Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Mobile Template"

If you always view the Gondola Blog from a computer, this will make no difference to you, but if you're checking in on a smartphone, you'll be happy to know that the Gondola Blog now has a "mobile template" option to allow easier access and viewing from a mobile device.
Now you can row your gondola AND read the Gondola Blog at the same time.
Not that I'd recommend such behavoir.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

SUP Expedition in the News

Dutchman Bart de Zwart is officially on the list of people I'd like to meet.

Read about his 300 mile journey from one end of the Hawaiian Islands to the other on a standup paddleboard in this Yahoo News piece.

Then take a look at his blog:
"The Ultimate Crossing"

Search the internet and you'll find lots of similar coverage of this great accomplishment.

Bart now lives in Maui, and owns a surf shop in Haiku.  The 41-year old did the whole thing unsupported, and is now recovering (and eating) well.

Also check out Bart's surf shop - Kanaha Kai Maui.
I have a feeling he'll be selling more SUP boards and equipment (once he returns to work).

One of the 365

Our friends in Coronado, California were recently chosen as one of the 365 things to do in San Diego.
I'm not surprised.
And in fact I think that if they narrowed it down to ten things, The Gondola Company should be on that list too.  I'm sure Sean would agree.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

"First Flight" in Boston

I received the above photo from my friend Joe Gibbons in Boston, with the following text:

Hi Greg
Hope you are doing well. Our season here in Boston got off to a rainy start but the sun is now shining and we are getting caught up. Sunday night we got 14 tours out. In the weeks ahead we should be selling out the weekends doing 16 to 18 tours a night.

My days of hustling 9 tours on each boat are over. I did 8 on Sunday and here almost 3 days later I am still feeling it.

I hear you Joe.
With the years come experience, wisdom, and...slower recovery.

We started training our newest gondolier {Chico} last season and he was finally ready a week ago. The photo attached is Chico, I can still feel the butterflies just looking at that photo. I think all gondola owners can appreciate the fear , anxiety and reservations, letting a new guy leave the dock for the first time.
Chico did well and I sure hope he gives me the relief I need on those busy nights.

Thanks for keeping the blog going.

Thanks for sending the photo, Joe.
I write this crazy blog for guys like you.
Please give my congrats to Chico, and tell him to "always think five moves ahead" when rowing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Stocherkahnrennen 2011

While so many of us were either talking about, or recovering from the famous Vogalonga, an interesting boat race of a different type was taking place in a town called Tübingen, Germany.
Since 1956, this race between long punt boats has taken place on the Neckar river.
To call it a punt race would really sell this thing short.
And while I haven't yet witnessed the Stocherkahnrennen in person yet, I've learned a few things in my obsessive research.
To begin with, there are usually about fifty boats taking part.
The boat is piloted by a guy at the back with a stick (I believe he's the "stocherer").
But there are eight people on each boat.  The other seven crew members paddle with their hands, fend off or grab hold of other boats, and seem to make a lot of noise in the process.
One of my favorite aspects of this race is that it follows a type of figure-eight course.
And just like the old smash-up derby car races, this figure-eight configuration is the closest thing to a guarantee that the boats will crash into each other.
As you might have guessed by now, Tübingen is a college town, and many of the boats involved are crewed by members of fraternities and other student groups.
My guess is that many show up at the starting line, already well "marinated".
Cheers from the crowds along the river and on the bridges help to encourage these punt-paddling warriors.
The winning boat receives a "barrel of beer".
Many boats also compete in the costume category.
More than anything though, nobody wants to be in the last boat to cross the finish line, because they each have to chug down a half-liter of cod liver oil, and are held responsible for organizing next year's race.

I hunted down the video segments of the race on YouTube, and then the folks at loaded them up to their site.
So set aside some time, grab yourself a stein of beer if that helps, and enjoy the video clips of Tübingen's Stocherkahnrennen.

for some great photos and some thoughts in english, see Santa Barbara photographer Cody Duncan's website

I am far from an authority on this crazy german boat race, so anyone who feels like sharing further info on Stocherkahnrennen is welcome to do so in the comment box.

Maybe next year a bunch of us can go out there and race one of those punts.
Well, actually, I'm not really a fan of cod liver oil, and I do believe in Murphy's Law.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Shot from the Day - Perfect Sunset in Newport

Shot from the back of the Phoenix while en route to pick up my passengers.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Just the Photo - "Strigheta"

photo by Tamás Fehér

I'm not sure which Strigheta owns this remo, or if it's simply been marked as such in tribute to the famous "Strigheta". but one might think twice before stealing it.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Vogalonga 2011 - Video of 16 desona

video by Kathleen Gonzalez

Here’s one more nice video clip from the Canale di Cannaregio as boats from the Vogalonga were entering the city.

