Monday, February 28, 2011

Kayak in the Sky

photo by René Seindal
This image went up on René Seindal's Facebook page a while back and I had to get it up here on the Gondola Blog.

Sitting right at the surface, kayakers have an incredible point of view, and René is responsible for many photos which have caught my eye in the past. 
No photoshop editing was done here, but he did do one thing to this image, which makes it even more interesting.
Can you spot it?

When I took a closer look at all the things in the photo, I recognized something from a previous photo.
I believe the ferro of the gondola on the left is the same one from my post from September 4th of last year "Long-Term Cover".

Thanks go out to our friend René of Venice Kayak, for sharing with us, his unique view of things.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

The "Kerschbaum Remo-Wrap"

Talking with John Kerschbaum earlier this month, we ended up on the subject of cold-weather rowing.  This is a natural topic of conversation with John,
as he owns and operates Gondola Romantica in Stillwater, Minnesota.

Spring launch can present some cool conditions, but it's nothing like what they run into towards the end of their rowing season, as winter draws near.
As the end of the rowing season approaches, many of the gondoliers head back to school, and John does the bulk of the rowing until the gondolas are hauled out.

Keeping your feet warm isn't too tough, and finding warm clothes you can row in probably comes naturally for a Minnesotan, but what does a cold-weather gondolier do about his hands?

After all, grip is important - throw on heavy gloves and you lose that tactile connection with the remo. It can make a huge difference while rowing.
Add too much padding, and you stand to lose that connection.

Most of the gondoliers in Stillwater have great tolerance for the lower temperatures of the North, but gripping a cold, wooden remo can chill your hands to the bone.

So John started thinking about ways to insulate the remo, and padded handlebar tape for bicycles came to mind. He walked into REI one day and asked for the thickest handlebar tape they had.

Wrapping the areas most often gripped while rowing, he created a barrier to the wood.
Here in Orange County, California, we've actually got snow in the forecast, and this week I can agree with John's words about how a cold remo "can suck the heat right out of your hands".
This gives him the ability to row longer before reaching for his gloves, and on marginal days, he doesn't have to go for the gloves at all.

John said "It takes a little while to get used to the different thickness of the remo, but the padded tape is worth it".

This was the first season a remo was wrapped in Minnesota.
They only put the tape on one this year, but it worked out well - because John was often the only gondolier rowing in cold weather.

Someone else out there may have wrapped a remo with padded tape for bicycle handlebars prior to this year, but as far as I'm concerned, John Kerschbaum deserves some credit here, and until I see compelling evidence, this will go down in my book as the "Kerschbaum Remo-Wrap".

If it does snow here in Newport, Heck, I might just try it.

In closing, I asked John if he was glad he'd wrapped the remo the way he did, and he said:
"It was a good thing and I'll do it again".

Friday, February 25, 2011

Video Clips from the Day Before V-Day

Here are two short video clips, shot from the back of the Lucia on one of the nicest days we've ever seen in February.
Nothing action-packed, just relaxing views from the gondolier's perspective.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Shot from the Day - Sunsine Through Palm Trees

No, it's not a nuclear blast over Newport, what you see here is my view while rowing this evening.  I shot the sun shining through the top of one of the palm trees on Newport Island.

Gondolier Danny Competes Tonight!

If you're in Southern California and want to support a local musician (who got his start as a gondolier), get yourself to the Fullerton Museum tonight.
Here's a link to a recent story on one of our allumni gondoliers from Newport.,0,4747145.story
We're pretty excited about this, and yes, quite proud of Danny.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Forcola in the Spotlight

photos by Garrett Budwine
Here are a few images of a forcola carved by Saverio Pastor for the photographer Garrett Budwine.
The piece is a for a sandolo, but in this case it was bought for it's beauty, and will be the center of many conversations in the Budwine home as guests admire Pastor's handiwork.

a close-up of the top half of the forcola,
with a testa resembling the one I row with on my gondola,
but on the other side.

Side view.

Like almost all works of art, forcolas made by Venice's three recognized remers are signed by the artists who create them.

