Thursday, April 30, 2009

Minnesota Launchings - Edina

After months of work and anticipation, John Kerschbaum launched a gondola today at his location in the Centennial Lakes Park of Edina, MN.

I think I speak for all of us in the gondola world when I say congratulations John and buona fortuna!
Have a great season in Edina.

John plans to launch in Stillwater on Saturday.
It's a busy week at Gondola Romantica.

My Recent Obsession Crosses the Desert

I have closure, my friends.
Big time closure.

The gondola I've spent so much time and attention on left this morning for Lake Las Vegas.

I followed along for a while to make sure everything was sitting right on the trailer.

Here's a shot I took over the dashboard around Victorville:

She was launched this afternoon, and now docks in front of the Loews hotel under the diligent care of my expert staff there.

Now I can get back to my life, which really means that I can play catch-up in all the areas I've been neglecting.

Soon the boat will receive her christening and take her first passengers.

Next, I think I'll clean up my garage from all the tools and materials it took to get this "closure".

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sea Trial

photos by Steve ElkinsToday was the big day - after weeks of hard work, "hull #5" had her sea trial.
Here are a dozen photos from the adventure.

If you checked into the Gondola Blog today to see a post on traditional Venice-built gondolas, you'll likely be disappointed. If you were hoping to see something original - you came to the right place.

She's 36 feet long, can take up to twelve passengers, and has a remarkably powerful electric motor, which comes in handy on windy days on Lake Las Vegas.
It also does killer brodies!

Zips right along, and puts a smile on my face.

Like every other aspect of the boat, we took a fairly creative approach.
I call this the "Kahuna Ferro" design.

By the time you read this, the boat will probably be halfway to Vegas.
I hope she enjoys her new home.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Gondola Obsession Syndrome

Lately I've been finishing out a gondola for my Lake Las Vegas operation.
She's one of the big motorized tour-boat type gondolas.
Yes, the ones that some of you purists look down on.
And sure, I respect everyone's opinions, but the winds out on Lake Las Vegas regularly top 40 knots, so motors are a must out there.
I've rowed there, and while it is "doable", once the temp hits 120 Fahrenheit, I really can't justify asking an employee to do the same.

For many years I've had this hull in storage - it was part of a mould purchase, and I planned to "one day" finish it out.

We got tired of paying for storage, knowing that the boat could be generating an income, so a new Spring project was launched.

It was a little slow at first - most of the vendor-related work was done.
Then it was time for me to get off my butt and get crackin'.

I've spent the better part of the last two weeks finishing this boat out.
Many of you know what it's like:
the boat is your only focus,
the boat is your mistress,
the boat is your obsession,
the boat is everything to you.
You consider buying presents for the boat.

You eat, sleep, breath, walk and talk about this project which has become your number-one priority.
Your wife gets jealous,
Your kids wonder where their father has disappeared to,
You're going through batteries in your cordless tools as fast as you can charge them.
The staff at West Marine, Ace Hardware, and a few other local negozios know you by name.
And at some begin to wonder...what the heck you'll do with your time when the boat gets launched.

Tomorrow she does her sea-trial, and crosses the desert on Thursday morning to her new home.
Then...I think I'll take a nap.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Pupparin Construction at the GSVVM - Asymmetry

photos by Nereo ZaneWell my friends, things are looking better and better in the GSVVM shop.

Maestro Marcuzzi has brought the pupparin to a point where her lines are much more recognizable.

Detail work is materializing in the stern of the boat.
Among the many idiosyncracies of the pupparin, the raised poppa deck stands out as a cleverly engineered alternative to an otherwise standard in-the-boat rowing area from the sandolo family.
The deck area around the buso is now well-reinforced.
Luigino has also fabricated a floorboard.

Many Venetian boats are built asymmetric.
Without a doubt, the pupparin offers the best view of that unique curve that is such a trademark of the region.

Also, you may notice how the under-deck areas, which were painted sky blue, are now easier to see.

Something I love about construction photos, is that you can see the different types of wood used. Once the boat is painted, it all looks the same, but at this point the various tones are visible.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

"Lunghezze Minime" sign

While exploring the Pescheria, I came upon this interesting placque.
It's an official posting of the minimum size required for the sale of specific types of fish.
Leave it to the Venetians to produce such a timeless looking thing like this.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Art Show Retrospective

We had a great display of varied styles at the Art Show today.
Works from a dozen or so different artists and photographers were up for show and purchase.

From left to right: Tyson Davis, Rotto Sorriso, Greg Mohr, and Andrew McHardy.

