Saturday, November 30, 2013


Here's something you don't see very often (or ever).
A caorlina regatta is amazing to see, with nine boats, each rowed by six pumped up vogatori, plowing through the water and fighting for position.
Now imagine that it's not nine caorline...but fifty!
Think of the waves coming from a fleet of those big boats.
Nereo Zane caught the race which was part of the Festa Granda de S. Andrea.
See his post at:
Regata delle 50 caorline

There are lots of great photos.
Nereo includes details of the top four finishers, as well as the names of the guys in the boat that came in last.
Rowers of the caorlina that crossed the finish line last were given the name "Regatanti da Caorlina dei Morti" or "Rowers of Caorlina of the Dead".
It's one thing to come in last in a field of nine boats, but fifty? 
I can't imagine it.
If two boats were fighting for the 49th place finish, 
I bet that would be almost as interesting as the race for first.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Ready and Waiting

All up and down the Grand Canal you'll see them, ready and waiting for passengers.
They are long and sleek, glossy black ambassadors of the city of Venice.
Thirty-six feel long (give or take), asymmetric, and each built by hand,
there is nothing in the world quite like a Venetian gondola.

This photo was shot at the servizio across from the railway station. 
More photos from that sequence can be seen in the post"
                                                            "Servizio Gondola Ferrovia".

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Being the Only Gondolier in the Room

I sat down to write a post on the subject of family gatherings and kept going back to something I posted two years ago.
Finally I decided to just post it here with some minor tweaking.
Why reinvent the wheel?

Tonight is the first night of Hanukkah and tomorrow is our official day to give thanks here in the US (but I believe most of us should give thanks every day).
Here's my repost:

On your way out the door soon to a family gathering?
If so, you're probably experiencing a range of emotions.

We love our relatives, well, most of us love most of them.
They are genetically the most similar to us, but get them in a room together and you'll see both similarities and differences.
In many families there are recognizable common traits - whether appearance or personality based.
The shared physical traits don't cause any problems, but sometimes similar personalities don't get along...especially if people have had enough time together in the past to get sick of each other.
Welcome to the family gathering!

Why am I waxing on about family dynamics right now?
Because now, more than ever, you're likely to find yourself in a room full of relatives.
Between Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas eve, Christmas day, and New Years, just about everyone ends up in a room, house, apartment or other place full of relatives and/or friends.

If you're like me, you're one of the "weird ones".
Yes, there will be people at these parties who have "real jobs"
(and probably don't like their jobs nearly as much as you do).
There will be drunk relatives who can't help but belt out a bad version of
"O Sole Mio" when they see you walk in the door (and they will be certain that nobody else has ever come up with something so clever).
There will be folks who think that you push off the bottom with a pole,
jet skiers who think they can fully identify with your craft,
and someone who wonders why your college degree isn't being put to
better use (again with the whole "real job" mindset).
With a few exceptions, each of you reading this will probably be the only gondolier in the room.

My hope for all of you is that in the coming days you'll enjoy these gatherings.
After all, as a gondolier, you are an exceptional human being,
(no bias here, I swear)
and with great power comes great responsibility.
Let's look at some of the folks you'll encounter.
These are caricatures but many of them do exist.
I've also thrown in a few "do's and don'ts" for your consideration.

The Singing Uncle
As gondoliers we have an unusual variety of skill sets.
Most of us can outsing just about everyone in the room.
Really, you'd be surprised how bad an out-of-practice relative can sound when compared to someone who sings for a living.

Some sound even worse after a few drinks (then again, others might sound better).

So when that drunk uncle greets you with his best "O Sole Mio",
just laugh. Laugh like it really IS funny.
It may be hard to do, but no matter how much it might annoy you,

remember that he's doing it because he likes you.

It would be considered bad form to then blow him away with YOUR best "O Sole Mio". Instead, if you feel up to the challenge, teach him how to sing it right.
This may or may not be easy (or worth doing) depending on how drunk your uncle is. In no time, you and your drunk uncle can be serenading the whole place, whether they like it or not. Believe me, it's an obnoxious way.

Caution: if you do the job too well, your uncle might ask for a job.

The Tough-Guy Cousin
He's bigger than you, lifts weights, loves mixed martial arts,
and his favorite movie is Fight Club.

