Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Elisa Picks Up an Oar

photos by Lars Berg

I was setting up the pupparin for a tandem row when my friend Lars Berg came down the gangway.  He was in his captain's uniform and heading for one of the large charter vessels - the M.V. Just Dreamin'.  
Lars is one of my favorite people to run into, and unfortunately we rarely cross paths anymore.
Many years ago, Lars was my right-hand-man, helping me maintain the gondolas and also taking out cruises.  Now he's a "big boat captain"
and I am thankful that at least one of the guys who drives those huge vessels understands things from a gondolier's perspective.

So as I was talking to Lars on the dock, I told him:
"believe it or not, I'm about to go rowing with Elisa"
(Elisa, of course, is my wife)
Lars responded with a smile "I'll believe it when I see it".

I've been on the back of a gondola now for twenty years, and you'd think that by now she would have learned the art of voga-alla-Veneta.  
My wife has described herself as being "allergic to exercise"
so I was more than thrilled when she agreed to try out some team rowing on the recently acquired pupparin.

On Monday we went out with our two daughters and tried a four-oar row.  Things were a little sketchy, but we didn't crash into anything.

This evening, however, it was just Elisa and me.  She tried a few different things, I did my best to instruct and encourage, and before I knew it, we were rowing well in our two-oar configuration.  She did so well.
Right about then, my buddy Lars stuck his head out of the pilothouse to let us know he was about to leave dock (he and a 110' motor yacht).  
As he pulled out he snapped another shot.

It may not be the most clear photo, as it was shot with a phone from far away, but it is living proof that Elisa has stepped on the boat and picked up an oar.

Her shoulders are a little sore.
I for one, couldn't be happier.
Can't wait to get the whole family rowing.

Thanks for the photos, Lars.

Monday, February 25, 2013

How Much is that Model in the Window?

photo by Kathleen Gonzalez
Here is a nice collection of models, which somewhat chronicle the progression of gondola design over the centuries.  
These little boats were on display in the Emilio Ceccato window at the same time that Kathleen and RJ shot the photos of striped shirts and gondola garb (which can be seen in my post "How Much is that Marinera in the Window?").
You can see some striped shirts in the lower corners of the shot - one with a price tag in view.   I don't see any price tags on the gondola models.  
My guess is that they're only part of the display and not for sale.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

At the Base of a Bridge

 Explore Venice and you'll notice a few consistencies - like gondolas moored near bridges.
Here we seea pair of them stationed adjacent to the Ponte delle Guglie - one of only two bridges that span the Cannaregio Canal.  
Sure, Tre Archi seems to get a lot of the attention in that area (at least on this blog), but the Ponte delle Guglie is a great place to set up operations.  This is one of the most crossed bridges near the train station, 
and probably one of the first places that visitors pass by as they venture into the city on foot.
Like so many other spots in La Serenissima, I'm sure this mooring location is coveted, maybe fought over, and I can understand why.
What a great location to run gondolas.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Just the Photo - Texas Tranquility

Another serene moment captured via long-exposure 
on the docks in Irving, Texas.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Stars and Stripes in Reflected Light

It was a few days after Valentine's Day, 
Minnesota gondolier John Kerschbaum had been rowing with us for about a week.  He was coming in at the tail end of his final cruise before heading off to adventures in Utah.
I was in the right place, at the right time with my camera.
The lighting was perfect.
The wind even cooperated, spreading the flag on the stern for the camera.
The reflecting sunlight bounced off the water,
                                     and lit up the Stars and Stripes.
I waited for just the right moment,

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Minnesota Man Comes Back to California

Since 2008, John Kerschbaum from Minnesota has joined us here in Newport for a week - five of the six past years.
His operation, Gondola Romantica is a fantastic servizio, but with a frozen waterway, he can justify rowing with us here and helping us cover the cruise load during the Valentine's Day period.
John was one of the team on the Hudson River Expedition, and it's been great reconnecting with him each year.  Today I passed him in the canals and snapped a couple shots of him rowing the Phoenix - the very boat that he and I rowed down the Hudson River back in 2007.

Look at that smile. 
That's the smile of a guy from the north who gets to row in winter.