Saverio Pastor also gives his forcolas serial numbers.
My understand is that the number on the right represents the year the piece was completed.  This forcola was finished in 2009.  Based on the number on the left, Garrett's forcola was the 66th one to be produced that year.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Swan Chase

As if what we do with our boats on a regular basis isn't interesting enough, now and then a gondolier is asked to go above and beyond, and do something remarkably strange, amusing, or worthy of taking pictures of.
Such was the case back in April of 2005, when some of my gondoliers in Irving, Texas were asked to assist in some "swan catching".

One of the big hotels on the lake has a pen of black swans. 
The guests love them, the staff takes very good care of them, and yet sometimes the swans lose sight of just how good they've got it.

One spring day, my staff there jumped aboard our fastest motorized gondola and set out to perform a good ole Texas Swan-roundup of a very wily swan.

The gondolier does his best to pursue the swan,
while hotel staff reach out with a net.
A canvas canopy was removed from the frame
to allow the "swan handlers" to do their job.

The swan celebrates his superior cornering ability.

The gondolier lines up with a better approach while another guy
climbs out on the bow with the net.

Got him!

After bringing in the swan, the "swan handlers" handle the bird carefully.
As you can see, this gondola also has a forcola - the boat was designed to be either rowed or motored.
The unusual crew came to dock, with one very irritated swan.

There have been many funny, interesting,
and amazing stories coming out of my Texas location,
but this one is one of my favorites.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Just the Photo - Roberto Rows

photo by Kathleen Parker
Gondolier Roberto rows his Bella Mae under Spanish Moss in New Orleans.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

A Collection of Images - Lucia

Most of the time I'm the one rowing the Lucia,
also known as the "Curci gondola". 
She is a unique gondola to say the least. 
So when John Kerschbaum was in town for a few days,
I seized the opportunity to put him on the back and snap some pictures.

There are many Venice-built gondolas in the U.S.,
and there are many canopied gondolas here too,
but I believe she is the only operating gondola in North America that's both.

Kerschbaum rows a-poppa.

All gondolas have a crescent-shaped curve. 
Some have more curve than others. 
From the right angle you can see that the Lucia comes out of the water a bit more than some other gondolas - in fact of the three Venice-built gondolas we have in our fleet, the ferro of this gondola rises higher, as does the tail.  And because she comes out of the water earlier on each end, getting this one to turn is not only easier, it's fun.

Getting John on the back of the Lucia wasn't difficult - rowing with a canopy is a challenge seasoned gondoliers relish, and John certainly fits that description.

Just the Photo - Bird on Palina

photo by Martina Zane

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Putting the Pieces Back Together

A few years ago I came across an unusual gondola on the internet.
She was Venice-built, had fully carved decks, and was owned by an event planner.
The gondola was fairly old but appeared to be in decent condition.
There was one problem though:
somewhere along the way, the gondola had been cut into three pieces.

Yes, I know most of my readers might see it as a sin to cut a gondola up,
but the owner wanted to be able to carry the boat into places for events - using hallways and freight elevators.
Assuming you don't need to put a boat back in the water,
this is actually a clever way to make the boat more mobile.

When the event planner decided to sell the gondola though,
this three-part-boat wasn't an easy thing to sell.

After the vessel had been on e-bay for a while, I spoke with a number of my friends in the gondola business, and everyone seemed to agree that it wasn't a project they were ready to undertake.

Then along came Matthew Haynes - owner of La Gondola in Providence, Rhode Island.  I didn't even know he'd bought the boat until he sent me a link to a news story.
I watched it and was blown away.

Here's the link:
Renovating a gondola, awaiting spring thaw.
Watch and enjoy!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Breezy Beginning

Conditions were ideal this year as we came into Valentine's Day, and overall the 14th was better than expected, but it got a little breezy in the afternoon for a short while. Here's a clip of John Kerschbaum rowig out of our lagoon into the wind.  The winds never went beyond the "welcome challenge" classification, but leaving the lagoon into a noticeable north-west wind was a good wake-up call for our gondoliers.
Watching the video, we see the sun sparkle on the water.
We see how the gondolier uses the little flag on his bow to read the wind,
Most of all we see how the chin-strap on the gondolier's hat is an important accessory sometimes.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Campanile Greci

photo by Tamás Fehér

To say that Venice is "full of leaning belltowers" might be an exaggeration, but there certainly are many - both in Venice and on her surrounding islands.  The campanile of the the church of San Giorgio dei Greci is visible from several angles, and because it leans over a canal, the lean is a bit more noticeable.

