Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Another Kind of Gondolier's Hat

photo by Bryan Kemper
The traditional gondolier's hat these days is a wide brimmed straw boater with a ribbon around the crown which trails off the back. 
Sadly, it seems like there are more gondoliers on the water without hats than with them.
A long time ago, the three pointed "tricorn" was seen on the heads of gondoliers - you'll still see them at costume balls and in hat shops. 
In winter I like to wear a black beret I got at the Bampa shop many years ago, but this guy's got a whole new take. 
The stripes match his shirt. 
It's almost a navy-and-white version of "Where's Waldo".

Monday, November 29, 2010

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Beautiful View in Coronado

photo by Luigi in Coronado
Sean in Coronado posted this photo today on facebook and I had to swipe it for the Gondola Blog.  The image was taken recently by Luigi, one of the gondoliers at The Gondola Company.
The shot has a nice view of the Coronado Bridge and the San Diego skyline in the background.
I love the way the setting sun casts a golden light on things.

Sean told me:
The cruise ship you see is the recently disabled ship that got towed back from Mexico that people were calling the "Spam Cruise."

I think I'd rather be on a gondola.

Nice shot Luigi!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Shot from the Day - Late November and it's Miserable

I shot this from the back of the Lucia this afternoon.
As you can see, it was a horrible day today.
it's not always like this in late November,
but we manage to struggle through it.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Recent Photos of Acqua Alta

photos by Bryan Kemper

Some friends of mine were in Venice for a day, earlier this month.  While I'm not a fan of the Venice-in-a-day approach, one day there is better than none.

Because they were there in November, my friends witnessed the wonders of "Acqua Alta".  I tried to explain to them that it's a unique thing for outsiders to experience, but I don't think they bought it.
The singular response was that it was cool for the first five minutes, after that it was a pain in the butt!
I think they understand Venice's high-water phenomenon pretty well.

 Water rises in the Piazza as people take to the "high ground" while they can.

 Walking the boards.

Most folks don't crowd around the architecture during "Acqua Alta",
but if you've got the right footwear, no problem.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


Happy Thanksgiving from the Gondola Blog.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Coronado Caorlina on TV

Here's a nice heartwarming video segment from the NBC affiliate in San Diego, California.  Sean Jamieson, owner of The Gondola Company in Coronado can be seen on the back of his caorlina as a guy pops the question on camera.
The action in the boat is fun to watch, but I think most of you will focus your attention on the boat herself.

View more news videos at: http://www.nbcsandiego.com/video.

Congrats go out to Sean for snagging such good publicity.

To read more about the boat, check out "American Caorlina Done Right" from June of 2008.

and of course Sean's website is:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Millspaugh Surfs SUP

When the first surfers paddled by me in Newport Harbor - standing up -
I took notice.  It was an unusual thing to see.  Sure, guys had been paddling through the canals kneeling or lying down for as long as I could remember, but these guys were standing up and using paddles. 
Not long after that I saw one catching waves while I was surfing in Huntington Beach, and it made more sense.  These days I see them all the time in Newport.  They are known as "stand up paddlers" or SUP's.

My passengers and I often share a laugh about how they are "gondoliers in-training". 
With a good sense of balance and a love for the water, I've known for a long time that surfers are uniquely qualified to row a gondola. 
They need training like anyone else, but I think they have a head start because of their experience surfing.

Now here's a link to a nice clip of a gondolier (Bob Millspaugh) stepping onto a board and catching a wave SUP style. 
There's no forcola, and the "remo" is much shorter,
but I think some of the same dynamics are there.
Bob is one of the surfers, and he can also be heard singing the second song,

"SUP Sessions 11/12/10"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

The Lost Islands of Venice

A friend of mine just sent me a link to this piece from "Departures" and I knew it needed to be posted.

We focus so much attention on the busy, crowded areas in the Veneto, but the author of this expose shows us some places few have been to...lately.

Read for yourself, I'm willing to bet it'll make you want to do some exploring on your own, or maybe spend some time in a "spiritual retreat".

The Lost islands of Venice" by Andrea di Robilant

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Another Look at the Pupparin in Alamitos Bay

Here are a few more images of the pupparin in Alamitos Bay with Mark Schooling at the helm.

Looking down at the boat, we see the combination of features, unique to the pupparin.
The pupparin is a clever hybrid of a boat, with some of the best features of both a sandolo and a gondola, wrapped together in one boat.
As I watched, I could tell that Mark was loving his job.
And with a tip of the hat, the gondolier was on his way.

