Tuesday, August 31, 2010


photo by Garrett Budwine
The craftsmen who work in a squero (gondola yard) are known as "squerarioli".
Garrett caught this image of one such person in the shop at Squero San Trovaso. These guys perform all sorts of different tasks.
Anyone want to guess what this guy does?

Monday, August 30, 2010

Northern California Dugout

No matter where I go, I find myself drawn towards boats.
For obvious reasons, I find small rowing craft particularly interesting.
And if I know you, my friends who share my obsession to one degree or another, I think you'll find this boat at least mildly interesting too.

Most folks these days think of Native American watercraft, and the classic canoe comes to mind, but a number of boat types can be found in the pre-Columbian history of North America. In the redwood region of California, many of the indigenous people crafted and paddled "dugouts".

A "dugout canoe" is also known in some parts as a "log boat" because it is hewn from a single log.

Before metal tools were introduced to the region, stone tools were used, and sometimes boatbuilders relied on fire to clear out areas of the log so they could create a bouyant vessel.

Dugout canoes certainly aren't a local phenomenon, in fact examples of the dugout approach to boatbuilding can be found all over the world.

Some of the oldest boats in the world, still available for viewing in museums, are dugouts. Because they are fashioned out of a single piece of wood, they tend to preserve better than skinboats and boats planked together or made of bark.

The above photo is of an ancient dugout, which was once used to travel the waters of the Northern California. I wonder if the guys who made it had any idea it would still be around today.

I haven't had the chance to row one fo these boats yet, but if I get the opportunity, you'll surely hear about it.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Gondolino in for Service

Walking the GSVVM property, I came across this orange and blue gondolino in for repair.

Ahh, now that's a real shop:
stuff everywhere, spiderwebs overhead, wood shavings underfoot, and a boombox nailed to the wall. The only thing missing is a bottle of red wine on the workbench.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


After all these years of obsession, I've come to appreciate all the subtle differences between gondolas in Venice. To the untrained eye they may all look the same, but when you're a gondola fanatic, you develop an ability to discern minute differences in design and finish.

And then one day you see something like this:

That's anything but "subtle".

The carvings are actually classic in design - reminding me of some of the work Il Santo was made famous by.
I admired the boat owner's bold sense of style.

I also got a kick out of the expression on the face of one of his passengers.

I mean you'd have thought it was his boat and I needed to ask permission to talke pictures of it.

Taking a closer look at the workmanship here, there are a few other things to point out.

the spire of a gondola deck usually has some sort of trim stretching from the back of the ferro to the brass plate on the trasto di prua - carved "rope-work" is typical. This gondola has a very noticeable knob-like carving every eight inches or so.

The perimeter of the carved field has clouds or similar objects which make the edges more interesting. As if it wasn't a big enough job already, the intagliador went one step further, and gave the background a criss-cross pattern.
(To read more about intagliadors, see my post "What is a Wedding Gondola?" )

This gondolier was clearly on a mission to create a gondola like no other.
I'd say he succeeded.
The addition of an engraved design on the ferro just seems like standard issue on this boat.
Now here's something most of you probably haven't realized:
the boat we've been looking at here is the same one featured in my post "Barbarian Cavalli" .
Is it any surprise that this gondolier, after putting so much into his boat, would go with custom (and rather creative) cavalli.
I have a feeling that nobody could ever swipe this boat and get away with it. She's truly one-of-a-kind.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

GONDOLAS IN AUSTRALIA - "Gondolas on the Swan"

Mention Australian cities and most folks in North America and Europe think of places like Sydney and Melbourne.

Anyone who's spent time here on the Gondola Blog knows Roger Carlson who's operated gondolas in Adelaide for several years. And while it's true that most thriving Australian cities reside on the east and south-east coasts of the continent, there is one exception: Perth

The country of Australia is broken into six states, and the largest, Western Australia, constitutes about a third of the continent.
Sitting at the lower left-hand corner of that state, along the west coast, is the capitol city of Perth.

While other cities in Australia have enjoyed a lot more attention, Perth has been growing - faster than other cities Down Under, and is now the fourth largest city in Australia.

In 1829, a British settlement known as the "Swan River Colony" was established along a river known by the same name (Originally named by Dutch explorers for it's black swans which are native to the area).
This colony grew and grew, and now the metro area alone, which surrounds the Swan, accounts for one and a half million people.

While the landscape may have changed to accommodate Perth's growing population, the Swan River still flows - providing a great place for a gondola.

There are many different gondola operations in Australia, and some unique boats running in the various servizios, but this one stands out as not only one of the most striking designs among Australia's gondolas, but in my opinion, one of the most beautiful variations on the Venetian model.
I've seen numerous creative departures from Venice's gondola design, but this is one of my favorites.

The black swan is the state bird of Western Australia, and a perfect inspiration for the addition of a gondola to the area.

Many times I've heard folks talk about the similarities of the two, and I've even known of a few gondolas named after these noble birds.