Team members and artists enjoyed hanging out and talking, and a number of pieces were sold.
Many thinks to the folks who stopped by to examine our wares, and a big, huge "MOLTO GRAZIE" to those who bought something and supported our cause - undoubtedly, you have great taste.

Art Show

Today is the art show to raise money for the Team California Vogalonga adventure.
For details, go to:

Wish us luck!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Finish the Sentence Forum

There are a number of variations in gondolier attire.
Sure, there's a "standard uniform" according to the powers that be in Venice. Even so, gondoliers in La Serenissima often have their own take, which varies depending on weather, season, and occasion.
So what do you wear?
Don't be shy.
Finish the sentence:

"When I'm on the gondola, I wear..."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Sandolo in Venezia

I shot this photo a few years ago from the vaporetto.

There are so many reasons I love looking at passenger sandoli:

-There aren't very many of them in Venice when compared to the more well-known gondolas, so a "sandolo sighting" is often rare and unexpected.

-A great percentage of these boats are privately owned, and are usually independently operated. Because of this, the decor of a sandolo often reflects the personality of the owner.

- From a gondola owner's perspective, I view the boat as unique and even exotic. I would love to own one some day.

- There's also a sort of novelty to the boat because she has a number of parecio often seen on gondolas, but in smaller proportional form.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


photos by Sean AntonioliOne of the favorite stops for locals in Venice is the fish market.
Take a row on a Saturday with members of a rowing club, and they may decide to stop here and do a little shopping.

The connection between Venetians and the sea is immeasurable.
The survival and successes of La Serenissima can all be credited to or in some way connected with the sea. Not surprisingly, they love seafood and the menus of nearly every restaurant can attest to that fact.
It's not just fish either, dozens of different shellfish, squid, octopus, and crustaceans are all available for purchase at the Pescheria - all fresh and ready to haggle and bargain over.

I've heard that the goods begin to arrive before the sun rises, and that they are delivered by brightly colored boats, but thus far I've been too preoccupied with sleep at that hour.

In our upcoming Vogalonga trip, some of the team members are planning to shop at the Pescheria to keep costs down while living like true Venetians.

I wonder if they'll be brave enough to try the octopus.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Triathlon: DONE!

photos by Cassandra Mohr
The triathlon was a great experience.
I know it has little to do with what we usually talk about here, but if you read the Gondola Blog, then I consider you a friend, and these are the kinds of experiences you want to share with friends.

So indulge me here a little bit.
Every now and then I'll lose all control and co-opt the blog for personal content, and today is one of those days.

The following is a rough copy of an e-mail I sent to a few friends, and I think it sums things up fairly well.

I didn’t set any records with my course time, but I finished the race, enjoyed the experience, and even had the energy to row a gondola cruise later in the evening.
It was my first time in one of these crazy races, so I spent a lot of time studying how others were doing things – which helped me quite a bit.
The hardest event for me was the swimming. I’m terrible at swimming…always have been.
I swim like a moose.
My biggest goal was to finish the swim, which I did, and to not run out of energy during the running part.
Nutrition and blood-sugar were important to me as a diabetic.
The bike segment was easy for me – I’m very comfortable on a bike, and I took the opportunity to drink a lot of water and have some food while riding.
The run was great. I have trained a lot in running, and it really helped.
I thought I’d be more wasted during the run, but the excitement of the race boosted my adrenaline.
When I read about triathlon, I noticed that they wrote about 4 things: swimming, cycling, running, and transition.
Transition is when you switch from one event to another.
Serious triathletes go crazy over making every second count in transition.
For me, it was a “voyage of discovery”, and I moved at an easy pace, with a focus on doing it right – not fast.
At the end, Elisa asked me what my thoughts were. I said: “I can’t wait to do another”.
Next time, I think I’ll get more than 3 hours of sleep the night before!
HA! I’m such a jack-ass!

Here are a few blackmail-worthy photos my daughter took that morning:

Ready for the swim...and looking like a penguin!

midway through the bike segment.

A few meters from the finish line, and running on "pure YOWZA!"

I didn't place very well in my age division, but I took first in the "Gondolier's Division".
Thank God there weren't any other gondoliers in the race.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Gondola Greg Runs a "Tri"

For some time now, I've been training for a triathlon.
Along with rowing - running, biking and swimming have become a regular part of my week.

Since I was diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes in early January, my doctor told me to exercise more. As a result, I've been on a quest to get as healthy as possible, and setting goals has played a big role in that quest.

So tomorrow (Sunday, April 19th) I will participate in my first triathlon.
It's a "sprint triathlon", with each segment being shorter than the standard "Ironman" race, but wrapped together, they make for a nice challenge - at least they do for a newbie like me.
As if that's not enough, I'm scheduled to row a cruise or two later on that night!
We'll see how that goes.

