Thursday, June 18, 2009

Crazy Americans!

photos by Dawn Reinard

In the days leading up to the 2009 Vogalonga, everyone rowed:
to get in shape,
to get in the groove,

or just to get psyched.

In retrospect, we should have known from the weather patterns in the days before the race, that it was gonna be a bad-weather-day.

But most folks seemed to just hope things would "blow over" rather than "blow hard" on the big day.

On Friday the 29th of May, after going out on the lagoon earlier in separate boats, Tim Reinard and I ended up back at the GSVVM with 15 or 20 other members of the club.
The wind had picked up a lot and everyone was sitting around the snack shack (it's really more of a bar disguised as a small house with tables and chairs outside).

As is common at the GSVVM, we were busy telling stories (and maybe a few exaggerated ones), and the folks there had all agreed that the weather was no good for rowing.

I believe someone even said, in Venetian dialect, that "only a crazy fool would go out in that wind".

Tim and I began to talk about it,
and as you might expect,
we both agreed that if we
wanted to,
we surely
could row in that mess.

We looked at each other,
both got a crazy grin, and I said "hey, why don't we go over and just look at it".
So we walked out to where the hoists are,
saw flags flying stiff in the wind,

and then walked back - pensively mulling it over.

By the time we got back to the club, we had both independently made up our minds. We grabbed the nearest mascareta and started to prepare it for a row.
The president of the club and some of the senior members began to question our motives, abilities, and, well...our sanity too. But one guy saw the look we had and fetched us the right forcole and remi.

As we wheeled the mascareta over to a hoist, the GSVVM's stalwart hoist operator, Gino, saw us coming and just shook his head. He was huddled up with two other people in a parking-attendant style booth.
I can only imagine what he was thinking: "Crazy Americans!"

The GSVVM hoist was busy so we went to the Canottieri Mestre's hoist.
I'm pretty sure that that hoist operator was thinking "Crazy Americans" and "Crazy GSVVM guys".
Tim and I were happy to give such representation.

Tim's wife Dawn was on hand to take a few photos of us "Crazy Americans" hitting the lagoon; she took some great shots, especially considering the wind and rain.
The hoist operator positions the boat over the water,
Tim talks about a plan, and I nod my head and put on Chapstick.

Megan Sliger looks on as the mascareta splashes down.

The two Crazy Americans try to get on the same page before taking to the waves.

Heading out with hoisting straps in the foreground.

Into the "Big Snotty" we go.

After the launch, and ensuing frenzy of rowing,
we disappeared up a mainland channel and into an area lost in time.
The winds weren't as fierce, but the sky continued to leak on us periodically.
We eventually came upon Fort Marghera - an old maritime fort which was built in the 19th Century, and has been, for the most part, deserted.
Tying up the boat, we set out on foot and explored. Some of the buildings there appear to have been sitting empty for a very long time.
I'm sure we were breaking some kind of Italian law, and perhaps that added to the thrill of it.

After our investigation, we returned to our mascareta and rowed back into the big snotty sea conditions with fervor.
Getting the boat positioned under the hoist proved to be a challenge, but like every other phase of the adventure - a welcome one.
Hoisting out again, the operator still thought we were crazy, but by that time he recognized that we knew what we were doing.
And we had a blast in the process.

Heading back to dock.

Considering the best approach.

Bringing her in carefully...

...and fighting a fat crosswind in the process.

The "dismount".

We were just cracking up in this photo.
I believe my words were something like:
"Dude, that was so awesome!"

Setting the mascareta back on her rolling cradle.

Tim moving the perfectly balanced boat.

Yucking it up with other club members afterwards.
Nereo Zane is the one holding the remi.

All in all, the whole adventure was terrific.
Of all the experiences I had in Venice this spring, that row with Tim was definitely one of my favorites.


Bob Easton said...

Thanks for all the pics Greg. Now we know Tim and Nereo.

Crazy Americans!

Nereo Zane said...

Great post Greg,
while Dawn was taking those photos I took two short videos with Daniela's photocamera. I'll send them tonight.

Bepi Venexiano said...

I agree. It was excellent.

Tamas Feher from Hungary said...

I dont think it was crazy. If you were sure about your capabilities and the durability of the boat, why not row? Maybe just put on a lifevest for any case.

It always depends on the individuals. I remember a previous blog entry mentioned Greg once went to the open ocean in a gondola, so he had experience.

The medieval venetians definitely had to row even in such harsh weather, when doing urgent business. Back then when there was no motorized power or the Ponte della Liberta land link. Greg could say they commemorated the ancients with this row.

Anonymous said...

Looking at that mascarete, there is something like a small black barrel fixed to the top front part. Is that a webcam or some navigation light?

Gondola Greg said...

Hi folks!

Bob: it's nice to see you're still reading. I think I found your favorite Sanpierota the other day. I'll post it up soon.

Nereo: you KNOW I want to see that video.

Bepi: it was an honor sharing that row with you. We'll have to do it again.

I appreciate your confidence in our abilities, and I like the idea of calling it a "commemorative" row.

...and to "Anonymous", whoever you are ;o)
Congratulations on being the first one to spot that little thing on the bow and comment about it.
The answer is that it's a shockproof, waterproof video camera which I use from time to time. Usually I strap it to my gondola or clip in on the handlebars of my bike.
I got a couple video clips from that day and will post them up some time in the future.
They're probably not as good as Nereo's video though.

Tamas Feher from Hungary said...

Hello Greg, I was the anonymous movie cam commenter, just forgot to click the Name tag... Anyhow, I always wonder why there are no webcam-equipped gondolas in Venice?

This year there is a publicly funded Wi-Fi (wireless network) infrastructure being installed all across Venice, which would allow a gondola-mounted webcam stream live video as it moves around the historic city.

I think it would be extremely popular, a lot of people would watch it worldwide. With the newest computer operating systems, one can even set the motion video as the desktop wallpaper, so people could watch gondola rides as "background TV", while working in Excel, etc.

The current publicly accessible webcams in Venice (St. Mark place, Rialto bridge, Lido) offer only small and static images.