Thursday, January 31, 2013

Enormous Rat

photo by Nereo Zane

You never know what you might see on the Grand Canal in Venice.
For instance, recently Nereo was there recently to witness a procession of traditional boats, being rowed by vogatori in various costumes, 
all surrounding the Brentana (a giant red peata) with an enormous rat on the deck.
Learn more and enjoy the photos at:

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Pupparin in Newport

photo by Cassandra Mohr

For many years I've admired a certain pupparin docked in Huntington Harbour, often telling owner Tim Reinard that if and when he ever wanted to sell the boat - that he should call me first.
I came close to convincing him about a year and a half ago, 
but the timing wasn't right, then, in late November I got the call.
Banking arrangements had to be made, and I had to convince Tim to hang on to the boat until I could make room for her, but a deal was made.
I was thrilled.
Today I met Tim at his docks, we rowed the boat to the ramp, 
hauled and secured her, and I followed him and the pupparin 
down Pacific Coast Highway to Newport.

Tim uncovers the boat.

There was another very interesting new boat in the docks - a boat we've talked about here recently.
As the song from the children's tv show goes:
"one of these things is not like the other"
can you pick it out?

I'll give you a hint, it's not the black one, and it's not the other black one...
Ok, here's another hint, she was mentioned in the Gondola Blog post "Red!".

Tim and I rowed the boat tandem.
It was his last time rowing her in his own harbor, 
and he rowed poppa masterfully.

Leaving the docks.

The conditions today were amazing.
I was waiting for the fourth of July to call, asking for it's weather back.

The boat basking in the sunlight, while floating in Huntington Harbour.

You always get funny looks when you trailer a boat like this, and today was no exception.  As I followed Tim, it was comical watching car after car slow down a bit as they were passing him.

A rare Venetian boat cruises PCH in Huntington Beach.

Not long after, she was floating on the waters of Newport Harbor, 
the sun glistening on her varnished wood, locals taking a closer look.

Pupparin in Newport.

Sunsine on brightwork.

It was a long day, but my work wasn't quite finished.
I had to get some better photos of the boat in her new home.
We were in a race against time as my daughter Cassandra and I hurried back down to the docks, gave the boat a quick primping, and started snapping photos.

photo by Cassandra Mohr

photo by Cassandra Mohr

photo by Cassandra Mohr

I love this boat; she handles like a little sports car.
Can't wait to take passengers out in her.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Just a Few Snaps From the Other Night

photos by Cassandra Mohr

Staff photographer Cassandra Mohr shot these and many other great photos while out on a cruise in Newport.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Just the Photo - Brilliance of the Sun

This just seemed to be the right fit for a rainy day posting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

How Much is that Marinera in the Window?

photos by Kathleen Gonzalez
I thought about titling this post "Stripes for Sale", but it turns out I already used that phrase last year, to post a photo of this very same shop
"How Much is that Marinera in the Window", is fitting because this is the very shop that I bought my last two overshirts.
I have that exact same white marinera in my closet right now 
(the one in the corner on the right, swimming in a sea of stripes). 

This is the shop known as Emilio Ceccato, at the base of the Rialto Bridge, they have a small display window facing the stairs of the bridge, 
which I featured in my post "Sleeves".

As you can see (if you know the value of the Euro), that some of these items aren't cheap, but then some of them are cashmere.

In all honesty, I don't know how their prices stack up against competitors, but they sure do a great job with window displays.

I mean really, 
...and the award for best cardboard gondola model goes to:

I'm not sure if the folks in the store plan on having their displays photographed, but I know that a lot of people have snapped pictures of the place, like Kathleen and RJ (who you can see in the reflection below).
My guess is they said something like: 
"Oh man, we've got to get a shot of that".


Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Riding Off Into the Sunset

I snapped this from the dock this evening after seeing one of our cruises off under clear and warm skies.

Live Music in Boston

Gondolas go together perfectly with music, 
and while there are some gondoliers who choose not to sing, 
very few will argue that having some kind of music can definitely improve the experience for the passengers 
(and I would add - for the gondolier too).

Many gondola operations have singing or recorded music on board, 
in Boston though, they go one step further - but then they've always gone above and beyond in that servizio.
For years they've made accordionists available to their clients and recently I'm seeing a violinist as well.

Speaking with Joe Gibbons of Gondola di Venezia recently, he said: 
"There's nothing quite like live music.  Sure, a CD player is nice, 
but nothing compares to having the real thing".  
His clients seem to agree, because there are a lot of cruises going out each season with one of these talented individuals on board.

In my post "Raising the Bottle in Boston" we can see the accordion player seated neatly between the gondolier and his passengers.

In "Happy Birthday Megan" we see Megan Sliger (former accordionist turned gondolier and at the time - company owner) rowing, with expert accordionist Bronwyn playing.  Bronwyn also has a remarkably unique qualification as one of the only masters of the instrument known as the nyckelharpa.

