Saturday, March 31, 2012

Long Lens Sniping in Huntington Harbour

I snuck up on my friends at Sunset Gondola this evening and caught a couple decent images of gondoliers in action. 
It wasn't the kind of weather Southern California is famous for,
but the folks on board were still having a terrific time and the gondoliers, of course, were well dressed and loving their jobs.

One guy on the second boat knew just how to kick his feet up and relax.
I'll have to try that next time I'm a passenger - but that doesn't happen much these days.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Patriarch Parade

Two of my very favorite bloggers: Nereo Zane and Erla Zwingle were both fortunate enough to be in Venezia for a significant event.
I could spend a lot of time trying to re-word what was written, but it makes more sense to just direct you to Erla's post "The Patriarch Clocks In".
Read the post, enjoy the education, and get a feeling of what it must have been like to be there.
Next, check out Nereo's video clip "Il nuovo Patriarca di Venezia".
I'd be lying if I said I wasn't jealous, but thanks to Erla and Nereo,
I kind of feel like I was there.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Girl Scout Day

photos by Cassandra Mohr

My company in Newport is mostly geared towards taking paying passenger cruises, but we do provide other services - like film shoots, consulting,
and school field-trips.
Today my staff and I hosted a group of Girl Scouts

I gave a short lesson on all things "Gondola", talked about Venezia, the art of Venetian rowing, and let each and every Girl Scout hold a forcola.

Then we took to the water.
Gondoliers took turns singing,
kids screamed and laughed when their boats rocked,
and adult leaders did their best to enjoy the time on the water.

We do this regularly.
it's always a fun departure from our main focus.
I outlined one approach in my post "December Homeschool Tour"

The Girl Scouts all walked away with a better idea of what Venice is like; they knew how to say Forcola, remo, Venezia, and of course, gondola.

Just the Photo - "Gondoliera"

Sunday, March 25, 2012

View from the New Bridge

A few years ago the Grand Canal got a new bridge, spanning the gap between the train station and Piazzale Roma.
This ultra-modern structure was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava.
I've posted about this bridge a few times before:
"There's a New Bridge in Town"
"The Fourth Bridge and Santiago Calatrava"
"The Fourth Bridge is Finally Open"
"Calatrava's Bridge - Photos and Thoughts"
and "Vertebrae"

Here's a nice vista shot over the rail one morning in May a couple years back.
Water taxis line the fondamenta, a vaporetto chugs by,
and tourists take in what might be their first view of the city.

Over the years I've become somewhat of a fan of unusual bridges,
and had the occasion to cross another Calatrava span here in California:

If you focus enough attention on Venice, you're destined to become a fan of bridges.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

More Photos from the Prodigy

photos by Cassandra Mohr

In my November 20th post - "Photos from the Prodigy", I shared some photos my daughter had taken aboard a cruise here in Newport.
At 14 she's got a good sense with the camera.
This evening I brought her on the water with my passengers on the Wedding Gondola, and here are a few of the shots she took.

Of course it didn't hurt that we had such nice conditions.
It was fun watching her work, seeing her formulate a picture in her head and figure out how to make it happen, and just being out on the water with my daughter.
Having literally grown up on a gondola, Cassandra moved about from one part of the boat to another with such natural ease that the passengers never felt any movement as she moved.

Bravo, Cassandra!

Beautiful Afternoon in Newport

Bob Millspaugh heads out with a full boat
on a beautiful afternoon in Newport.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Misty Morning in Kansas City

photo by Elisa Mohr

In September of 2009, my wife and I headed out to Kansas City for a gondola expedition down the Missouri River.  I'd done several expeditions with other rowers, but this was my first one rowing solo.

This was one of several expeditions we did to benefit the Boy Scouts of America, and like many others - there were news crews and reporters there to see the boat off.

In the above photo, we see a couple of scouts and a reporter on board the gondola with a cameraman capturing the scene in the very early hours of the morning.

After the publicity work was over, I thanked the scouts, kissed my wife, waved to the news crews, and headed off on my solo row.

My journey was captured in four blog posts which are listed and linked below.
Kansas City Expedition Part 1 – “Getting Started”
Kansas City Expedition Part 2 – “You Never Know It 'Til You Row It”
Kansas City Expedition Part 3 – “Halfway There and Gone"
Kansas City Expedition Part 4 – My "Missouri Boat Ride" comes to a Close

It was a great row.
Educational, exciting, and memorable.
I'll never forget it, and I look forward to doing more of this kind of rowing some time in the future.

Thursday, March 22, 2012


Several years ago I saw one for the first time - the "Gondoliers Calendar".
It didn't have the same effect on me as it would on a young lady,
but I got a kick out of it, and saw it as a genius piece of marketing.

