Thursday, August 30, 2012

Give Her a Quick Click

Our friend Kathleen Gonzalez - author of "Free Gondola Ride" has been working on a clever new book and she could use your support. 
It's not financial and will only take a minute of your time.
I'd like to ask you to go to her blog Seductive Venice and click the "follow" button in the lower right corner.
The more followers she has, the better.
When it gets published, the new book should give us all a whole new way to look at Venice and one of her most famous (or infamous) sons: Cassanova.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Red Pupparin "Desona"

photos by Tamás Fehér
Most of you know by now that I'm a fan of the "big desonas" - those exceptionally long, multi-rower, vessels that always show up for big events in Venice.
A more detailed explanation can be found in my post "Benedettina".

I've shared photos and video of some of these impressive boats in the following posts:

"Holy Remo" Part 2 - Querini
18 oars and a lot to be proud of.

Regata Storica - A Basket Full of Forcole
The forcole for a quattordesona - all in one basket.

Regata Storica through the lens of Nereo Zane - 4 "March of the 'Desonas"
A few of these long boats in the spotlight at Regata Storica.

Vogalonga 2011 - Video of 16 desona
Kathleen Gonzalez shot this from the Tre Archi bridge during the 2011 Vogalonga.

My favorite memeber of this unique fleet of boats
is the GSVVM's Mestrina - a 14-post "quattordesona"
Mestrina - 2009 Vogalonga Retrospective

Today we're looking at an impressive ten-oared boat; one which I hadn't seen until I received photos from Tamás, who saw her pass by during the last Vogalonga.

Technically speaking, I'd call her a "diesona", although no two of these big boats are the same, she does have ten oars.  I recognize that there are "desonas" based on the same design that the gondola comes from, and others that appear to be much larger members of the sandolo family. 
This boat has the sandolo characteristics we see in the pupparin.

She has the bow of a sandolo-type boat,

And the stern of a pupparin.

This boat is part of the fleet of the Remiera-Club Ponte dei Sartori.,
their website is 
Here is a link to a page on their site with multiple images of this remarkable boat:

Most of the desonas are a lot beefier than this one.  She appears to be relatively light, and I'll bet she moves fast with a crew of ten.

Bravo to the Remiera-Club Ponte dei Sartori.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Monday, August 27, 2012

He's Gonna Help You

One thing I love about people is that no two are alike.
Imagine how boring this world would be if everybody was the same;
had the same personality, sense of humor, temperament.
I love people, and rowing a gondola gives me the opportunity to meet lots of them.
Of course different people react and behave differently on a boat.
There are those who freak out all the way to their seat,
and those who move so effortlessly that I can tell they grew up on a boat.
Some have control issues, and they're the ones I'm here to talk about today: the "helpers".

In this category, almost all of the members are male and older than most.
Retired men are especially given over to becoming "helpers".
Guys who have, or have had their own boats like to help.
Any guy who is accustomed to being in charge of things will probably lend a hand too.

As gondoliers, we need to remember that not everyone is as comfortable on a boat as we are.
More to the point, not everyone is going to be comfortable giving up control for an hour, and that's the real issue here:

Cruising with a "helper" is usually easy and fun; he will probably offer to assist you in your departure, and once he's assessed your rowing ability,
he will relax.
If you are still figuring this gondola think out, then he might get nervous,
and if it looks like another boat is going to bump into yours,
expect the helper to jump into action.

Most of the time, however, I find that helpful control-minded passenger assisting me by holding onto a cleat on the dock as I'm trying to pull the boat in.  My gondola is halfway into the slip, or almost where she needs to be in relation to a side-tie, and all of a sudden we're stopped.
I look down to see if maybe my boat has snagged on something,
only to notice the gentleman's hand, gripping one of the dock cleats in a desperate attempt to help me (whether I like it or not).
Gently, I'll ask the "helper" to let go.  He almost never fully processes my request the first time, and only lets go of the cleat after I've explained to him that while I appreciate his "help", I can't tie up the boat until he lets go. 
The kind prodding of his wife, sitting next to him also helps sometimes.

Sometimes the hand that's gripping the dock cleat belongs to a career Navy man, and I always need to remember that giving up control for an hour or two is easier for some than it is for others.
The retired ship captain or career Navy man might be used to having control of things, but really, show me any guy who's retired from any job where he was in charge of people, and you can bet that he will at least reach out for that cleat - if not grip it with mad desperation.

