Friday, January 30, 2015

Fruit Stripe Remi

A while back I posted a photo of three remi,
masked and ready for paint in "Set to Stripe".
After further preparation (and a fair amount of procrastination),
I finally picked up a brush and started to paint.

Red and blue were obvious choices, but I chose the purple
in honor of my daughters, who wear a fair amount of it.
When I laid them out to cure, I realized that we had three colors
that sit next to each other on the color wheel.
The more I looked at them, the more they reminded me
of the Fruit Stripe Gum we used to chew when I was a kid.

So there they are:
the Fruit Stripe Remi - ready for action in the coming days.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Discoveries and The Critical Path

Positive buoyancy and good aesthetic appearance.

These are my two priorities with the new gondola as we draw closer
to Valentine's Day.
First - she must float.
Second - she must look good.
In the "Critical path" approach that I must take leading up to V-Day,
these are my top priorities, and we're working hard to accomplish them.

As I've pushed towards that fateful launch day, I've made a few discoveries:

Based on photos I'd received before going to New Jersey,
I estimated that the gondola was about 30 years old. 
Due to some great investigative work by Nereo Zane in Venice,
I learned that she is approximately 40 years old.  In some ways
she has aged well, but there are those few areas that have needed attention.

Another surprise was that the boat was fully glassed.
This really bothers some gondola owners, but I've gotten used to it.
Two of my other Venice-built gondolas came to me already glassed.
The fact that this boat was glassed made it easier to prepare for a watertight launch.  We actually had to patch up the holes that had been drilled to keep the boat from filling up with rain water while she was in storage.

For the record, I did know about the holes prior to purchasing the boat.

I knew about her trip around Staten Island, and I'd personally rowed
with three of the four men who made that journey.
Nereo Zane knows them too and he made some phone calls and found out
that the boat was originally owned by a man named Dino Vianello,
who also went by the name "Cavicchi".

About ten years ago the gondola was sold to Stefano Tagliapietra -
a regular competitor in the Regata Storica, among other racing events
in the Veneto.  Stefano is known by many as "Ciaceti".  His grandfather
was the legendary "Ciaci" (Sergio Tagliapietra), a famous regatante in Venice.

Stefano Tagliapietra's rowing partner is "Sustin" son of Bepi Rossi "Suste" - accomplished regatta rower and the guy who rowed in the forward postion in both the 2007 Hudson River expedition and the 2009 Staten Island expedition.

When Nereo talked to Ciaceti he was told that the gondola was a Tramontin.

I was quite happy to hear this, as the Tramontin family builds great gondolas and previously I had not owned one of their boats.
Due to the age of the boat, and the obvious fact that at least one of her previous owners liked to stow the remo with the blade in the slot
beneath the caenelo, that piece of the boat had significant wear.

Today, in the yard, while taking a break from all the sanding,
and other get-the-boat-ready-for-launch tasks,
I crawled up inside the tail of the gondola.
Jammed up in the aft-most bilge of the gondola,
I was able to spot, beneath that worn caenelo, the signature collection of notches of a Tramontin gondola - probably cut in there by Nedis himself.

She now sits in a yard in Santa Ana, stripped of her decals.
Decks and hull are sanded and prepped for paint.
As soon as those "slight chances" of rain go away, I'll go crazy with both roller and brush - I'll adorn her with at least two coats of fresh, shiny black paint.

I live by the task list on my clipboard.
Sleep is something I'll take care of later.
Most of all, I'm thankful for a staff of great guys who've stepped in
to handle all sorts of tasks required to make sure this boat.

a.) Floats
b.) Looks good
Yeah, she'll do both before the big day.

Ok, maybe I'll sleep a little tonight.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Just the Photo - Colorful Haze

These were the conditions I was forced to work in this evening.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Set to Stripe

After multiple coats of varnish, and four coats of white paint to the blades,
I left these three remi to cure for several weeks.
Once the white paint had reached a solid enamel finish,
it was time to mask for the chevron stripes.
Like so many other things, the key to a good oar stripe job is preparation.
Take a short cut in the masking process,
and the quality of the finished product will suffer.
Before bed I sanded the exposed white paint.
In the morning, I'll brush on a few coats of the colors I've chosen
for these three remi.
Given enough cure time, these should be ready to make their
debut trips during Valentine's Day.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Who's the Boss?

photo by Cassandra Mohr

As a gondola operator, I am a unique kind of business owner.
Like so many small business proprietors, I'm "head chef and bottle washer".
I don't have to worry about being fired, because...I'm the boss...or am I?

I do own the company, so I don't have to worry about some pompous guy
in a suit who signs my checks telling me to clean out my desk.
I don't have a board of directors to worry about.
There are no big investors who can decide one day that I'm doing this or that in the wrong way.
Sure, you can insert your best "my wife is the real boss" wisecrack here
(and it would be pretty spot-on in my case).
But at the end of the day, I have some great gondoliers and staff who I feel honored to have in my employ.

