Saturday, June 29, 2013


It was a hot day in Newport today.
Oh sure, it wasn't as hot as say, the Arizona desert or parts of Morocco,
but by Newport standards it was hot.

Many of us had been out in the sun for a while, and not surprisingly,
many of us were more than interested in seeing that sun go down.

Predictably, the bright ball of fire finally crashed down into the horizon once again.
Everyone knew the sun would set, but few had predicted that there would be so much color.

Yes, tonight we saw what I like to call a "watermelon sunset", with all the colors as vivid as they can be, reflecting oh so beautifully off the water.

At some point in the process, as the waning light worked its way through the whole spectrum of colors, it seemed to pause for a while on a bright pinkish-orange tone as if it had found its new favorite color (or flavor): watermelon.

Things didn't get vivid all of a sudden, of course.
We started out kinda like most evenings.

Bob and his passengers enjoying the serenity.
Mike heads under the Newport Blvd. bridge with a happy couple.

Then, seemingly in a matter of minutes, things got amazingly colorful.
My passengers knew they'd picked the right night to be out on the water.
As we followed my friend Mark Schooling, admiring the watermelon sky,
I told them "this doesn't happen every night", then I captured this perfect moment.

Mark, two passengers, two people in a canoe,
and two more in the water - all happy as clams at high tide.
Then Konnor cruised by on the Lucia with a smile.
Next I turned a corner and had the pink sky behind me.
Tonight my last cruise was on one of our motorized boats.
These vessels have what's called a "torpedo stern" - which is
said to leave no wake.
As you can see, no wake there.

See, no wake.
Colors changed, and then got richer, until at just the right moment I was able to snap a shot of Bob once again - this time against a backdrop that would make any artist jealous.
Famous Rolling Stone Keith Richards once said:
"It's good to be here, It's good to be anywhere"

So very true.
Tonight, it was good to be out there on the water.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Sunset to Mothers 4 - Everybody "Synco!"

Somebody was missing this time around.
Several people said to me "I wish Synco was here",
or "it's not the same without John and Trish".
And while we all understand that the move was important to them,
we sure do miss having them around.

So much so that when I was making my way back to the camera
on it's tripod to set the timer for another "Group Shot",
Tim and a few others started talking about doing the Synco.
Of course we all knew what that meant.
This resulted in one of my favorite versions of the Group Shot.

Some "Synco" better than others.

For the uninitiated, John Synco is a gondolier who is known
for several things, I assembled a nice collection of photos of the man
in this post "Happy Birthday John Synco!"

He was part of the post "The Conversation".

His writings on passaporti are the subject in the post of the same name:

But the whole drinking pose is explained and exposed
in the post The "Synco Pose".

So here's to you, John, Trish, and Olive.
We hope you're happy, healthy, and prosperous,
and we hope to see you again.


To gain a better understanding of what it's like before the camera flashes for these crazy Group Shots, check out my post that exposes "The Madness of a Group Shot".

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

To Treviso and Back!

photo by Nereo Zane
Earlier this month Nereo wrote me:
I'm driving to GSVVM docs for a two days row toward Treviso and back along the Sile river on a caorlina. I'll keep you informed.
I was confused (were they rowing UP a river and back?),
I was jealous (of course),
and I was thrilled for my friend who was going on such an adventure.

The route was from the GSVVM rowing club, across the lagoon,
and up the Sile river...and back.

Here's a map.

The group consisted of:
Emanuela (Manu), Silvia, Chiara, Paolo, Bruno, Ferruccio, Nereo
but they were referred to by some of their friends as
"the crazy people" - crazy for taking on such a row.
Overall they covered a little more than 100 kilometers in two days, rowing a GSVVM caorlina.
The trip to Treviso was, as Nereo put it "a contraria",
which means against the flow.
Crazy people.
Crazy people who make me jealous.

To see photos and read more, go to Nereo's post "Escursione remiera Mestre - Treviso".

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Sunset to Mothers 3 - Fondling the Cavalli

After the presentation of marineri,
Tim talked about the upcoming Gondola Nationals taking place in late October.  Then I asked for the floor and did a little baiting of my own.

