Sunday, February 28, 2010

Kerschbaum Discovers Sandoli in Arizona

After his annual visit to Southern California, John Kerschbaum began his drive back to Minnesota. While passing through Arizona, he stopped in Scottsdale to have a look at North America's only all-sandolo operation.
Walking the property of the Hyatt resort at Gainey Ranch, John found the boats and the dock they operate out of, but it was early in the day and they weren't open yet.

He was impressed with the clean look of the facility and with how well the boats were buttoned up, but secretly hoping that someone would be there so he could finagle his way onto a boat. Wouldn't you?

Thanks for the photos John.
I've got to get out there and see those sandoli.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Squero San Trovaso - Wrapped-Up Rowing Gear

I've seen this before:
the forcola, remo, and dock-lines from a gondola - all wrapped together.
It's a great way to keep them together, and while a forcola and remo in Southern California are quite unique, in a squero like San Trovaso, I can see the need to keep them together.
Each gondolier has his own rowing gear.
Imagine how easily a forcola could get lost in a place like San Trovaso or one of the other squeri.
Rowing clubs often do similar things to keep the rowing gear for each boat together.

If you have a sharp eye, you might be able to spot the lucky horseshoe in the shot.

My Southern California Tsunami Experience

I was there when it happened.
I stood on the upper parking deck of our building just to be safe. Two floors down I could see our boats, all secured to the docks.
I stood there, waiting for the inevitable,
and then, as if nothing could prevent it,
as if nothing could change the ensuing event that fate had brought to us...

...nothing happened.

So I got some coffee, went back home, and did some laundry.

Friday, February 26, 2010


From Venice, Italy to Venice Beach, a sign is often the first thing you see when you arrive or are close to your destination.

Coming in to Venice by rail, I shot this at the station.
Anybody see the sign in the background for the rowing club in Cannaregio?

And appropriately enough, I shot this photo while stuck in traffic on the 405 freeway - an unavoidable experience if you live in the LA area.

Unfortunately there are no rowing clubs in Venice, California (at least not yet).

Thursday, February 25, 2010

That "Big Boat from Brenta"

She's big.
She's bright red and white.
She is often rowed by a dozen or more.

I've heard some refer to her as "the aircraft carrier of the Vogalonga".

Anyone who's ever encountered her on the water will likely point out a most distinguishing feature - the eyes.

She is The Brentana.

The Brentana is a peata, an ancient cargo carrying vessel.
She is believed to be the last existing rowing peata.
She comes down to the lagoon for big events, making the long trip through an inland canal system which has served as a transportation corridor for centuries.

Back home in Brenta, the big red boat is the pride of the fleet at the Gruppo Sportivo Voga Riviera del Brenta rowing club.

The Brentana and another club boat moored in Cannaregio prior to the 2009 Vogalonga.

While several clubs in the Veneto have long boats, nobody has anything like the Brentana. She is big and broad, with an army of rowers pushing her through just about any wind and sea conditions.

Even in a crowd of boats, she is easily identified at parades and regatas.

The Brentana with a full crew during Regata Storica.

One of the best stories I've heard thus far involving the Brentana comes from a Southern California gondolier. Tyson Davis, who co-founded Sunset Gondola in Huntington Harbour tells a story of his surprise encounter with the big red boat.

Read "Tyson's 'Close Encounter' with a Big-Eyed-Boat"
to experience it vicariously.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Lousy Day

I had another terrible day in paradise today.
And when I could have been digging a ditch, or cleaning up after horses, I got stuck rowing a boat during sunset...again.
Life just sucks sometimes.
I took a few lousy pictures and posted them here.
I'm sure you'll hate them.

Here's another boring shot of the bow.

Just when things were looking like they might get better, this ugly hole opened up in the clouds, letting in more of that depressing blue sky.

This job sucks, anyone wanna trade me, I sure would love working in a drab gray cubicle somewhere, maybe under flourescent lights with processed air to breathe.

I'm Feeling Lucky

While this photo might look like it came from a place like Montana or Texas, it was actually taken at Squero San Trovaso.

Walking around the yard, stepping betwen gondolas and equipment, I spotted this lucky horseshoe tacked to the side of one of the buildings.

We think of horseshoes on walls and above doorways as a typical scene from the American Southwest, but they've been pinning them to walls and doorways in Europe for centuries.

Among the many superstitious beliefs associated with these crescent-shaped pieces of iron, is that "a witch cannot pass under it".

I don't know if it's true, but I didn't see any witches in the squero that day.

