Friday, March 29, 2013

Back on Deck in Texas

I had things to do in Texas, so my family and I jumped on a plane and flew out for a while.  After a couple days of working on gondolas, I got to do some work "on" a gondola - the kind of work that gondolas are meant to to (even more fun than the work done in a boat yard).

Tonight I took a fun young couple out for a cruise; it was his birthday, 
so she didn't suspect anything...until he proposed.
She said "yes", of course.

Tomorrow I'll go back to sanding and painting (I really do love such work), and if I'm lucky I'll get to do some more rowing in the evening.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Just Above the Surface

photos by Simon Atkins
I'm not an expert on photography, but I love gondolas and have spent a lot of time looking at and taking pictures of them. The gondola has many complex curves, but the most characteristic of them can be seen in the rail. 
Following those double brass trim lines is best appreciated from a lower vantage point, and if you're willing to risk dangling your precious camera right above the surface of the water, you can get some great shots.

Gondolier and photographer Simon Atkins was willing to lean over the water and risk baptizing his Canon, the results were great and they really show off the lines of a gondola.

Oh, and as an added bonus, the gentleman proposed...and the lady said "yes".

I love my job.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

The "Gondola Look"

Most of my gondolier friends know what I'm talking about when I say that anytime a friend or relative sees something to do with gondolas, Venice,
or something that reminds them of either topic...they show it to me. 
often it's something I've already seen, but now and then there are some surprises.  My daughter shared this with me today. 
#4 United States Men's Soccer
I might have to get one of those jerseys to row in.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Blue is My Favorite Color

They say you can tell a lot about a person based on what their favorite color is.
I've had other favorites at different times in my life, and I'm not sure exactly when it happened, but at some point blue became my favorite.

I've looked over the various websites that describe people based on their color preferences, and honestly, they kind of remind me of those horoscope pages at the back of a newspaper - some possible truisms, sandwiched in between a bunch of vague concepts that a lot of people might somehow identify with. 

Hmm. Is being a cynic a "blue" trait?

I don't really care.
Wait. Is indifference a "blue" trait?
Aw heck!

I don't want to downplay all the PHDs out there who've spent so much time and energy analyzing people based on the colors they like, but I think that sometimes people like particular colors for other reasons.
In my case I think being surrounded by blue, and seeing so many different shades of it in both water and sky have caused me to like the color so much.

Blue: my favorite color.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013


Nothing says "Italian Cheese" like a gondola.
Just ask the folks at Boar's Head.
While browsing the cheese section at the local supermarket, my eye caught sight of a familiar shape.  It's no secret that I see gondolas in strange places at times, but in this case it was indeed a gondola on the label of one of the cheeses. 
In this case it was a mozzarella cheese, with an artistic rendering
not only of a gondola, but a few structures one might see around
the basin by St. Mark's Square.
Yes, I am well aware that mozzarella is patently Napolitano, and is believed to have been invented (by accident) in Napoli. But to the rest of the world, and especially as far away from Italy as North America,
Mozzarella is "Italian" - and nothing gets the message across that 
"this stuff is Italian" as effectively as putting a gondola on the label. 
The gondola is also on that proverbial list of "things that are Italian" for most of us way the heck over here.
For the record, I'm also aware that Boar's Head is not an Italian company - although it did start in New York City (a place known for great Italian food).
Let's take a closer look at that familiar shape:
Unlike some of the other product label gondolas I've seen, this boat appears to have the true shape and no modifications.  In fact I'm pretty sure that one or more photographs were used to produce this image. 

It seems that at some point, however, two things were done to the gondola:
First of all, the forcola was either eliminated, or perhaps obscured by the gondolier.
Secondly, it looks like the image is based on a photo that was flipped in reverse - otherwise the oar would be more prominent as it tapered back from the hands of the gondolier. 
The pontapied (that wedge for the back foot) is also more visible than I'd expect it to be if this image weren't reversed.
Graphic artists often reverse images of boats, aircraft, and automobiles if they don't like the direction they are pointing in. 
Someone once told me that it is more pleasing to the western eye to see a vehicle traveling from left to right.  I don't know if that's true, but it seems to be the case that this image has been reversed.