If you were to tell him that Venetian rowing was a "sport",
he'd probably laugh out loud at you.
(show him a copy of the sports page from last month and maybe he'll change his tune - if not, ask if he's ever been in the sports page).
Watch football on the couch next to him and you'll learn almost everything you need to know about him. Almost.

There's one thing that you and your cousin may not be aware of:
there's a good chance that his smaller cousin
(the gondolier)
could beat him in arm wrestling!
Caution: before you allow things to go there, and before you whip the guy in arm wrestling, remember that,
He's bigger than you, lifts weights, loves mixed martial arts,
and his favorite movie is Fight Club.

The Parents Who Paid For Your Education
Insert your own pulp and clichés here. You know them better than I do.
Maybe they didn't actually pay your college tuition, but they raised you.
Impressive jobs and status symbol cars are nice, but at the end of the day,
a lot of parents really only want a few things for their children:
they want their sons and daughters to be happy, safe, and able to provide for themselves. In short, a lot of parents want to make sure they prepared you for the world.

Love your parents.
Tell them how much you enjoy this funky job we do.
If you own your gondola operation, remind them of your job security (especially in this economy).
Then, do what far too few of us do until someone is terminally ill:
Thank them - for a bunch of things - think about some of the sacrifices they made for you and thank accordingly.
Tell them that you love them.
Express in whatever way you deem appropriate, that they did a great job as parents.

Ok, enough of the mushy stuff, let's talk now about
The Women
There are aunts, grandmas, sisters, cousins, some are younger than you,
some are older, but they are all female.
Why is that important? because as a gondolier
you have a keen awareness of all things romantic.

Romance is a woman's true primary language.

Most guys think they know about romance, but in truth...
most guys don't.

Most guys know about as much about romance,
as most ladies know about football.
Sure there are exceptions, but you get my point.
Most guys need to take a "romance as a second language" class.

The women in the room won't want to hear about the rowing, the wind,
the drunk idiots hanging from bridges, no.
They want to hear about the romantic stuff.
Proposals, anniversaries, surprises, and 9 out of 10 will make some kind of swooning noise when you tell them about how some guy last week proposed to his girlfriend by floating a message in a bottle.
Heck, a gondolier can almost "hold court" with the women at a family gathering.
caution: do too good a job and someone might want to date you...and they're related to you!

The Guy Who's Better Than You
He's got a "real job". Maybe he's got more degrees.
He may wear a Rolex, and he's probably arrived in a car that's worth more than you make in a year.
He's better than you - just ask him - he'll tell you.

He's determined to be the one to die with the most toys...and he'll probably succeed in dying before you do.
The stress of his pursuits will help speed that along.
Be his friend to the best of your ability, not because someday you might need him, but because whether he knows it or not...someday he'll need you,
along with everyone else in the room.
He just doesn't realize it right now.

Oh, and this guy is a classic example of some guys in the romance department.
his idea of romance involves buying a woman's heart.
The Screaming Kids
Well, they might not be screaming when you get there,
but at some point they will surely make a lot of noise.
If presents are to be opened,
there WILL be screaming.
As a gondolier, you're probably more energetic than most of the adults there. And if you regularly pilot a small boat in challenging conditions,
you're surely able to handle the stress of screaming kids.
You've probably had a few screaming kids on your boat now and then.

If it's Christmas - play Santa.
No, you don't need to wear the suit (but that can be really fun),
just be the one who distributes the presents.
Make a big deal out of every gift. Inspire the screaming.
Heck, join in and do some screaming of your own.
I'm in my forties and I still love it!

The Geezers
These are the really old folks.
To the kids they are about as exciting as the furniture that they are sitting on, but to them - everything going on in the room is fantastic!
Every person in the room is somehow connected with them,
and in one way or another,
every person there because of them.

I use the word "Geezer" for comedic reasons,
but also because I look forward to being one some day.
And I'm sure my great grandkids will find me about as exciting then as I found my great grandma when I was one of those "Screaming Kids".

The Apostle Paul said "be all things to all people".
I believe his message in that was to communicate in different ways for different kinds of people.
Speak to each person in a way they will best receive the message.
If you talk to the "screaming Kids" the way you would talk to your Great Grandma Ruth, they'll tune you out almost immediately.
More importantly, if you talk to your Great Grandma Ruth like you would to the "Screaming Kids", things will not go well.

