Thursday, November 5, 2009

S. Moisè - Indietro

Venice has many gondola operations.
Some sit along wide waterfronts, others are tucked into places making them a surprising treat when discovered.

While walking between the Accademia Bridge and Piazza San Marco, you'll cross a number of canals. You'll probably see gondolas passing through some of them. But when you reach the bridge at Campo San Moisè, along a canal with the same name, you'll see a whole lot of them.

The Servizio Gondole San Moisè moors their fleet of gondolas along the sides of the Rio San Moisè, and boards their passengers on the steps of the campo.
With so many tourists walking to and from the Piazza, the gondoliers there have a steady flow of potential customers.

I'll be posting a series of photos from San Moisè.
Today's post features a gondolier working the "indietro magic" to get his boat out backwards. Meanwhile a second gondolier keeps a chair warm in the background, while another one mans his post at the base of the bridge, chatting up passersby and looking to get them on his gondola.

Indietro rowing isn't that tough for a few strokes,
but getting a 36 foot long boat to maneuver backwards down a tight canal can be a daunting task.
Not surprisingly, the gondoliers in tight canal operations become masters at reverse rowing.


Tamas Feher from Hungary said...

In theory they could reverse row their gondolas for longer etaps using the face-forward technique (from the cockpit front area, where the lead rower stands during the regata).

There must be a reason not to use that method? Maybe the parecio and cavalli would be damaged easily if the gondolier used the cockpit sidewalk planks to go back-and-forth between the two stations.

Maybe the banana shape is only suitable for reversing with oar pull-force and would sally in a wrong direction if push-propelled in reverse?

Gondola Greg said...

Interesting point.
In many cases, the gondolier can't move to another part of the boat because he has passengers who not only don't enjoy being stepped over (and stepped on), and as you mentioned, several parecio parts would either be in the way or might suffer from being stepped on.
When there are two or more rowers on a boat, backwards rowing can be done more efficiently because they cane somewhat balance each other out.
But the forcola is designed to facilitate backwards rowing in exactly the manner you see int he photo. That "elbow" known as the sanca is an expensive addition to the piece, but well worth it.
Of course there's another issue to consider in the "why won't the gondolier move to the front of the boat": ego.
"If other gondoliers can row 11 meters of boat backwards, then so can I".
The other version of that might be:
"Hey, you can't be a gondolier in this servizio unless you can row the boat indietro like the rest of us".
And while it might sound counterproductive, this sort of thing is what makes gondoliers better. The next time I'm in Venice, I'm going to plant myself in a few spots and catch some video of these guys doing what they do.