Saturday, June 30, 2012

Friday, June 29, 2012

Charlie Escapes the Storm

Joe Gibbons in Boston sent me this great shot recently.

The gondolier's name is "Carlo", although I've heard a couple folks refer to him as "Boston Charlie" coming out of the GondOlympics in Providence this year.

As you can see from the photo, the weather in Boston was in the process of turning quite a bit, and Carlo needed to get his passengers back to the dock before that deluge of rain arrived.

I think almost all of us have had a moment like this on the water - some more than others.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Coronado Snapshot

A month ago I finally got down to San Diego to visit Sean Jamieson at his servizio, which operates in the canals of Coronado. 
It was the first time I'd seen The Gondola Company operation,
and I was impressed.
Most of the photos I took on the docks there were included in my post
"On the Docks in Coronado", but I chose to hang on to this one until now - it just serves as a perfect example of gondolas in America.

In this shot we see:
Three gondolas - two are Venice-built - they are far away from the squeros and canals of Venice, and yet in this establishment they are well cared for and meticulously maintained.  The other gondola was built here in California by two guys who wanted more than anything to start their own gondola business (Sean, and his former business partner Eric Johnson - who now runs a string of successful Irish pubs).

Customized seating - like so many aspects of gondola businesses outside Venice - each servizio has it's own unique challenges, and we all do things to accommodate our clients in ways that best suit them.

Shorts - while the gondolier on the left is in his stripes and long pants, the guy on the right in the background is moving a boat without passengers, and not in uniform.  Wearing shorts on a gondola is typically frowned upon in Venice, but we do see gondoliers here in the US wearing shorts in warm climate areas.  I'm sure there are a few Australian gondoliers out there who understand.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Vogalonga 2012 - Before the Start - Part 2

photos by Tamás Fehér
Tamás captured lots of great images on the morning of the 2012 Vogalonga - giving us an idea of what Venice looks like leading up to that storied annual event. Following my previous post with a similar title a few days ago, here are some more captured moments.

A caorlina moored and waiting for her crew to climb aboard.

Up all night or just waking up?
Terribly hung-over or starting the day in prayer?

A blessing on the wall.

One boat glides past a fleet of still-sleeping gondolas.

I'm quite certain that someone will be by to pick these up soon enough.

A GSVVM caorlina comes...

...and goes.

Activity picks up on the Canalazzo.

Some rowers take their uniforms more seriously than others.

One guy has all the oars.

Gondola for two under the Rialto.

Monday, June 25, 2012

On Any Given Summer Night

photo by Tim Reinard 

"On Any Given Summer Night" - those were the words that Tim attached to this photo when he sent it to me while enjoying his time in Providence.

He was out there for the GondOlympics, but I get the feeling that scenes like this are as common in Providence as they are in so many other servizios around the country.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Classes at Rowing Clubs

Sean Jamieson of The Gondola Company in Coronado sent me a link to this article, which talks about a sort of "voga-tourism".
"Row, Row, Row Your Gondola"

Gondoliers and other fans of Venetian rowing have been learning the art in rowing clubs for a long time, but this is the first time I've seen an article from a travel writer promoting it.

Sean told me his favorite quote was:
"standing and seeing where you are going is the rowing of free men, while paddling seated and going backward is the lot of slaves."

A great sentence, which makes me think about how very accurate it must have been centuries ago - where if you were enslaved in a maritime realm, you probably would end up seated and serving whether you liked it or not.

After reading the article, check out the slideshow - with some nice images taken in and around the Querini club.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Vogalonga 2012 - Before the Start - Part 1

photos by Tamás Fehér
Before the cannon is fired, and before the hordes of rowers, paddlers,

and practicioners of other human-powered propulsion bust out across the lagoon, there are lots of things going on in and around Venezia.

This year, Tamás was there to capture so many moments in still photography; here's a nice group to look at.

A GSVVM caorlina crosses from their club in Mestre towards the
Canale di Cannaregio, Canale Grande, and eventually the starting point.

Morning joggers cross the bridge from the mainland to Venice, with lagoon nets behind and that recognizable arch of Mestre in the distance.