I've seen reverse images of gondolas many times.
Most of the time when you flip an image of a boat, nobody notices
(unless there's a name in view), ah, but do it with an asymmetric Venetian boat, and some of us will catch it.

I didn't buy this particular product, but having enjoyed many other Boar's Head products, I wouldn't hesitate to if I needed mozzarella.  Most of the time my family buys cheese, and other pizza-making supplies in bulk
(we really love pizza).

Apparently we're not the only pizza loving family.
I read somewhere recently that mozzarella is the most popular cheese in the US, and I'd imagine that most of that involves pizza.

I'm ending this post with my favorite cheese quote:
"I did not achieve this position in life by having some snot-nosed punk leave my cheese out in the wind."
-Ed Rooney, "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" 1986

No, it has little or nothing to do with Boar's Head mozzarella cheese with a gondola on the label.  I just love the quote.

This isn't the first time we've examined a product label here on the Gondola Blog - here are a couple more:
"I See Gondolas - RagĂș"
"Venezia on the Label - Biscotti".

And now a quote of my own:
"Everything is better with cheese".
-Greg Mohr ( a guy who really loves cheese).

Monday, March 18, 2013

Fresh Blanket in Minnesota

photos by John Kerschbaum
John looked out the window of his Minnesota home to discover clear blue skies and a fresh blanket of snow.  With spring approaching, the Minnesota gondolier had plans to get his boats uncovered. It was about time to start preparing them for a launch as the months warmed up, but it wasn't warm yet, and the extra four inches of snow certainly weren't going to help matters either.
He stepped out the back door and felt a crisp winter breeze brush his face and chill the back of his neck.  The dry air echoed with the sounds of a few winter birds as the wind played music through the empty branches of trees.
Crunching over the snow covered ground, John went to inspect his gondolas, resting quietly beneath the covers he'd so carefully built months ago. 
He could see fresh animal tracks in the newly fallen snow - evidence that he wasn't the only one anxious for spring to arrive.
Cold storage would have to continue a while longer, and while the sunshine sparkled like a thousand diamonds on that fresh snow, the gondolier knew that it was still just a matter of time before he could uncover his boats and do the work he'd spent much of the winter preparing for. 
It wouldn't be long before he could launch those beautiful boats on the water once again - water created by melted snow.  Once again he'd row his gondolas around with passengers proposing, relaxing, or celebrating things like birthdays, anniversaries, or maybe just the fact that snow eventually melts.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Irish Ingenuity

photo by Sean Jamieson
Sean Jamieson - owner of The Gondola Company and dedicated Irishman sent me this and I immediately scrapped my original plan for a St. Patrick's Day post.
What we're looking at here, in case you haven't noticed it yet, is a "different kind of canon".  Yeah, that's what we'll call it.  The canon is the little brass vase that rests on the crest of the bow deck, and often holds a flower or a flag.
Leave it to Sean to replace the brass flower holder with a much more Irish alternative:


Yes, a Jameson bottle (which I'm sure Sean dedicated himself to emptying first), that holds an arrangement of appropriately green flowers.
Nice job, Sean!
I think I need to have one of these for each of my boats...
I'd better start "emptying" some bottles right away.

Friday, March 15, 2013

Sunshine and Salt Water

As gondoliers, sometimes we take certain things for granted - like our work space.
We sometimes forget that we could be sitting at a desk or laboring at the bottom of a trench somewhere. We could be breathing coal dust at the bottom of a mine shaft, or, heck, it could be really bad - we could be choking from a cinched-up necktie while some demagogue of a boss barks orders at us about "monthly reports" or "sales quotas".  

Ooof! now that would be bad.

Instead, we get to spend most of our working time surrounded by water and enjoying sunshine, star-filled skies, and the sunsets that happen in between.

As Ira Gershwin said: "Nice work if you can get it!"