The old folks would love to visit with you, to hear all about this unique job you have, and maybe impart some wisdom from their many years of experience.
Remember that they prefer things to move at a little slower pace, and may not hear as well as you do.
Take a breath, shift gears, and soak it up.

You are more than just your job - especially to the Geezers.
They've known you your whole life and have been proud of you since before you could ever realize it.
they see potential in you that you don't yet know about.
The time you spend with these folks is more valuable to you than you may realize...and it's more valuable to them than you can possibly imagine right now.

The Leading Ladies
There may be some women there who would like to get all the attention,
and then there are those who you should be sure to give credit and attention to.

Unless you came alone, the lady you came with should be at the top of your list.
There's an old saying in Texas:
"Dance with the one that brung you".
Wife, fiancee, girlfriend - if you arrived with her, you're gonna leave with her.
If she meant enough to you to bring her, tell her so, with your words and your actions.
This might sound elementary or silly, but it's an easy one to overlook.
If you're at a gathering of your family, you might want to disappear with the cousins you grew up playig with, or "occupy" the couch with the other guys to watch the game.
If this is your family, try not to abandon your lady - she might not know anyone else there.

The lady doing the cooking is often an unsung hero - sing to her.
She may be your mom, or another relative, but whoever she is, she's probably the only one working, and she deserves more credit than she'll probably get.
If you were going to sing for someone - sing to her.
And if you end up singing for everybody - sing in her honor.
If singing is not on your list of things to do, then raise a toast to the person or people who did the cooking.
Along the same lines, if your grandma baked a pie - tell her how much you loved it. She will beam.

Now, take a look around the room.
Is there someone who doesn't look like they want attention?
Maybe they're not having a good time?
Seek out the ones who are quietly hiding and at least ask them how they are doing, and if there's anything you can do for them.
Sure, loud carousing is what this time of year is known for,
but selfless caring is what it's really all about.

Blessings to you and your families from the Gondola Blog.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Providence 2014!

It has been announced that the US Gondola Nationals will be held next year in Providence, Rhode Island.  The place where it all started, with the GondOlympics in 2012 will be the host city once again - with Marcello and his fellow gondoliers at La Gondola rolling out the red carpet for us all.

A new facebook organization page has been set up so people can stay updated.
go to U. S. Gondola Nationals

Many of you have probably already received at least one e-mail about this,
and I'm sure there will be further developments.

If you live on the East Coast, you'll enjoy the shorter commute.
If you're on the West Coast, start planning your trip - it will be well worth it.
The 2014 US Gondola Nationals will take place on Columbus Day weekend, October 11th-13th.
One of the things I'm really looking forward to, is seeing WaterFire - an event that is unique to Providence (learn more at  The gondoliers in Providence have rowed cruises along the WaterFire route for years (something I've been openly jealous of).
Marcello says:
I hope to offer as many visiting gondoliers as possible the opportunity to row during WaterFire, if they are inclined to do so.

Now, all I have to do is figure out how I'm gonna wait almost eleven months.
Well, that and train up for it.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

The Circle of Six

So many amazing things happened at the U.S. Gondola Nationals,
and almost all of them were photographed.

In between the team arrivals, oar snappings,
and captivating wins and finishes,
something quiet happened. 

It wasn't showey or loud, and in fact unless you were part of it,
you might not have noticed it.

Several times, as we were navigating our way through this remarkable event, trying to decide the best solutions to the last-minute challenges presented by time, weather, and the differences between boats, The owners of six gondola operations stood in a circle and reasoned it out.

This is the closest thing we have of a photo of the "Circle of Six",
it's a low quality frame from a video clip when there were five of us.
The guy in black is Joe from Boston, going clockwise we see John from Minnesota, Sean from Coronado, Marcello from Providence,
and me in the black cap.
Tim wasn't in the circle as he was tending to some sort of hosting duty,
but we grabbed him shortly after.

We all know each other, and while some of us had seen each other before,
this was the first time we were all standing in one place.
I've often said that nobody understands a gondolier quite like another gondolier,
but taking that a step further, nobody, and I mean nobody understands the weird challenges faced by the owner of a gondola company like another owner.