On this occasion, I chose to single out John Kerschbaum in Minnesota,
but I'm hoping that any and all gondoliers reading this will consider
joining us in southern California for a great series of events.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Sunset to Mothers 2 - Marinere

After dinner and socializing, announcements were made.
As is often the case, a couple of Tim's gondoliers were inducted into the Order of the Marinere - gondoliers who have reached a level of ability that they are worthy of wearing the traditional white overshirt known as a "marinera".

Tim begins his announcement.
Toasting is an important component, of course.
 "Ricardo di Montagna" is presented with a crisp white marinera.
 It fits well, and the new inductee raises a toast with Tim and Stefano.
 Nico is the next one to be tapped in.
All smiles as the shirt goes on.
New and previous members raise a toast.
From left to right: "Rotto Sorriso", Nico, Tim, Stefano, and "Ricardo di Montagna".

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Summer Eurail Pass Deal

If you're planning on visiting La Serenissima this summer,
and getting there by train, the Eurail folks may have a deal for you.
Props to Tamás Fehér for directing my attention to this.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Sunset to Mothers 1 - Food and Music

 Since right after gondolas hit the water in Huntington Harbour,
the folks at Sunset Gondola have been showing the rest of us
how great it is to get a bunch of gondoliers and friends together.
This week was the "summer edition" and like before,
everyone who came had a great time.
This really is a remarkable thing; remarkable because
we don't really DO anything remarkable, but everyone
comes away saying "wow, can't wait til the next one".
The thing is, everyone there, for the most part, is a gondolier.
While we may not all see eye-to-eye on a lot of things
(there are all sorts of different perspectives represented),
on one very important level, we all "GET" each other.
Nobody understands a gondolier, the things he does,
and the challenges he faces - lilke another gondolier. 
And while for most of the time gondoliers are kind of "lone wolves",
this one night every so often, we get to spend time with those who
understand us most - the people who are just as weird as we are.
Like always, things begin at the Sunset Gondola office.
Folks arrive one or two at a time, trickling in from wherever
they were forced to be until they could finally get away. 
Some of the faithfuls get things going - things like cooking and laying
out everything that one might need to eat or drink.
Andrew McHardy works the stove while
Ian McCabe (a.k.a. "Basso") enjoys the moment.
This time we had grilled sausages, crackers and brie,
and various wines and such for starters.
Next we all enjoyed pasta in a garlic and anchovy sauce
with Italian parsley that was just brilliant.
Sauce - on the way to becoming brilliant.
Another standard ingredient in these get-togethers is music.
Gondoliers are at the very least - fans of music,
and in most cases,
musicians themselves. 
Some bring their voices, others bring instruments as well.
One of Tim's gondoliers, a guy by the name of Cully, is one of those people who is just fluent in music.  This time he brought a clarinet.
Friends continued to arrive.
At one point Stefano (a gondolier who has rowed in several locations including my own), arrived after a long and serious ride on a bike.
I caught him doing what we all want to do from time to time when we're hot and sweaty:
Later, sitting around and swapping stories, Andrew played an encore version
of his great "Gondolier's Song". 
I grabbed my camera and tried to record it, but he was too quick
(and I was too clumsy with the camera), but suffice to say that it was
just as terrific as when he played it under the bridge back in June of 2010.
Here's a post featuring that song:
Next, Stefano grabbed the guitar and graced us with "Vieni sul Mar" - another song that gondoliers around here like to join in on.

Another "Supermoon"

Tonight we had another one of those pesky "supermoons" peeking
through the clouds and shining over Newport.
It's supposed to be even bigger tomorrow.
We'll see.  Whatever the case, moon or no moon, I love my job.