Dealing with "helpers" has allowed me to learn a little about that retirement in MY future (assuming I can ever manage to stop moving long enough). 
Most men reach that milestone in their lives with great joy, only to realize later that a great part of their identity has been removed from their lives. Some find new interests and move on just fine, while others don't like the inactivity; and while many people retire with a gleam in their eye (happy that they won't have to work anymore), alot of them end up missing the work.

So the next time you're pulling your gondola into the dock, and you notice that the reason your boat has come to a premature halt is because there's a hand gripping a cleat - remember that the "helper" has his own unique motivations, and he's gonna help you...whether you like it or not.
Be gentle, because one day it my be you gripping that cleat - and if you ever rowed a gondola, I suspect you'll grip it even harder than the ship captain or the Navy man.

In any business there are

Sunday, August 26, 2012

On the "Hunt" in Boston

photo by M. J. Hunt

Some gondola operations are fortunate enough to have photographers who follow them - recognizing how target-rich they are. 
Many businesses are interesting to watch,
and several of them are photogenic, but gondolas?
To a lot of photographers, what we do is just irresistible.

The servizio in Boston is lucky to have such a photographer in Mark J. Hunt.
Mark has been stalking the gondolas there for years, hunting for the best shots he can get, and he's taken some of the best gondola photos I've ever seen (and I've seen a heck of a lot).

Recently, Joe Gibbons (seated in the middle of the above photo) of Gondola di Venezia added a link to a collection of great photos that capture so many facets of this most interesting thing we do.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Colors Make Another Appearance

Some nights are more colorful than others at twilight.
Several conditions can come together to create the colorful displays we all enjoy seeing, and my passengers definitely enjoyed them this evening.

It doesn't last long, but the show can be dazzling, and my passengers,
who came all the way from Canada were not disappointed.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Roberto and the Chair

photo courtesy of Lorne Fernhout

Just a snapshot in time, of Roberto Tramontin - Venetian boatbuilder and heir to the legacy of the Tramontin family.  The very impressive sandolo that was recently launched in Canada is one of his most recent projects.
Here we see maestro Roberto tending to some of the details on one of the chairs of that beautiful fully-carved boat.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Mike from the Bridge

I stalked one of our dinner cruises tonight in Newport.
Gondolier Mike Bronstein Was out during that narrow margin of time that is absoulutely perfect for the guests and the gondolier, but not so perfect for a photographer.  Nevertheless, I managed to snap a handful of decent shots from atop the Newport Blvd. bridge.

Nav. lights reflect off serene water.

A Marine returning from Iraq, celebrating his anniversary with a message in a bottle and scattered rose petals.  I'm sure there were many perfect moments.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

That Rubbing Spot

photo by Tamás Fehér

There are so many things to mention about what we see in this photo:

- The shot was taken in the morning, before the gondoliers showed up to uncover their boats.  It's no secret that blue is the undisputed favorite when it comes to boat covers in Venice.

- The gondola in the background has floorboards in a very nice blue and yellow.

- An impressive gold-leaf carving relief can be seen on the sides of the pusioli (those arm-pieces) on the gondola in the foreground.

- Highly polished cavalli (seahorses) are present, as well as red and white ropes and pom-poms.

- Inside the passenger area of the gondola in the foreground, we see an impressive feature that I've only seen on a few gondolas: a varnished wood finish between the rail ("corbolo") and the sub-rail ("sotocorbolo").

- And then there's that "rubbing spot". There are many beautiful things to admire on both boats, but even the most awesome gondola can fall victim to friction.  It's clear that wherever this vessel is regularly parked, she rubs against something less forgiving than her hull paint.
We can see that whoever painted her, chose a light gray undercoat.

I've seen the undercoat showing through on a number of my boats as well, so I'm just as guilty of having "rubbing spots" on my gondolas.
The solutions are of course - a couple fresh coats of paint, and not mooring the boat where she will rub.
A quick touch-up coat on the exposed area can restore the perfect appearance of the gondola until she's ready for haulout.
Despite the "rubbing spot", this is a gorgeous boat.

Monday, August 20, 2012

My Thirty-Six Foot Musical Instrument

photo by Cassandra Mohr

When I was a kid, my dad played guitar.
He had a gorgeous, shiny twelve-string: a dazzling instrument that made such beautiful music. We would go on ski trips with a few other families,
and in the evenings we'd sit around the fire and the grown-ups would jam.
Folk music was big at the time, and John Denver and Neil Diamond were popular names. I grew up admiring someone who could play a guitar and sing.  With his instrument, he could take you places,
and with his voice, he could speak to your heart.
If he did it right, you'd remember it for a long time.