Wish me luck, my friends, and don't get angry if it takes a day or so for my next post.
I may feel the need to sleep for a while.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Team California

For months there were talks about forming a team;
a team to row in the 2009 edition of the world-famous Vogalonga.

I met and talked with Tim and Tyson of Sunset Gondola several times.
In years past, many different groups of American rowers had participated in this enormous non-competetive regata, but this time we wanted to assemble a group of rowers representing more than just one or two companies.
When it looked like a viable plan, we talked with various gondoliers who we thought we'd like to row with.

With the current economy, most team members would need to do a little fund raising, and having them all within the same area would help.
Southern California is unique in that there are nine separate gondola operations between Marina del Rey and the Mexican border.
Our focus wasn't to keep the team all Californian - it was keeping things manageable.
The California part was secondary,
but it made for a nice name.

The only team member not currently living in California is Megan Sliger, who owns and operates Gondola di Venezia in Boston (originally started by Joe and Camille Gibbons). As it turns out, Megan was born and raised in the Bay Area before moving to Boston.

Here's a photo taken at a recent team meeting:From left to right - Greg Mohr, Andrew McHardy,
Tim Reinard, Doug Davis, Jeff Craver, Erin Grissom,
Tyson Davis, "Rotto Sorriso".

With immense help from Nereo Zane, and the leadership of the GSVVM, an eight-man caorlina (property of the Commune di Venezia) has been reserved for us.

Plans are also in the works for Tim Reinard to row a separate boat in the valesana style.
Gondolier Peter Dever will be traveling with us to either serve as an alternate, or join another group, depending on the circumstances.
Some team members are also bringing family members.

The current line-up includes gondoliers who actively row in four separate operations, and have taken passengers in more than a dozen locations.
Some team members have rowed the Vogalonga once or twice before, a few have done it several times, and for a few, it will be the first time.
We are all looking forward to the adventure. If you're there, we hope to see you, and raise a glass with you in one of the most amazing cities the world has ever seen.

In alto i remi!

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Gondola Inspector Hits Newport

Joe Gibbons and his wife Camille climbed aboard my gondola this evening in Newport.
The Gibbons started the gondola operation in Boston, and are still responsible for the operation in Huntsville, Alabama. While vacationing in California to celebrate their anniversary, they decided to renew their vows on the gondola.

The winds were a bit stiff, but our gondolier Steve Elkins handled them masterfully.
It was so great to see Joe and Camille, and I was honored to perform their vow renewal ceremony.
They can come back and inspect our gondolas any time.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Due Caorline

photo by Nereo ZaneNereo took this shot the other day on a row with the GSVVM.
They were making their usual Saturday trip into Venice to stop at the fish market.
I've done this row myself, and it's a lot of fun.

The guys decide which boat (or boats) to take based on how many people show up that morning.
In this case there were enough rowers to fill two caorlinas.
The speed and mood of the row usually depends on the personalities on board.
And if there should happen to be a wide-eyed American guy on board, you can bet there will be some jokes, delivered in heavy Venetian dialect, interspersed with words like "California" or "Texas", followed by a lot of laughing.
Not that I'd know anything about that.

To see some other great photos taken from the boat, go to Nereo's blog at:

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Guess the Location

photo by Leslie BlakelyAnyone want to guess where this was taken?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Pupparin Construction at the GSVVM - She's Looking More and More like a Boat

photos by Nereo Zane
Fresh photos just came in from the Veneto. As expected, Maestro Marcuzzi has completed installation of the "three sheets", and she's looking more like a boat each day. I can't wait to see what's next.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter from the Gondola Blog

I wish you all a warm and happy Easter, taking the opportunity to enjoy time with friends and family, and appreciating all the things that truly matter.

May the spirit of Easter inspire you to take stock and see things as they are...and ought to be.

Buona Pasqua amici!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Pierre in Ft. Lauderdale

Last year I had the pleasure of visiting Pierre Meunier in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
He operates gondolas with Mike Novack out of Stork's Cafe in the Las Olas area. It's a pretty nice place; in fact some describe it as the Rodeo Drive of South Florida.

Pierre is one of my favorite gondola people;
he has a true passion for this crazy business,
and has been a great source of encouragement to me as a fellow diabetic.

The above photo is of Pierre and a first mate on board the Diesel Gondola.
This is a one-of-a-kind boat, with a distinctive look and unique capabilities.

To read more about the Diesel Gondola, see my post from May 29th, 2008.

Looking good Pierre!

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Forcole in the Making

photo by Nereo ZaneAs if He doesn't already have enough on his plate, in addition to building a Pupparin, and fixing remi,
Maestro Marcuzzi has been carving some forcole in the GSVVM shop.
Nereo caught this photo a few days ago.