For more images from this session, see my post from November 6th.

Friday, November 19, 2010


photo by Garrett Budwine
Visit the workshop of a remer and you'll see some familiar power-tools, along with some handtools that date back to an age before electricity was even discovered.  The floor-mounted vise, "la morsa da remeri",  with it's large turning nut has been featured here before (see "Vise" from January of this year).  This vise in the shop of Saverio Pastor, is a beautiful, hard-working, piece of equipment that really gets the job done.

But sometimes the remer needs a little more help.  In certain situations he may be seen employing the device in the above photo. 
It's usually called a "puntello". 
I believe the english equivalent would be "prop".

It is quite simply, a stick with a little padding on the notched end. 
All remers use puntelli.
My guess is that many of these begin as humble scrap, trimmed from a board and tossed on the discard pile, before an inventive craftsman says to himself:
"hey, I need a little something to help hold my forcola in place".
He digs around, finds the one piece that's just right, notches the end and puts a little leather on the end.

Special thanks to Nereo Zane helping me discover the name of this device.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Just the Photo - Campanile at a Slant

I shot this one near Rialto.  In all honesty, I think the camera may have been "at a slant" as well, making for a more pronounced lean, but Venice and the Veneto are full of bell towers that lean.

The "Leaning Tower of Greci" is among my favorites.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

A Flock of Sailboats

Out on the water today, the conditions were amazing.  Lately it's felt like summer came late this year, and today was a perfect example. 
Newport Harbor has a large sailing community.  Returning to the dock after one of my cruises, we came upon a familiar sight on an afternoon in Newport: sailing school.

Moving around like a flock of birds, these boats are fun to watch. 
It's beautiful to see them move well together, all tacking in unison. 
It's also fun to witness two or three small sailboats bumping into each other with an instructor hollering from his skiff with a megaphone. 

I didn't get too close this time because with all that back and forth tacking, you never know when you're gonna end up with a few extra passengers...and their boat!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Bacino Orseolo at Night - Stacked and Packed

 Bacino Orseolo, the "Gondola Garage", as it is called sometimes - is the overnight mooring location for dozens of gondolas.  In a previous post we looked at the leading edge of the crowd of boats.  Now we focus on the middle, and it's quite a middle.  The gondoliers there have clever ways to raft their gondolas together.  Staring at this nightly creation, you begin to notice patters as bows and sterns rise together in rows.
 At first they all seem the same; like a bunch of black luxury cars in a parking lot, but then you start picking out differences between the boats: tail-pieces, trim levels, spots that are varnished rather than painted. 
Each boat is beautiful in her own way, and each gondolier knows his or her boat. 
Somewhere in the above photo, is a well-polished ferro that was the main focus of my post from January 11th of this year, "Orseolo - One Polished Ferro".  See if you can spot the shiny blade.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Video Surveilance in the Veneto

photo by Tamás Fehér

Here's a photo taken by Tamás during Vogalonga of 2009 while he was visiting Burano and the adjoining island of Mazzorbo.

Tamás writes:
After the rowing marathon has started at nine o'clock that day, I briefly visited the San Giorgio Maggiore Island and then boarded a ship at Riva degli Schiavoni to go to Burano and watch the rowboats go round the half-way mark. The ship route took about 90 minutes, because it was sent on detour, alongside the Lido coast, in order to avoid disturbing the Vogalonga participants.
I "wasted" significant time walking around Mazzorbo, as well as Burano.

I'd love to "waste" a little time in such a way.

The idea of video surveilance on the canals of the lagoon is both amusing and annoying.
Yes, technology is a favorite tool of law enforcement. 
Next thing you know there will be guys on jet-skis,
hiding in corners, with waterproof radar guns.

Then again, the sign we're looking at may be the only piece of the puzzle left from an old system that was put in place and fell apart long ago.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

A Short Walk Through the Remer's Shop

For your viewing pleasure, here's a link to a nice video clip showing the inside of Paolo Brandolisio's shop.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Way Too Many Hoses

When I spend time in Venice, I'm gazing at gondolas to an obsessive degree. A gondola could be filled with aliens and Elvis, and I'd still be staring at the boat.

After a while I come up with different names for the various gondolas in my collection of photos.
This one is "the gondola with way too many hoses".

