Monday, January 27, 2014

The View from My Office Tonight

Here are just a few of the views my passengers and I enjoyed
this evening in Newport.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

The Problem is Not the Problem

In some cases, attitude is everything.

A ballet dancer gets tripped up right before she goes onstage.

A waiter, who's having a great shift, walks up to a table and is summarily insulted by the person they're about to wait on.

A cord comes out of an amp right before the guitar solo.
Expert strumming and fretwork, but no sound.

How that guitarist handles things can really effect their proformance.

The mindset of the dancer can mean the difference as she steps in front of the audience.

The waiter's attitude...about the patron's attitude, will determine how happy the customers are, how well they tip, and really, how happy the waiter is when the meal is over.

To quote my favorite sea captain:
"The problem is not the problem.
The problem is your attitude about the problem."
          -Captain Jack Sparrow

Drop a wine glass on the dock, a plate of cheesecake on the floor,
or an oar in the water, and the odds are suddenly against you.
If you could somehow simply erase that one unfortunate moment,
you'd go on with the positive attitude you need, but that's not an option.

Freak out and they'll know what you're made of.
Let 'em see you sweat and you'll lose their confidence.
Sometimes the mark of a true professional is not how he or she handles things under ordinary circumstances, but rather under extraordinary ones.

Oh, and the really good ones have the ability to not only hide their reaction to the problem, but the problem itself.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Gondola Paradiso... dot com!

Instead of writing a long post tonight, I'd like to direct your attention towards the blog section of Gondola Paradiso's new website:
Mark recently wrote a great analogy about how "A journey starts with a single step"; it's a nice outline of where Mark has rowed and who he is as a gondolier.

He wasn't my first trainer, but Mark was the first person to show me how a gondola was rowed - I'd been all-electric minded until '98, when some of the Gondola Company of Newport boats were being stored in our docks due to the boat show. I asked him "hey, how do those things work, exactly?"
In short order I saw a demonstration, compliments of Mark.

And of course, while you're on, click around and enjoy the new website.

Friday, January 17, 2014

First and Third

We saw some great rowing and met incredible people at the 2013
US Gondola Nationals, and while you might expect some sort of tension
between the competitors, there was no such thing among these rowers. 
Here, standing on the shore before each and every one of us, was a bunch of people who understood us better than anyone else ever could.
To say that friendships were made would be to water things down.
Really, it was more like discovering family members we didn't know we had.
Some of us did know each other though,
and that is certainly true with these two guys.

photo by Dawn Reinard

On the right (with the hat) is Stefano - he took first place in the solo distance race (see my post "Marathon Man"), and on the left is Ricardo.
Ricardo crossed the line in third place, earning him a medal and a lot of respect from his fellow gondoliers (see the post "Spent").

First and third they finished, with Enrico from Coronado grabbing second place.
These two guys have known each other for years and have rowed together in Huntington Harbour fighting wind and current carrying passengers for Sunset Gondola.

After Ricardo finished first in his heat, Stefano was there to catch his prow and pull his boat ashore.

Neither of them knew if the other had finished with a better time, they just knew that in the two heats, they were the first finishers.
Brotherly congratulations were in order.

"Welcome back, great job!"

A brotherly hug.

Even a fancy handshake of sorts followed.

Many years ago I rowed a few cruises for Tim at Sunset Gondola;
The route was long, the wind and current made me work to stay on schedule, and I came away with a new respect for the guys who rowed there.

Later on I was talking with Tim and I said:
"If we ever have a national competition, I wouldn't be surprised if some of the top finishers are from Sunset Gondola".

Years later in the solo distance race of the 2013 US Gondola Nationals,
Stefano and Ricardo fulfilled that prediction.

First and third - this, my friends, is voga alla Veneta in America!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Oxnard - first Point-of-View photos

photos by Mark Schooling

Mark Schooling recently launched a gondola in Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California (with a little help from his friends). The next day he did what any of us would have done with a gondola in a new waterway - he took her out for a spin and said "buon giorno" to the locals.

Here are a few few of the very first point-of-view shots.

Red velvet in the sunshine on a shiny black boat proved to be enticing
to folks along the waterfront; Mark managed to arrange his first cruise
(a Valentine's Day booking) by talking to folks on shore.

The "Teresa" at dock, just as she will be seen by passengers arriving for cruises.

Approaching one of the more dramatic bridges, by day...

...and by night.
I've gotta admit it:
I'm living vicariously through these photos,
enjoying the excitement of launching a new servizio.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

One Month Warning

For most people, January 14th doesn’t hold much significance
(unless it’s a birthday or anniversary), but for some of us,
the arrival of the 14th means that we have one month to prepare
for one of the biggest days of our year – Valentine’s Day.

Florists, restauranteurs, chocolatiers, jewelers, and of course…gondoliers.

This is the big day, the one time you know the phones will ring.

It’s like Black Friday for retailers, or April 15th for accountants.

It’s not a frantic day, more of a day where that voice in your head says:
“HEY! Better get it together, pal!”

The 14th of January has come and gone,
the 14th of February is fast-approaching.

It’ll be more than just a big day, more likely it’ll be a big week,
and afterwards I’ll see if I can’t take a big vacation (or at least a big nap).