In this video we see an impressive 16-oared boat. She’s similar to many of the big “desonas”, but this boat seems to have the bow and stern of a sandolo instead of a gondola.
It's amazing to watch her go by, like a big centipede on the water.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Plenty of Forcola...Plenty of Wedges Too!

photo by Tamás Fehér

This close-up of a forcola da poppa on a caorlina shows us how robust these pieces can be. 
With most forcole, form follows function. 
If it's carved to serve a purpose by Pastor, Brandolisio, or Furlanetto, 
then the beauty of it's form is it's functionality.
There are a few exceptions with some of the more "luxury forcole",
but you're not likely to see a luxury forcola on the back of a caorlina.

A caorlina is a stout vessel - often rowed by six vogatori.
Sometimes the rower at the back needs to bear down hard to get the boat moving back in the right direction.
A forcola like this one is built to handle that kind of pressure. 

Taking a closer look, we see the familiar signature of Saverio Pastor peeking out from behind some wedges.
It's a good guess that the person who seated this forcola had to spend some quality time with the hammer and wedges.
We do whatever we have to, to keep a forcola from moving around.

The forcola da poppa on a caorlina often has two rowing points, or "morsos".
Stern forcolas on many boats only need one morso, but in the case of the caorlina, the popier sometimes rows with a full crew (weighing the boat down a bit), and other times the boat is lighter in the water - making that lower morso a better place to row from.  I'm told this dual morso configuration dates back to a time when caorlinas were used more for transportation of cargo around the lagoon.

A lower morso, or morso de soto, can also be compared
to a lower gear when rowing a full boat.
Standing at a towering 5'6", I can see how that lower morso might also come in handy for short people.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Summer is Here

To all my friends above the equator:
Welcome to the first day of summer.
And to all my friends below it,
we promise we'll take good care of summer,
and return it to you soon.

photo taken by Gondola Greg from the Ponte dei Fuseri on a nice hot summer day in Venice.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Passenger Sandoli - Ready and Waiting

photo by Chris Clarke

Two passenger sandoli float canalside, dressed and ready for passengers on a sunny day in Venezia.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mestrina - 2009 Vogalonga Retrospective

photos by Tamás Fehér

There were a few comments on my last post asking about "nostri amici" in the GSVVM. Far be it from me to miss an opportunity to post photos with rowers in orange and blue.
Before I go further though, I need to point out that Nereo posted a several shots of GSVVM boats in his post "Vogalonga 2011" which I linked to a few days ago.

Now, to explain the images here.
A while back Tamás sent me a number of photos from 2009's Vogalonga, and among them was a series of shots of the all-too-familiar "Mestrina".

Taking a closer look, I saw someone I knew,
quite well in fact,
because...I'm married to her!

Yes, riding in the bow, along with one of the other club member's wives, was my wife Elisa.  My youngest daughter was curled up in the bow as well. 

The conditions that day were, shall we say, "challenging" to say the least.
I don't have any numbers to back up such a claim, but when it comes to finishers, I'll bet it ranks at or near the very bottom of all Vogalongas as far as failure-to-finish is concerned.

As the Mestrina made her way through the lagoon, my wife shot a number of video clips which can be sampled from here:

You get a sense of the wind in this clip.

You can hear the wind in this video, later you get an idea of how the vogatori felt about the conditions as the camera pans across some of their faces while rowing.

As they approach Burano, we see a nice gondolone rowing not too far from the Mestrina.

Earlier, in fact before they even got to the starting line, this was the scene as our "amici" in the 14-man boat reached the Canale di Cannaregio after a tough trek from the club.

The drama continued as the crew of the Mestrina took a breather. 
Some people were trying to launch a lightweight shell from the fondamenta. A few dragon boats paddled by - no telling whether they even got halfway through the course.  And some rowers in an English-style boat got bumped into a few times.

In what may be the perfect encapsulation of the 2009 Vogalonga, my wife and daughter, who weren't even rowing - abandoned ship in Burano.
It sucked that bad.

After the "Craziness in Cannarego" and before the Mestrina lost a couple passengers in Burano, she passed under the Rialto Bridge, and got her photo taken by my Hungarian friend.