Each guy had his own perspective, based on experiences and the way he was seeing things unfold.  Everyone was wise and fair, open to hearing what the other guys had to say. 

There were no titles, nobody had been elected to a position,
no credentials other than "hey, those are some of my guys out there and here's what they're dealing with", which was followed by "I know what you mean,
let's grab _____ and see what he thinks".
In a short time we were all there, with various gondoliers stepping in from time to time, either watching or adding their two cents.

This "Circle of Six" made the difference in more ways that I can count.
I have great admiration for each of the guys in that circle,
and it was an honor to be a part of it.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Catch of the Day

photo by Steve Elkins

My right-hand-man Steve Elkins sent me this photo from the docks today.
His text read:
Who needs to go fishing when you've got gondolas!

The "suicidal fish" phenomenon seems to occur more often when it rains.
I really don't know why.

Perhaps the fish, seeing that water is falling from the sky,
decided that "today is the day" to try swimming in this new water-filled
place called "the sky".
They break the surface with all their might,
only to land in one of my boats.
It really is a sad thing to find them, dead on my boat.
It's also sad that most of them are too small for eating.

I asked Steve to grab a ruler and see if this one was long enough to keep
(most are too small so we feel obliged to throw them back). 
He couldn't find a ruler, but estimated that it was right about two feet long.

Never a dull moment in the gondola business.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

New Use for an Old Hat

The gondolier's hat is a wonderful thing.
The design is timeless.
It does more than keep the sun of your head (a job it does quite well).
It serves as the ultimate piece of wardrobe - a guy rowing a boat is just a guy rowing a boat, but put him in a straw hat from Giuliana Longo or the Bampa brothers, and he's a gondolier!
A striped shirt doesn't hurt either, but in just the shirt he could be mistaken
for a mime or some other French guy.

Apart from holding your head in an upright position, the hat also works well
as a receptical for other things if turned upside down.
I've boarded many planes with a Giuliana Longo hat, and I can tell you from experience, that it makes a perfect "basket" for all those small pocket items
when going through security screening.

At the US Gondola Nationals, a bunch of guys from Providence showed up wearing snappy new hats.  At some point, Cole Hanson of Coronado noticed these three hats and snapped a photo fo them.

It seems that the guys from Providence recognized the "catch basin potential"
of these great cappelli as well, and deposited all their pocket items in their hats.

The gondolier's hat: It's an iconic piece of headgear,
and I'm sure there are other uses for it.

If you have any other applications,
feel free to mention them in a comment below.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Two Guys and a Gorgeous Sky

Mike Bronstein and Konnor Boivin - both gondoliers from my operation
in Newport Beach, rowing out to compete in the tandem sprint. 
They rowed hard and made me proud.
The sky was brilliant that evening, with colors rarely seen.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Just the Photo - Bows by the Beach

The pupparin and a sandolo are side-tied to a big caorlina
at the Gondola Getaway in Alamitos Bay.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Vieni Sul Mar - PVD Style

I used to live in Alaska.
Located just south of the Arctic Circle, I was in Nome - a very small city,
but the largest settlement in the region.

Yes, I know, you're reading this and saying
"where the heck are you going with this one, Greg?"

It was a long time ago, back at a time when the U.S. and Soviet Union were
deep in the throes of a cold war.  And while the cold war was hot in Europe,
things were different in our area.
It wasn't unusual to see a ship in our harbor with the hammer and sickle on the smokestack, and when that happened there might be a social exchange taking place in the community center or a place like that.

A funny thing would happen next:
The Americans would end up on one side of the room,
and the Russians on the other side.
After all, they spoke two different languages, so conversations weren't easy.
But what surprised everybody was what was happening in the middle of the room.
Natives of the region (known by outsiders as "Eskimo", but more correctly identified as Yupik and Inuit people), were in the middle.

Natives of both American and Russian origin were in the middle,
speaking the same language.
They had common ancestry, similar customs,
and in some cases they actually shared cousins and other relatives.

They were separated by water, politics, and even war (albeit a cold one),
and yet they knew a brother when they saw one.

Now, my point:
I always found that scenario amazing, and wondered what it must have been like to be in the middle of that room.

