Monday, April 30, 2012

Happy Birthday Jürgen

photo shamelessly stolen from

Happy birthday to One of Germany's best gondoliers.
Jürgen Riegel operates gondolas in Bamberg - a city in Bavaria with lots of history.

We've seen Jürgen here on the Gondola Blog before. 
He's got a very unique canopy in the post "The 'Old Ford' Felze".

In the post "Gondola activity in Germany" we see some images of gondola activity on the water in Bamberg.

And last year about this time, a few of Germany's gondoliers traveled to Venice to be involved with Uwe Kunze's acquisition of a gondola before bringing her to Germany - here's a shot taken with Jürgen rowing as they visited a capitello: "German Gondoliers at the Capitello".

Happy birthday Jürgen!

Have a rauchbier for me.


this message was shamelessly recycled from last year, because I was running out the door and didn't want to give Jürgen a wimpy post.  :o)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

V-Day Ambush - photo 1

photo by S.E. Atkins

During the week of Valentine's Day, some friends of mine staked out my boats in Newport, and with the purpose of breaking in a new camera,
they took some impressive images.

In this first photo, you see Gondola Greg rowing a dinner cruise on the Phoenix as the setting sun paints the sky and water a soft pastel hue.

Friday, April 27, 2012

Scrappy in Mestre

I love basketball.
Oh no, I don't love playing basketball.
In fact I'd probably make a great case-study in how not to play basketball.

But after years of watching it, I've become a fairly astute fan of the game.
And while I really enjoy watching professional games,
sometimes the most fun games to watch are the college matches.

As the college season draws to a close, and the final contenders clash in what we call "March Madness",
some of the best games of basketball are played.
Why are they so great:
because these college players are the pros of tomorrow,
because they may only get one shot at this,
but most of all, the reason I love college games,
is because they're scrappy.

Pros measure their moves, and pace themselves (sometimes a little too much), but those who are up-and-coming will abandon rational thought and just go for it.
They're scrappy.

This week Nereo Zane was lucky enough to be on hand for a regata in Mestre.  The competition was a "cronometro" or time-trial competition.  And while they weren't able to grind rails  and swear at each other,
the participants gave it their all, and showed us good examples of how, and how not to navigate around a float bouy.

And then there's the popier who gets acquainted with a tree branch,
yeah, if I were in that regata, that would have been me.
Kudos to that rower for getting back up and rowing.

Pour yourself a cup of coffee, sit back,
and enjoy the view from Nereo's boat in "Regate in Canal Salso".

Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Splash in Providence

As the teperatures warm, and wardrobes thin, many of our friends are launching their boats for the season.
Here's a sequence of shots captured recently of one of the gondolas in Providence, RI gracing the water for the first time since her haulout for winter.

Moments after departure from the ramp, the gondola shares the water with four white swans.

Choosing an interesting configuration, the forward rower has a canoe paddle for the short trip to dock.
Passing through a gap between two bridges, we see the paddler,
...and the rower.
And right about now, as I write this, someone in Providence is probably preparing for the "GondOlympics", possibly on that boat.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Ending with Color

Get in your car anywhere in southern California these days,
and if you're more than a few miles from the beach,
chances are that it's hot - hot in April,
and getting hotter in the coming months.

It's no surprise that so many people feel the need to head towards the coast these days.
As the summer approaches, we'll see more and more of it.
The roads and freeways leading to Newport get congested with folks trying to escape the heat.
They seek relief, and they get it,
although not always in a way they expected.

You see, as you get within a mile or two of the ocean,
things cool down because of something called the "marine later".
We also call it the "June gloom", even though it doesn't seem to want to wait until June or leave as July comes.

Today was a "marine layer" day.  The air was cool, the humidity was just perfect for human lungs, and while it wasn't the sunny beach scene alot of people would expect, it was perfectly serene from my perspective.

One drawback of this weather feature is the lack of color;
no blue overhead and no reds, oranges and yellows at sunset. 
On top of that, the low cloud cover seems to "gray-out" everything,
all day. 

Now and then we have a burst of color on marine layer days as the sun drops below the blanket.
That happened tonight, and as an added bonus,
the sky above began to clear,
and everyone forgot about how the day had been devoid of color.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Smelling the Sun

photo by Emilia Mirazchiyska

There are innumerable ways to compare and contrast the ways people choose to live out their lives in different parts of the world. 
One interesting category is in the way they handle their laundry - after all, with the exception of nudists, everyone does laundry.
One thing I've noticed in Italy, and especially in Venice, is that while a lot of folks have washers, not a lot have dryers.  Hanging laundry in the sun seems to be a preferred method - it costs less because the sun and wind are free (as opposed to running another appliance).
I'd guess that another reason (perhaps the main reason) they hang dry is simply because "that's how Momma did it".
I've also heard Venetians cite the fact that "you can smell the sun" in the line-dried laundry as a reason why they prefer this method.

