Friday, February 28, 2014

Tiny Boat, Heavy Rain, and a Big Smile

A few days ago I received a text image from my friend Andrew McHardy in New Zealand.

First thing I noticed: how tiny the boat was.
I took a closer look and recognized gondola-like contours, along with a few unique features I hadn't seen, at least not in Venice.

Then, I realized that the surroundings were definitely not Venetian.
A closer inspection revealed that the boat was out in the pouring rain and appeared to be plying a flooded street.
One person, riding in the front, had an umbrella, while the other occupant sat in the back wearing a big yellow raincoat and an even bigger smile.

I jumped on-line and searched "gondola in the rain", figuring that I probably wouldn't find anything helpful.  In minutes I saw several more shots of the same boat, with the same background, and more importantly - the same guy on the back in a yellow raincoat and a smile.
(for the record, he was wearing more than just the raincoat - but it was the raincoat that stood out)

With this next link I learned that this gondola voyage in the rain was a recent event, and took place in the UK during a storm which caused flooding in the village of Datchet (along the Thames), along with many other areas.
"Torrential rain and strong winds hit the UK - in pictures"
(see the 8th photo down)

This happened about a couple weeks ago.  The folks in the gondola were out promoting their Italian restaurant, and giving a shining example of how to make the best out of the worst kind of situation...and the cameras loved them.

The 14th photo down on this next link shows a much clearer view of the boat, while floating in front of the restaurant.
"UK Floods Crisis: Hurricane Force Winds Batter Britain"

More images can be seen at:
This Daily Telegraph photo collection
Huffington Post
and here's one from Australia

Some very compelling images are also available in this link that mentions "Plucky Brits"

In case you're wondering, yes, I did consider posting up some of the other images, but chose instead to simply link to them so each website gets the traffic they deserve for putting up such great images.
Besides, I'd rather not get sued by anybody.
(as for the above photo, well, Andrew sent me that,
so if the owner of it wants to, they can sue him - he's on a farm somewhere in New Zealand so good luck with that)

Before and after views are on display at "UK Flooding: Then and Now"

Yes, while many of us were enjoying or enduring the weather in OUR areas, the folks in Datchet were getting a thorough washdown.
Datchet is a fairly small village, I'm told, with a population of just over 4,500.   
The restaurant is “Piccola Venezia”
They did some great publicity work, but it wasn't all smooth sailing for them.
According to their website, they were forced to close due to flooding, but I found their facebook page, and was happy to learn that they are now back in the business of making pizzas and putting smiles on the faces of their patrons.
As for that unusual gondola. turns out it was once Elton John's gondola.

I reached out through facebook, hoping to get in touch with the current owners, and was pleased to get a response from them.

Hi Greg thanks for taking out time to message us thanks for your compliments and we are happy to share with you some of the info on the gondola , firstly it was owned by Elton John , we then got our hands on it by a customer at our restaurant so as a publicity stunt we followed it through as we had no other option of bringing customers to our restaurant. 

For the record, I don't believe that he used the gondola to actually carry passengers.  When he says "bringing customers to our restaurant" I think he means create interest in the restaurant.  But hey, I could be wrong.

He continued:
We are a family run Italian restaurant in Datchet just outside of London, my name is Domenico keep up to date with us on Facebook, many thanks from the other side of the world from all my staff.

So that's the story so far.

I would love to visit the town of Datchet next time I'm in the UK, see their unusual gondola, and have some great pizza.

Cheers Domenico - way to keep a stiff upper lip and make the best out of a bad situation.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Calm Before the Storm

I stood on the dock this evening watching the clouds come in.
Earlier in the parking lot, some guy who had aparrently devoted his
whole day to watching the weather pattern,
informed me that the storm clouds were just behind Catalina Island.
We all knew they were coming, we've been wondering where they've been
for the last couple months. 
Sure, we've had a few small spats of rain, but the normal winter weather pattern has been replaced by a cooler version of summer.
I was thankful for the clear skies that brought us through Valentine's Day,
but hopeful that we would see some precipitation after, and according to all
the professional meteorologists (and some guy in the parking lot),
a storm is coming.

Standing on the dock this evening I watched another one of those
"perfect moments" as gondolier Mike Bronstein rowed his couple out
on the canopy-covered Lucia.
The guy - nervous,
the girl - oblivious to the fact that she was about to be presented with a ring, and a very important life-changing question.

Stormclouds are looming,  threatening to wash our cars and water our crops (and we sure need it).

I'm thankful for the sunshine as well as the rain,
and I'm really thankful that the rain chose to fall later this year than normal.

