Tuesday, December 30, 2014
Right now we're getting some much needed precipitation and clear skies are a memory of last week (when this shot was taken). I'm ok with that. We need the rain, and I like a certain amount of gray skies.
I'm also good with it because we had clear conditions for the Christmas Boat parade.
Here's hoping that we'll have a dry week surrounding Valentine's Day.
Thursday, December 25, 2014
Wednesday, December 24, 2014
Sunday, December 21, 2014
you begin to notice the variety of different boats that pass by.
Some are bigger than others.
Some are louder than others.
Some are brighter than others.
Quite often, the most impressive entries are all three:
bigger, louder, and brighter,
but there are a few exceptions.
One of my favorites each year is what we call the "Shark Boat".
This one's tiny, but mighty.
It's a small Zodiac-style inflatable with an outboard motor.
The pilot generally flanks a larger well-decorated yacht.
Pound-for pound, this boat may have more lights per square foot
than any other boat in the procession.
Ah, but it's the design that I'm a fan of:
it's a shark, wearing a Santa hat, and the lower jaw of the mouth
has a chomping motion as the boat bounces by.
Here's a video clip from tonight:
I've never actually seen the "Shark Boat" affect a bite on another boat.
I'm not even sure if it can bite, but then I'm not about to get close enough to find out.
Saturday, December 20, 2014
Friday, December 19, 2014
Here in Newport Beach, the Christmas Boat Parade is upon us once again.
At the last minute we had some friends in the area who hadn't seen the
parade from a gondola and we felt the need to remedy that, so off we went
in two gondolas. Simon jumped aboard to row the second boat, and ended
up filling the foreground of some pretty decent photos and video clips.
After watching the whole parade spin through the turning basin
in front of our docks, we ducked under the Lido bridge to catch it again.
It's a neat trick: go under a bridge, and get a second helping of parade.
Wednesday, December 17, 2014
After the US Gondola Nationals in 2014, my wife and I drove up to Boston
and visited with Joe Gibbons.
He showed us around, pointed out all the interesting places,
brought us in to see his boats, and made us feel welcome and at-home.
For having just been hauled out after a busy summer,
the Boston gondolas were in great shape.
A few days later the gondolas were moved into an enclosure for winter.
At the end of our visit, we stopped in the Little Italy neighborhood,
had some phenomenal pizza, enjoyed a pitcher of Narragansett,
and shared lots of stories and memories.
The gondoliers in Boston have an enviable location and an exemplary operation. The fleet is well-kept and of manageable size.
Many thanks to Joe for his hospitality,
and for showing his beautiful boats to us.
Tuesday, December 16, 2014
Saturday, December 13, 2014
Out on the water tonight, my passengers and I enjoyed a well-lit shoreline,
with so many homes decorated. Alas, I didn't think to snap any photos of them, so you'll have to settle for this shot of the new Winery restaurant.
We'd expected to see lots of lights on the homes, as well as on passing yachts. We hoped we'd see some stars overhead as well, but we were not expecting to see some of those stars go shooting by.
As it turned out there was a meteor shower this evening.
I saw at least a dozen in an hour, just out of the corner of my eye.
My passengers were on their honeymoon, so lots of wishes were made as the stars went shooting by.
Wednesday, December 10, 2014
on the final day of the US Gondola Nationals in 2014.
With a good running start, he passes under Crawford Street Bridge,
making a mad dash towards the finish line, which is a little ways down-river.
Tuesday, December 9, 2014
For most folks, "deck the halls with boughs of holly" is the norm,
but for some of us gondoliers, it's:
"deck the bows with battery-powered Christmas lights".
Oh sure, it may not have the same poetic ring to it, but it sure looks good.
I just got finished carefully wrapping the perimeter of one of my motorized gondolas in a radiant blue.
Of course, in Newport Harbor, there are an estimated 10,000 boats.
Most of them are painted white, and have all manner of decorative lights
draped from stem to stern.
Next week everyone who can, will be out on a boat in Newport to see the famous Christmas Boat Parade.
What that means to me as a gondolier is that there will be thousands of people driving boats, who won't be looking for me. They'll be too busy watching the parade and on a black boat in the dark, they'll have a tough time even seeing me. So these fancy blue lights aren't just for decoration...they're a survival tool.
So this year we're decking our bows (and the rest of the hulls too)
with these special blue lights, both to be seen, and to be stylish.
Monday, December 8, 2014
My good friend Nereo Zane sent these images from the other night
in the lagoon. Nereo wrote:
Last Saturday we finally launched the new caorlina "Gianni"
in memory of a historical member who died last year while working on the new carriages of Mestrina.
Mestrina, of course, is the GSVVM's 14-oar quattordesona, which was expertly designed and built by Agostino Amadi - a famous boat builder in Burano.
