perfect spot.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Prows in the Air

I shot this on La Giudecca while approaching Squero dei Rossi.

There were gondolas hauled out on the concrete with their bows propped up.
I don't think this picture would be as interesting without the bird.
I posted another image taken there last year on December 26th.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas in Venice

photo by Nereo ZaneOnce again, Nereo sends us a great image from the world of voga-alla-Veneta.

Here's a photo of a procession carried out by the GSVVM in Mestre.

The boat in the front carries the baby Jesus on the bow, and the one at the back is rowed by a bunch of Santas.
Oh, but they don't call him Santa in Italy - it's "Babbo Natale".

Check out Nereo's blog:
There are more great photos there.

While you're on Nereo's blog, check out his post on the Regata di S. Barbara - it ought to be titled "Caorlinas in the Mist". It makes me wish I'd been there.

Buon Natale Nereo!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas from the Gondola Blog

This Christmas I am thankful for so many things - ranging in value from a fleeting sunny day, to having good health.

I'm thankful for things that range in size from my eight-year-old daughter, to God Himself, who watches over me (and that eight-year-old of mine).

I am thankful that while a few of my boats may have had small leaks - none of them went up in flames or disappeared mysteriously.

Most of all, I'm thankful that I get to be a part of countless proposals, celebrations and great memories - enriching the lives of my passengers.

In addition to the above, I am also thankful that people actually stop by the Gondola Blog, read my musings, and most of the time don't leave negative criticism. Some even say nice things.

My friends, thanks for reading, it means more to me than you know.

Warm Christmas wishes to you all,
-Greg Mohr

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Boston Ingenuity

Joe and Camille Gibbons from Boston sent me this photo, along with a great tip:

"When you have 6 foot icicles hanging from your roof, the gondola oar {remo} is just the right tool to break them off."

Thanks Joe, there are so many things you can do with eleven meters of oar.

I find the remo perfectly suited for PiƱata hanging.

I'll bet that gondolier hat keeps the snow out of your collar too.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Due Sandoli - ready for the Day

Whenever I'm in Venice with my family, we stay in an apartment, and before I disappear for the day, I take some time to run around with my two daughters. We'll get breakfast, goof around and explore a bit.

One morning in September of '06, we came across two sandoli and the girls got an impromptu lesson on the Venetian boat known as a "sandolo".

It's not hard to find a gondola in Venice, but sandoli are quite scarce.
If you look long enough, you'll find one. Finding two, and in such show condition was a nice surprise.

Later, when Nereo Zane and I passed by there, we stopped to take some photos of the two shiny black boats.

Every image Nereo shot was perfect.
This was the best I could do.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Another Shot from "That Spot"

Here's another photo I took at "That Spot" in the San Marco sestier.
Every time I've gone by there, I've seen high-quality gondolas with most, if not all of the trimmings.

In this image, we see a stainless steel ferro, custom-edged gondolier's carpet (known as a "tapeto" or "tapeo"), scimier (the decorative piece mounted above the seat-back), custom upholstery, and a rather unique forcola.
The forcola has decorative carvings and gold-leaf inlay. It's a little rough, but still a very rare piece.

I've always been passing by when I've taken photos at this location. Next time, I'll bring my tripod and spend some quality time.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Shots from the Night - Boat Parade

Well, this week we are celebrating 100 years of the Parade of Lights.
It's a huge affair, and while I've admittedly become jaded over the years by the spectacle, I must admit that this year's boat parade in Newport is exceptional. Truly fulfills it's potential.
If you live in the area and have the means to get down here, do it for the last night of the Parade of lights, which is Sunday the 21st.

I threw my family on a gondola tonight and we set out to see things from the very best perspective - a comfortable gondola, right along the shore.

With hot mugs of cocoa and warm winter clothes, we enjoyed front-row seats to one of Newport's biggest annual events.

Over the years I've tried to take decent photos of the lighted boats - only to end up greatly disappointed. I tried a new setting on the camera tonight and have posted three of the best examples.
Remember, I was shooting moving boats in the dark...from a moving boat in the dark.
Thankfully, Olympus puts an image stabilizer in their E-510 (shameless plug) which is the model I have.

OK, that one's not as good as the first one, but check out this one:
The way each light seems to show up like a tiny brush-stroke, almost gives an impressionist feeling. Don't let me take too much credit, I really think it was dumb luck on my part.

The family and I had a wonderful time, the experience really was fantastic. It renewed my appreciation for the Parade of Lights.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Finish the Sentence" Follow-Up

Big thanks to those of you who responded with your answers.
As expected, they were funny, thought provoking, and on-target.
Now here are some I've heard or come up with over the years.

"Tip money is..."