Rowing under the big bridge on the night of Friday, October 25th,
I got a little taste of it, as the guys from Providence took their turn
singing a song for the group.
A song we all knew, had all sung, and could have easily joined in on.
But all of us West Coasters were fascinated to hear how those guys from the East Coast might sing it.

The guys from Providence ("PVD" as I'd heard one of them say) filled the air with a beautiful and haunting version of Vieni Sul Mar - one which reminded me at times of monks in a monastery, but singing something in "our language".

I'd come to the event expecting some great exchanges, but nothing like the "middle of the room" experiences I was fortunate enough to have.

I raise my glass (filled with red wine or vodka) to my brothers from PVD.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Messing Around...

Friday morning, the day of the US Gondola Nationals qualifying rounds,
a bunch of us traveled from the Sunset Gondola docks to the racing area
in the various boats that made up the Venetian fleet that weekend.

I climbed around on the bow of one boat and then jumped to another.
It wasn't really anything amazing, but it prompted Stefano to do a little "gondola weirdness" of his own.

He rowed over so he could reach out and grab the ferro of the other boat...

stepped on the bow, and proceeded to row boat boats.

I suppose it's the closest a gondolier gets to riding two dolphins.

Scottish author Kenneth Grahame wrote a short phrase of pure brilliance
in his book The Wind in the Willows:
"There's nothing . . . absolutely nothing . . . half so much worth doing
as simply messing around in boats."

Few statements have ever made more perfect sense to me,
and as you can see from the above photos, my friend Stefano agrees.

Friday, November 15, 2013

Catchin' a Ride

At the end of the day, after all the races were over, everybody needed to 
make their way to the other side of harbor for the award ceremony at the Huntington Harbour Yacht Club.
Some of us had vehicles there, but most climbed into boats.
Here's a couple guys from Providence and one from Minnesota, 
catchin' a ride.

From left to right:
Derek "Luciano" Sabatini and Matthew "Marcello" Haynes of Providence, Rhode Island, and John Kerschbaum of Stillwater, Minnesota.

Usually gondoliers don't ride as passeners, but it had been a long day.
And besides, these guys made it look good.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

A Boatload of Great People

Really, when I look back at the events that took place on and around the U.S. Gondola Nationals in late October of 2013, the moments that had
"so many remarkable things" happening within them were many.

This photo is but one simple example.

To begin with, after two days of crazy schedules that involved late night bar visits followed by early morning rowing events...people actually showed up for a breakfast cruise!  Really, that was amazing.

That cruise was hosted by Gondola Getaway - in twenty years this was the first invitation I'd received, and I was glad I came.

As luck would have it, two of my very favorite gondoliers were rowing the boat I was on (Andrew McHardy - closest to camera and Mark Schooling - standing on bow).

On board this boat were the owners of six gondola operations:
(clockwise from bottom left)
Tim Reinard of Sunset Gondola
Mike O'toole of Gondola Getaway (wearing black visor)
Joe Gibbons of Gondola di Venezia in Boston, MA
Sean Jamieson of The Gondola Company in Coronado, CA
John Kerschbaum of Gondola Romantica in Stillwater, MN
and me (not pictured...because I took the picture)

To add to the experience, we had the first and third place finishers in the solo distance race:
Stefano (glasses and beard in blue jacket),
and Ricardo (blonde hair with glasses in purple shirt).

Solange - winner of the Spirit Award was seated between Stefano and Ricardo, and the guy to the right of Stefano was Michael McBride - General Manager at Gondola Getaway.

I don't want to say it was a "United Nations" of gondolas, because that brings to mind a bunch of nations in potential conflict. 
Really, it was a remarkable grouping of enthusiasts - all of whom love the gondola and the business that surrounds her.

Friendships were made, food was enjoyed, and another great memory was carried away with everyone who got off the boat that day.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Two Oarsmen of the Apocalypse

Going in to the U.S. Gondola Nationals, many of us didn't really know what to expect from the other competitors. Some rowers really surprised us - such was the case with two guys from Coronado.

Matt "Matteo" Erickson and Eric "Enrico" Bender (who many of you know as the "Oar Snapper") were the last to run the tandem sprint time-trial Friday night.
Up until that moment John and I were in second place and Marcello and Rafaello from Providence were sitting happily in first.

