Wednesday, September 30, 2009
IMAGES OF THE 2007 HUDSON RIVER EXPEDITION - The “clamp-on forcola”
A forcola is a sort of rowing-post, or oarlock used in Venetian rowing. It allows the rower to transfer his or her energy and direct the boat forward, backward or through a number of possible maneuvers. With an oar (“remo” as it is called by Venetians) that may be as long as 14 feet in some cases, the energy transfer can be fierce, with a great amount of leverage being put on this hand-carved piece of hardwood.
The standard forcola, whether it is tall or short, big or small, has a long rectangular section that fits into a hole in the deck of the boat. This hole is known as a “buso” and generally continues to the second level of stringers (longitudinal frames within the skeleton of the boat). On some boats, especially gondolas, the buso may have a decorative plate framing the hole – many are done in brass but some other metals have been chosen over the years (a stainless steel buso plate can be seen on Davide Scarpa’s gondola highlighted here on the Gondola Blog on November 6th. Look in the lower right hand corner of the first photo).
The rectangular section which fits into the buso is called a “gamba” (a word that translates to “leg”). The gamba is foundational. I’ve always viewed it as a necessity. In preparing for the expedition down the Hudson, I figured I would cut a few extra busos , give them some reinforcement, and paint it all black. Honestly, if anyone but Vittorio Orio had offered up the idea of a “clamp-on forcola” I would have rejected it.
I was skeptical about it, I didn’t think it would work, but it did - and quite well.
The whole thing can be raised by placing additional blocks cut from a length of 2x6 or 2x8.
Of course, wedges are always present when there’s a forcola involved.
They also used a small rectangle of rubber matting to prevent slippage.
These were brought by the Venetians. I don’t know how rare they are, but as soon as I could, I contacted Franco Furlanetto in Venice and had him make me a set.
They sit on top of my bookcase at home, ready and waiting for the next excuse I can come up with to put four guys on a gondola.