The Mestrina is so big, that she is transported to and from the hoist
on rolling cradles that some club members call "carriages".
Nereo also said:
This late afternoon we will be in two processions on Canal Grande with boats enlightened with led chains.
The boats look great, and very well-lit.
In fact it looks like they would do well in a Christmas parade
in Newport or Huntington Harbour.
Sunday, December 7, 2014
clothing choices follow suit.
Some gondoliers pull their boats out of the water,
while others reach for the "winter uniform".
The pants are black, as is the sailor-collared overshirt
(known as a "marinera").
Some gondoliers keep with the navy and white stripes,
but instead of a T-shirt - it's a thick knitted sweater.
In Southern California, I spend most of the year in a summer uniform.
For a few months though, I swap out my red-ribboned capello,
for this beauty - one of the many masterpieces that have come out
of the shop of Giuliana Longo.
Look through photos of the various gondoliers in the US
and you'll see a lot of Giuliana's hats.
of the US Gondola Nationals in Providence, RI.
As the sun shines less on the top half of the planet,
thin, light clothing makes less sense to us gondoliers.
Temperatures urge us to wear clothes that are warmer.
Tradition inspires us to wear black.
Black, because good guys wear black - just ask Chuck Norris.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
After the slalom event in Providence was over,
we all climbed into the gondolas and rowed downriver to a fondamente
that was perfect for both staging races, and watching those races.
The first order of business in setting up camp:
unload the provisions - including the coffee and Dunkin Donuts.
Tuesday, December 2, 2014
Sunday, November 30, 2014
Each year, the folks at Gondola di Venezia haul out their two beautiful Venice-built boats for winter.
They spend most of the cold season in an enclosure, but I was able to visit them after haul-out, and before they were moved into their winter home.
Normally it would only be possible to get a shot from this angle by standing
(or swimming) in the water, but I had lucky timing.
Saturday, November 29, 2014
On the eve of the U.S. Gondola Nationals,
some of us out-of-towners showed up at the dock
to catch up with our friends from Providence at La Gondola.
We enjoyed watching the way their operation ran and getting to know their waterway and the boats we'd be rowing for the next couple of days.
Here we see the "Cynthia Julia" at rest in the latter part of twilight.
Fall leaves float by, and the reflections of downtown buildings can be seen on the surface of the water and the deck.
Thursday, November 27, 2014
Thanksgiving is such a great holiday.
We gather together, both family and friends.
We set aside time to give thanks for all that we've been blessed with.
I have so much to be thankful for, including the many great friends I've been fortunate to have in the gondola business.
Thank you for reading, dear friends,
and have a happy Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
He also had the opportunity to row in Venice on board one of the Row Venice boats.
Here's his story:
by Tim Jones
Saturday, November 22, 2014
On October 26th, on a cool and windy afternoon in Providence, Rhode Island, the participants in the 2014 U.S. Gondola Nationals raced in the final racing event of the competition - the Tandem Distance race.
The race was supposed to follow the same route that had been used in the Solo Distance race, but the winds had increased. To avoid having gondolas bouncing and grinding against walls and bridges in those tight quarters,
it was decided that the two-man distance event would remain in the lower part of the channel.
This was a timetrial event - so rowers had nobody to measure their speed against.
The distance of the race was just over two miles.
Like the sprint events, the timekeeper started the clock as the ferro of the gondola emerged from the Crawford Street bridge.
Two-man teams rowed down to the foundations of the old Route 195 bridge, with the wind at their backs, turning around or beyond one of the remaining foundations. Next it was a fight against the wind back up to the Crawford Street bridge, passing under to turn and re-emerge to do the same down-and-back a second time.
It became obvious early on that the biggest enemy to gondoliers on this course was the headwind we fought against while returning from the old Route 195 foundations. Many teams sought refuge by hugging the wall to their left, as there was sometimes a wind-shadow there. Finding a good stroke synchronization and making the best and tightest turns were also important.
As this was a tandem race, finding the right partner to row with was of great importance.
While describing the camaraderie between gondoliers, I've often told people "nobody understands you, and that weird thing you do,
like someone who does that weird thing too."
People who aren't gondoliers just don't understand sometimes.
I suppose it might be comparable to pole vaulting.
Sure, we've all seen it done, but until you've actually experienced it;
until you've run, planted, and then been flung into the sky by a 15 foot pole, you'll never be able to truly understand it from a vaulter's perspective.
As a gondolier, nobody understands you as well as another gondolier...
unless, of course, you have a brother who is a gondolier.
That guy gets you.
Want to find someone who will mesh well in a tandem row?
He's the guy.
Their names are Matthew and Alexander Haynes.
On the gondola they are known as "Marcello" and Alessandro".
They were born a couple of years apart - Matt's 35, Alex is 33.
Both played a lot of soccer growing up, then later on Alex was a wrestler and Matt got into traditional rowing in college
(yeah, the kind where you sit on your butt and pull).