I think the first one I saw was given to me by a friend who thought I should do a similar calendar using American gondoliers. 
I'm not sure that I'm worthy of a page,
but I can think of a few gondoliers who would definitely qualify.
It would be a fun project, but really,
I don't think I have the time right now.

In the mean time, one of these calendars ended up in the hands of a girl named Sonia Gil who has a weekly video blog and works in language studies (nice work if you can get it).

Sonia posted this video and the search was on.
"Venice: Can You Help Me Find Mr. Gondola?"

As so many things do these days, the video went a little viral and folks started helping with the search.  One such helper happened to be Marie over at "Italy to Los Angeles and Back".

Next, Sonia posted an update.
"The Gondolier Models Are Real! Thank You Internet!!"

I'm sure that eventually she will come face to face with Mr. May,
or whichever gondolier she is in search of.

I hope there's another video to follow the discovery.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Scenes in Venice - Topos Near Ferrovia

Walk out the door of Venice's Santa Lucia railroad station, go right up to the water's edge and look to your left, and this is roughly what you'll see.
Think of Venice and most people picture gondolas, but there are some other boats that are just as constant - like the topos in this photo.
Really, the city couldn't survive without her topos.
This photo was taken from a piece of ground that may receive more foot traffic than any other in the area.  Here's what it looks like at night:
"Vaporetto at Ferrovia"

That bridge in the shot is the Ponte Scalzi.
I posted some photos of a nice gondola there in "Red Seats under the Ponte Scazli"

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Just the Photo - Last Light of the First Day of Spring

Another "perfect moment" on the water in Newport.

Want Some Espresso?

My piece on "Caffeine Awareness Month" is up now on Tim Joseph's blog "Daily Food Holiday".
Check it out at:
"Guest Post - Need a Little Pick-Me-Up?"
Never underestimate the power of espresso.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Personal Space

In some places, like, say, Montana,
there's plenty of space to go around.

Build a ranch house,
plant some crops,
swing a dead cat around,
you're not likely to offend anybody.

But in other places, like, um, well like Venice,
things are a little more cramped.
As usual nobody quite captures this element and all that comes with it quite like Erla.

Take a moment and read through
"Sensing Venice: Space",
and I bet you'll think a little about such things as personal space next time you're in Venice
(or any other place where personal space gets tight).

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Happy Birthday Stefano

Sei un uomo in gamba
(you're a good man).

2 millimeters!

If you're an American gondolier, or someone who is interested in Venice, you can't go a week without hearing someone tell you about how they just heard the horrible news that Venice is sinking.
Yes, it is bad news, but at this point I can only do a halfway convincing job of feigning surprise at the news (as I've heard it so many times).
Now it seems that the Washington Monument may be suffering a similar fate.
Here's the story.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

"Here Comes the Rain Again"

photo by Tamás Fehér

As  I write this it's raining here in Newport Beach,
and Nereo tells me that Venice has some light rain in the forecast too.

This photo was taken from the bridge known as the Ponte de la Veneta Marina o de le Cadene, which crosses the canal known as the Rio de la Tana as it meets the Bacino San Marco along the fondamenta. 
Directly behind the photographer there are often luxurious mega-yachts moored, especially during events like the film festival.

 To the right we see the riva Sette Martiri. As is common with shorelines in Venice, this walkway (often called a "riva" or "fondamenta") is a popular place for walking, shopping, or traveling on foot.

The street to the left is Via Garibaldi. At the forefront of Via Garibaldi we see a red post with a gold figure on top - anyone seen this post?
Bonus points for any interesting information on Via Garibaldi.

The platform with the metal railing and yellow connectors, well, I think Erla adresses those best in this post: "The ramps return to Capistrano — I mean Venice".

Break out your umbrellas, my friends.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Three Hoops from Lake Como

In the days leading up to Vogalonga, you never know what sort of boats you might encounter.  I came upon this one in the yard next to the GSVVM.
People come from all over to take part in the annual "Long Row",
and sometimes they bring their boats with them.

Spend some time around Lake Como and you will likely spot a boat like this out on the water.
In the past they were much more common - used to brings goods to market and light transportation.  Now they are mostly used by enthusiasts, who enjoy getting out on the water - either for fitness and recreational reasons or with romance in mind.

In some ways the boat looks like a sanpierota with no decks or a very beamy member of the sandolo family, but these boats hale from the region north of Milan.  Was there an influence in one direction or another as to the best way to build a boat?
Probably so, but that's not somewhere I want to go right now.
There are boats in other parts of the world that look like distant cousins of sandoli as well.

What we are looking at here is a design that was widely used in a specific area because it did what people needed it to do.

I've seen motorized versions of these boats, but most are rowed in a manner that is sort of like valesana, but without crossing the oars.
The rower stands, facing forward, and uses two oars which swivel freely in oarlocks like the ones you'd see in an old whaling boat.