I'm sure that the famous quattordesona was out on the Vogalonga course again this year.
I'll bet it was an easier row this year than it was in '09.
And afterwards, I'm sure that the fourteen club members who were lucky enough to be aboard, got to sign the "big book" that bears the signatures of everyone who's had the honor to row her for an official reason.
Several years ago I had the luck to be one of those who got to sign the book, and I've decided that if my doctor ever tells me that I've got "one year to live", I'm gonna sign that big book and row that big boat one more time...with some of my "amici" from the GSVVM.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Vogalonga 2011 - They Salute as They Pass By

video by Kathleen Gonzalez

As a traditional rowing boat from the Veneto passes by judges, dignitaries, or anyone deemed “worthy” of a salute, the vogatori raise their oars.
This isn’t terribly difficult, but it does take some effort and coordination, especially after a long or demanding row, so when the crew of a boat does raise their remi – it’s an honor. 
As this 8-man gondolone entered the Canale di Cannaregio, and began the glorious trip through La Serenissima towards the finish line of the 37th Vogalonga, they heard the cheers from the fondamenta and someone on the boat probably said “in alzo I remi” and they gave the salute.

special thanks to Nereo Zane for assistance in boat identification

Friday, June 17, 2011

Club Colors

photo by Chris Clarke

In this close-up of two mascarete at Battaglia Terme,
I think it's safe to say that they love their club colors.

I think it's also a safe bet that they paint their poles and their boats from the same buckets.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Vogalonga 2011 - Video of Valesana Rower

video by Kathleen Gonzalez

Here’s a great snippet of video which shows the “Valesana” style of rowing with crossed oars.

The Race Between the Four Republics Ends With No Trophy

While all of us in the voga-alla-Veneta world were training our focus on the Vogalonga, something more than noteworthy happened in a race known as the Regata of the Ancient Maritime Republics. Yes, it has an equally impressive Italian name, but I chose to introduce it first by it's English equivalent.

This is a regata between four republics: Genoa, Amalfi, Pisa, and of course Venezia.
They don't row Venetian-style - it's in the old facing-backward manner so popular with the rest of the world.  It's a great way to propel a boat, but doesn't make for much of a view.

So every year teams from these four "republics" get together for a race, a grudge match, and aside from calcio (soccer) rivalries, one of the biggest focus points of pride and bragging rights today for the four cities involoved.

The contest has been going on since 1956 and until this week, there has always been an awarded winner.

I could try to describe all that's happened, but I'd just be duplicating the expert efforts of Erla Zwingle.  Take a look at her post "Galleons Can Break Your Heart" and grab a quick education on the Regata Antiche Repubbliche.
Then set aside 14 minutes of your life and watch the race for yourself.  It's well worth it. See this YouTube link to get a front row seat (a link through Erla's post is also available).

Next, click on Nereo Zane's "Palio delle Republiche Marinare" and do your best translating.

At the end of the day, only one team was deemed the "winner", and yet no trophy or ribbon was awarded.
In the fifty-five years of this competition, this is the first time such a thing has ever happened.

Looks like we all have to wait another year on this one.
I predict that in a year's time, there will be even more cheering and screaming than there was this year.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vogalonga 2011 - As Seen From the Ponte Accademia

Nereo Zane found a good spot on the Accademia Bridge this year and caught some terrific images of boats as they passed under.

Take a look at his photos at:
"Vogalonga 2011" on his blog.

When I grow up I want to take pictures like Nereo.

Vogalonga 2011 - the "Cannaregio Procession"

photos by Kathleen Gonzalez
This year's Vogalonga saw every type of rowing boat in the Veneto.
Our friend Kathleen Gonzalez was there as many of them entered the Canale di Cannaregio in a procession that makes for some fantastic photos.

There were caorlinas,

black gondolas,

blue gondolas,

green gondolas,

even some with varnished decks.

There were dragon boats.
Lots of dragon boats.
 Some wore pink shirts,

Some wore pink life jackets,

Some paddled pink boats.
I'm noticing a pink theme.

There were English style rowing vessels.

Here's a nice overhead of an English rower alongside some of my friends from the GSVVM in one of their club boats.

There was even a stand-up-paddler seen, paddling with a Vogalonga number on his shirt.
I'm not sure if he managed to paddle the whole course,
but I do admire his dedication.

It seems like everyone was there, including:
the Swiss,

The Germans,



Heck, there was even a boat there representing...
the "Empire".

Everyone gave their salute as they made their way into the city,
and closer to the finish.

The women saluted,

the men saluted,

even dragon-boaters "raised their oars" and saluted.

And as each and every boat passed under the ever-so recognizable
Tre Archi bridge, they got cheers from the folks on the bridge and
along the fondamenta, and many of them also got their pictures taken by our friend Kathleen Gonzalez.

Thanks Kathy!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Monday, June 13, 2011

Vogalonga 2011 - First Look

photo by Kathleen Gonzalez

As luck would have it, my friend Kathleen found herself in Venice during Vogalonga.  And while she didn't row, she managed to get a good perspective on things.

She writes:
We had a lot of fun. We found a spot near Tre Archi and arrived just as the first boats came in.