A year later Matt found an amazing summer job and became a gondolier at La Gondola in Providence, Rhode Island - he ended up buying the business years later from the previous owner and, like many of us gondola operators, has truly found his calling.
Two years ago, Matt dreamed up and brought to life the very first gondola competition in North America - the GondOlympics.
This year Matt and his brother Alex competed against each other in other races, and they both did well. Their Tandem Sprint run was excellent too, but when they got on the boat together for a distance race, they were unbeatable.
They grew up in the same house, and sure, there were sibling rivalries, but Matt explained to me that because they were two years apart, they were never able to compete in the same league, much less on the same team.
"I was thrilled to get the opportunity to race with Alex.
They were both gondoliers, but didn't get much training for this race.
Both are married and have young children at home, both have day jobs,
and then there was all that planning and preparation Matt had to take care of just to bring this event to life.
Alex told me:
"My brother and I hadn’t really rowed much together. We’d said we wanted to get out there and train but never
really trained for it."
Last year, at the U.S. Gondola Nationals in Huntington Harbour, I heard about Matt's brother Alex, and how it was a shame he couldn't make it. Those who knew him were sure he would've been a strong contender.
Indeed, Alex took third place in the Solo Distance race.
When these two brothers rowed together in the Tandem Sprint, they finished in second place.
So what was it that this team had on their side to take second in the sprint event, and then finish ahead of everyone in the Tandem Distance?
Based on my conversations with both men, and having been there to see the race go down, I believe the Brothers Haynes had several things going for them.
Like I said, nobody knows you like your brother,
and if he rows (and you can stand each other),
he's the guy you want on the boat with you.
In a post-race interview, Matt stressed to me how important it was to have, and maintain good form throughout the race.
"Form wins a race", he said.
This was a discipline he had carried over from his traditional rowing back in college.
Matthew Haynes - pushing hard and maintaining form.
photo by John Kerschbaum
As Matt explained to me: "where you're pushing as hard as you can,
but then take it to another level - two strokes to warm up,
and then counting to ten with power strokes."
Matt served as a sort of coxswain up front. Alex said:
"He kept counting to ten. That little focus method made the difference".
During their second approach to the dock, I walked down to the wall that they were passing.
I snapped this image with my phone.
The guys were so close I could hear them breath.
I heard them counting to ten, in between counts their breathing told me that they were rowing at maximum capacity.
I stood there in my orange jacket and they didn't even notice me.
Obviously the focus trick worked.
Looking back, Matt told me:
"I remember very little of the race - except that we were racing."
Matt has a nickname among his fellow gondoliers in Providence.
Two years ago, when everyone was competing in the GondOlympics,
the winds were a real challenge. When it was time for Matt to take his turn, he stepped on the gondola, rowed out to the starting line, and the winds and the water all mysteriously went calm - allowing him to row with an extra competitive edge.
For that reason, Matt is also known as "Poseidon's Illegitimate Son".
I can't speak to his true lineage, and unfortunately I wasn't able to be there to witness his run two years ago.
There are two statements I can make though:
first, it did seem less windy during Matt and Alex's run this year.
Secondly, it was windy as HECK during my run with John Kerschbaum.
I have no basis for comparison here, because I wasn't on the boat during other runs, but based on the treatment John and I received from the wind,
I had to wonder if Poseidon or some other force associated with wind...hated us that day.
As it was for many competitors, I think the guys on this boat were a little frustrated after watching a certain San Diego rower take first place in everything...including the slalom.
This was the last race, the last chance to blow it all out, empty the gas tank and leave it all out there on the water.
Alex tells me that Matt said:
“all I want you to do is stand on the back and push”.
This was it, the race for all the marbles.
All the hopes and pains, all the inspiration, frustration,
dedication and even retaliation went into one race.
Two brothers on one boat,
rowing their hardest while counting to ten - again and again.
Throughout the race, they had no idea how they were doing - no idea if their run was even worthy of the top three. It was a true case of "be the best you can be".
They pushed harder than either of them thought they could.
"We left it all out on the water.
I couldn't stand up after that race.
My ribs were sore for three days afterwards."
Alex Haynes in full "battle mode"
photo by John Kerschbaum
It had been a good ten years since Matt had competed in traditional rowing, and yet some of his greatest advantages were borne out of those days of rowing crew in college.
The sense of accomplishment could be seen in their faces as they finished the battle - against the wind, the water, the clock, and themselves.
They had given it their absolute all. Regardless of how the times stacked up, we all knew how hard they'd rowed, and respect was in the air.
As it ended up, the two sons of Jackie and Ed Haynes finished in first place, and wore gold medals that night.
My sincerest congratulations to Matt and Alex; for rowing an excellent race,
and showing everyone how it's done.
Tandem Distance - complete results