Gondoliers do things a little differently in each location.
Each of the 30+ gondola operations in the U.S. have their own protocols.
Here in Newport I've noticed that nobody likes to touch a bridge.
Newport Harbor has four gondola operations currently, and we all tend to pass under bridges without making contact.
Sure, the occasional high-tide scenario finds me performing an impromptu bench-press in order to get the tail of the boat under a low bridge, but otherwise my hands remain on the remo.
Stefano began rowing with us a while back, and I noticed that he stopped under a bridge and grabbed hold of it - taking time to really concentrate on his song.
A few other gondoliers have done the same "bridge stop" thing when visiting from ports up the coast from Newport. And in both Alamitos Bay and Huntington Harbour I've observed gondoliers place a foot or hand on a bridge to stabilize while singing.
It makes perfect sense:
For years I've told my passengers that
"any good gondolier knows that the acoustics under a bridge are almost as good as those of a shower".