It was dark, and I don't think many others were really paying much attention when the last boat went out with Matteo and Enrico on board, but when it came back...a lot of us took notice.

After the two guys from Coronado finished, I said to Marcello and Rafaello:
"Enjoy second place, we certainly liked it there for the short time we had it"

Matteo and Enrico had made their statement,
and they were clearly the ones to watch the next day.

Many of us in the LA/Orange County area gondola operations know each other, and came into this with a decent idea of how our local competitors would do, but the guys down at The Gondola Company in Coronado are somewhat insulated. 
San Diego isn't all that far of a drive, but it's far enough.

It could be said that the two guys from Coronado grew up rowing,
with Enrico (age 25 on race day) having rowed since he was 15,
and Matteo (age 23) rowing since he was 18. 
It's not quite the same as growing up rowing in Venezia
(from the age of, say, five), but the medals don't lie.

On Saturday they both competed in the sprint solo - taking first and second place.  Matteo came in first, beating Enrico's time only by about one second.

In the solo distance races Enrico came in second place, and Matteo came in fourth, with a time difference that was less than thirty seconds.

Is it any surprise that by the time these two climbed aboard a boat to row the tandem distance race, everyone was watching?

Things got real quiet next, as the two guys from Coronado prepared their boat - hammering in wedges around their forcole and lubing the rowing points.
On land these two guys were fun, friendly, the kind of guys you'd invite to a party, but now they were showing another side - a side that had been there all along, but nobody had bothered to look for it.
These were top level athletes getting ready to step into the ring.

Once all three boats in the heat were ready and positioned at the starting point, these two guys, who'd competed against each other in the solo events,
got down to business and rowed as a team.

Enrico recounted the experience to me:
The second we heard "go", we instantly fell into a perfect rhythmic rowing cadence. We could not have had a stronger start.
We held that pace and even kicked it up a notch at the home stretch.
Communication is key. That race was so fun!
The teamwork aspect made it so worth it, win or lose.

Rowing in a team situation is a whole different sport, with lots of unique disciplines. One of the keys to success is communication.
Matteo and Enrico got the memo on that:
We communicated the entire time. Talking to each other the whole race. When we needed to speed up we communicated that. If I was out-rowing him, he told me instantly and I slowed to his liking.
We just communicated well and ultimately that was the key to pulling away from the competition.

...And pull away they did.
Matteo and Enrico finished more than three minutes ahead of the second gondola to cross the line in their heat, and two minutes ahead of the lead boat in the other heat.

Such rowing prowess inspired one gondolier to refer to these two guys as
"The Two Oarsmen of the Apocalypse".

Here's what they looked like as they finished their race:

And here's what they looked like as they stepped forward to receive medals:

Yep, they snap oars and win races.
If you see them rowing behind you, it won't be for long - better hope they snap an oar before they catch up and pass you.

They are "The Two Oarsmen of the Apocalypse".

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

One Song

Thirty plus gondoliers,
from eight different operations,
all singing one song.

video by Cassandra Mohr
The song, of course, is "Santa Lucia" - one that just about every gondolier knows.
We sang it earlier in the day as part of the opening ceremony, but otherwise it wasn't really rehearsed.  What you see and hear is pretty much off the cuff.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Remembering Our Veterans

May God's blessings be upon those who have served our great country,
and to their families as well.  So many of us will never be able to understand what it means to give so much to one's country,
but we have all benefitted from the service of those brave souls.

Happy Veterans Day, my friends.

If you didn't serve, thank a vet.
If you did serve, THANK YOU!

Saturday, November 9, 2013

One HECK of a Nice Ride-Along

My friend Tamás Fehér in Hungary sent this in today.
It's a few years old, but he just came across it.

There are few boats in the lagoon as impressive as the big boat at Querini.
The writer of this piece was lucky enough to catch a ride (with 18 people rowing) during the famous Vogalonga.
It's a little long, but well worth reading:
"Touring Venice by Boat"

Friday, November 8, 2013

Leaving the Lagoon

I snapped a couple shots as Simon and Steve were heading out of the lagoon
in Newport with passeengers aboard.

I love this job.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Part of History

On the morning after the U.S. Gondola Nationals, many of us were hosted by Mike O'toole at Gondola Getaway - an operation that started there over thirty years ago in Alamitos Bay.  Looking back even further, gondolas actually operated there back in 1910. The canals there were designed with Venetian gondolas in mind and many were brought in shortly after construction.