While I'm still in the process of figuring out how the heck to use Flickr
(I'm not as tech-savvy as some of you might think),
here's one shot taken of the Canale di Cannaregio as some of the boats made their way into the city. 

Here we see a prime example of the difference between the boats where you stand, facing forward, and the boats where you sit, facing backward.

As the big "desona" moves easily forward with her rowers enjoying the view, members of the crew on the smaller boat struggle to see where they're going and try to keep their boat moving while craning their necks.

I have to congratulate everyone in this photo - because they are nearing the end of an epic row (no matter what position they chose to row from).
I know the English-style boats tend to move faster, but I must admit some bias, because I would rather be standing, facing forward, and enjoying a higher vantage point, than sitting and craning my neck.

I noticed a curious little addition to the sides of the smaller boat:
it looks like they have spread plastic wrap along both rails.  My guess is it's there to help minimize the splashing of water into the boat - not a real concern in calm waters, but then Vogalonga isn't known for it's calm waters.

A heartfelt thanks go to Kathleen Gonzalez for sharing her experience with us. If her name sounds familiar, it's probably because she's the author of "Free Gondola Ride", which I talked about in my post from October of '07.

Thanks Kathy,
we hope to see more of your photos soon.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Matthew Schenk!

He started out as just a gondolier here in Newport.
(although it feels wrong to say the phrase "just a gondolier")
He was crazy, I mean adventurous enough to take the job managing our operation in Irving, Texas.
Now he manages the Irving location, and our servizio on Lake Las Vegas.
At the tender young age of twenty-five, Matt amazes me with how he can manage boats, people, clients, crazy bosses, and still be the kind of guy you want to hang out with.
Happy Birthday Matt!

(above photo from the post "Shots from the Day - January 19th".)

Vogalonga Wishes

Buon viaggio to all my friends lucky enough to be on a boat in Venice right now, rowing the course and taking it all in.  Enjoy the row, tell us all about it, and have a spritz for me!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Boston Gondolas - More Great Shots from Mark Hunt

photos by Mark J. Hunt
They say "a picture is worth a thousand words", and as such, there's not much else to say with these three images. 
Joe Gibbons at Gondola di Venezia knows what makes an operation work - and look good.  The boats and the location are fantastic. 
When Mark starts waving his camera around, you just know you're going to get some great pictures.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Street-Legal Gondola...or is she?

photos by Tamás Fehér

As the publisher of this strange niche blog, I receive some interesting photos, but this collection of images definitely ranks high. 
It seems that somewhere in Hungary, in the pedestrian area of a shopping mall, this unusual "gondola" appeared. 
Fortunately Tamás was there with his camera to capture these photos. 

Yes folks, she's a "gondola car".
And those of you who speak German can feel free to insert your favorite gondola/car joke here - as I'm told that "gondola" translates to "car" or vice versa.
All I know is that this "gondola" is unlike any in my fleet...and I've got some unusual variations.

Raise your hands, my amici, if any of you have a gondola with sidepipes!
 ...or Goodyear racing slicks!
The obvious next question is:
is this for real?

In all honesty I'm still not sure, but there's a display sign claiming that the "gondola" in question is powered by Lamborghini.

I also couldn't help noticing that the front wheels and the back ones are, well, a bit "dragster-like".

But hey, she's got real cavalli.

I don't think this one is asymmetrical though - ahh, but that wouldn't do well on the highway now, would it?

She has a nice shiny ferro - much more impressive than a puny hood ornament on a Mercedes or Rolls Royce.
The passenger area isn't quite as spacious as those on her Venetian counterparts, but I guess you've got to make sacrifices for speed on the pavement.

I asked Tamás about this unusual display and he said:
Yes, as part of a collection of "weird cars". I did not have time to venture further inside the mall, but she was located near the front entrance. There was a yellow "sea and beach" themed VW Beetle lookalike right behind her, that was about 2x as long and 2x wide as the original.

I asked why the display was there:
I think the "wacky car" collection was displayed to provide publicity for a FIA WTCC and Maserati touring car championship race, held at our Hungaroring circuit.
Lastly, Tamás wrote:
The table advertises the "romatic" aspect of the car and how the motorist will win the heart of ladies in such an artfully made, beautiful venetian vehicle. No word on engine muffling, though, so I guess romantic whisper is out of the question. (If I understand correctly, Lamborghini sportscar engine blocks are derived from large motorboat and yacht engines.)

I don't know about the motorboat engine block theory, but I can safely say that this series of photos brings new meaning to the American slang term for a "land yacht".

Any of you gondoliers out there thinking this might work for that upcoming mid-life crisis?
I'm still not sure if she's street-legal.