Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Newport's Gondola Renaissance and the "Gondola Works" Boats

Newport Harbor has had at least one gondola gracing her waters since 1907.
And while I must admit some bias, as I've had the priviledge of running gondolas in this beautiful Southern California waterway since '93, Newport holds a few prominent positions in American gondola history.

My focus today is in the area of motorized gondolas.

The first gondola propelled with an electric motor (the type used in golf carts), began service in Newport.
The boat, known as the Black Swan, was built by Joe Munday (aka Giuseppe Lunidi), and was the first of many gondolas of similar design.

A few years later, with the 1984 Olympics approaching, Joe and his associates built eight more gondolas under the company name of "Gondola Works" for use in the Long Beach area to entertain the crowds brought in to experience the games.

After the Olympic frenzy, most of those gondolas ended up in dry-storage. Many of them were bought for a pittance, restored or customized to different degrees, and placed back in service in Newport.

Here's a photo of one such boat.

She was known as the Marco Polo, and operated out of our docks for many years. The Marco Polo was owned by another company, but we drove her for several years.

The shot above was taken a year after she'd been decommissioned.

As it turned out, this boat would re-emerge once again with a whole new look. Watch for my follow up post to see that whole new look.

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