Saturday, May 30, 2015

The "Dutch Neuschwanstein"

Our German friend Uwe Kunze from Kiel posted theses on Facebook
and I just had to snag them and post them here.

The castle is the famous Kasteel de Haar in the Netherlands - just south of Amsterdam in the outskirts of Utrecht.
It was built in 1880 and is known as the "Dutch Neuschwanstein".

My first response, of course, was jealousy.
Uwe was quick to point out, however, that there were:
"Gusty winds, narrow bridges, and stones under the surface of the water".

Regardless, I wish I were there to take my chances with those winds, bridges, and stones.

Even so, what a great photo opportunity.

Thanks for making us all jealous, Uwe!

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

The "E-Word"

The phone rings with all sorts of strange requests.
We've had a wide variety of creative approaches relating to marriage proposals and other surprises.  Very little seems to raise my eyebrows anymore.  When the phone rang last year for a TV commercial, however,
I was genuinely surprised.

It went something like this:
"We want to rent a gondola from you for an in-studio shoot."
    "OK, we've done that a number of times. 
     What can you tell me about the shoot?"

"I can't tell you many details, but we want your widest one."
    "My widest one? How wide do you need it to be?"
(brief pause)

"Um, well, I can't really tell you exactly what we need it for because the subject matter is under wraps at this point."
   "I understand. We're used to non-disclosure situations,
    and I promise we won't divulge anything until the finished product is on TV.
    Now if you'll just tell me what you're looking to do,
    maybe I can do a better job of helping you achieve your goal."

Only then did the person on the other end of the phone use the "e-word"...

That is where my eyebrows went up.
I probably snapped my fingers to get my wife's attention,
giving that "you're not gonna believe this" kind of expression.

After a quick conversation regarding the weight of the elephant they were planning on using, I said that I'd be happy to assist in any way I could,
but that there was no way I could provide a gondola that would fit their needs.

In the end they rented several removable gondola parts from me, I provided some advice, and they built their own "pachyderm-capable" gondola.
It was about nine feet wide, built using plans they'd bought from Venice.
They actually only built the aft two-thirds of the vessel - which gave them the ability to get an in-the-boat angle more effectively.
Cleverly, they also built it with the rails flared out, making for a better shot.

Now that the commercial is in circulation, I can finally share this information.
Remarkably, even though the ad is running regularly on TV,
I have yet to find it anywhere online, so you'll just have to
keep an eye out for it - trust me, you'll know it when you see it.

I can imagine that advertising these types of medical products isn't easy because they're not nearly as exciting as juicy burgers or sporty cars.
And yet the folks with the elephant have done a great job with this campaign.

My only that I never got to meet the elephant.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Looking Great in Tahoe!

photo by Niki Ross

Drew Sainte Marie, the gondolier who has been busy with his new operation in South Lake Tahoe, hosted a couple...and photographer on his gondola recently.
Tahoe-based pro photographer Niki Ross stepped aboard and took some dynamic images - showing us all just how beautiful Drew's location is.

You can see the whole set of photos at: 

Venetian Gondola Lifestyle Portrait Session
Niki also gave a nice write-up.
If her clients are smart, they'll book portrait sessions on the boat.

Couples always look great when they're sitting in a gondola.

For more information on Niki Ross, see:

Tahoe Amore's website is:

Monday, May 18, 2015

A New Boat on the Water

photo by Mark Schooling

Mark at Gondola Paradiso sent me this great shot of his new boat,
freshly launched in Channel Islands Harbor in Oxnard, California. 
This is an exceptional piece of boatbuilding. 
She's the first "batela a coa de gambaro" in the U.S., custom-made
by some talented folks at the Northwestern School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock, Washington.
In keeping with Italian tradition, she's named "Maria" - after his mother.

Big congrats to Mark on his new boat.
She looks fantastic!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

The Calm AFTER the Storm

We had some glorious rain today in Southern California.
Showers that refreshed our soil and washed everything down.
It's not very good for business when you're in gondolas,
but we sure do need it around here.  After most of it had cleared up,
Jakob and I rowed out on the Contessa - a majestic pupparin.
It was his first time rowing tandem, and the first time he'd rowed a fast and lightweight boat like this.  As I'd expected, Jakob had a blast on that light, nimble little boat, and I expect he'll be signing up for cruises on her soon.

Everyone talks about "the calm before the storm",
but sometimes the calm that comes afterwards is even more noteworthy.
Jakob snapped this one while rowing.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

The View from My Office Tonight

It's naturally air-conditioned,
but it's the view from my office that I love so much.
Here's what I enjoyed this evening after dropping my passengers.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Separated at Birth

photo by Candace Benson

While this post isn't about any of my gondolier friends who are like
"brothers from another mother",
there are many of you with whom I really do feel a kinship.