I was very young, but I figured when I was big enough to hold one,
I'd learn to play guitar as well.

I may have mentioned this before, but as a child I was, shall we say, active.  Yes, I was "that kid" - the one whom other mothers looked at and realized how good their kids were. 
What I didn't know then (and what I'm certain of now) was that my parents had already done the math and realized that sitting me down and trying to teach me how to play such an easily breakable instrument,
would be frustrating...and probably rather costly.

Years later, I found myself growing up in a Boy Scout troop; my dad was the Scoutmaster, and I spent a lot of time outdoors. In a short time I discovered the bugle: a loud brass horn that was relatively easy to figure out and had no moving parts. Every troop needs a bugle. 

There's only so much you can do with a bugle, though, and you can't sing while playing it. Even so, I loved that bugle because not only was it noisy, but it was also great fun to wake people up with early in the morning. I would often blow the bugle right next to a bunch of tents, and then run like heck.

Again, "active child". 
Considering my bugle exploits, I'm probably lucky to be alive.

In high school, with zero experience, I somehow got recruited to play trombone one year in the marching band; they had two guys and needed a third. Using my rudimentary bugle skills, and relying heavily on watching the other trombone players, I used the "fake-it-till-you-make-it" approach and, with no formal music training, I managed to get by without making too big a fool of myself. The trombone wasn't "my instrument" - it was fun to play,
but again, you can't sing while playing a horn, and, like the bugle,
it can take people places; if played wrong, though, it can send them running (either away from you or towards you).

Music has always played an important part in my life. I've always loved singing. In high school and college I did a fair amount of theatre, and when I stepped onto the back of a gondola for the first time, I recognized it as a great place to continue the music - trading my show-tunes for opera and jazz standards.  I got pretty comfortable singing with no accompaniment.

All the while I thought about an instrument - thought about a guitar,
or a ukulele maybe.

I wanted to do what I'd admired so much as a kid, and then one night,
while serenading my passengers under the stars,
I realized that the gondola is my instrument.
Oh sure, she doesn't make music like a guitar or a cello, but she will literally take you places. I can get a couple on my gondola, row out on the water, and help them escape their problems for a time. Then, with the gentle waves lapping against the side of her hull, I can point the boat towards the setting sun or a rising moon, and if I sing just the right song, in just the right way,

I can speak to their hearts and maybe even provide them with a memory that they will cherish forever.

I am a gondolier, and the gondola is my instrument.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Cross in the Clouds

photo by Cassandra Mohr

My daughter took this the other day and she swears
that she didn't airbrush it; the cross-shaped cloud
was already there.
Who knows, maybe it wasn't a natural formation.
Maybe some guy in a skywriting airplane was responsible for the cross in the sky.
All we know is that it was there when she shot the photo,
and it's a perfect photo to post on a Sunday.

Friday, August 17, 2012

A Whole Lotta Oars

photos by Elle Sandes

I walked into Nick Birch's shop in Stratford-Upon-Avon and one of the first things I saw was this large cart, loaded with rowboat oars.
The large fleet of boats out front all need oars for people to effectively have fun renting them.

This one cart carries something like ninety to one hundred of the traditional rowing oars.
Nick told me that for the longest time they'd carried the oars out a few at a time, until one staff member came up with this cart idea. 
I'm sure he's well-liked by everyone who works there.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Cinque Anni!

Five years ago, just a few days after I launched the Gondola Blog, my good friend Nereo Zane (pictured above on the right) launched his Italian version -
Both were originally intended to follow the Hudson Expedition.
Today marks the five year anniversary for Nereo.
Congratulations Nereo!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Learning to Fly - Video

photo by Cassandra Mohr

Yes, I know it has nothing to do with gondolas, except that here in Newport we sometimes have the opportunity to cruise by as people are doing this.
Maybe this post should just be classified as another personal interest story by the author who can write whatever he wants on his blog.  Whatever the case, it's a blast and I just had to share the video as soon as it came out.

A few weeks ago I had the chance to try out Jetlev myself - photos and some words were posted in my July 24th post "Learning to Fly".

As part of the package, they gave me a video with some of the more memorable parts of the experience.
I was given a list of hit songs to choose from, but I opted to go with some original work from my good friend Jeff Whitcher instead.

Put your headphones on, hit play, and enjoy the music and the show.