The oars in this boat reminded me of some I'd seen in crew boats, but with curious ends - they were cut square.  I'm not sure if this is a feature common with these vessels or if it was just the preference of this rower.

I've seen these rowed by one or two people. 
In the days leading up to Vogalonga I saw this boat out more than once, but was always in the act of rowing my own boat, otherwise I'd have photos and video of the rowing style.

The name most often associated with this type of boat is "Lucia".

Alessandro Manzoni, born in Milan, wrote a novel called "Promessi Sposi" back in 1827.  This romantic story included a scenario where a woman named Lucia escaped in a boat like this.  The book has been called "the most famous and widely read novel of the Italian language". 
You may not have read it, but chances are good that your friends in Italy have, and might recognize a boat of this type as "Lucia's boat".

A "Lucia" first appeared here on the Gondola Blog in November of 2008 in my post "The 'Lucia' - Traditional Rowing Boat".

It also turns out theat there's one of these boats taking passengers in the US - see "The Adirondack Lucia".

The most notable feature of a "Lucia" is her framework above the rails.
Designed to support a cloth shade, this structure typically has three "hoops" that rise from the rails almost like the frames of an old covered wagon in the American west.
I rarely see anything on these frames, but they remain part of the design nonethless.

This particular example appears to be mostly fiberglass, but traditionally these boats have been made of wood, with varnished surfaces appearing in beautiful display.
Based on the construction, and the foot-wedge platforms mounted to the floor, my guess is that this one was designed and built for sport rather than picnics.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Scenes in Venice - "Produce and Fistfights"

Yeah, I thought that title might get some attention.

Walk through Venice while checking your e-mail and you're likely to miss some amazing things.
There are so many beautiful views and cool details to be appreciated in La Serenissima.

Somewhere in Dorsoduro, between the well-known Campo Santa Margherita and the much smaller Campo San Barnaba, I snapped this photo.

The shoreline on the left is Fondamenta Gerardini - fairly busy at times, and as you can see, a great place to walk your dog and buy some fresh produce.

You might remember the boat with the sunshade from my post "The Produce Boat".
It was there, with folks ambling by, that I discovered a very interesting facial expression from the guy in the boat.

Beyond the boat is a bridge that has a story of it's own.
This bridge was the venue for many battles - both with fists and with weapons.
There were others like it, but the name of this bridge, along with the ancient footprints inset in the four corners of the top level, attest to it's history.
Read more about the "Bridge of Fists" in my post "Ponte dei Pugni".

Monday, March 12, 2012

Tonight Sucked!

After almost three weeks off the boat, I finally ended up on the back of my gondola, and found myself rowing in horrible conditions.
I mean really,
just look at the photo above.
I don't know why I keep coming back.
My passengers obviously agreed, and took a multitude of photos to doccument things - no doubt they'll want their money back, and use the photos as evidence of just how bad their experience was.
If you're reading this from somewhere outside southern California,
take my word for it - it's awful here.
Don't move out to California.
You'll be just as miserable as I am.

Thursday, March 8, 2012


Right about now some gondoliers are changing into their short-sleeved shirts, some are still in their long-sleeved ones, and some gondoliers are waiting to put their striped shirts...and get their boats back into the water.

I shot this near the base of the Rialto, right around the corner from one of the shops I sometimes buy shirts from.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Post V-Day "Finish the Sentence" Forum

Ok my friends, now that February 14th has come and gone once again, here's your chance to add your favorite ending to a sentence.
It can be funny, profound, or just truthful.
Please try to keep it clean though, 'cause my kids read this.
In the past we've done a variation of this.
My Feb. 10th, 2009 post was a "finish the sentence" with V-Day approaching, and I followed it up later with this post.

Now here's the sentnece:

Now that Valentine's Day is over, I can:_________________

Ready, GO!

Friday, March 2, 2012


Roberto in New Orleans posted this one on his Facebook wall and I just had to put it up here.

Roberto writes:
The ducks name is Ben. He and his girlfriend, Jen, (also known as the Aflac's) hang out with me all the time.
They know I have crackers.
In this photo, Ben was cleaning up some crumbs.
He jumped on the popa, on his own.

I don't know if AFLAC has any kind of boat insurance, much less "gondola insurance", but if they do, I think this would make for a perfect advertisement, and Ben would have a lot of crackers in his future.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Caorlina Verde

photos by Chris Clarke
While on one of his adventures in the Veneto, Chris Clarke took these photos of some Canottieri Cannaregio club members preparing for a row on a green caorlina.
With St. Patrick's Day coming up, I thought the color was fitting.

In this case, the boat was greener than the growth on shore.

Such nice craftsmanship.

While some of the guys held the boat and prepared for the adventure...

Others climbed up on the roof of a building to see what was out there.
Maybe they were on storm-watch.

Thanks Chris.
I hope the row was great!