Monday, October 31, 2011

Just the Photo - "Goats on a Boat"

I got this photo from Tirza in Amsterdam.
It seems appropriate for the day.
No matter how you try to hide your face,
we know that's you in the red dress, Tirza!

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Smooth Waters at Sunset

Tonight, after a day of weather that, if bottled and sold, would bear the label of "perfection", I rowed my passengers out on the water during a time when the wind usually picks up.  As if October was offering a final parting gift before November takes over,
the winds were calm and the colors, magnificent.

It was a night so perfect that I felt unworthy to row in such conditions - felt like I was getting away with something with each stroke.

All of the above was completely made-up.
It sucks here in Newport.
If you were thinking about moving here - don't.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Just the Photo - Taxi Plows Through

photo by Chris Clarke

Squezing between a topo and two sandoli, this varnished water taxi plows through, leaving plenty of moto-ondoso behind.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


Here on the Gondola Blog, we love gondolas, but there's a real fascination for other Venetian craft, especially ones that are rowed.
Add one-of-a-kind to that mix and someone out there is salivating.

So it should come as no surprise that when Tamás sent me these three photos a while back, I sat up in my chair and feverishly tapped out an e-mail.

These three photo by Tamás Fehér
The sweeping tail-section.  

The word "OLIMPICA" made me wonder if we'd see
voga-alla-Veneta in the Olympics soon.  

A longer shot.

These weren't full shots.
Heck, I didn't even see the front of the boat,
but I was haunted by my curiosity.

The word "OLIMPICA" had me wondering if the next summer Olympics might feature a new rowing category.

I heard back from Tamás - he'd encountered the boat
in a club building in Giudecca.
He wrote:
In the warehouse they had the hybrid "Olympica" boat based on venetian hull and forked rowing.
Not much in the way of detail.
really, It just made me more curious.

I talked to Nereo Zane, told him about the boat and he pointed out a link to "Regata Storica 2010 - Nereo's Photos"
and there she was - right there in the foreground.

In an e-mail, Nereo told me:
The "Olimpica project" was born years ago when somebody thought of an Italian championship of Voga alla Veneta or, better, voga in piedi (stan up rowing). As you know there are other boats that can be rowed in "alla Veneta" style but all the boats are different in length, materials, number of rowers and so on. That said, an "Italian championship" is impossible to start unless every club owns the same boats. That is usually called "regulations". The "Olimpica" is the answer to all of above but is still a prototype and I don't know if others will be built.

Then Nereo gave me this link to

Should it come as any surprise that the "Grand Master" Gilberto Penzo has some great images of the boat in question?

Just yesterday I received these fresh images from Nereo Zane:

I've heard the cliche statement many times that certain Italian sports cars look like they're "moving fast, just sitting still", and I can't help but think the same thing about this beauty.
Does she not look like she's breaking the law...
even when resting on the cradle?

I have no idea right now what the future holds for this boat.
And while I could muse for hours about the possibilities of Venetian rowing
in the Olympics, I don't know if it will ever happen.

If the Olympic Games are ever fortunate enough to have "our type of rowing"
as one of their events, I want to be there
(sure, I'll be way too old to compete, but maybe I could be the towel-guy).

Of course if it does ever happen, I think it's a sure bet that the Italian team (which will be made up completely of Venetians) will win by a mile.
The real race will be the one for second place.

More images and some video of this remarkable boat can be hunted down on

The French language website has a great video here, showing how she behaves on the water.

Show of hands:
Who wants one?

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Boston Hauls Out

photos by Mark J. Hunt
 As winter approaches, our friends at Gondola di Venezia have finally wrapped up for the year.

I received these two great Mark Hunt images along with the following text:

Hello Greg

Sad to say our 2011 season has come to an end. Steve ,and I had a great season but its time to say goodbye to our gondoliers and musicians until next year. The girls {Maria and Firenza} will be put to bed for the winter so that we all can get some rest. In the weeks and months ahead as we pass the river as she freezes and then thaws, that nagging urge to row Voga is certain to occupy our thoughts.

Have a great winter ,we will be following the blog ,its like a secret addiction!!!

Joe and Steve
Boston Gondola

Tuesday, October 25, 2011


As many of you know, I'm of the opinion that gondola people are interesting.
Furthermore, we tend to have a thing for travel.
Put a bunch of gondoliers and people associated with the trade in a room and you're likely to find some "travel junkies" in the group.
Some of the personnel I've had the honor of employing have surfed epic waves in Indonesia, run with bulls in Pamplona, Spain, and gone SCUBA diving in Truk Lagoon.  My right-hand man Steve Elkins is currently filming in Chile.
In my Newport Beach operation we have several folks who fit the "travel junkie" profile, but none come close to my office manager, Alison White.
She just locked in her seventh continent: Africa.