No, this post is about something much more exciting: chairs.

Several years ago I was lucky enough to add the "Curci Gondola",
known as the "Lucia" to our fleet.
She was built in 1960 in Venice and brought to California a few years later. 
I'm not really sure if she only ever had one chair
or if one was lost in the last fifty-five years. 
I just know that I've wished I could find another chair to match the one.

Early this year we loaded a Tramontin gondola into a truck in New Jersey
and launched her here in Newport just in time for Valentine's Day.
The boat is believed to be forty years old.

Like the "Lucia", she came with only one chair.
After furnishing them both with new, matching cushions,
I put them next to each other, and surprise!
They're almost a perfect set.

If you look closely enough, you'll see a few minor differences,
but I know siblings that look less identical.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Tahoe Skies

photo by Drew Sainte Marie

Out on the water this evening in Tahoe, Drew snapped this beautiful
shot of the sunset's light painting the clouds with brilliant colors.

Friday, May 1, 2015

Batela Launch!

photos and story by John Synco

On Wednesday, April 29th, something pretty awesome happened
up in the Pacific Northwest.  I wasn't able to be there, but thankfully,
John Synco was.
Here, in his own remarkable words, is what happened:

Gearing up for a ferry ride is still exciting even after nearly four years.
It's loud and bumpy, but the view during the day is magnificent.

Today was just a little extra special of a crossing for me.
Today mixed a bit of my past with a future I'm fighting to make real.
I found myself keeping close attention to the elements knowing I was on my way to witness Mark Schooling test row an American-made batela.

While my wife and daughter played with the new addition to our family,
a four-month-old border collie, I sat quietly staring off the port side
of the Walla Walla.

Each time I see the water on the Puget Sound I day dream about a time
when I will be lucky enough to crash through the small swells with the bow
of a Venetian boat. Today the water looked inviting.
I was just hoping the conditions were going to be even better for Mark. 

I took notice of the shade of gray darkening above our heads the closer
we got to our destination, but upon our arrival at the NorthwestSchool of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock, WA. the skies had cleared as if the sun itself wanted to see if this boat would float.

Port Hadlock is a great little town just about nine miles south
of Port Townsend. The school is nestled on the southwestern
shore of Port Townsend Bay. 

Standing on the sandy beach near the old boat launch you see a small dock,
a few sail boats moored out in the distance and a wall of green trees staring back at you from the other side of the bay.

It was quiet enough to hear the birds,
chilly enough to wear a light jacket
and beautiful enough to stay forever.

My first glimpse of the batela was from outside of the wood shop where she sat, perched up on wooden boxes.
When I usually enter a building I take notice of my surroundings.
Not this time - I couldn't take my eyes off of the boat.
I have no idea if I missed out on anything else in that shop.


She was gorgeous and I wanted to take in every curve,
every plank and every grain I could.

As I stood there in awe I noticed more and more people arriving.
I believe they were all current and past students of the school. 
I started to over hear conversations about working on the boat and
how they were excited to see the project finished.
The batela was started with the class of 2014
and ended with the class of 2015. 

I was able to strike up a conversation with one of the students that helped build her. He showed me the plans they had to work with and explained some of the challenges they had to work through. I couldn't get enough.
I would have stood there and listened to the story of every student. 

The time came to haul her out and roll her in to the water, so I walked outside and found Mark Schooling strolling up the street dressed as a gondolier. I smiled and felt lucky to be there on a day so special to him.

We said hi and briefly caught up, but then the boat came flying out of the shop on the hands of a lot of people who made this day possible. 

Everything went smoothly.
They gently placed her on a trailer and rolled her out to the old boat launch.

When the boat floated away from the trailer I felt a collective sigh of relief along the shore. The people cheered. 

She was guided by line and wind to the small dock and Mark took his place on the stern. Unfortunately, the oar he had to use didn't fit into the forcola he had made, but he handled the boat well rowing soto morso. 

I couldn't do anything else but feel extremely happy for him.
He had a huge smile on his face and later revealed that he
wasn't going to be able to wipe it off for quite some time.

Just like in the shop, I found myself hearing the reactions of people standing around me. Some simply praised the look, some were excited to see it floating on the water, some talked about possible changes they would make if they were to build another one and others just stood quietly and watched. 

I overheard one guy say something about rigging it up with a sail,
I heard one girl wonder out loud about the rowing technique
(I immediately spoke up and explained it - that was fun for me),
and finally one of the students revealed she would be traveling to Venice
to study forcole under the direction of Paolo Brandolisio

Will we have an American remer in the near future? That would be cool.

The beautiful batela was hauled out just like it was rolled in - without any problems. Now it will be wrapped up and shipped to Mark in Oxnard as soon as possible.

I had a great time and it was good to see an old face
from the gondola life I painfully miss.