Friday, March 26, 2010

Using the Foot

In the collection of strokes and techniques used on a day-to-day basis, some gondoliers incorporate their left foot, as seen in this photo: In Gilberto Penzo’s book “Forcole Remi e Voga alla Veneta” (available at, Gilberto identifies it as a "curious maneuver" and confirms what any experienced rower knows: that it's done in order to keep the tail of the gondola from bumping into things when the boat turns to starboard.

Not all gondoliers do this.
In fact I've spoken with some gondoliers who look down on the practice - saying that "a good gondolier shouldn't have to put their foot on a wall".

I'm not really sure where I stand on this one yet.
Where I row, as with many locations outside Venice, many of the waterways are lined with boats in slips, and most canals aren't as tight as the narrow passageways typically traversed by our Venetian counterparts.
That said, I don't find a need to put out my foot very often.
Certainly, I'd like to think that I'm good enough (or could become good enough) to not have to kick off, but until I experience things first hand, I don't feel qualified to pass judgement.

There's an old saying:
"Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes".

It's good counsel, but I like the version that reads:
"Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, when you criticize them, you're a mile away...and you've got their shoes!"


emilia said...

curious maneuver and curious manner also.

Gondola Greg said...

And in the case of this photo - a curious choice of shoes.

emilia said...

but Greg, did you take this picture?

Gondola Greg said...

Yes, I shot it from a bridge in San Marco near Campo Santa Maria Zobenigo.
Most of the photos I post are mine unless otherwise credited.
Nereo Zane is responsible for some of the best photos on the Gondola Blog, and you can always identify his work.

Tamás said...

Isn't this foot technique more or less a required practice in the narrowest sections of Venice canals, where there isn't enough space to do even figure-eights with the remo? There the foot is pressed against the wall for propulsion.

Another venezian "walled" method I've heard of, maybe just a rumor, is to press the horizontally held remo against the wall, pressed into a notch between the bricks, so it acts as a pivot-fulcrum system, for quick turns or emergency braking.

That sounds a bit outlandish, however, due to dubious dynamics and the kind of damage it would do to the oar and possibly to the masonry?

emilia said...

do you know the site with the bridges of Venice?

Gondola Greg said...

Emilia you are awesome.
I've never seen that site before.
I've been using maps and books all this time.
Thanks so much for pointing that out.
What a great resource.
Whoever put this together did a lot of work to accomplish it.

Gondola Greg said...

Tamas, I agree with you:
The canals are so narrow in some spots that it seems like you'd have to "kick-off" a few times.
As for touching the wall with the remo blade. I wouldn't do it unless I had to. Once you start making contact with that part of the wood, you guarantee yourself the need to re-varnish.

Tamás said...

That bridge site is amazing! It must have been a whole lot of work, even if done in several years time.

I wish someone local had the time to add a few lines of history about each bridge. That's not something one can find in books, but would tell a lot about the people who walked them.

Even more boldly, I wish someone walked all streets and rowed all rii in all four seasons, morning, noon and evening and recorded it in video for interactive DVD publishing.

That would be a virtual Venice, which one could "walk" at will, even when not phsically present.