Looking at the above photo, I can't help but wonder if the owner of that "load of darks" smells more sunlight, having hang-dried it on the top floor.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Happy Birthday Megan

photo by Mark J. Hunt

Happy birthday to one of my favorite gondola people,
Megan Sliger (seen here rowing in Boston).

This and other great photos from Mark Hunt can be seen in the posts:

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Capturing that "Perfect Moment"

photo by Cassandra Mohr

I've said many times before that as gondoliers,
we specialize in creating "perfect moments". (also see "It's the Moments" )

Some moments are more important than others, especially ones
where a guy asks what may be the biggest question he'll ever ask.

Special arrangements were made for this cruise,
and the main goal was to capture that moment
so the couple could share it, keep it, and cherish it.

I'd say it was a success, as our photographer caught not only the message in a bottle sequence, not only the proposal,
but this priceless moment in time - a moment that our couple will remember with a smile for the rest of their lives.

Man! I love my job.

A twelve image collection can be seen on the Gondola Adventures, Inc. facebook page through this link.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The "Providence Training Video"

I just received this, watched it (with a big smile), and said to myself:

"Oh, they're having FUN in Providence!"

This promotional video was put together by the Providence-Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau, and It's well worth watching.

GondOlympicsTraining Montage - By GoProvidence.Com

I think I'm gonna go do some "remo sit-ups" now.


My friends, this is one of those things a lot of us have been waiting for and talking about for a very long time.

Over the years I've probably had some kind of conversation with just about every American gondola operator I know about having some sort of convention, regata, or get-together that is geared towards all "gondola people" on the continent.

I'm happy to see that the good folks at La Gondola in Providence, Rhode Island have finally had the guts and follow through to do more than just talk about it.

The big day is May 27th, 2012,
the timing is officially listed as 3-7pm although we all know how gondoliers are good at hanging around later to enjoy the company of their peers.

On-the-water events will include sprint, slalom, relay and even trick rowing.
Attendees will have the chance to watch a screening of a doccumentary on gondola building.

Music will be played, sung, and sung along with,
food will be enjoyed, and a great amount of socializing will be had.

The official evening will wrap up with an awards ceremony, followed,
I'm sure, by more fun.

I'll post more details here as they become available, but in the mean time, start thinking about how you're gonna get to Providence,
and who you're gonna bring.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Little Quackers

I thought I'd follow up yesterday's post about birds I don't like
(the kind that drop poop from the sky), with a post about birds I do like.

No, it's not "duck week" here on the Gondola Blog,
I just thought it might be nice to balance things out. 

A while back I snapped this shot of a momma duck leading her babies across the canal.
They crossed in front of my gondola, probably worried they might get run over, but I'd never run over ducks - especially the tiny ones.

This momma had her work cut out for her with what I think were a dozen little ones.
Here's a close-up:

Everyone I take out on the gondola loves ducks.
Many wish they could feed them, but I tell them not to worry because the ducks in Newport have "mastered the art of looking cute enough to get a free lunch", and they have.
I know one gondolier who brings a box of cereal out on the boat for his passengers to feed the ducks.  I'd like to do the same, but I always seem to have more important things to worry about as cruise times approach.

Ducks, I love 'em,
and so does Roberto in New Orleans (see "AFLAC").

Sunday, April 15, 2012


To quote a juvenile but memorable band from my younger years:
"The beach is nothing but a bird bathroom"
-the Surf Punks

For about two weeks now, we've noticed an unusual increase in fish activity in the north end of Newport Harbor, which has resulted in an increase in bird activity.
We've also seen some sea lions (which we almost never see in this part of the harbor) but I'm not upset about the sea lions...because when they poop, it doesn't fall from the sky!

I'm no marine biologist, but as I understand it:
there are schools of anchovies (or something else small),
this attracts schools of somewhat larger fish.
Birds of all kinds come in for the easy pickings - some eat small fish,
some eat the not-so-small fish.
Sea Lions also come in, but again, until they learn to poop from the sky, I'm not worried about them.

By now you may have sensed a theme here:
poop...falling from the sky.