Mike rowed off into the sunset, with colorse changing through a spectrum of hues - from orange to red to purple. 
An ocean breeze brought fresh air across the water.
The couple laughed, palm trees swayed,
the oar dipped and pushed in the water.

Just another day at the office for Mike.
A memory that will last a lifetime for the two people sitting in his boat.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Monday, February 24, 2014

Rows with the Gods

Here's a nice snapshot from inside what I believe may just be the most
beautiful sandolo in the world.  And while there are many impressive
sandoli in Venezia, this one is actually in Canada.

My friend Lorne of Honeymoon Gondola who has the enviable job of rowing her sent me this photo with the words:

Poseidon the Greek god of the sea and god of horses.

Poseidon is carved into the bow of my sandolo with a gold guilded trident and sash.
(Cupid) Eros the Greek god of love.

A bronze statue on the bow and on both sides of the boat bronze cupid riding a (hippocampus) seahorse with the tail of a fish.
From this comes the term.

"Rows with the Gods"

For almost two years Lorne and his sandolo have glided across the waters of "Lagoon City" in Ontario, Canada.
I just got news that they will move to a new home soon
at the Driftwood Cove Resort in Port Severn, Ontario, Canada.

Congratulations to Lorne on the move.
A beautiful boat in a beautiful location - sounds like a winning combination.

To learn more about this remarkable boat,
see my post "Carved Boat in Canada".

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Leaving the Lagoon

After a long day of rowing in the sun, I found myself between cruises
at that brief period that photographers call the "golden hour",
and in a good spot to catch two of my gondoliers leaving the lagoon.

As the sun reflected off the ferro, and more of it off the water and
then the hull, I stopped wishing I'd been out on the water at this key time,
and simply let myself enjoy the moment.

Friday, February 21, 2014

V-Day Snapshots

A week after the busiest day of the year for those of us who operate gondolas in Southern California, I've finally gotten a chance to download some of the photos I snapped with my phone from the back of the boat.

John Kerschbaum and I traded boats a few times, so you may notice that some of the shots are from the Wedding Gondola while others were shot from the back of the Lucia.

Bob passes by on the Phoenix.

Eddie from the Gondola Co. of Newport smiles as his boat emerges from under the Newport Blvd. bridge on a sunny day in February.

Parker (also from the Gondola Co. of Newport) approaches
with happy passengers...
...and glides off in the sunshine.

The weather in mid February is usually unpredictable, and while it's nothing compared to what our friends in the North East face, the threat of rain is usually enough to keep some folks from booking cruises.  This year we had consistently pleasant conditions, and it showed in our bookings.  Valentine's Day is vital to our operation - allowing us to survive through til spring.
We were blessed this year, and thankful for the sunshine.

Although it wasn't all sunshine; in the late afternoon, we had some ocean fog roll in a few times - it wasn't enough to affect visibility, but it did create a mystic mood on the water.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Traditional Gondola Wedding in Alamitos Bay

photos courtesy of Greg Wyatt Photography
Last week the folks at Gondola Getaway in Alamitos Bay hosted an on-board wedding, complete with two gondoliers (Tyson and Nico) and Eric Sjoberg performing ministerial duties.

Both gondoliers chose the all white option, with red scarves and sashes -
it's a great look, and very traditional.

For an event such as this, amateur photos just won't do, so the expertise of Greg Wyatt was called upon - shooting from a chase-boat, Greg caught some excellent images.

After some rowing, the boat arrived at the wedding site, with two-dozen friends and relatives anxiously waiting for the ceremony to begin.

Tyson kept the gondola in place, Eric performed the ceremony with the couple standing, and Nico played acoustic guitar to set the mood.
The weather was ideal, the ceremony was beautiful, and the memories will last a lifetime for the bride, groom, and their guests.

I work in both of these businesses:
I run gondolas, and perform wedding ceremonies.

Both revolve around love, both are romantic, but more importantly,
in both areas we strive to create perfect moments. 
Now and then we get to combine both and if we're lucky,
someone is there to capture images of it.

Greg Wyatt was on hand and snapped some great images - to view the entire album, go to Venetian Wedding.

And of course Greg's official website is:

Thanks to Greg Wyatt for the use of his images, and for the folks at Gondola Getaway for helping me with the details of this event.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

View over the Stern

photo by Cassandra Mohr

At the end of a perfect cruise, where he proposed and she said "yes",
we enjoyed the end of a perfect day.
This was the serene view over the stern of the boat.
I love my job.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Saturday, February 15, 2014

V-Day was Great, Even Better News: It's Over

It was a great Valentine's Day.
The weather was ideal, having it on Friday wasn't too bad either.
We've had some pretty bad ones in the past, with rain and wind and such, but this year was a true blessing.
Even so, I'm sure glad it's behind me now.
I'd post more but it's 4:30 am and I've still got blankets in the laundry, glassware in the dishwasher, ten cruises under my belt, and many more ahead of me tomorrow, so I'll leave you with this one snapshot of the day. 
And with that, good night, my friends.