In the case of the boat in Perth, a handcarved sculpture of a black swan's head and neck were incorporated into the tail section.

Alan and Antonietta - owners of Perth's "Gondolas on the Swan" had her built there locally. Addressing the construction of the boat, Alan writes:
The gondola was actually Antonietta's idea and inspiration, she was born in Italy and came to Australia with her parents when she was 3.
For various reasons she was never able to go back to Italy so she decided to bring a piece of Italy to Australia in the form of a gondola. She had been fascinated for many years by a painting she had on her wall of 16C (I think) Venice, with of course has gondolas.
She did the artistic side of things, the seating, drapes, carvings etc. whilst I did the "nuts and bolts" side of things.

In the case of this gondola, those "nuts and bolts" include a solid-roofed cabin and electric propulsion. As is often the case outside Venice, certain hoops had to be jumped through to get this boat on the water.
we did go to a lot of trouble during the design and building (all done in Perth) to try and get it as close as possible to a Venetian gondola whilst incorporating the requirements of the West Australian Marine Survey i.e. meeting stability conditions, bouyancy, motor (electric), cabin etc.

Construction of the hull was carried out by master boat builders using Western Red Cedar. The canopy posts are mahogany.

Upholstery and curtains were custom made from red velvet.

Alan and Antoinetta have been running their gondola for about four years now. I asked Alan about favorite memories so far, and he said:
As for favourite memories, probably just the feeling of satisfaction we get from our clients, especially proposals, which we do more of than anything else. We quite often see dolphins which is always special and and there's usually pelicans and black swans (that's how the river got its name).

To learn more about Gondolas on the Swan, check out their website at: www.gondolasontheswan.com

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stretching Exercises with John - Segment Five

John leads us in a some final instructions regarding the lower back.

Monday, August 23, 2010

D.I.Y. Lama

The first time I saw this tail-piece, I didn't realize what I was really looking at. I just thought it was unique, shot the picture, and moved on.
Later, after I got home from Venice and started going through all my photos, I missed it in all the numerous images I'd shot.

Then, once I got the picture up on a big monitor and zoomed in, I realized that what I was looking at was a clever piece of improvisation.

This is a "do it yourself lama".
There are a few different terms used for the metal piece which adorns the tail of a gondola, one of them is "lama da poppa", or simply "lama".

Taking a closer look, we see that the tail-piece here appears to have been fashioned out of bendable rail-trim. I'm guessing by the color and felxibility, that the guy who made it used aluminum trim, but it could be stainless steel.

Whatever the case, the guy gets recognition here for solving a problem with creativity and some raw material.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Martina's View - Better Quality Image

photo by Martina Zane

I first published this photo a week ago in a post called "Martina's View".
It's a photo taken from the back of a water taxi in Venice.
I found myself looking at it deeper and deeper.
There are so many different things in the shot to examine and appreciate.
Finally, I asked Martina to send me a higher quality version to post for you all to enjoy.
Click on the photo for a larger version of the image.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Gondola Basics - Asymmetry

True Venice-built gondolas are asymmetric
- that basically means they're crooked.
As the gondolier is rowing only off of one side, the boat should travel in a circle...unless of course, the hull were given a counteracting curve.

Here we can look straight down the centerline of the Wedding Gondola in Newport as gondolier Stefano approaches the dock.

photo taken from previous post "Shooting from the Top Deck"

See that curve? it's like she's lopsided. This asymmetry allows the gondolier to concentrate more on forward movement, knowing that his boat will do some correcting for him. The gondolier does have a counteracting stroke he can use to correct the imbalance, but with the asymmetry, he has help from his boat.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Views from a Cruise

Just a few shots I took tonight on a perfect evening in August here in Newport.
The view from the "driver's seat" on the Lucia.

Steve Elkins rows by on the Phoenix.

Sunset over the stern.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to Cover and Protect Your Boat Cheaply

There are many different "household items" used by boat owners in Venice to store and protect their vessels.
In this photo we see a trifecta:
corrugated fiberglass roofing material
garden hoses
and a scooter tire (which doubles as a fender and a hood ornament).

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


For any gondolier who will ever approach a bridge of "questionable height" and say:
"Aw what the heck - I can make it!"

Let this photo serve as a reminder of what happens when you lose that gamble.


Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Livin' the Dream in New Orleans

Gondolier Roberto (Robert Dula) sent me this fresh pic late last night.

It was taken in the early evening on August 15th in City Park - his new home in New Orleans.

Looks like all is right in the universe for Roberto and his gondola "Bella Mae" - livin' the dream once more.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Another Terrible Evening

Tonight proved to be another truly awful evening on the water.
As you can see from the photo I took while rowing:
It's a rough job - rowing a gondola in Southern California - but someone's got to do it.

Giorgia Boscolo Passed her Final Exam

According to the Italian news agency ANSA, Giorgia has officially "broken the glass ceiling".
Here's the full story.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Early Evening Departure at Sunset Gondola

I stopped by Sunset Gondola this evening just in time to catch Chris rowing out into the harbor with some happy passengers.