Various small sit-down boats working their way up the Grand Canal.

A clergyman sweeps the church steps.

"Some assembly required".

English-style rowers try to figure out which way to go.

Walkers and more joggers.

A seated crew boat prepares to shove off.

Small boats and "big desona".

A crowded dragon boat as seen from a bridge.

Officially uniformed officials walking through the piazza on official business.

More boats hurry to get to the starting point before that cannon fires.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Ingo Goes Dry-Land Rowing

Our friend Ingo Stahl of Wörthsee in southern Germany sent in this great photo along with the following text:

"every year in July, the municipality of Munich and the Bavarian broadcasting BR-Klassik arrange an open air concert in the City at Odeon Place in front of Feldherrnhall (Hall of Generals) and Theatine Cathedral, the Open Air Concert Classic on the 7th and 8th of July 2012 with Notte Italiana. The Symphonieorchester Bayerischer Rundfunk (Symphony Orchestra of Baverian Radio) present music of Verdi, Puccini, Mascagni and Respighi.
Placing your gondola in various waterways is a fun and challenging diversion from the day-to-day cruise service we usually perform.  Sometimes it's for hire, other times it's for publicity or charity,
but it almost always makes for great pictures.

In further description, Ingo included:

And last Wednesday the organizer presented a new star tenor Josef Callea from Malta to the Press and TV in a press reception with my gondola for decoration to give interview and - naturalmente- singing "O sole mio".

Visit Ingo's website at:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Just the Photo - Eclipse

Photo taken this afternoon during an initial training row with Simon Atkins in Newport Beach.

Summer is Here

It's the first day of summer.
The sun is up longer, the mercury rises higher,
and our time on the water increases.

To all my friends in the gondola business north of the equator:
I hope your season is busy, your phones ring incessantly,
and your boats never stop moving.

Buona fortuna, amici!
-Gondola Greg

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Outdoor Gondolas and Gondoliers in Las Vegas

During a recent visit to Las Vegas, I inspected my gondolas out on Lake Las Vegas and spent some time meeting with gondoliers and staff there, then I drove to another location in southern Nevada and snapped a few pictures of some fairly high-profile gondolas.
Perhaps you've heard of them.

This is not the first time we've seen these boats here on the Gondola Blog.
These two previous posts include video clips:
"Video Sniping in Las Vegas"
"Casino Gondoliers Sing"

Most of the photos I've posted have been of the gondolas inside the casino, but during this visit, I chose to aim my lens at the ones out front.

Many gondola operators and afficionados are quick to condemn these boats for various reasons, but I must point out a few things.
These gondolas were designed for a specific job in a particular waterway, and they perform that task brilliantly.

From design to production, no expense was spared, and while some materials might differ from tradional gondolas, the materials chosen for these vessels are better-suited for an environment like the Nevada desert.

I wrote extensively on the origins and details of these gondolas a couple years ago in my post "The 'Venetian' Gondola".
Later I posted more, based in part on the conversations I'd had with readers who were curious to hear about some details they'd seen or
heard about:
The fifth set of reader comments is from a friend of mine who used to operate boats there - his information is great.

Duck and ferro.

Passengers board the gondolas at a well-staffed quay,
complete with umbrellas and water-mist units.

 When I first saw this guy, I was a little surprised that he was sitting on the seat back, but then I realized that the gondoliers have a sort of route that has them going one way under the main arch, and the other way under one of the lower arches.

Here's another gondolier in a similar posture going under the lower arch.

Not everything is exact, of course, but the campanile sure does bear a striking resemblance to the one it was modeled after.
Here's what it looks like after dark:
"Nightfall in Las Vegas"

The water is plenty deep enough for the gondoliers to use their oars
(no matter what the rowing style might be),
but as you can see in this photo - it's still pretty shallow,
as is evidenced by the shadow of the boat on the bottom.

Gondoliers who spend lots of time in this kind of sunlight appear to have the option of wearing very lightweight white long-sleeved shirts.

This one guy was even wearing shorts.