I guess I should count myself lucky.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Buon Compleanno Nereo

photo by Dawn ReinardI consider myself very lucky to have a friend like Nereo Zane.

He's more than just a friend, to me he's "family".

Nereo has also provided countless images and information here on the Gondola Blog, while hosting his own as well.

Today is Nereo's birthday, so my friends, join me in wishing him a happy one.

Buon Compleanno Nereo!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Landmark Derelict Falls Apart

I took the above photo last spring while in Mestre.
The derelict craft which has been a fixture on the property for a very long time has become a landmark.

With a bright blue hull and the name "JOHNSON" on the bow, she has served as a huge planter box as well as a sort of makeshift bulletin board.

Here's a photo I took of Tim Reinard reading some of the bulletins posted there. Or was he contemplating purchasing the big blue boat?
As they say:
"All good things must come to an end".
With the heavy rains this season, the big barca finally came apart.
Nereo Zane was there to take pictures, and has posted a collection of them on his blog.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Birthday Row

Today I celebrated 45 years as a living, breathing human being.
And what better way to do so, to feel completely alive, than to get out on a gondola and fight the wind.
One of my passengers grabbed my camera and took a few shots.

Here's one:

photo by Shelly Ferraro

Rowing in the wind is always a great way to get a workout, but it also inspires creative thinking. Gondoliers find themselves contemplating corners and canals in new ways. The direction of the wind forces them to take new approaches to waterways they've rowed hundreds of times. Such was my cruise today.

I loved it. Dug deep with each stroke and couldn't stop smiling.

I did many things today to celebrate, but taking the Ferraro family out in the wind was one of my favorites.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Zane Discovers the Boat's Identity

A while back I posted the above photo featuring Tirza and Hans of Amsterdam rowing with a group of friends in Venice. I was intrigued by the boat, and I wasn't the only one - Nereo Zane was also curious and took measures to find out the type of boat she was.

As it turned out, Nereo had taken a few photos during a rowing event in the Veneto that included the boat.

Here you see the boat moored along with other traditional Venetian boats.

Flags add to the festive feel.

Anyone who likes Venetian boats half as much as I do should enjoy the above photo.

The boat is owned by a club known as Leobisso da Mojan. Nereo contacted them and reported back:
"This evening I got an answer from the Leobisso guys. The boat is called "batelota" or "batela buranella". She was built by Maestro Mario Busato in Mogliano Veneto near Treviso in 1987 (or so).
She's 12.50 meters long and can be rowed by up to ten oarsmen."

Bravo Nereo! Thanks for the info.
Next time I'm out there, we should see if we can grab two spots on that boat with the Leobisso guys.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hiawatha's Boat

Recently I was with my family in Washington DC.

While touring the White House Visitor's Center, I saw lots of interesting items and photos, and I learned many new things about the home of our Presidents. Because we vote on who gets to sit in the "big chair" every four years, the White House has seen quite a lot of moving crews. Each First Family brings their own collection of belongings, and new items are routinely added to the collection of state belongings.

No, I didn't find a gondola in the White House, but I thought this "vessel" might be interesting and worth a post.

This captivating piece was added to the Presidential Collection in 1876 by Julia Grant - the First Lady of the United States from 1869 to 1877. She was the wife of course of Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th president of the US. He served two four-year terms in the White House after an extensive military carreer where he eventually reached the rank of General-In-Chief of the Union Army.

Grant was an icon of the Civil War, personal friend to Abraham Lincoln, and a strong proponent of civil rights.
Most folks know him best though as the guy on the front of the fifty-dollar bill.

The sculptural centerpiece is known as "Hiawatha's Boat" and it was crafted in 1871 by silversmiths at the Gorham Manufacturing Company in Providence, Rhode Island.
First Lady Julia Grant selected it at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876.
According to the experts at the Visitor's Center, the piece:

"depicts Henry Wadsworth Longellow's character, legendary founder of the Iroquois league, steering his masted canoe on the water of a mirror-glass plateau."

Along the base of the piece, raised letters spell out:

"All alone went Hiawatha through the clear transparent water"

First Lady Grant wrote that she was "happy in securing a piece entirely American in history, ideal, skill, and material."

I'm not sure whether a real boat like this ever existed, but the people in Providence sure dreamed up an interesting image.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Squero San Trovaso - Balcony in Bloom

Here's a shot I took of the residence in Squero San Trovaso in spring. Just like the mountain homes in Il Cadore, the balcony has flowers along it's rail.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Regata di Carnevale 2010

photo by Nereo Zane

The legendary Bepi Suste was seen on February 14th in costume for the Regata di Carnevale.
Nereo caught up with him and some of his stundents from Voga e Para - the rowing club he founded on his island home of Burano.
The Voga e Para club is known for their impressive rowing program for kids, in fact I published a post back in October of 2008 about them entitled The Little Fish.