Sure, I've come in contact with this peril before:
irritated the wrong seagull in Seattle back in '98 and got mercilessly crapped on right before dinner with a bunch of relatives.
I don't like seagulls anymore, but I don't piss them off either.
When Eve took a bite of the apple, and sin entered the world,
I'm convinced that a lot of it ended up in seagulls.
They're veangeful, vindictive, and they do aim.

So as our birds and fish ecosystem here has gone into overdrive,
we've seen some amazing activity above and below the surface.
There have been many nights where so many fish are splashing at the surface that it sounds like stand-up-paddlers are coming my way.
We've seen the masterful hunting skills of an osprey first hand,
and those dramatic splashdowns of pelicans are so regular that you see them every few minutes.  We've also had to wash down our boats a little bit more than usual too.
Today I arrived to a boat that really needed to be washed.
One of the other gondoliers had washed her the day before, but, well, things happen.
"It" happens.
And speaking of "it" happening, today, well, today I almost had a replay of what happened in Seattle.

I was coming in from a cruise, I'd just spent an hour relaxing my couple like a massage therapist working on two overstressed patients,
and just as I was backing the gondola into her spot,
a pelican glided low over us and "opened up the bomb doors".

As luck would have it, the flying fishgulper, managed to strafe the boat right between me and my passengers.
A little bit ended up on their shirts (just a few drops),
and a lot ended up on the boat.

The enemy aircraft somehow missed my coffee cup (because it was empty - I'm sure Murpy's Law was in play), but nailed my pitch pipe. 
I'll be singing without it until I figure out how to sanitize it.

Really, in the grand scheme, we all dodged a bullet today.
It could have been much worse.
I joked about how it was supposed to be good luck,
my passengers, who had experienced a perfect cruise up until that point, kept their positive attitude, and walked away with some humor to add to their story.
And after they were gone,
I washed my boat...again.

Related reading:
"To Cover or Not to Cover – the Follow-up" - don't miss great comments from Gondola Blog readers, along with my "poop rant" towards the end of the post.

"Evidence of Birds" - "poop - that caustic flying insult that burns through paint and contrasts so nicely on black paint".

"Bird in Flight" - sure, they look nice, and Martina snagged a great shot, but in the heart of every seagull there's a dark chamber.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Just the Photo - The Same Question

I'm a creature of habit.
I tend to start off with the same song,
singing it under the same bridege each cruise.

Likewise, I usually end with a particular song as well.
My safety speech, which is followed by some tips on traditions observed on board the gondola, always seems to be delivered at roughly the same locaiton on my route too.

And then there's the question,
I ask it just about every single time,
And almost in the same spot along our cruise route in Newport.
The question:
"So folks, are you a little bit more relaxed now than you were when you showed up?"

The answer is always the same.
As gondoliers we specialize in several things,
but at or near the top of our list with each cruise is relaxing people.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Snow on Gondolas - Easter in Wörthsee

As I write this, we are not enjoying the kind of weather that Southern California is famous for.
To borrow a term from my Jamaican friends:
it's been "liquid sunshine" today.
I suspect that I'll be spending some quality time with some sort of pumping device in the very near future.

My friend Ingo Stahl in Wörthsee sent these photos today.
Wörthsee is a beautiful place just west of Munich in Germany,
and by April they begin to see some warming.

But as our current conditions here in Newport show,
the weather doesn't always do what we think it will do.

These photos were shot on Easter.

I don't know for sure, but I don't think Ingo rowed any cruises that day.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

4 for 14

There are many different kinds of rowing boats in the Veneto;
we've talked about nearly all of them here. 
There are the sandoli, mascarete, and of course the many different versions of the gondola family, but it's no secret that I'm a fan of
what I like to call the "big desonas".

These are a group of boats that are rowed by multiple crew members.  each one is a one-of-a-kind creation, and each one is cherished by those lucky enough to have her.

I must admit some bias here, being a member of the Gruppo Sportivo Voga Veneta in Mestre, when I say that my favorite of the "big desonas" is the GSVVM's quattordesona known as "Mestrina".
The name "quattordesona" indicates that she is meant to be rowed by fourteen people - meant to be, but a smaller group of skilled vogatori can move her around if they need to (or want to).

Here we see four guys doing the job of fourteen.
I'm not sure why these four guys chose to head out onto the lagoon rowing in the "4 for 14" configuration, but I'm not surprised that it was these four guys as they are some of the most senior members of the GSVVM.

Sure, it takes some strength for a few to do the job of many, but in voga-alla-Veneta, it also takes knowledge, experience, and of course, technique.
These guys have them all.