Friday, June 21, 2013

First Day

photo by Aaron McCullough
Happy first day of summer, my friends.
And to my friends in the Southern Hemisphere:
Thanks for letting us borrow this great season,
We promise to take good care of it and send it back when we're done.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Another Pilgrimage

Last night I was fortunate enough to be at Sunset Gondola,
with friends once again, for another one of Tim's famous get-togethers.
Some of the same activities (which have become well-loved traditions)
took place, and we had a great time as always.
Much more can, and will be written, but for now,
I'll just give you one of our group shots as proof that we were there,
we had a great time, and life is good for Southern California gondoliers.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Glow Worms

I first posted about these little fireflies of the sea back in October of 2009 in my post "On the Water".
That was the first time I'd seen them here in Newport.
Since then I've seen them roughly once a year, although not reliably in the same month each year - the first time I witnessed their display was in October.
It's just past the middle of June and I began seeing them again four nights ago. 
It's possible that they've also appeared at places and times where I wasn't there to notice them.
Like the Northern Lights, this is a phenomenon that's amazing...and yet very hard to catch photos or video of.
Last night I was finally able to capture very shaky video clips of the glow worms as they lit up at the surface.

Here's the first clip:

As you can see, these creatures emit a glow that's just like a glow-stick or those tube-necklaces they sell at amusement parks. 
It's a bright green hue and they move around quite a lot.
Some make a straight shot across the water (and they really do move fast),
but most can be seen squiggling around one patch of water.

I did some research and I believe these little glow worms are polychaete annelid Odontosyllis.  The characteristics of this species, as observed in Bermuda and the Cayman Islands match those of the glowing worms I'm seeing here in Newport.

My first encounter with this species was in 2009.  
I'd been on that same waterway for sixteen years and never saw them before. 
In addition, each year I see them, it seems as though there are more of them glowing and interacting.   It would not surprise me to learn that they are new to the area, having been artificially introduced.  Yes, I could definitely be wrong,
but I know that they weren't seen from '93 to '08, and then there they were.  Heck, it could be that some of you rowing in other waterways have been seeing these critters for decades, and the ones I've just started observing are transplants from your waterway.

I've mentioned these things to other people who are, and have been locals for some time; the response has always been the same - they think I'm talking about bioluminescent plankton associated with red tide. 
That phenomenon is a real wonder, one which I've marveled at each time I've seen it, but it manifests itself in a different way.

These are glowing worms.

Here's a better view:

In reading about polychaete annelid Odontosyllis, I've learned that the glowing relates to reproduction.  In this species, both sexes glow. 
The female tends to glow brighter, she tends to move around a lot in the same spot, creating a cloud. 
The cloud consists, at least in part, of eggs - waiting to be fertilized by the males.  The small cloud created by the female seems to enhance the glow of the worm herself.  The males (also glowing) are attracted to the eggs, and, well, that's how little glow worms are made.  These worms live mostly in sediment at the bottom, and usually don't rise to the surface except to mate.

Now there's what you can see as you're out there rowing in the dark,
and then there's what you get when you're hunched over the side,
holding your precious cellphone just inches above the water. 
The glow worms aren't very cooperative, and the autofocus in my cellphone seems to follow suit, but last night I was able to get a few decent captures of those little glowing buggers. 

If I could truly capture the experience to share with you, it would begin with a surprising first spotting. 
Next the gondolier and his passengers realize there are more of them. 
As the boat continues to glide along, we see dozens, then hundreds of them. 
At certain points it's as if you're rowing on a sky of green stars,
which twinkle and move - with the occasional shooting star catching your eye.

If any of you have seen these glowing worms, or something like them,
I'd love to hear about it.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Bella with the Camera

photos by Isabella Mohr

Today I had the pleasure of taking my youngest daughter Bella on a cruise as photographer. 
It was her first go-round in that capacity and she did not disappoint.
Here are a few of her better images of the gondola - the Phoenix.

Yeah, I'd say my girl has an eye for things,
could it be because she's spent her whole life around gondolas?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Pizza Delivery in Boston

photo by Joe Gibbons
Joe Gibbons of Gondola di Venezia sent me this fun photo, along with the following message.
Hi Greg  here is a new twist on pizza delivery.
I was operating the pedal boats from another doc
with Steve's son Matt.
Steve, his wife Sue and his son Mike delivered us
a nice pizza on Sunday afternoon.
Ciao,  Joe Gibbons

For the record, I am a great fan of pizza, and Joe knows this. 
He also knows that one of the best pizza experiences I ever had was in Boston.
Thanks for making my mouth water, Joe!