They appear to be carved from walnut or another hardwood.
Some of the carver's markings can still be seen.
No doubt, they will receive a little more "handcrafting" before they are deemed complete,
but the shape of each forcola has already become clear.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Surviving Canals of Venice, California

If you mention Venice, California to most Southern California residents, they'll immediately think of Venice Beach.
Thoughts of Venice Beach inspire images of chainsaw jugglers, roller-skating guitar players, sunglasses vendors, and "Muscle Beach".
Very few around here even know that the Venice area once had miles of canals, dozens of gondolas, and was considered a cultural leader among West Coast cities a century ago.

Most of Abbot Kinney's canals were filled in a long time ago, but a small group were spared - some say it happened because during the Great Depression, city funding wasn't there to finish the project.
The surviving canals are in a grid formation,
with four running parallel in one direction,
joined by two perpendicular ones which connect them on both ends.

The only boats afloat today are canoes, kayaks, rowboats and pedal boats.
But gazing at the canals, I can't help but picture gondolas, and because I'm a "gondola fanatic", I immediately think about one day rowing Venetian-style on the canals of Venice, California.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

"Three Sheets"

photos by Nereo Zane

Many thanks to Nereo for providing us with another round of new photos from the Pupparin project at the GSVVM.

For years I've described members of the sandolo family as "three sheets and a transom".
this may be an oversimplification, but it is descriptive of the design.

The sandolo, mascareta, and pupparin all have hulls that consist of two sides, a bottom sheet, and a narrow flat stern piece that is called a "transom" in many traditional boat circles.
it's a beautiful simplicity.

In truth, there are many more parts to consider when examining these boats, especially the pupparin. In the weeks to come, I hope we'll get to see several of those parts as they are added, one at a time, to the big jigsaw puzzle on the shop floor of the GSVVM.
But for now, since the frames have been crafted and put in place, we see that Luigino Marcuzzi has begun installing those "three sheets".

Of course, it's more than just three pieces - Maestro Marcuzzi has put up the first sections on the bottom and one side, two sections on the other side. Additional sections will be added soon enough.

The meticulous nature of Luigino's work is evident in how each fastener has been sealed-in with what appears to be epoxy.

I wonder what Maestro Marcuzzi thinks about as he assembles this beauty.
Does he whistle, sing, or play music while he works?
Is there a thermos of coffee or a sandwich that we can't see - just out of the shot?
Do club members amble in from time to time, talking and offering to help?
I wonder if he realizes that we're all looking in on this project - savoring each photo and anticipating what might come next.

Monday, April 6, 2009


As many of you already know, central Italy was hit by an earthquake on Monday before dawn.
I'll leave the reporting to the reporters, I just wanted to recognize the families affected by this disastrous quake.
We wish them all the best.
Our thoughts and prayers are with them all.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Nellie's Carvings

While visiting Sunset Gondola today, I took another long look at one of their gondolas.
Tim recently published a blog post on gondolier Marco Pavan, who rows from Santa Sophia tragheto.
Tim and Tyson bought one of their gondolas from Marco.

When they cracked open the container that Spring day in a California shipyard last year, I think I was the first one to climb up and take a good look.

Looking was only part of the experience though;
touching and smelling the boats rounded-out the experience, making it truly unforgettable.

Thank you Tim and Tyson, for a great memory created that day.

One of the gondolas had noticeable carvings, and I wasn't surprised when I later learned that the father of the original owner was a carver.

This afternoon, Tim laid out the portela and pointed out a few interesting things about the carvings on the gondola they call "Nellie".

One of Nellie's cavalli.

Red cushions artfully stacked.
I like the bright and unusual floor scheme.

The "MP" stands for "Marco Pavan".
I don't know about the crest as of yet, although with a Doge's hat on top, it's most likely the crest of a family that produced at least one Doge. Any of my Venetian friends know more about this?
The crest is flanked on either side by flags: one Italian, the other Cuban. Rumor has it that the gondolier dated a Cuban girl at one point.

To visit Tim's blog (he goes by Bepi), go to:

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Sebastian at Sunset

I caught one of our gondoliers, Sebastian, on camera while seting up for a cruise of my own.
He was wearing his standard all-black with the Greek fisherman's hat, and loving-the-job smile.

Coiling the lines before departure.

Heading out.
Notice the sign on the dock - it's the only way we can keep drunken Duffy drivers from snagging our spots while we're out cruising.

Sebastian passes by my gondola and navigates through the lagoon.

Heading towards the Newport Boulevard bridge and a beautiful sunset.