I find it comical that in this next photo, we see an amusing contrast as a huge boat rowed by four skilled men passes by a dragon boat that's jammed tight with paddlers, who may or may not know what the heck they're doing.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Seductive Venice

I'm surprised it took her so long to take up blogging,
but I'm thrilled that she has.

Kathleen Gonzalez - author of "Free Gondola Ride"
has recently launched her own blog:
giving her a great place to share with us her expertise on Casanova.
She was also recently interviewed for an article in Smithsonian magazine entitled "Who Was Casanova?"

Read, follow, enjoy, and leave comments.
Thanks Kathy!

Monday, April 9, 2012

Just the Photo - Tonight's Sunset

Nope, it never does get old.
I don't think it ever will.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Bottle in the Water

The gondolier kept it hidden on the back of the boat until the perfect time to place it in the water.

The gentleman did his best to pretend he didn't know what was going on (even though he had personally written the note that was wrapped inside).

The lady was surprised to receive her very own "message in a bottle".

The diamond ring may have come out of the gentleman's pocket,
but it seemed to materialize out of thin air.

The lady gasped at the question he asked, nodded her head,
and then answered when she could catch her breath.

Her answer, of course, was "yes".

A year later they both said "yes", this time in front of a minister.

They lived happily ever after, and every time they heard that song by the Police, their thoughts went back to their very own "message in a bottle", and the voyage that started it all.

The above photo was part of a series of images that can be seen in the post "Hanging It Over the Side".

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Difficult Questions

A while back I did a phone interview for a reporter from the Las Vegas Review-Journal about a gondola in someone's private collection. 
I'd examined the boat a few years earlier, taking notes and photos,
and did my best to answer the questions the reporter asked,
although some were impossible to answer with certainty.

The biggest one being "how old is the boat?"
Without access to a time-travel device, nobody can be sure.

Another question: "how much is the boat worth?", is equally easy to answer.
I gave some opinions based on the age, condition, and location, but in the end it usually comes down to one big question on the buyer's part:
"can the boat take passengers and make a profit while doing so?"

Ask Sean in Coronado, or Matthew in Providence and they'll tell you that almost any gondola is salvageable, and with enough work (and expense) can be kept on the surface of the water, but in most cases it's not worth the time and money unless you really need the boat, or can get it for a very low price.
Read the article and you'll see that the asking price for this remarkable gondola (and she is remarkable), is cost-prohibitive.

Distractions filled my calendar and I forgot to look up the article when it was published in late February, until the reporter sent me a link today.

Here's a link to the article
"Hammargren hopes to sell gondola that could be the oldest in the world"

The boat is interesting.  The man is interesting. His story, his house, and the collection in and around it are fascinating; really, like something out of a movie (and in a good way).
Dr. Hammargren and his wife were gracious and hospitable.
I liked them alot.
I truly wanted to tell them that they had the oldest gondola in the world,
but in the end I couldn't prove it to be so.
Nevertheless, she is a fascinating vessel, and like so many other gondolas I've seen, I found myself wishing that the floorboards could talk - because I'm sure she would have some great stories to tell.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

NOLA in the News

New Orleans gondolier Robert Dula has a great story, and finally it has been told in a way other than over the phone or after dinner with coffee among friends.
Check out:
"Water and Wind: An interview with Robert Dula of NOLA Gondola".

Monday, April 2, 2012

Long Lens Sniping in Alamitos Bay - Caorlina

The other day I was in the Long Beach area with my camera and I was lucky enough to catch a full caorlina go by in one of the Naples canals.

Caorlinas are common in the Veneto, but only a few exist here in the US. 
Of course the caorlinas in  Venice are different from the ones here.
The ones in Italy are narrower, lighter, and used almost entirely for recreational rowing, I've yet to see one laid out for passenger service,
but the ones in this country do take passengers. 
In fact they were redesigned to do so.

It's a lot more boat to row, especially when it's two guys rowing a full load of passengers, but the guys in Alamitos Bay seem to have no trouble doing so (and they do it while entertaining the folks on board).

The American passenger caorlina is a fairly unique incarnation of the boat, but like so many designs in other parts of the world - she was designed to serve a purpose particular to the region, and she does it well.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Happy Birthday Andrew

I considered writing another version of the Andrew McHardy is a prime candidate for the most interesting gondolier in the world pitch,
but I don't think I could follow the one written last year.

Suffice to say that there has never been, and never will be,
another gondolier quite like Andrew.
Happy birthday, my friend!
I wanna go to New Zealand just to see if everyone else there is as interesting.

The above photo originally appeared in "Andrew McHardy and His Huge Forcola".