These are some remarkable musicians.
So how does Gondola di Venezia do it?
Well, the operation is a great one, and certainly a company that a serious musician would find appealing to work for, but there is also the issue of location. You see the renowned Berklee college of music is only about a mile away from the gondola dock on the Charles River (and yes, I'm jealous of that).

Gondolas have been gracing the waters of Boston's Charles River for some twelve years now.  Megan and Bronwyn have moved on to other adventures, and Gondola di Venezia is on their next generation of musicians.  Here are a couple of them:

Aside from being an expert accordionist, 
Peter Bufano is a member of several bands and has worked with the Ringling Bros. circus.

Lis is a violinist who can be seen in my post "One Last Time".

As I said, one of the reasons Gondola di Venezia has been able to find great musicians is that they are close to the Berklee College of Music - a perfect place to find the kind of talent needed.
But keeping them is another thing.
Joe Gibbons tells me that his business partner Steve Bruno takes good care of the musicians.
There are little stools for them – each with the first initial of the player.
If Peter Bufano is on board with his accordion, there’ll be a stool with a “B” on it.

 It seems that this whole accordion thing started with Joe Gibbons' own father-in-law.  "Pellegrino" played accordion in high school, then joined the Marines and left his accordion in storage.  That accordion sat gathering dust in his mother's attic for forty years. Then when his daughter and her husband (Joe Gibbons) started the gondola operation, he dusted it off and started playing again.

Pellegrino playing accordion with Joe rowing.

Pellegrino played thousands of cruises, sometimes working as many as eight cruises in a row.  He has now retired and let some of Berklee's finest step in to fill his shoes - no small task, I'm sure.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Marco Polo Makes the News Again

It would be an understatement to point out that this isn't the only ship out there named after Venice's famed explorer: Marco Polo.  
Ah, but it would not be an understatement to claim that this Marco Polo is the biggest ship ever to carry the name.
Truth is - she's the biggest ship ever built.
No, she's not from Venice (and I'm guessing that most Venetians wouldn't want something this big lumbering between Dorsoduro and La Giudecca), but the CMA CGM Marco Polo is an impressive thing to behold. She is, in fact "the single biggest movable thing" that man has ever built.
Read more about her at:

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Early Evening in Irving

This photo was taken on the docks of my operation in Irving, 
Texas when I was out there last week.

As you can see, we have a unique collection of boats out there 
(which allow us to operate in nearly all weather conditions).
A while ago one of my staff members installed some nice lamps on the docks - giving the place a semi-Venetian feel, as some people have said.
And no, metal folding chairs aren't typically on the docks.  
I had just finished changing out a light bulb, and needed the chair - because even though the lamp posts are shorter than am I.

See also "New Lamps in Texas", "Serenity in Texas"
and "Long Exposure on the Docks in Texas".

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Stripes in the Sunlight

photo by Kathleen Gonzalez

Having been to a few different corners of the world, I've come to understand that it's not so much the places that interest me as much as it is the people - how they think, interact, and really, how they live.

Want to see how people in a particular city live? Go to the grocery store.
Don't visit the big must-see landmark, go to where locals are, 
(chances are good that they tend to avoid those landmarks, especially in high season) and try to catch a glimpse into what their lives are like.

And while you can tell a lot about someone by looking inside their home,
in this case we can learn a bit from the outside as well.

Here, in the apartment with the clothesline, we can see that it's the home of a gondolier, who appears to also enjoy fishing (yes, I know, that's like making the bold claim that someone from Hawaii likes to eat SPAM).
I've heard it said that "every Venetian likes to fish"
and while that might be a blanket statement, I think it's mostly true.  
In fact, based on things I've seen and heard, most Venetians know more about fishing than I ever will.

And how do we know there's a gondolier living in this space?
That's easy: black pants and a striped shirt.
It's probably tomorrow's uniform.

See also: 
and "Smelling the Sun" .

Monday, January 14, 2013

Clouds and Light

photos by Simon Atkins

As much as I like clear sunny days, there's something to be said for the combination of clouds and light.  Here are a few images captured last week on a cruise in Newport between rains.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Beating Murphy with Fire

Many of you have probably heard me say
"If you want it to rain, just ask me to haul a boat for painting".
I am a staunch believer in Murphy's Law.

This week I've been in Texas, working on some of the boats at my Irving location.  Recently the lake authorities raised the water level - something we've been hoping and lobbying for since we started operating here about ten years ago.  Now that the water is about a foot higher, our passengers can board and disembark almost anywhere around the lake.

But with this change in water level, some of the previous boarding areas (the only ones we could use before), are low enough now to scrape the heck out of the side of a gondola.

Hence, the need to paint...and as an automatic result, the rain.

So when I was done sanding the gondola that needed painting the most, the dark clouds entered the scene, and the gondola and I entered the boathouse.  Problem solved? I wish it were that simple. 
This was not the kind of wimpy light sprinkle we get in California.
The doors were closed but the humidity in the boathouse was still too high for painting. Painting in moist air can lead to all kinds of badness.