I realize that the dangling hoses are functional, and a rather clever use of rubber hose material. but It seems like they ought to be stowed while cruising.

In fairness, I haven't rowed the man's boat or walked a mile in his shoes, but I must say that the gondola he's rowing is darn-near perfect...if not for all the hoses hanging over the side.

Let's take a closer look:
 The gondolier treads on a very nice custom carpet.

 This gondola has some sweet cavalli - trumpeting angels in a gold finish.

Real estate people talk a lot about the value of location.  This guy's got good location.  If he cruises the Rialto area he can probably brag about his docking location.

I may have built this post around the hoses which hang from the side of the boat, but the truth is - she's a beautiful gondola that any gondolier would love to call his own.

The Santa Fe TV Show

There's this great on-line TV show based out of Santa Fe, New Mexico.  It's produced by a guy from Northern Italy, and a girl who's originally from So Cal.  About a month ago I had the pleasure of working with them as they came out to shoot an episode here in Newport Beach.  We went all over the harbor in one of my motorized gondolas while they gathered point-of-view footage, I got them on the 8th floor of a condo building to shoot from a friend's balcony, then we put some friends on a rowing gondola as models while the cameras rolled from shore.  The finished product is now on-line and available for viewing.
To watch it, go to santafetvshow.com and click on "episode 12".

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today is Veterans Day

American General George S. Patton once said:
"Human beings are made up of flesh and blood, and a miracle fiber called courage".
I can think of no better way to describe our men and women in uniform, especially those who risked it all (some sacrificing all) for freedom.
Thanks to our veterans on Veterans Day from the Gondola Blog.

Just the Photo - Stefano at the Bridge

This is a bit of a flashback photo from July.
Stefano was coming under the Newport Blvd. bridge after sunset and I ambushed him with my camera.
The post that day, "Grabbing Hold" had another version of this shot.
I like the way the lights on the bridge reflect on the water in this image.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


This post originally identified the boat in the photo as a topo.  Thanks to Nereo Zane, i now believe she's a bragozzo.
Am I correct amici?

photo by Tamás Fehér

It could be argued that the lifeblood of Venice is carried by boats...many boats...through her veins and arteries, which are her canal system.
And while many different types of vessels contribute to keeping things alive,
a large share of the load is carried by moto-topos and other large cargo boats.  These motorized workhorses, carry cargo of all types.

The boat Tamás photographed, the "Nettuno" is named after the sea god "Neptune" from the ancient Roman pantheon (comparable to the Greek deity "Poseidon").

From groceries to garbage, lumber to luggage, anything that comes into or goes out of Venice in any decent amount makes the trip in one of these boats.  Many Venetian cargo boats specialize in particular types of cargo.
I recently saw a tv commercial for UPS with a cago boat cruising up the Grand Canal with the company logo on her rudder.

I wonder what the "Nettuno" carries.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Bacino Orseolo at Night - a Lineup of Ferros

By day, these gondolas traverse the canals of La Serenissima. 
After their evening passengers have gone ashore, they rest for the night.  Beneath the yellow walls of the Hotel Cavalletto, floating on a small green sea, the gondolas of Bacino Orseolo are side-tied, one to the other,
all in a row.

One row back, things look more jumbled, but at the head of the front row there's this great view of all the ferros in a lineup.  It's as if they're standing at attention, waiting for morning when their gondoliers come back once again.
These are working boats, despite the master-skills of the gondoliers who row them, there's still some bumping and grinding now and then.
Taking a closer look at the lineup of ferros, we can see some of those battle scars.

One of those blades has been featured here before,
in the "Ferro with Guts" post.  See if you can pick out which one I'm talking about.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Paolo "Sets a Forcola Free"

Michaelangelo has been quoted as saying:
"Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it."
More than any other quote, I think this gives us an understanding of the mentality of a sculptor.

In another instance he said:
"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free."
In the following video, we see a little of that approach by remer Paolo Brandolisio, as he works to free the forcola from the block of wood she's trapped in.

If you aren't able to see the video above, please visit the following link and then come back.

Now if you're not a gondola fanatic, or have little interest in the art of forcola carving, this may not be the most amazing video clip, but I sat in awe as Paolo sliced piece after piece of wood from the block.
He doesn't present a completed piece by the end of the clip, but in five and a half minutes he brings it to a point where you can see the familiar shape.
With some time and technique (and the right hand tools), Paolo will certainly finish the task and produce a work of art that can also serve as rowing hardware.
In the video, he begins with a pencil-traced pattern, but in a short time Paolo falls back on his instinct and cuts freehand - something you'd expect to see a true artist do.
He does it with such ease, it reminds me a bit of another Michaelangelo quote:
"Carving is easy, you just go down to the skin and stop."