Maybe I've been away for a while, but this was the first time I saw a gondolier in shorts at this operation.

Of course if I were on a boat in the middle of a Las Vegas summer,
I'd be more than happy to exchange long pants for shorts.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Familiar Rowing Style in Austria

A while back, Fred Craven - a friend of mine in Texas who used to row gondolas for me there in Irving, sent me this gem.

He wrote:
Remember my theory about the Gondola being an "organic" and ancient design that can be seen in many cultures? Well, I was just watching Rick Steves on PBS and there was a quick note about Lake Hallstatt in Austria, Take a look at some of their traditional boats in this video.

Here's the video.

In case this clip doesn't download for you here, you can also go to this link and watch it on YouTube.

The first minute or so is footage in the village of Hallstatt,
with folks taking part in ceremonies wearing traditional clothing.
Next we see some activity on the lake,
which is known as the Hallstätter See.

Then, at about the 1:40 mark we see the first "tethered-oar" boat being rowed by a guy facing forward.

If you're a fan of gondolas and Venetian rowing, you'll probably have the same reaction that I did:
"Hey, that guys rowing alla-Veneta!"
followed by,
"hmm, but he's rowing left-handed, and the oar is different."

Accompanying text on the YouTube page explains:
Every year, tourists from all over the world meet in Hallstatt Austria to attend the colorful Corpus Christi procession in Hallstatt, founded as eternal endowment of salt mining.

Since 1628 a great part of the procession takes place on the lake, because there was too little space in the small village. The inhabitants carry the traditional costumes and decorate their boats with flowers and tree leaves.
Visitors can take part by booking a seat on the excursion ship or by renting one of the ceremonially decorated boats. Due to the visitor traffic the reservation should be made early enough.

Are they gondolas? No.
But they do bear some resemblance? They sure do - with the upswept bow and of course the guy in the back...doing kinda what we do.

Of course they've chosen to support the fulcrum points of the oars with a raised part of the hull instead of a forcola, and the oars sort of remind me of a rudder on Tom Sawyer's raft, but the guys using them seem to have no trouble with them.

Recently I discovered a terrific blog known as "Rowing for Pleasure" by Chris Partridge out of England.
It turns out that Chris has posted a couple times about one of these boats, which are known as "plattens" or "zillens".
In this post we learn a little about these boats:
"The Hallstattersee Platten (or Zillen)"

And in this post we read about a few more details about the boat.
"The Hallstattersee Platten (or Zillen) at the Turks Auction"

All around the world I see boats that remind me of the ones I row at home and love in Venice.
Sure, they're not exactly the same, but quite often, as they say "form follows function", and we certainly see a bit of that in these small rowing craft from the Hallstätter See in Austria.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Happy Birthday Connor

Happy birthday to one of my favorite gondoliers in Texas - Connor Riley.
Keep rowing and singing, caro amico.

Overhead shot of the author rowing with Connor in Irving, Texas.

GondOlympics - Conference Afloat

photo by Tim Reinard

A boat-to-boat conversation takes place between
events at the GondOlympics in Providence.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Options in Denmark

Crawling around my friend Simon's gondola in Denmark, I was impressed by her pristine condition, and even more impressed when I learned that she was a thirty-five year old boat.
I took note of the brass trim, the fresh paint, and all the nice parecio pieces.
Then, Simon handed me the forward forcola, and as I moved towards the bow, I came upon a confusing sight:
Due busi (two busos).
A "buso" on a gondola is a hole in the deck for a forcola.
Typically there is additional structure beneath the deck to support the pressure exerted while rowing.
Most gondolas have only one buso up front.
Simon explained that they found it helpful to have options based on different variables.

One of those variables being whether the gondola was being rowed by two or four.
Then I turned around and noticed another buso I'd somehow overlooked,
a buso in the "sestina" position.

And there was another buso (for a fourth rower) but it wasn't visible at the time.

I had already determined that the Copenhagen gondola was a beautiful boat with nice appointments, then I saw that she had four busos.

Now I'm jealous.

I find myself musing over possibilities involving a jigsaw.