Ah, but Alison didn't just go to Africa, no, that wasn't enough.
While she was there, she decided to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, cause, you know - it was there.

Alison White (far right) enjoying the first rays of an African sunrise at Uhuru Peak

After climbing the highest peak in all of Africa, she then went on safari, after all, that's what you DO when you go to Africa.  Or so they tell me.

I'm SO going on safari one day!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Roberto!

photo by Kathleen K. Parker
Happy birthday to Robert Dula (aka "Roberto"),
the hardiest gondolier I know.

Plenty has been said on the Gondola Blog already about "Hurricane Bob" and his many adventures.  Search "Dula" in the upper left-hand corner if you're not already familiar with our friend on New Orleans.

The photo above was graciously provided by photographer Kathleen K. Parker.
A higher quality version can be seen here.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

"Little Cat Feet"

To paraphrase the late American poet Carl Sandburg,
The Fog came in today on "little cat feet".
After some gloriously beautiful summer-like days in Fall,
today the weather began to behave more like October.
The marine layer was sometimes serious, other times it would let the sun come through for a while, but as the evening came,
the fog wasn't using "little cat feet".
I'll be breaking out the sweaters soon, in anticipation of cooler conditions.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Orange County Business Journal Article

photo by Alison White
Earlier this year my company entered a contest with American Airlines.
Some of you were curious enough to follow us through the process,
and many of you were gracious enough to give us your time and effort,
and vote us up to the top five.

Again, thank you for that - it means more to me than you may know.

As you know, we didn't take the top prize, but the folks who did certainly were a great choice.

Through it all, I'd hoped that maybe we might see some additional press attention and here's a good example of that hope being realized.
Gondola Adventures, Inc. is the focus of an article in the Orange County Business Journal.
Go to this link
and flip through to page A16.
I've said it for the longest time:
"A gondola operation outside Venice is often the 'best kept secret' in it's city".
Thanks go out to the folks at American Airlines and Orange County Business Journal for helping us as we work to overcome that.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Just the Photo - Fall Colors in the Sky

I shot this a few nights ago from the back of the "Lucia" ( a.k.a. "Curci Gondola). The sky seems to follow suit with the changing leaves this time of year.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Roberto Likes Armani

Here's a nice news video shot in Venice with plenty of gondola footage,
and entertaining interviews with a gondolier and a gondola builder.

"Gondolas: the Symbol fo Venice".

Views from a Cruise in Minnesota

photos by Bill Whitney

If you've ever wanted to get an idea of what it's like to cruise on one of John Kerschbaum's gondolas at Gondola Romantica, here's a nice sampling of views from the passenger seat taken not long ago during a cruise in Stillwater, Minnesota. John was the gondolier on this excursion, and while I'm sure I could provide plenty of caption material for each image, I think I'll just let the photos speak for themselves.

Monday, October 17, 2011


photos by Chris Clarke
Explore the canals of La Serenissima and you'll find more than just her beautiful gondolas.
Turn a corner and you might come across a little gem like this.
We could speculate quite a bit as to what her story is, but I'm sure of one thing - somewhere out there, there's a boat owner who loves this little vessel.
She appears to have some years behind her, but also looks cared for.
Whoever owns the boat has probably spent some time and money maintaining her, and the owner probably likes yellow too!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Single-Oar Regata

photos by Nereo Zane
A while back, Nereo Zane was on hand for a single-oar gondola regata in the Venetian lagoon.
There are many different kinds of rowing races in the world of voga-alla-Veneta, but the single oar category of a large boat requires extra strength and advanced technique.

Team rowing, with oars on either side of the boat, allows the vogatori to row without having to "stai" (correct at the end of each stroke). 
When it's just one person on the boat, rowing off of one side, corrections have got to be made.

Rowing with passeengers is typically done at a leisurely pace.
Sure, you've got to stai to keep the gondola from going in a circle, but barring unusual conditions, it's not very strenuous.
Empty the boat, remove all the extra weight you can,
and make it a race - and you've got a whole different version of things.

Getting a boat of this size up and moving is an undertaking.
It gets more exciting when there's a field of boats all trying to get ahead of you.

The competition gets fierce.

You've got to have power,

but you must maintain control as well.

