I was lucky enough to spend a little time with Mark Schooling
at Gondola Paradiso and see his beautiful new addition.
She's a truly unique boat (the only one this side of the Atlantic).
Even in the Veneto, Nereo Zane tells me there are only a handful
of these vessels (only about a half-dozen).
The full name for this type of boat is "batela a coa de gambaro"
and it means "shrimp-tailed boat".
This boat has shown up here on the Gondola Blog quite a bit lately,
because she is quite remarkable,
and also because I'm a real fan of what Mark is doing up there in Ventura.
Here are some images of the boat that Mark has christened "Maria",
In honor of his mother (in true gondolier form).
Maria - looking good...even while standing still.
If you know Venetian boats, there are a lot of
familiar details about the boat.
Here we see the trademark "shrimp tail" part of the boat.
Also in this photo: a forcola that Mark hand-carved out of Mahogany.
Unlike some asymmetrical Venetian boats,
Mark's batela is the same on both sides.
She looks absolutely striking from the centerline.
And at the tip of the leading edge, we see a familiar piece of brass.
Just like the rest of the boat, while this may have been based
on something in Venice, it was "born" in the Pacific Northwest.
The iconic spear-tipped ferro on Mark's boat was custom made
at a foundry not far from the place she was built.
Of course all fasteners were plugged and fared, then a clever non-skid
effect was achieved using glass beads - allowing us all to truly appreciate
the beauty of the wood (while not slipping and falling in the water).
Mark and I climbed aboard and took her out for a spin.
Once safely away from the dock, Mark let me take the remo and row a bit.
The boat handled nicely. It was easy to get her moving and she responded well to the standard changes in stroke to go in one direction or another.
Most of these boats are in the Row Venice fleet.
I've mentioned them here before; Row Venice is an awesome company - offering Venetian rowing lessons IN the city of Venice, Italy.
They have found the size, capacity, and stability to be perfect for their needs.
Stepping on board Mark's boat, and later crawling all over the place with my Nikon, I truly appreciated the stable nature of the design.
I was able to walk along the rail without creating too much lean for Mark as he rowed.
A shot from the very front of the boat.
There's nothing quite like the smile of a new boat owner.
Measuring thirty feet from tip to tip, she's a little shorter in length,
but her length at the waterline is a bit more than a standard gondola.
She didn't spin quite as readily as a gondola,
but turning was never a problem.
I found that her longer footprint seemed to make for a more dependable tracking when moving through the water.
Looking at this boat, you can't miss the beauty of the wood.
She was built in Port Hadlock, Washington (Northwest School of Wooden Boatbuilding), and the folks responsible for her creation have a clear reverence for beautifully displayed wood. They chose wonderfully contrasting woods, with the North-West White Cedar complimenting a darker African Sapele wood - which is closely related to Mahogany.
Gondola Paradiso's "Maria":
she's a great boat,
in a great spot,
with a great gondolier at the helm.