The view from the casoto (office) of Sunset Gondola is fantastic - with palm trees across the water, and mountains in the distance.

Like so many gondoliers I know, Chris was truly "in his element" - rowing in the wind like it was nothing, enjoying the evening and loving the job.

Looking good, Chris!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Martina's View

photo by Martina Zane
I saw this photo for the first time two days ago and immediately knew - I needed it for the Gondola Blog. Martina Zane, daughter of Nereo (who we all know here), seems to have inherited her father's eye for a good shot. Getting a new Nikon probably doesn't hurt either!
I love this shot. The bridges, the striped paline, and of course gondolas. The water taxi deck in the foreground makes it even more interesting (as if she didn't make it interesting enough with tha bridge framing the shot). It's one of those "makes you wish you were there" photos.

Friday, August 13, 2010

"Lucia" Silhouettes

photos by Alison White
Here are some more photos from the August 2nd photo session.
Since I don't have much to say here, I'll post some general information to try and make the post look more impressive.

Photographer: Alison White
Boat: "Lucia"
Gondolier: Greg Mohr
Vantage point: top deck of Dream Maker yacht in Newport Harbor
Camera: Olympus E-510 with 70 - 300mm lens, various settings

Now that we look a little more respectable, here are the images.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Discovery on Lago Maggiore

photos by William Rich
William Rich, who used to live in Venice, recently found this incredible vessel hanging in a boat storage facility not far from his current home in Lugano, Switzerland. One of the things that makes this boat even more unique is that she was built locally, in the very lake region she resides in now. She was gifted to the Borromea family and is currently stored at the palazzo on Isola Madre on Lago Maggiore. The lake occupies part of the border between southern Switzerland and the Piedmont region of north-west Italy. Isola Madre is Italian soil.

She's believed to be two centuries old, has the original felze (cabin), along with the forcole and remi which were hand-carved for her so long ago.

Some details here are truly "gondola", while others raise questions.

William writes:
"I chatted with a museum guy about it. He confirmed that it does not float and is thus hung in this boat yard that you see in pix. I couldn't get a good shot at it because access was through a small opening and from a larger opening the angle was wrong.
He said the accessories were all original.
Couldn't see well enough to determine if asymetric. He said it was built locally at the end of the 1700s and gifted to the family ."

Taking a closer look at the forcole on this boat, I can't help but think that in a way we are viewing a "time capsule". Every part of the boat has been kept the same, according to the way things were two hundred years ago.

The forcola da prova looks a lot like one in the painting Salvataggio Miracoloso by Girolamo Forabosco.

The morso on this forcola has a noticeable upward angle.

Meanwhile, the forcola da poppa has little or no "elbow" - taking a more plank-like shape. I've seen similar forcole in paintings by Carpaccio, Bellini, and Tintoretto.

The decks of the boat are reminiscent of some variations only seen in paintings and old photographs. One can only imagine how this amazing boat must have looked and rowed when she was first launched - possible two hundred years ago.

My thanks go out to William for providing the photos and information on this historic vessel.
To read about another vessel he had some association with, check out my post from April of this year entitled "William".

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

"Boicotta Coca Cola"

I snapped this shot along the Grand Canal near the Ponte Scalzi.
The stencil and the "Boicotta" message initially caught my eye, but the symbol in black below and the circle with a crooked arrow through it still have me curious.
Oh, and it appears that someone likes Arafat...and someone else doesn't.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

"Singing Gondolier"

Bad news, my friends.
Bad news.
It looks like we shall all be replaced soon...by a machine.
So many proud professions have suffered the same fate.
Now it looks like we will all be looking for something else to do.
Here's a look at our replacement.

Monday, August 9, 2010

New Lamps in Texas

photos by Matthew Schenk

We recently had new lighting installed at our location in Irving, Texas.
My manager out there, Matt Schenk has done wonders in both boat maintenance and operations management. Matt called me a while back and said that we needed some better lighting on the docks there. We looked at some of the styles he'd researched, and chose the one you see in these photos. It's not exactly like what we see in Piazza San Marco, but I think it looks great. It's also a lot better than the typical white plastic geometric disappointments usually seen on docks.

It's August in Texas, which means they're experiencing more heat and humidity now. We find that in the warmer months, our clients tend to book cruises later in the evening when things have cooled down a bit.
Now is the time to have good lighting.

Good lighting not only makes for better visibility,
it enhances the mood and overall experience for passengers as they board.

Two uniquely different boats stand ready for boarding,
bathed in the light of a new lamp.

Irving is in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Sometimes it gets quite windy, othertimes the calm conditions are absolutely serene.

The new lamps bring a whole new look and feel to the Irving location.
The lower and more often used pedestal options would have been ok,
but these lamps are much taller (about seven feet) and give off more illumination. The safety and security of the location have both increased, and they look terrific too.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Fresh Photos of the "Lucia"

photos by Alison White
Last week Alison shot these and other photos of a dinner cruise I took out on the "Lucia".