Monday, January 13, 2014

Teresa Moves to Oxnard - the Splashing

After all the loading, strapping, and driving, we arrived in Oxnard. 
The various removable pieces were set in place and the Teresa was ready to grace the waters of Channel Islands Harbor.
 Red velvet seats, lots of fresh black paint, she's ready to splash!

I backed the trailer into the water while Konnor steadied himself,
ready to give that last push.  Tim stood on the dock snapping photos,
and Mark celebrated this important moment by filling the air with the sound
of his didgeridoo.  Yes, I know, you didn't see that coming and neither did I,
but we do things a little differently here, and we like it that way - and besides, it sounded really great.
Before we knew it, there was another gondola in the water in Southern California.  We all took a moment to admire her once again. 
Sure, we'd seen this boat plenty already, but while a gondola may look great out of the water, she was made to be admired afloat.
As you can see, the design of Teresa is unique - in several ways she is unlike any other gondola.

An eye-catching detail, added moments after the gondola splashed into the water, was this dramatic brass bowpiece - suitable for Alex Hai's gondola in Venice, known as "Pegasus".

A proper christenning was in order.
Chris stepped up with a bottle of bubbly and said a few meaningful words, 

Of course we don't break bottles over our precious boats in the gondola world; spraying is the way to go for us.

Next, we all took turns taking her out for a spin - here's Chris at the helm.

Tim rowed Teresa masterfully,

 Finally Mark stepped on the back and took over,
here's an over-the-shoulder shot.

If I do say so myself, he looks great on the back of that boat. 

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Teresa Moves to Oxnard - the Loading

About six weeks ago Mark Schooling asked me if I could provide him with
a trailer some time in January.  Later we talked about some of his plans
for the boat that would travel on that trailer.  The gondola, known as "Teresa", holds a very special place in US gondola history - another story for another time.

Since our first conversation about the trailer we've talked a few times about the challenges and blessings of running your own gondola business. 
Then, on Saturday, January 11th it was time: time to load the boat on the trailer and bring her to her new home.

This was a nice little gathering of gondola friends.
Tim Reinard of Sunset Gondola was there, a gondolier from Tim's operation, Chris and his girlfriend, along with gondolier Konnor Boivin from my operation, and of course, Mark - who was experiencing all of the wonderful and stressful emotions associated with boat moving, boat launching,
and business launching too.

We met at the boat in the late morning, assessed the situation,
and got busy loading her onto the trailer.

We had many options at our disposal, but the Rugby Team approach made the most sense in this situation.

photos in this sequence by Amber Waddell
The gondola was lined up with the trailer, and heavy duty lifting straps
gave us the ability to lift her with minimal rail-grabbing.

To aid in the forward movement, inflatable fenders served as rollers.

The saying "many hands make light work" certainly applies to gondola moving.

Gondola on trailer, no damage done, no fingers broken, and everybody smiling.

Once she was strapped down, we headed down the road,
making our way to Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California.

photo by Konnor Boivin

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Old Friends and a New Adventure

Today I got to be part of one of the most significant events in the
gondola business:
                              The launching of a new operation.

The players are all people I've known for many years,
but the boat and the location are both new and exciting.

Today, Mark Schooling (one of the hardest working gondoliers I know)
launched a gondola business of his own in Channel Islands Harbor - a popular waterway in Oxnard, California. 
The spirit of camaraderie among gondoliers and company owners is one of my favorite things about operating in Southern California; a few of us were there to lift, move, drive, launch, toast and row.
It was a truly great day.

There's lots to talk about: The man, the boat, the location, and the friends who were there, but it's been a long day and I'm exhausted.

So for now, I'll just register my congratulations to Mark,
and say thanks for letting me be part of such a big day.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

...Part Photographer

photo by Cassandra Mohr

Some time ago I put up a post titled "A Good Gondolier is..." - part 2 ,
which touched on many of the disciplines needed by a gondolier in this unusual line of work.

One of those skills is photography.
Typically, as a gondolier, you know just about every piece of equipment you'll be working with like the back of your hand. 
The oar, the forcola, the sound system. Heck, even the corkscrew you carry is probably one you've used countless times.

But then one of the passengers hand you something and say:
"Would you take a picture of us?"

That thing they hand you might be a digital pocket camera, a pro-grade DSLR, an old school film camera, or a disposable version.
More often these days, it's some kind of phone.
After all, the smartphone is the new camera.
It's the new everything for that matter.

The point is that no matter what they hand you
(phone, camera, ham sandwich),
you've gotta be able to gracefully take a picture with it,
making the experience for the passengers as relaxing and perfect as possible.

After all, a good gondolier is "part photographer".

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Just the Photo - Best Seats in the House

photo by Cassandra Mohr 

Sunsets in California are beautiful,
even better when the colors reflect on the water.
On the gondola, we see it all, and I give my guests the best seats in the house.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The same kind of weird

When you're a gondolier, no one understands you like another gondolier.
It's not because he's as weird as you are,
but because he's the same kind of weird as you are.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

All is Quiet on New Years Day

Passing Konnor on his gondola in Newport.
My resolution:
to have more evenings like this one.


Happy new year from the Gondola Blog!