1. Beer money.

2. A window into the soul of the tipper.

3. An economic thermometer.

4. The only reason I keep coming back.

5. How I can tell if they like my singing.

6. Date money.

7. Sometimes the only thing standing between me and bankruptcy.

8. Often spent foolishly.

9. Better than going to a Redi-Teller.

10. How you can tell the generous clients from the tight-wads.

11. Pays for my parking tickets.

12. Kept in a drawer until I really need it.

13. Buying a round of drinks tonight.

14. To a gondolier, what applause is to an actor.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

"That Spot"

I shot this in 2000 in the San Marco sestier of Venice.
Since then I've seen dozens of photos taken in this one spot.
There are a few places in Venice that resemble this spot, but none just like it.

Thumb through a travel magazine and you'll see it.
Check in to The Venetian in Las Vegas, and it might be printed on your key-card.
But if you go looking for it, you may be walking around for a while.
Each time I've revisited "that spot", it was because I stumbled upon it.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

"Finish the Sentence" Forum

OK fellow gondoliers (and anyone else reading this who routinely receives tips), this forum isn't a Q&A, it's a finish-the-sentence format.

You can answer it literally, figuratively, in the abstract, or just be ridiculous - just try to keep it clean (my kids read this). Your response can be one word or a whole paragraph.


Now finish this sentence:

"Tip money is..."

Monday, December 15, 2008

Santa Spotted near San Diego

Sean Jamieson sent these photos from his operation in Coronado, California.

We don't have snow on the beaches and bays of Southern California, no, instead we're stuck with beautifully perfect weather.

Heck! Even Santa exchanged his sleigh for a gondola.

Oh, and if you're reading this from some place where it's cold and miserable - don't move out here.
I was just kidding about the "perfect weather" part.
It's horrible here in winter.
We even got a little rain last night.
Look at the gondolier - he actually had to put on a long-sleeved shirt!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

SNOW ON GONDOLAS - Luigi in Bamberg

Luigi sent me these photos from his home in Bamberg, Germany. It's getting a little cold there these days. I'm sure he'll be hauling out soon.
I need to get one of those coats. It's not just any snow, it's German snow. Looking good Luigi. Thanks for the photos!

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Christmas in Alabama

Gondolier Robert Dula sent me this photo from the lake where he operates in Huntsville, Alabama.

Merry Christmas Robert!

To see the Huntsville operation, go to:

Got a good gondola photo? send it to me:

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Christmas Tree Lot - In Venice

photo by Sean Antonioli

As Christmas approaches, we see the familiar tree lots pop up in every town.

I love Christmas tree lots.
I spent one December, when I was in my 20's, making a little extra cash at a tree lot in Long Beach, California.

For me, the vision of a Christmas tree lot is always alongside a street - not a canal.
But Sean Antonioli found one in Venice when he was living there a few years ago.

This photo's got me imagining what tree lots might look like in other places.

So, what do you think:
How many Venetian tree-buyers leave on foot?
And how many leave by boat?

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

NYC's "Other Gondolas"

By now, most of you know plenty about the gondola on the Lake in Central Park.

Historic gondolas in New York City can be seen in posts from March 19th, May 6th, and May 23rd of 2008.

But there are "other gondolas" on the island of Manhattan: some literal, some figurative, and some legendary.

The figurative ones are on wheels, and come in two forms.

The first can be seen almost anywhere there are people needing a quick lift somewhere. They are the pedicabs, and before you scoff, consider how similar they are to gondolas on many levels. One of the biggest being the practice of negotiating with folks, right then and there. This is not too common in the American gondola world - most gondola operations here in the US run pre-boked cruises almost exclusively. Your typical pedicab driver has few or no passengers calling in or booking on-line. They get to haggle with their passengers like the gondoliers in Venice do.

The other figurative gondolas are the horse-drawn carriages that center in and around Central Park. Many travelers feel that their visit to Venice isn't cmplete unless they've taken a ride in a gondola. I've heard similar statements made about the carriages in Central Park.

Now, a literal gondola.
On 59th Street, rising above 2nd Avenue, is a gondola that looks like it was plucked off the slopes of the Colorado Rockies.

Yes, it is literally a gondola,

although most of us Venetian gondola operators wish someone would change the name of this contraption to minimize the confusion.

I saw this ski-lift for the first time last week and couldn't believe my eyes. We were in a hurry to get somewhere so I couldn't take photos or take time to get a closer look. I honestly thought it was a temporary setup for a movie or TV commercial - you know, the type where someone is having a fantasy or halucination.

The next day I set out to investigate and it turned out to be the real deal.

It takes people to Roosevelt Island.

Here's a link to their website:

You never know what you might encounter walking the streets of New York.

And now for the legendary gondola.

I first heard about it over a decade ago from Joe Munday and at some point I began calling it "The Penthouse Gondola".

According to the story, an eccentric and wealthy old woman lives in her Manhattan penthouse with a gondola in her dining room.

As it is at the top of a tall building, I suppose it could also be called "the gondola with the best or most sweeping view".

It is reported to be a true Venice-built gondola, which is now used as a sort of "restaurant booth", with a table and seating in the passenger area, and one hull-side and rail removed to allow access to that area.

Several questions abound, including the obvious:

"how the heck did she get a 36-foot boat into a New York penthouse?"