Hmm, what to do.
Can't go out and buy a giant dehumidifier.
Can't bring in a huge fan to blow away the rain clouds,
Can't import some dry desert air.

Then I remembered that one of my staff had bought a case of big Citronella candles for working outside in the summer months.  
I hunted down a half dozen of them, along with fifteen smaller candles.  
I filled the boathouse with candles. In a short time I could feel a difference in the air, and by the time I was rolling and tipping, I felt confident that the paint would cure well.

It's not the most perfect paint job I've ever done, but with a few touch-ups I'll have a boat that can impress passengers for a long time...
or until Murphy takes another swing at her.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Training in Texas

The other day I was training a couple gondoliers to row in Irving, Texas.
I had one guy who had never rowed a gondola, but he's a Stand-Up-Paddle instructor.  
Before we went out on the water I was curious to see how he would do.
The guy was amazing.
He was the quickest study I'd ever seen.
In fact, when I stepped off the boat for a few minutes...he kept training the other guys!
Here are a few shots I snapped from shore.

Monday, January 7, 2013

A Bottle Message Proposal - Shot By Shot

Recently I took out a cruise with a photographer who captured the whole experience nicely in photographs.  After a little editing, my wife put together a nice video of the sequence of events.
Check it out here:

Sunday, January 6, 2013


Sunset Gondola has a new boat in their fleet.

As the old TV show introduction goes:
"Do not attempt to adjust your screen..."

Yes, she really is red,
Ducati Red, to be exact, 
and beautifully so.

Yes, she really is a gondola,
a true livery gondola,
not a racing gondola or club boat.

And yes, we will surely see more of her on the Gondola Blog in the future.

photo shamelessly swiped from the Sunset Gondola Twitter account.

Friday, January 4, 2013


Chris Partridge at "Rowing for Pleasure" has published a brief but fun post about giving a boat a new name.
"Renaming Boats"
I'm not sure why togas and a trident were necessary, but I sure wish I'd been there.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Blue Streak

I love to paint.
There are many areas of boat care that I enjoy,
but there's instant gratification in looking at a freshly painted surface,
and it's there again each time it comes into view.

Typically I work with two kinds of paint:
Black and varnish (which is essentially paint without pigment).
In both cases I do a good job of stirring.
I mix it, stir it, roll it on, and brush it out.

Why do we stir?
the first reason is to make sure that the thinner is evenly distributed.
The second reason is to make sure that pigment is also evenly distributed.
Varnish, of course, has no pigment.
In the case of black paint, once you've applied your second coat,
pigment distribution isn't all that important.
It's all gonna end up black.

Oh, but change out your black paint out for another color,
and pigment distribution becomes way more important.

Be sure to stir, because if you don't, you might see something like this:

Mhmm. See those dark blue streaks?
While executing a color change on the floorboards of my gondola,
The Phoenix, I knew it would require several coats. 
Floorboards get beat up; they get walked all over. 
One or two coats of paint wouldn't last long. 
After about four coats of Largo Blue, I realized that as I'd gotten towards the bottom of the can, I'd come upon a concentrated patch of pigment.
According to Murphy's Law, you never see such things while the paint is still wet (when you can brush them out), no, you always discover them the next day after the paint is dry.
You walk outside with a cup of coffee, the steam rising from the cup into the morning air. You smile as you survey a collection of beautiful blue floorboards, and then you wake the neighbors with language you shouldn't be using - especially not at that volume, with children possibly nearby.
Buy another can of Largo Blue,
calm yourself down,
and add two more coats to the floorboards.
Now I've got six coats of blue paint on the floor.
It looks beautiful, but more importantly, there are no more pigment streaks.
I posted some photos of the new blue floorboards shortly after relaunch,
in my post "Phoenix Again".
This blue may look familiar, especially if you've been reading the Gondola Blog lately (or if you're a raccoon in my neighborhood). 
Yes, I learned several lessons during this painting session - another one of them was explained in my post "Raccoon Finger Painting".

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Just the Photo - 1/1/13

photo by Cassandra Mohr

On the first day of a fresh new year, I had a great proposal cruise with my daughter Cassandra shooting photos. Here's one she shot from the back of a boat as I was rowing away for some full shots of the boat.

Happy New Year

They say "time flies when you're having fun".
For this gondolier it certainly does.
The phrase "time flies" appears to be a loose translation though,
of the original latin phrase "Tempus fugit" - meaning "time flees".
I think the concept was that time was in a constant state of running away.

2012 went by fast, and now we're into 2013.
Tempus fugit.
Time is constantly running away.
We certainly can't get it back, but then why would we want to?
2012 was a good year, but 2013 has promise to be even better.

My very best wishes to you, my friends, during the coming year.

The above photo was originally part of the post
"Messin' Around on New Year's Eve".