In following the chain of command, it may seem that I reside at the top,
but that would be a hasty determination.
You see, I DO have a boss.
From the first time I stepped on the back of a crescent-shaped boat,
I've always worked for someone.

The boss is the client.

For one hour, for one voyage,
I work for the person in my boat who booked the cruise.
In fact, when you look at it this way, in my twenty-plus years I've had thousands of one-hour bosses.

There are benefits and drawbacks to such an arrangement.
If I love my boss, I'm sad to see them go,
and hope they'll come back again some time.
If the boss is, well, not so wonderful,
I only have to deal with them for an hour.

Unlike the traditional structure,
I don't have a consistent boss - one who I can learn patterns from.
In fact I don't know what to expect with most cruises.
This makes the job an excellent training field for reading people.

Sometimes the boss is a middle-aged executive who wants his wife to have a memorable birthday.  Other times my boss is a young guy with an engagement ring that's burning a hole in his pocket.
My boss may be a wife wanting to surprise her husband for their anniversary.
An NBA starter, newlyweds from out of town, an old woman and her grandchildren hoping to feed the ducks.
The list goes on and on.

Of course the payment arrangement is a bit different.
Yes, I do get a standard amount for the cruise, but my boss also tips.
I can tell how much my boss appreciates my work, based on his tip.
Of course I might also make some evaluations of my own about the boss,
based on how he tips.

At the end of the day, no matter who the boss is, I love my job.
Even if the boss is a complete jackass, I'd still rather work for him if the job only lasts an hour, and if it means that I get to row my gondola.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Stickers - Lots and Lots of Stickers!

unloading photos by Steve Elkins

When I first saw photos of the gondola in New Jersey,
I knew that if I bought her, I'd be doing a lot of picking and peeling.
The boat was practically covered with sponsor decals.
Some of them were simple vinyl lettering,
others were of the more heavy duty variety.
When we reached an agreement and sent payment,
I stopped clipping my thumbnails.

After the 2009 expedition down the Hudson River, I'd come home with a boat that had the same kind of decals - so I knew what I was in for.

When the boat came out of the container, and the tow truck operators were getting ready to lower the boat to the ground, I grabbed hold of the big red "pastaZARA" oval and began pulling it off of the boat. 


Later, one of my gondoliers, Konner, was the unwitting owner
of a big shiny red "pastaZARA" cummerbund.
I wonder if he'll wear that to Prom.

Not long after, Konner returned the favor by adorning my SUV with the same huge sticker (sorry, no photo available).

As the days went by, I stopped by the yard to peel a little here and a little there.  I brought people with me and even considered posting an ad on Craigslist inviting "anyone who likes to pick at things", or perhaps
"anyone who ignored the words 'if you pick it, it will never heal'".

In the end I just showed up and picked away for two hours yesterday and four more hours today, and the sticker peeling was done.

My thumbnails were long, gross,
and remarkably useful.
My wife and daughters were so proud and impressed that I'd grown them out.

I, on the other hand,
just couldn't wait to cut them.

Another great tool
(besides my thumbnails)
was the X-Acto #18 heavyweight wood
chiseling blade. 

Turns out that it's perfect for getting under a corner to start the sticker-removal process.

I chose to leave the two flag stickers on the tail section for now, as a reminder of where the boat came from, and the unique history she carries with her.
The big noodle decals on the bow were quite thick.
I imagine they were the type usually stuck to the sides of delivery trucks.
Most of the pasta pieces were joined together in one large decal, but there was one loose cavatappi noodle that was fun and easy to pull off.
That's one BIG noodle!
Starting the peel.
Almost there.
And Ta-daa! Shiny black surface.
Now, who can I stick this huge noodle sticker on?

Many of my friends have told me that I "really should leave the stickers on".
They like the big noodles, the patriotic FDNY, or just the overall look of the boat with race car-like decals.  I've been told that if I left them on, people would always ask about the stickers and then the gondolier could regale them with stories of the expedition.
But my choice to pull them off was made long ago.
I already did the math on that decision back in 2007,
when the Phoenix came back from New York all stickered up.

This morning, after four hours of crawling around the boat and sitting on cardboard, I picked and peeled the last decal off the boat.

Here's a before and after look at the bow.

Yes, yes, yes, the pasta decals are pretty fancy, but folks don't book cruises with me to ride in a boat that has giant noodles and sponsor decals all over it.

I packed up my Xacto knife kit, checked off "peel off all decals" from my big list of things to do, drove home, and clipped my thumbnails.

I think maybe I'll go find Konner's truck tomorrow...
...and stick a big noodle decal on it.