Who knows if the legend is true?
After my encounter the other day with a giant ski-lift gondola in Manhattan, I'm inclined to believe that it's possible.

When I first heard about the fabled "Penthouse Gondola", I was certain that if I just went to New York and asked around, I'd surely find it.

I had never been to New York.

When I finally experienced the place, I realized that even if the legend were true, it was such a needle-in-a-haystack, that I have yet to ask around.

I'm pretty sure I'd get laughed at.

Monday, December 8, 2008

NYC Photos - Day 6 - Visiting the Gondola

Let me just begin this post by saying:
Central Park is one of the greatest places to get lost in.
I must say, that of all the places I've gotten lost, it's the best.
Of course that opinion would be different if it had been at night, but this morning in December, when it was too cold to get mugged and there were a lot of people out for a walk, jog, or bike ride - it was perfect.
It was also 19 degrees and windy, so I was glad to have my Alaska parka, but the sun was shining and a menagerie of squirrels, pigeons, and sparrows were on hand in large numbers - all seeming to be there for the sole purpose of mocking me in their own chirpy languages.
I set out this morning to visit the gondola in Central Park.
I had called ahead a week ago, spoke with the manager of the facility and got the ok to come by.
After getting lost for a while, I came upon The Boathouse restaurant (where the gondola operates out of) and found that all the rental boats were out of the water, along with the gondola, and the lake was beginning to freeze, starting at the shore and working it's way towards the center.
Most folks wouldn't have recognized the gondola as she was wrapped tight in tarps, plastic wrap and tape, but being a seasoned gondola fanatic (that really means pathetic gondola fanatic), I recognized that 36 foot long banana up against a fence and immediately grabbed my camera.
Here are a few shots I took from both sides of the fence:

The gondola with The Boathouse in the background.

A fairly well-wrapped ferro.

A lama with the winter sun shining through plastic wrap.

Full shot from behind the fence.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

NYC Photos - Day 5

Today we ventured south to Chinatown for a traditional dim-sum.
I must admit that I didn't know what I was getting myself into, but the food was amazing and stepping into the place we ate in was like stepping into another world.
Later we headed up to Times Square, caught a performance of the Lion King, ate at a 50's diner where all the wait staff sang and danced, and then headed home for the night.

Here are some images from the day:

Morning in Chinatown.

Inside the Grand Harmony Restaurant.
My wife and I laughing as yet another cart-lady pushed by and tried to "push" more food on us.

Some subway directions are more permanent than others.

St. Patrick's Cathedral on 5th Avenue.

The Short-Lived Vancouver Gondola Operation

If you have read my post from December 2nd, you know a little about the boats Tom Harper built back in 1994 and operated in Victoria's Inner Harbour.

After they were sold, two of them ended up on the mainland in Vancouver.
The new owner dressed one up for passenger service, and kept the other as a possible future passenger boat or "parts car".

The one boat that ended up taking passengers only operated for about two years, but a lot of people had memorable and enjoyable experiences aboard.

As if the original configuration of these gondolas wasn't unusual enough (electric trolling motors powered by forklift batteries, which were fed by solar panels), the new owner literally transformed the one boat into a dinner cruise vessel.

The solar panel canopy was replaced with one of the canvas awning-type, bench seats were installed on port and starboard sides, the area which had originally held the main passenger seat was fitted with a sink counter for food preparation, the sink was supported with hot and cold running water, and tucked up inside the canopy above the sink counter was a china cabinet for dishes and other serviceware. One other addition was the stainless steel barbecue - a model designed for use on sailboats - which hung over the port side where the on-board chef/steward could reach it. Meals were served on a central table, which mounted to the floor using mounts similar to ones used in RV's.

Perhaps the most eye-catching thing about this boat was the upholstery and curtain decor, which reminds some of a movie theatre in the 70's.

If all these unorthodox features haven't been enough to intrigue or shock you, the additon of a gas-burning outboard motor might do the trick. People sometimes ask me "what's the fastest gondola you've ever seen?"
I usually tell them about the time I dragged a gondola from Orange County to Vegas at over 100mph, but on the water, I think the one in Vancouver was probably a record-setter - at least among non-Venice-built gondolas.

Here are a few photos from when the boat was operating in Vancouver:

Feel free to lob your most vicious comments at me, but remember that I've only written about the curtains, the sink and the other items - I didn't install them.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

NYC Photos - Day 4

I can tell by the absence of comments yesterday that you all either don't read my NY posts or have no criticism.
Either way, it's better than getting grief so I thank you.
For the one or two who are actually following things here, we had a nice adventure today.
We made our way up towards Harlem for starters, then down to Wall Street, and finished with a nice dinner in Little Italy.
Here are som photos for you to make fun of:
A neighborhood scene near Harlem.

" Harlem Wildlife".

You know you're in Little Italy when you see a fire hydrant like this!

Decorated streets in Little Italy. Through the lights you can see the top of the Empire State Building.