Standing on the docks there, you can feel the history all around you.
A hundred years ago there were several gondola operations in places like this - many in Florida and California.  Many decades later the fire was re-ignited by Mike O'toole.  It was great to be invited for a breakfast cruise, seeing old friends who row there and meeting some of the new staff.

The operation recently added a few new boats to the fleet including this full-sized gondola which has been named "Erla". 
I'd heard many things about this boat, so when I saw her being prepared for a cruise, I reached for my camera.

Gondolier Ben Landis was busily primping the boat.
I waited for him to finish and asked him to pose with the boat.

A hundred years ago, boats just like this plied these very waters,
rowed by guys with just as much pride in what they do.

Looking through the photos of that day, this image caught my eye;
it seemed so timeless, and then I realized that if I just dropped the color from the photo, we'd have a picture that matches the history of this place.

History - as gondoliers we get to play a unique part of it.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Heroes Who Helped Make it Happen

While we were watching and cheering with excitement as rowers competed on the water, many of us probably lost sight of the fact that none of it would have been possible without the planning and support of certain people - people many of the competitors never noticed.

To begin with, I must tip my hat in thanks to Tim Reinard of Sunset Gondola who put so much of his heart and soul into putting together such an amazing event.  This was not my event (I'm just a guy writing about it) - it was Tim's, and he deserves thanks from everyone who got to enjoy and be a part of it.

To those gondola operators who stepped in at the eleventh hour and helped complete things - my thanks and admiration are great for you (especially Marcello of La Gondola in Providence).
This was a great adventure - one which required some quick thinking - just the kind of thing a gondola operator is good at.

Ah, but there were a few others who did their jobs so quietly and efficiently that few really noticed them.

Before anyone even stepped on a boat to compete, I'd had some conversations with Nereo Zane in Venice.  As a member of the GSVVM and a Venetian who's watched regattas his whole life, Nereo was uniquely qualified to help us with rules and guidelines.  Based on Nereo's input, rules were written, and we knew how things should go.  It was my hope that such things as "why someone should be disqualified" wouldn't need to be addressed, and thankfully I was right. 
But we had guidelines and were able to proceed with confidence.
Many thanks to Nereo and his associates in the Veneto for their expert help.

When it came to timekeeping in sprints and qualifiers, we were lucky to have among our ranks, a gondolier who'd grown up in the sailing world. 
Konnor Boivin intuitively knew just what to do in order to keep track of everyone's times and things ran quite smoothly.
Konnor had lots of experience with such things in both sailboat racing and other types of paddle and rowing competitions.  Thanks to Konnor and all the others who stepped in to help as line judges and such.  As John and I were making our turn late Friday evening (in the dark), somoeone was on shore to tell us where we were in order to make our turn properly - a special thanks to whoever that was on shore.

While Konnor and others were keeping track of things on the land, there was someone else who a similar job on the water - flying along in a chase boat. 
Derek "Luciano" Sabatini of Providence, Rhode Island provided stopwatch service for the distance races - where the starting line was out in the main channel and the finish line judging point was across from the beach.  Many of the competitors had never done this sort of thing before, so the patient clearly-worded instructions from timekeepers and boat drivers really helped. 
Marcello of Providence told me:
"That was very much in character for him,
often sacrificing rowing himself for better organization on shore, particularly on WaterFire evenings.
Very much a team player"

providing a platform for the timekeeper wasn't the only job for the chase boat.  The captain also had to lead the rowers through the course, as many hadn't seen it prior to racing.  Along the way, other chase boats were also invloved, capturing photos and video, as well as making sure rowers behaved while competing. Perhaps one of the most crucial duties of the chase boat staff was to keep the waterways clear as the racers followed the route.
We were fortunate to have Bob Senske (who insures many gondola operations) and his nimble little boat for the whole time.
We also received on-the-water support from Tony Storti and members of his family, who managed to snap off some great photos while helping keep the course clear.

I would be remiss (and a terrible husband) if I didn't also mention a certain press release which my wife sent out - resulting in extra attention from the press.

In between all of these support beams, there were many other planks
helping to support the structure.

Many thanks to all of you.