If you want to try flying like this for yourself, check out:
or call them at (888) 553-6471
Jeff Whitcher's album "Just What the World Needs...Another Guitar Player" is available at:    and it would mean a lot to me if you would take half a minute to "like" him on Facebook:

Monday, August 13, 2012

Phoenix from the Bridge

photos by Cassandra Mohr

My daughter Cassandra staked me out this evening and captured a couple nice images of the Phoenix with her fresh paint and new blue floor color.

Finding a good vantage point from the rail of the Newport Boulevard bridge, Cassandra snapped a number of photos, and as is often the case - there were a couple of winners.

Last year I shot a group of photos from the same spot of Stefano on the Wedding Gondola; you can see them in the post "The View from the Bridge".

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Fresh Ferro Spotted in Alamitos Bay

photo by Andrew McHardy

As I mentioned in my post "The New Sandolo in Town", a big metal box arrived in the area near Alamitos Bay, and some boats that were loaded in the Veneto, emerged from it in Long Beach.
This appears to be one such vessel.

Congratulations, Mike.
It's nice to see fresh boats delivered in this economy.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rowing and Smiling in Denmark

I'd been in Denmark for a very brief time, met an internet-based friend for the first time, and after a short but beautiful drive through the Copenhagen area, I found myself on board Simon Bognolo's gondola - rowing in tandem on a Danish lake.
His boat was beautiful, and so well taken care of, but one of the things I remember most was the smile on Simon's face as we rowed out on his gondola.
I turned and snapped a photo with my camera (while still rowing), and while the lighting wasn't the best, a closer inspection will reveal...that Simon was indeed rowing and smiling.
He'd spent a long time prepping the boat for launch, and by the time we hit the water, that gondola hadn't been afloat very long.
We all get that smile after a launch.
I was just happy to be there and see it on my friend's face.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Five Years!

Five years.
That's half of a decade,
In dog years it's supposed to be 35, but I'm told it varies based on the size and breed of the dog.

It is believed that five years is also the lifespan of a Giant Squid.

Five years ago today, I started writing, with the simple goal of doccumenting a gondola expedition down the Hudson River.  I really didn't know what the heck I was doing (and some might argue that I still don't).
We rowed down the river from Albany, NY to Ground Zero in Manhattan.
it was a tribute row for the "fallen heroes of 9/11".
It was the time of our lives, and I'm certain that the fine people I shared six days in a boat with would agree that it was well worth writing about.

Through the experiences of writing both before and during the expedition,
I became a little more comfortable with writing, and after it was all over there were still many things to write about. 
Thanks to Nereo Zane, there were plenty of great photos to post too.

At some point I decided that maybe I had a few stories I might like to share, so I kept writing.

Friends with gondolas in other places encouraged me by reading,
commenting, and even giving me photos and stories to use.
I'm still figuring things out, but I've learned that much of life involves
"figuring things out".

Five years have passed, and the Gondola Blog has over 1,800 posts up for viewing.
Sure, some of the things that have been published here have required a lot of research and effort, but many more are just fun pieces or photos.

Milestones are important for several reasons.
Often they are most important to those who have achieved them.
Really, five years is a short span of time when compared to so many other accomplishments.

Nevertheless, five years is something I'm happy to have completed.

So let's take a moment and contemplate this quantity of time.

It took James Dyson five years to invent his cyclonic bagless vacuum cleaner.

While not all five-year-olds can read yet, the average five-year-old has a vocabulary of 2,500 words or more.
Most doctors say that an adult over fifty should get a colonoscopy every five years.

Ross Perot once said:
"It takes five years to design a new car in this country.
Heck, we won World War II in four years."

Another fun quote reads:
“The reason it takes five years to become an architect is,
that it takes that long to become that arrogant.
-Brenda Vale

Five years is:
The first song on David Bowie's "The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars".

Five years - that's a college career if you didn't study hard enough
(it's six years if you join a fraternity).

It's the duration of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' marriage.
I'm not quite sure how many Kardashian marriages you can fit into five years.
Singer Eddie Fisher's marriage to Elizabeth Taylor also spanned five years. Yes, it was one of eight marriages, and if you're wondering about the name - Eddie Fisher was also the father of Carrie Fisher (yes, "Princess Leia").

A man in Germany was shot in the back of the head and didn't realize it until five years later.

"The Help", a novel by Kathryn Stockett was written over a five year period (and rejected by over sixty literary agents before someone accepted it. 
Yes, it's the same "The Help" that was made into an oscar nominated movie recently.