No, we don't make the same kind of money we might make in other jobs, but I truly believe that the quality of life and health associated with gondoliering make it well worth doing.

Lastly, and be honest here - would you rather make your living telling people how much they owe in taxes, or dealing with egotistical lawyers and such (many who are not having a great day), or would you prefer to witness birthdays, anniversaries, proposals, and other perfect moments being celebrated by people having truly great days?

Me: I choose sunshine and salt water.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Palina in Boston

photo by Joe Gibbons

I got a sneak peek at one of the paline from the Boston gondola operation.
Looks like it's freshly painted and ready for spring.
Some American gondola operations have these, others don't.
Then there are the ones that are worthy of theft.
I'd gladly steal this one...just not sure how I'd get it on the plane.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Just the Photo - Trasto da Prua

These carvings were hand-crafted by the legendary intagliador known as 
"Il Santo", they adorn the trasto da prua on my 51 year-old Wedding Gondola. This is timeless art.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Downside Up

 “Did you ever wonder if the person in the puddle is real, and you're just a reflection of him?”
- Bill Watterson (author and illustrator of "Calvin and Hobbes")

Here's the original photo:
That's gondolier Mike Bronstein on the Lucia, as he passes me on the Wedding Gondola on a perfect evening in Newport.

Here's another great reflection image courtesy of my friend
René Seindal at Venice Kayak:

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Things Could Be Worse

We all have bad days.
I'm still alive, and really, I don't have much to complain about,
but today wasn't a great day for me.
Change causes stress, and I got a lot of it today. 
It's days like this when I remember that things could be much worse.
So I'll tuck my kids in and kiss them good night, sleep in my warm bed with the love of my life, and wake up to a new day full of new opportunities.
Life is good, and really, things sure could be worse.

photo from the post:
"Bad Things Happen - Part 1 - Smashing, Burning, and Sinking".

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Nereo Zane's Photos

photo by Nereo Zane

I know there are a lot of great photographers in and around Venice, 
and the city seems to draw them from other places as well, 
but Nereo Zane is my favorite.
Five of his images have been submitted as part of a contest on the Commune di Venezia website.

Take a look at his images, taken in and around Venezia, at:

Monday, March 4, 2013


While in Venice we stopped in for lunch at Ristorante da Ivo with Nereo Zane and a few other friends.
I love this place, and they've been very supportive of past rowing expeditions - including our adventure down the Hudson in '07. 
And then there's the fact that the food is excellent.

So we had ordered our meals and I saw the procession of gondolas gliding by outside and decided to go snap a few shots of them while the food was being prepared.

Five or six boats went by and I noticed some familiar faces in my viewfinder: Nereo and my daughter Isabella (eight years old at the time)...who was sticking her tongue out with just the kind of sass that she's known for.

I'm really not sure if the gondoliers who passed by realized she was sticking her tongue out at me, or if they thought it was directed at them.

There are hundreds of great places to see and photograph gondolas and other boats in Venice, the spot outside Ristorante da Ivo is just one example.

Here are a few posts with photos from that day:

"Just the Photo - Gondola Framed by Iron"
"The View from Ristorante da Ivo - A Quiet Moment"
"The View from Ristorante da Ivo - Just a Hunch"
and "The View from Ristorante da Ivo - Ponte de le Colonne"

And after she stopped sticking her tongue out, my daughter actually picked up the camera and shot a few good frames of her own.

"Da Ivo Window Sequence 1 - gondola"
"Da Ivo Window Sequence 3 - Sandolo"
"Da Ivo Window Sequence 3 - Another Gondola"

Interesting how a cute little girl (when she's not sassing) can get some great reactions from the people she's photographing.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Free Traghetto Ride

If the title of this post sounds familiar, it ought to. 
Kathleen Gonzalez, host of the Seductive Venice blog
also wrote a great book called "Free Gondola Ride".
Kathleen has managed to build friendships within the ranks of some of Venice's gondoliers, and she has published a fun post based on recent experiences in Venice.
Here's a link to the post:

To learn more about the book, visit
and read my post from a while ago.