Thursday, March 12, 2009

The mysterious Vipera

photos courtesy Tirza Mol

Tirza and Hans from Amsterdam were in Padova last year for the Forcola d'Oro
when they met some folks from Remiera il Bissoleon from Modilgliano and they spent two days rowing together.

It seems that the
Remiera il Bissoleon has a Vipera in their fleet.

Tirza rowing a poppa on the Vipera.

There are many different vessels in the pantheon of Venetian boats.
Some are more well-known than others.
Most of us have seen the more popular boats in the "gondola family".
If you've been reading here, certainly you're familiar with the passenger sandolo, caorlina, and a quick little boat known as the mascareta.

More exciting or exotic boats include the gondolino and a "balancing act of a boat" - the Veneta.
But back in the corner, behind everything else, you'll find a few truly rare designs.
A perfect example is the Vipera.
Very few exist today.

Traditionally set up for six rowers, she could be compared to a long sandolo or puparin.
One of the features that makes the Vipera so distinctive is that bow and stern are identical. I've heard that she was designed in such a way that the forcole could be reversed, making the Vipera rowable in either direction, thus eliminating the need to turn the boat around in tight quarters. Both the bow and stern stems are similar to sandoli.

he boat had fallen out of use by the beginning of the 20th Century. Two models of the boat are displayed in Venice's Museum of Naval History.

Besides her unique fore-and-aft symmetry, the Vipera has mystery on her side.
Nobody seems to know for sure what the boat was used for.
I decided to ask the expert - Gilberto penzo.
He told me that the boat's use is unclear, and that there are many legends about the Vipera, but none are doccumented.
He also pointed out that since there are six rowing stations and a passenger seat, perhaps the boat was used for patrolling by police or customs officials.

This potential use might explain the need to be able to zip into and out of tight canals - even in reverse.

The Remiera il Bissoleon's Vipera at dock.
Notice the matching hardware on both ends.

To visit Gilberto Penzo's website, go to:

1 comment:

Unknown said...

That boat sure looks like it could have had a police/customs application. Ever notice how a cop car rips out into traffic and after an offender like a barricuda shoots into a school of fish? Going after one particular fish? And the other fish part quickly?

That boat looks like it would fit that job lol. Thats just my gut feeling.