Beleive it or not there's a band called "Five Year Mission" - they have set out to write and record one original song inspired by or related to each episode of the original Star Trek TV series.

Ever think of becoming an NFL football referee?
Several current and former NFL officials say it takes five years for an NFL rookie official to get used to the speed, mechanics, and philosophy of officiating at the NFL level.

There's a medical quote that states:
"It takes five years to learn when to operate
and twenty years to learn when not to."

And finally, there's a Danish study that recently determined that 
"Cycling to work can add five years to your life... but only if you pedal hard (and avoid crashing)"

For five years I've been writing here, and for five years many of you have honored me with your time by checking in, reading my rants and musings,
and even offering your thoughts on occasion.

Thanks for reading - it means more to me than you know.

-Greg Mohr

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Stratford Glove Rack

photos by Elle Sandes

I saw so many cool things in Stratford.
The boats, the river, the bridges and the town were all so very memorable, but one of my favorite things was touring the workshop and seeing how Nick and his staff maintain the many boats they have there.

The Glove rack was one fo the first things I saw when I walked into the place.
It was almost like an artist's creation, but I could tell that it was a real component and part of the program.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Raising the Bottle in Boston

One of the things that seems to be an American contribution to the gondola world is the "message in a bottle".

Oh sure, someone a heck of a long time ago came up with the idea of placing a message in a glass bottle and casting it adrift - and there's a chance that it happened even before there was an "America".

Many guys propose marriage on a gondola these days, and many more celebrate birthdays and anniversaries on board - here in the US, the message in a bottle serves well as a delivery method.

Typically the gondolier will keep the bottle hidden on board the boat and place it in the water at just the right moment, in a place where he can double back on it.

In the shot above, we see a gondolier in Boston holding the bottle up (presumably for the photographer) before placing it in the water.

Because it's in Boston, you can see another striped shirt on board, being worn by the accordion player.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tethered Bancheta - Keeping Grandma Safe

photos by Tamás Fehér

The "bancheta" - it's a little bench
(in fact I believe that's what "bancheta" means).

Like so many pieces of a gondola's parecio, this piece is unique. 
Most benches and small tables have four legs, some have more,
there are even three legged ones,
but the bancheta has two legs...and two arms.
Those arms rest atop longitudinal supports in the hull.

This unusual design allows the bancheta to sit as close as possible to the inner wall of a curved boat. With a four legged piece, two of the legs would be inhabiting the same space that the hull does.

The arms of some banchete have hooks or notches to keep them in place,
but invariably, every bancheta can get knocked out of place - and when it does, whatever payload is on top of it will tumble to the floor.

That could be a champagne bucket and glasses, food, or even Grandma.
No matter what's on top of the bancheta, it's a bad thig when one comes loose.

Here's a resourceful solution, spotted in Venice:

A simple length of rope, tied in two loops, can keep the bancheta in place.
Sure, it can slide a little fore and aft (and I believe that's part of the intended design), but it's a clever way to keep Grandma from falling and breaking a hip.

And nobody wants that.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Phoenix Again

After a period of four weeks, which was supposed to be only ten days
(isn't that always how it happens), the Phoenix is looking fresh and crisp. 
She's got new paint above the rails from tip to tip, a new shade of blue on the floorboards, and some dry-rot repair that came unexpectedly
(yeah, that's why it took four weeks).

Steve Elkins took her out on her first cruise since she was reassembled.

The new blue has been the focus of much of my attention during the last month. It's an Interlux shade known as "Largo Blue" and the floor of the Phoenix has six coats of it, and two coats of black along the sides to create that scalloped look.

While she was stripped and receiving her in-the-water overhaul,
I had all brass that wasn't protective trim professionaly stripped,
polished, buffed and clearcoated.

A few loose ends still need to be taken care of:
her tail-piece should be freshly nickel-plated in a day or two,
and there are some perimeter trim pieces being created to replace the damaged ones that were beyond revival.

Steve put on most of the paint on the decks and interior walls,
so it seemed fitting that he would take her back onstage and into the spotlight,
And she sure does look good (but then I must admit some bias here).

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Rowing Club Sings in Canalazzo

Our friends at the GSVVM held a very Venetian kind of gathering recently on the waters of the Grand Canal.
They brought it all with them on the boats, side-tied, and enjoyed food, drink, and of course live music right there on their boats.
Nereo Zane was there and captured it all on video.

"Serata operetta in Canal Grande"