Friday, February 14, 2014

V-Day Salute

Snapper looking dapper
Tim over at Sunset Gondola sent out a text to a few gondola friends with the message:
"For those about to rock, we salute you"
(I always appreciate a good ACDC quote)

It was followed by a photo of the Oar Snapper in Coronado with the message:
Good morning. Consider yourself saluted.
Have a great day!

V-Day is here, my friends.
I raise my remo in salute...because by the end of the day, I may not be able to.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Bigger is Better

photo by Sean Jamieson

I've heard it said many times, that "too much is better than not enough",
and while this may not be the case when choosing SCUBA weights,
 or eating fiber bars,
it most certainly was the case the other day in Coronado.

Oh sure, Sean could have just used a little boat trailer, or a smaller hoist,
but then he'd miss out on all the fun and bragging rights of using the biggest honking hoist he could find to launch one of his sandoli.

I mean really, suppose there was an earthquake at that very point when the boat was hanging precariously from a substandard launching device.
Oh no, my friends - bigger is better, and better safe than sorry.

And in the "Too much is..." quote department, I found an interesting parallel:
"Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right"
     -F. Scott Fitzgerald

Good quote, but I think this one is just a little better:
"Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough"
     -Mark Twain

I wonder if those two guys were drinking buddies.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Simon vs. the Clock

Young or old, green or seasoned, we all went into the U.S. Gondola Nationals with eyes wide and muscles ready, with hopes of victory and smiles of friendship.  For many of us, we had never competed either,
so this experience was new in every way.

More than anything, each and every one of us climbed aboard and grabbed an oar, with adrenaline already flowing.
I would venture to claim that nobody was bored,
not a single gondolier wasn't keenly aware of our surroundings.

I've held an opinion for a long time that:
"we spend most of our lives only half awake.
We are only fully engaged, fully awake for the big moments - and these are the times that we remember, the moments that stay with us, in some cases, the memories we'll share with our children and grandchildren."
We were all wide awake for a few days during Nationals.

On an overcast Saturday afternoon in late October, one of my gondoliers, Simon, took his turn on the red boat for a time-trial run.

We had determined that the best way to get a fair comparison of the many competitors was to have them all use the same gondola. 
Wind, current, and lighting conditions varied a bit as the day went by,
but everyone gave it their best and it was a great event.

Here are some photos of Simon's race against the clock.

Getting up to speed.

Hitting his stride.

Navigating the turn.

Sotomorso to move out of the turn.

Shifting up.

Full spee ahead to the finish line!
(with a big smile)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Quiet Corner

photo by Martina Zane

Martina Zane caught this image of a quiet corner of a canal in Venice.
There are no gondolas in the frame, but this is just the kind of passageway
the gondoliers in La Serenissima navigate every day. 
Quite possibly one cruised around this corner moments before the photo
was taken.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Just the Photo - Red and Black

There's only one place you'll see an image like this: Sunset Gondola.
This shot was taken on Friday night of the US Gondola Nationals
in October of 2013

Monday, February 3, 2014

Bella Mae - Launched and Ready

photo by Robert Dula
The gondola that has played host to hundreds of lucky passengers in New Orleans is back in the water after a short haul-out for annual maintenance. 
In the photo above we see gondolier Liam Pierce rowing Bella Mae. 

Gondolier Robert Dula (also known as "Roberto") has been with this storied vessel through all kinds of weather, taking care of her in the most traditional ways, with the dedication that only a true gondolier has. 

His calendar for Valentine's Day is already filled, and the days surrounding it will surely get filled as well. Robert has gone to great lengths to operate his gondola in the waterway at City Park; he's been there for four years now, and is certain that the decision to modify the ends of the boat was the right move.She fits under the lowest bridges in the park, and passengers don't notice the change. 
He also told me:
I still have them and reattach them from time to time, for photo shoots and what not… The bridges are too low to operate with them on.  

Ten years ago Thom Price built this great gondola. 
She may be far from Venice, but she's become a beloved part of her new home in New Orleans, as is seen in this tourism video:
Nola Gondola on CityTimeTV 
That video has been seen in many places, and Robert tells me that it recently showed up on a New Zealand website. 

Way to go Roberto!