Long Lens Sniping at Sunset Gondola - Kelly Approaches the Dock

I stopped by Sunset Gondola yesterday and caught a few images of Kelly Stiles, a new gondolier there in Huntington Harbour, as he headed for the dock.  He had a happy, good looking couple and the angle was right. 
I watched as Kelly "got to know" the wind that always seems to be there waiting at the end of the row of docks.

The day had been sunny and clear just an hour earlier, but then the marine layer came in and changed the whole look of things - it made for a nice effect with a monochrome photo.

The boat in the shot is a Tramontin-built gondola,
known at Sunset Gondola as "Fabio". 
She's a heavy-duty boat, but the gondolier seems to have things well handled.

Nice job Kelly!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Looking at the Pupparin from a bridge in Naples, California

Standing on a bridge in the Naples neighborhood in Alamitos Bay,
I snapped a few photos of a pupparin with passengers.

When compared to a Venice-built gondola, the pupparin is a little shorter in length, but looking at the vessel from above, we can appreciate just how much boat this gondolier has to row. 

The raised platform of the pupparin sets her apart from the other members of the "sandolo family".  These boats have their roots as training platforms for young hopeful gondoliers learning the trade.  To this day they are the official boat for the race of the "giovanni" in Venice's famous Regata Storica.

As he rowed around the corner, the gondolier got some interesting looks from a couple on hydrobikes.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Boston Haulout

photos provided by Joe Gibbons

At the end of their tenth year, the gondolas in Boston's Gondola di Venezia have come out of the water to hibernate for winter. In places further south we operate year-round, but in places like Boston, shifting seasons bring about big changes.  Each year the gondolas are hauled out and prepped for the big sleep.  Here are a few photos from the haulout of the first boat.

Gondolier Steve Bruno (a.k.a. "Stephano") brings a gondola to shore.
Notice the rowboat trailing behind? In Boston they store their boats on a float - it's a good way to keep them safe.  If you want to mess with a gondola in Boston, you'll need to bring your own boat...or get wet!

Co-owners of Gondola di Venezia discussing something at the back of the boat regarding the journey on land that's about to happen.  I'm not sure what Joe (left) is saying to Steve (right), but my guess is that it's something like: "Oh man! I stepped in the water back there and now my shoes and socks are wet! It's friggin' cold out here, now I've got wet socks?  I'm gettin' too old for this!"

Of course no haulout is complete without extra help.  Steve's sons Matthew and Michael, known as the "Bell Brothers" were on hand to do their part. 
In this photo you can see the intricate carvings on the foredeck.  This is Boston's only wedding gondola, and one of only three operating in the country.

Bringing the boats to storage invloves pulling them one at a time, by the roadway, with motorists whipping by at high speed.  The confused looks they get from drivers are priceless.  Joe told me he's seen a few accidents over the years too, as people have been driving too fast and took their eyes off the road at the wrong moment.  Gondolas can be very distracting.

After the slow but nervous trip along the roadside, the first gondola arrives at a city-owned property, formerly a swimming facility, now mostly municipal maintenance and storage.  In this shot you can get a better look at the rolling "skids" used to transport the gondolas.

The first gondola enters the tent.

Steve and his sons pose for one last photo with the boat.

Gondola di Venezia was launched in 2000 under the enthusiastic care of Joe and Cammille Gibbons.  There are many gondola operations outside Venice, but this one remains one of my favorites.  The two gondolas that operate on the Charles River have had thousands of great adventures, with a number of dedicated gondoliers and caretakers.  For a while Gondola di Venezia was owned and operated by Megan Sliger, who I had the priviledge of rowing with last year in Vogalonga. At the beginning of this year, after some soul searching, and an offer from Megan, Joe decided to take over the operation once again; this time with Steve as a partner.  Steve has served as a gondolier in Boston since the beginning.  Both he and Joe have a passion for the gondola business, and the knowlendge and experience to do it right.
This Sunday they'll head back to the Esplanade to haul out the other gondola and do the whole thing again.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Shot on "That Spot"

photo by Tamás Fehér
This shot has been taken many times, by many different photographers.
There is only one place it can be taken. I've referred to it a few times here as "that spot".
I think it's in San Marco, not far from Bacino Orseolo and the Piazza. 
To tell the truth, I always seem to get there by accident.
With a decent camera and good lighting, the result is almost always amazing.
Here's one by Tamás that brings me back to the last time I was standing in that same place.
Here are a couple posts with photos taken at "that spot":
"That Spot"
"Another Shot from "That Spot"

Tim from Sunset Gondola on America's Next Top Model - Take 2

Last night the episode of America's Next Top Model with Tim aired on the CW network. Here's an eight minute clip. 
Tim rows into view a little ahead of the four minute mark.