Here in the US we associate Valentine's Day with romance, but in Venice they also have a costumed regata. Nereo Zane has put up a series of great and humorous photos taken of regata participants this year.

Take a look at his post entitled Regata di Carnevale.

Monday, February 15, 2010


This series of photos seemed appropriate for posting right after V-Day.

Siesta - it's a wonderful thing.
A break or nap in the afternoon.
I saw these guys "catchin' Z's" in their boats one day while walking past Bacino Orseolo.
Plenty of interesting boat features could be pointed out, but right now I'm dead-tired from the Valentine's Day prep, rush, rowing, and clean-up.
And I know I'm not the only one.

These guys crack me up.
They spend almost every day on display, with tourists watching and photographing them like zebras at the zoo, talking about them right there and within earshot. I'm guessing that sooner or later you learn to tune it out and do whatever you feel like...and on that day, at that time, they all felt like taking a proper siesta.

I think I'll take one of my own soon.

Back in the Saddle

After an exhausting V-Day, we all crashed out, but were back on the boats again this morning for some follow-up cruises. This year Valentine's Day fell on a Sunday which was followed by a Monday holiday. Since a lot of folks didn't have to go to work, we got a nice second wave of business today.

Here's a shot of John Kerschbaum rowing away on the Wedding Gondola for a late morning excursion.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

V-Day 2010 in Newport - Photos

After a full day and night of rowing, some time in the jacuzzi, and a few glasses of red wine, I'm here to post photos from V-Day in Newport.

The weather really couldn't have been better. it felt like August at times.
Here are some images of the day:
Steve Elkins handles the lines before heading out on the first cruise of the day.

Sebastian tips his hat while cruising on the Serena Lee.
John Kerschbaum rows with a fun family on the Phoenix.

Joe Munday (a.k.a. Giuseppe) glides by on his Crystal Swan.
To give you an idea of the weather conditions, this guy from another company rowed in shorts.

Passing John Kerschbaum in the canals - me on the Wedding Gondola, John on the Phoenix.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

On the day before Valentine's Day, we were ramping up, enjoying the weather, and getting psyched for the biggest day of the year.

Here are a few photos I shot from the back of my beloved Wedding Gondola.

John Kerschbaum passes by rowing the Phoenix.

John departing.

Shawn Gillespie drives one of our motorized gondolas.

Joe Munday, A.K.A. Giuseppe passes by on his Crystal Swan.

One of my favorite shots to take.

Heading out towards the harbor after passing under the Newport Blvd. Bridge.
Here's a short video clip I grabbed earlier in the day when John Kerschbaum was rowing out of the lagoon - his first time back on a boat since the river in Minnesota froze up.

Squero San Trovaso - Room for One More

La Serenissima's most photographed squero was busy as usual when I shot this back in June of last year.

Squero San Trovaso is usually the only gondola yard mentioned in travel guides; most of them say that it's "not open to the public". Great photos can certainly be taken from the fondamenta across the Rio di San Trovaso, but a few intrepid tourists (and anybody with a working knowledge of both gondolas and Italian) can sometimes make their way onto the grounds. Whenever I've gone there, I've done my best to stay out of everyone's way, shoot as many photos as I could, and then scram. I'd bet the guys who work at the squero get tired of people asking them questions and wanting to hang out while they try to work.

While walking the grounds I noticed a spot which seemed to be waiting for a boat. On the shore by the water you can see some of the "rollers" used when the guys pull a boat out of the water. Once it's in place the small sawhorse, or "cavalletto" is propped under the bow.

Bob Easton took a great series of photos a while back and was gracious enough to send them over so I could post them. To see that post from August, 2008, check out Recent Activity in Squero San Trovaso.

Friday, February 12, 2010

photos by Cassandra Mohr
John Kerschbaum and I were working on a few last-minute projects today in the garage when Tim Reinard stopped by to pick up a few remi.
I imported a big box full of new oars a while back, and three of them were for Tim's operation.
He enjoyed unwrapping them, and John and I took in the aroma of Franco Furlanetto's shop where they were made.

As you might expect with the owners of three gondola companies in one room - there were plenty of stories to share (and maybe just a little exaggeration). Tim and I took turns telling John about all the "fun" he missed fighting the elements during the most recent Vogalonga.

Fortunately, Tim brought along a little vino, and what kind of friends would we be to refuse?

Good times with great friends.