Looking good, John.  Looking good.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

V-Day Snap

I shot this in the midst of the craziness, and while it is a serene shot, 
and we provide a relaxing and romantic experience for our clients, 
for us it can get a little chaotic.  The conditions in Newport really couldn't have been any better: clear skies, calm winds, even the tidal pattern seemed tailor-made for our purposes.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

"Contessa's" First Cruise

photos by Isabella Mohr

On the eve of Valentine's Day, we had all sorts of gondola traffic, and like most years, I spent February 13th running around doing everything but rowing a boat.
There were plenty of stressful times, but we also had a christening and lots of laughs as gondoliers who hadn't seen each other in a while re-connected.
My twelve-year-old daughter grabbed my camera and managed to snap some nice shots of the newly christened pupparin leaving the lagoon; this was her first passenger cruise in Newport, and Simon was looking good on the back.

 The couple snaps a photo of their own.

 The newly christened "Contessa" heads off to make memories
for her first pair of passengers.

 Bob makes an adjustment to the forcola while his couple
takes in the beauty of the evening.

The "Contessa" and the "Phoenix" take off to chase the sun.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Golden Sunset

I shot this tonight as Bob was rowing out in ideal conditions, 
just a couple days before V-Day.  
A golden sunset for a golden moment for both gondolier and passengers.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Two Pieces of Wood

photo by Carey Vandewalle
One of the things I like about rowing a gondola is the simplicity of the equipment.  Oh sure, both forcola and remo are intricately crafted by unparalleled masters, but the fact remains that all I need to do my job are two pieces of wood and my wits.
I don't have to worry about whether the motor will fail,
whether the last guy who used the boat left enough gas or plugged in the charger.
I don't even have to worry about getting something wrapped around my propeller, or faulty steering gear.

Just two pieces of wood.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Happiness is...

...varnishing with my daughter

At the end of an exhausting day, running around taking care of everything imaginable boat-wise prior to Valentine's Day, and seeing off several of my gondoliers as they took out passengers, my daughter jumped in and helped me with my final task for the day: varnishing the scallops on some floorboards.
They say that often it's the little things that end up making us happy,
and this was definitely the case tonight.

For me tonight, happiness was varnishing with my daughter.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Two Ships Passing

One week before Valentine's Day, Simon and I had the whole place to ourselves.  Our passengers enjoyed the serenity of an evening that truly fit the description of "the calm before the storm".

For one thing, we expect the rain to come tomorrow,
...aaand we expect it to go away after that and find somewhere else to fall for at least a week. After that it can rain all it wants around here.

We are also preparing in so many ways for the busiest time of the year for gondoliers in Newport.  I've often referred to Valentine's Day as 
"the Superbowl of gondolas", because it's the biggest day of the year for us and we often end up working just as hard as if we were in the big game.

Tonight however, the work was easy, the couple in my boat got engaged, and it was just two ships passing in the calm before the storm.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Just the Photo - Stripes Stand Out

There's no question that stripes stand out.
Whether in a stack of oars or out on the water, dipping in and out of view, the contrast of a chevron-striped oar catches the eye - just as it was intended to do.

Monday, February 4, 2013

What It's All About

If you asked me the question:
"What's it all about?"
My answer would be different at different times in my life
(although I'd probably say something about doing 
the Hokey Pokey, and turning yourself around).

At this stage in my life, it's all about passing it on to the kids.
I've spent the last twenty years gathering gondola wisdom and passing it on
to my staff and others who I've had the pleasure of working with.  
Now I find myself in the place and time where I get to pass these things on
to my children.

I'm fully aware that this is a time that I'll look back on with great fondness for decades to come.  It's a time to savor, and I'm so very thankful for it.
Recently I added a pupparin to my fleet, with the main purpose being that the boat is the ideal training platform for young rowers who will eventually take passengers.
Above is a snap I took of my daughter Cassandra rowing the new addition on the evening she arrived in Newport.
Passing it on - that's what it's all about
(well, that and the Hokey Pokey, of course).

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Actual Photo of the Rat

photo by Nereo Zane
Nereo was kind enough to send in this image of the "Enormous Rat" riding on the deck of the big red boat.  Yep, just one more instance where I wish I was in Venezia.