To read more about the campanile at this historic Greek Orthodox church, read my post "The Leaning Tower of Greci".

The History of "Ciao!"

Ever wonder about that strange Italian greeting,
the one that means both "hello" and "goodbye?"
It's like an Italian "Aloha" of sorts.

Marie Ohanesian Nardin has just posted a great explanation of the word "ciao" and it's origin on her blog "Italy to Los Angeles and Back".

Read about the word and it's connection to Venice at:
My history of Ciao...and then some!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

"King Tides"

Tim Reinard (a.k.a. Bepi Venexiano) of Sunset Gondola weighed in today on an interesting tidal phenomenon here on the California coast.
The LA Times published an article on high tide, and were smart enough to ask a gondolier about it.
Nice one Bepi!

Let It Rain

Coming into December, we had our sights set on two things here in Newport: Christmas Boat Parade, and Valentine's Day.

Boat Parade ended up being a rather wet affair, but we all said the same thing: "I don't care so much about the rain in December, just as long as it doesn't rain on Valentine's Day".

The closer we got to February, the more we watched the weather.
By the first week of February, I found myself checking the forecast three times a day.
On around the 9th or 10th there was talk of some rain on the 16th.

V-Day fell on a Monday this year.
Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were all picture perfect days.
The 14th followed suit, with a bit more wind in the early parts of the day,
but overall it was exactly what we'd hoped for.

Towards the end of the evening we got about five minutes of sprinkling rain - just enough to remind us of how brilliant our weather had been, and how it could have been.
The 15th saw a little mist here and there, but now it's the 16th and we've got what the weatherman forecasted.
I think I speak for most of the gondoliers in Southern California when I say "Now it can rain. Let it rain. Rain like crazy - my boats need a good washing now anyway."

To all my colleagues who are resting after a week of V-Day rowing:
Relax my friends; we had a great run this year.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

And the Beat Goes On

On the day after Valentine's Day, we expect to have some breathing room, but there are always more cruises.
Today I was on the docks as some of our gondoliers got their boats together and headed out with passengers.

John Kerschbaum rolls canvas on the Lucia.

Once the passengers are seated,
John takes a few photos with their camera.

The first few strokes of the day.

A smooth departure into the waters of Newport Harbor.

Meanwhile Steve Elkins was hosting a family on the Cassandra Anne.
These are some of the first images posted of her since her rail replacement.
Steve brings the glassware and silver bucket to the boat.

 Wiping down the varnished mahogany decks.

Taking a family photo before boarding.

All aboard and heading out.

Another smooth departure.

A wave from a distance.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Valentine's Day is here!

To all my gondolier friends out there,
have an awesome Valentine's Day.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Day in Pictures 2/13/11

Stefano details the Wedding Gondola.

Isabella spreads rose petals.

Heading out for a cruise.

Two beauties await their passengers.

John in the sun.

Stefano grabs a bridge.

Stefano on the Wedding Gondola.

Joe salutes from the Crystal Swan.

An unbelievable sunset.  This photo was not enhanced in any way.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Passing Shots

A lot of things happen on a day like today, but with running around with supplies, tools, boat parts, and a million other things, the only time I can reach for my camera is on the boat.

Here are a few shots taken as I passed some of our other gondoliers this evening.

Adam Bosch waves from the back of the Elisa Marie
after leaving the dock for a sunset cruise.

Heading toward the Newport Blvd. bridge,
I passed Joe Munday on his Crystal Swan.

John Kerschbaum of Minnesota is back with us again
for the busiest week of the year.

Kyle Edquist smiles as we pass in the canals, driving the Serena Lee.

Steve Elkins heads off into the sunset,
piloting the Isabella Celeste with her red rope-lights.

It was a great day.
The culmination of months of work and preparation.
Tomorrow will be even busier, and Valentine's Day is Monday.
On Tuesday I think I'll sleep all day.