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Excitement and Color

Things are really starting to ramp up in Newport. 
Our little quiet lagoon - where we've operated alone for so many years -
has become home to several other boat rental operations in just the last few months. 
All of a sudden I'm jockeying for position with pontoon boats, Duffys, kayaks and stand-up-paddlers, just to leave or return to dock.  It's exciting, and reminds me a little of what I've seen in some East Coast waterways like Virginia Beach.
Once out on the water, it was an absolutely perfect day,
the kind you wish you could bottle and sell. 
As the sun made a gradual retreat for the evening,
we saw colors that would inspire any artist to puck up a brush
(and inspired many of us to pick up our cameras and phones
to snap a shot or two).
Mike passes by on the Wedding Gondola.
photo by Isabella Mohr
One final "good-bye" from the sun.
Bob heads out as the sky starts to show new colors.
A view off the stern.
Tequila sunrise colors at the end of the day.
One of my passengers snapped this shot, just to capture some
of that radiant blue.  This photo was not color-enhanced in any way.
photo by Nicole C.

Greener Grass, Bluer Water

photo by Nereo Zane

It may be a bold statement, but living in Southern California,
I know that I'm in one of the best places to call home. 
People from all over the country and many other countries go to great lengths to get here and stay here.
Now perhaps this is a prime example of the "grass is always greener" syndrome, but as I thumb through the photos in this link, all I can think of is how I'd love to be calling Venice my home.

Not long ago Nereo Zane was on the water with his Nikon to capture images of the action as youngsters and young ladies squared off in the lagoon in a series of races.

Regate circuito intersocietario (2^ tappa)

As I go through the sequence of images, I recognize places, people,
and even boats that I recognize.  I think about how great it must be to participate and/or watch your kids participate in such contests. 
I see Bepi Suste at the award ceremony (along with some other familiar faces), and I think about how living in the Veneto must be amazing.
I wonder if the water is bluer there.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Three

photo by Cassandra Mohr
Not long ago I shared a photo in my post "Wedding Flotilla" of three gondolas beached alongside each other.  It was a great day in Newport, especially for the couple I married and their family and friends. After the ceremony, we took to the bay once again and staff photographer Cassandra snapped some great images.
Yes, she is my daughter.
Throw out your best snarky comments about nepotism if you like, but the truth is that she's literally grown up on and around gondolas, and at the age of fifteen, there are few people I know who can take a better picture of a gondola.
One of the things I've taught her is that there are certain angles of the boat that show her curves best.  It looks like she was paying attention because she managed to snap a shot from the Lido Bridge of all three three of the best orientations to the camera.  We call them the three versions of the "three-quarter shot", and she managed to get them all in one shot.
That's my girl.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Keeping Count

The marriage proposal.

Some people only see it happen in movies.

Some have witnessed only one or two.

Anyone who’s ever been married has either asked or answered the  
“big question”.  It seems that no matter where it takes place, whether in a restaurant, on the beach, or at the top of the Eiffel Tower, when a guy drops to one knee and pulls out a sparkly ring - nobody is unfazed.
People stop and watch, hold their breath, often cheer after she says "yes".

In my capacity as gondolier, I’ve seen it happen more times than I can count,
and in all honesty - it just never gets old.

Looking back on my twenty years on the back of a gondola, I now wish that I’d kept track of how many proposals I've seen. Roberto of NOLA Gondola has been counting his and I must admit a little envy there. Roberto and his boat the Bella Mae have now played host to just over 250 successful marriage proposals.

I wish I'd had the foresight to keep a count when I started taking cruises. 
I’m sure that several of you reading this are nodding your heads in agreement, having witnessed as many if not more. 
Most of you would probably also agree that it never gets old.

For me, at least, it’s just as exciting as it was so many years ago.

I still empathize with the nervous guy as he approaches and navigates his way through the unfamiliar waters of when and how to pop the question.

Whether you identify with the guy or not, it’s still one of the biggest moments in the lives of both people in your boat.

It’s still interesting to observe and wonder:

Will he get down on one knee?

Will somebody cry?

What's the ring look like?

Did he manage to get a ring that she likes...and in the right size?

Will he be smooth or just trip his way through it?

Will she be expecting it, or totally surprised?

And of course, will she say "yes?"
They almost always do. Almost always.

No matter what - it's gonna be interesting, and it never gets old.