These boats have the same dimensions as a passenger gondola, but weigh less, have no parecio, and are built for speed. 
They also have an easily identified feature - a set of vent holes at the tail, just under and behind where the gondolier stands.  These holes allow air to pass through the rear portion of the boat as she moves. 
I honestly don't know how much of a difference this makes, but one could certainly argue that the raised deck at the back of a gondola constitutes an area of wind-drag.

The Venetians have also found another use for these vent holes:
They come in very handy when towing the fleet.

The athletic version of Venetian rowing seeks to utilize your whole body - from the feet to the fingers.  The legs, core, chest and shoulders are on duty, not just the arms.
Another aspect of this style of rowing is that it uses the maximum reach of your body.
The furthest a person can reach is from the end of one arm to the foot on the opposing leg - at full extension.  Looking at the photo below, we see the rower taking advantage of this principle.

It's more than a balancing act,
it's a supreme exercise in achieving maximum power, with just the right amount of control.
Throw in stamina, the ability to maneuver, and the sometimes unpredictable nature of wind and water, and you've got a single-oar regata.

Anyone wanna race?

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Gondolier, Meet Fence...Owner!

As many of you know, a while back I was in Hollywood, attending a celebration fo the Feast of San Gennaro, when I decided to make some "minor modifications" to a wrought iron fence.  The corner was sticking out and giving folks some problems.  You know me, I like to be helpful, so I did what I thought needed to be done.
The fence "needed fixin'" I "fixed it".

Well it turns out that the old saying "no good deed goes unpunished" is true.
The other day my office received this letter:
Whoever this "Mr. Sean Jamieson" is,
he clearly doesn't understand the need for a good "fence fixin'".
Ask anyone of the bystanders who were there that day,
and they'll tell you, that fence was problematic to say the least.

Even that guy with the two chihuahuas will tell you. Heck the chihuahuas would tell you if they spoke english.  Why do you think he was carrying them?
The fence was a problem.
Gondoliers solve problems.
I solved the problem.

Now where the heck am I gonna come up with eight thousand dollars to give to this Jamieson guy?
Hey, I know, there's a gondolino down in the San Diego area that I could "liberate" and sell.  That ought to get me at least enough money to cover this so-called "significant damage".

Friday, October 14, 2011


In May of 2008, Sunset Gondola launched two beautiful gondolas, which had been purchased from gondoliers in Venice, Italy.
The two boats were classic examples of what you'll find on the canals of modern day Venezia - each boat has character, decor, and personal touches that represent the guy who either owns the boat or commissioned her.

One of those two gondolas had a strikingly unique portela, with a custom carving of Neptune (Nettuno) weilding a trident and riding two dolphins.
Neptune - "the god of the sea", is essentially the Roman version of the ancient Greek Poseidon.  There are a few differences, but the two gods are generally viewed today as Greek and Roman versions of the same diety.
He tends to carry a trident, wears a crown, has a beard, and has a physique somewhere between Stallone and Schwarzenegger - a "king of the deep" who knows how to take care of business.
In case you're not familiar with the polytheistic beliefs of the ancients - rent "The Little Mermaid" - he's Ariel's father.

Getting back to the portela,
The paint on the carvings was good, but Tim Reinard could always tell that it could be better.

Portela and trasto da prova show bold use of colors.

Like so many things on the to-do list, I'm sure this one became one among many tasks to be completed, but unlike me, Tim actually did the work, and it looks great.
The restored "Nettuno portela".
photo by Tim Reinard

In fact I'd say that the "god of the sea" never looked so good.
Bravo, Tim!

To read more about the historic launching in May of 2008, check out:
Two New Sunset Gondolas - Container
Two New Sunset Gondolas - Hoisting and dipping
Two New Sunset Gondolas - Dockside Preparations
Two New Sunset Gondolas - Making History and Getting Wet
Two Great Gondolas from Two Great Builders

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Gorgeous October Evening

photos by Aaron McCullough
Tonight we had the kind of conditions that make people who are vacationing here...decide to stay.
Even the breezes were so perfect that I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it wasn't a dream.

Here's a series of photos taken as I boarded and departed from the docks in Newport.

 A quick description of the boat, and why she's crooked.

 I chose my favorite Bavarian "Oktoberfest remo" - after all, it is harvest time.

Smooth departure from the lagoon.

Couple in love - check!

Bright fiery ball dropping beneath the horizon - check!

Not a cloud in the sky - check!

Sleek, Venice-built gondola - check!

Perfect moment - check!