If you have trouble viewing the clip here, go to this link to see it and then come back. UPDATE - THE LINK HAS BEEN DISABLED.

On one hand I was thrilled to see Tim and his pupparin on such a high-profile show.  I must admit though, that I don't think they used enough footage.  But then I am a little bit biased when it comes to such things. 
Nevertheless, Tim and his boat looked great.

The bigger story here, is that for the first time in quite a while, someone has managed to put a Venetian boat on the canals of Venice, California. 
It was only for a day, but still a big deal.

For decades the remnant of canals that survived from back in Abbott Kinney's days, have been host to canoes, kayaks and rowboats.  The most recent photo I've seen of an actual gondola on Venice's canals dates back to the 80's, and it was also brought in for a limited time.

Tim's accomplishment of dropping a pupparin in the water for a TV show is no small feat and I must admit...I'm just a tad bit jealous.
Great job Bepi, you looked great!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Happy Birthday John Synco!

I try to keep track of birthdays here on the Gondola Blog. 
Sometimes one will get by me, but I do my best. 
Sincere apologies go out to anyone who's big day slipped by.

Today, November 3rd, is the birthday of one of my favorite Southern California gondoliers - John Synco.
In this area, a name like "Synco" all but guarantees you a lifetime of nicknames that revolve around the number five.  John has often gone by "Cinque", and I've even seen him referred to in writing simply as "5".
in honor of his birthday, I'm posting five of my favorite photos of John from previous posts.

 Greeting another gondolier on the water in Naples.

 Laughing with friends at a get-together at Sunset Gondola.

 On board training for the Huntington Harbour Christmas Parade of 2009.

The get-togethers at Sunset Gondola are among my very favorite activities.  John is one of the people I always look forward to seeing.

 Posing for the camera with Eric Sjoberg at another get-together.

"Cinque" in his natural habitat.

Happy birthday John!

Monday, November 1, 2010

Martina Goes Monochrome

photos by Martina Zane

Recently a collection of black-and-white gems caught my eye and I asked Martina if I could post them here.

There are six images, each with accompanying description.

I was in the northern part of Venice, between Sant'Alvise and Madonna dell'Orto in the Sestiere Cannaregio. The boat with the rope caught me that very second, I sat down on the "sidewalk" and spent a couple minutes there looking at it. The water was still and no boats coming up from any direction.

I was on the Vaporetto to Burano and I think that the city you see behind the broken walls is Mazzorbo or Torcello, I can't remember.

I thought the broken walls were the image of Venice many people have, that is, a city living on its glorious past and hardly surviving: people want to live with every kind of comfort, want to use the car to move just a little distance, want to go to the mall near home...that's impossible in Venice. But I wanted to spend my holidays in Burano this year (if only the weather was good!), spend all the time there and see how people live, on an island without commodities (there's no cinema, no theater) but people know how to live well!

I shot this picture in Murando - the glass island. It was a bad day, I thought it would rain in a minute, the atmosphere was so crepuscular, like twilight, like a poem.

 As you know, tranportation in Venice is like a bet (gamble). However Venice has the most important fish and vegetable market of the region. Fish and Vegetables go to the Venice market first, in second place (or second quality stuff) go to other markets. Those men are passing vegetables from the boat to the shops like in no other place all over the world happen.

 I was in the vaporetto to Burano that day, and one of the buildings you see is the Hospital.

this last picture was shot in Cannaregio one of the most densely populated sestiere, probably one of the last places where you can experience the real Venetian life.
Nobody's living in that house now, probably not long ago there were children playing in that courtyard and people spending their spare time sitting in the sun and talking.

Many thanks to Martina for letting me post these great photos.
Each photo tells a story, makes you feel like you were there, but at the same time makes you want to go there...makes you want to live there.