Friday, July 31, 2015

Shot by a Pro in Tahoe

photo by Mike Herron

Professional photographer Mike Herron managed to be in the right place
at the right time to capture this nice "golden hour" shot of Drew Sainte Marie on Lake Tahoe.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Accordionista in Minnesota

John Kerschbaum at Gondola Romantica in Stillwater, Minnesota
sent me this great video.

It's not every day that an accordion player makes a music video,
but when Simone Perrin decided to do so a few years back,
she chose the best possible vessel to be seen on: a gondola.

To really appreciate the visuals, go to this link for a bigger display:
And check out how deftly John pilots that beautiful gondola.

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Vacation More as a Traveler & Less Like a Tourist

Our friend Marie Ohanesian Nardin has a unique and informed perspective of Venice, Italy. 
She grew up in Los Angeles, but married a Venetian and has lived in Italy for more than twenty years now.

Check out Marie's piece in the Huffington Post:
"Venice, Italy: Vacation More as a Traveler & Less Like a Tourist"

Nice to see Paolo Brandolisio mentioned.

You can follow more of Marie's writings at:
"Italy to Los Angeles and Back"


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Tequila Sunset

In the early 70's, a couple of bartenders in Sausalito, California
updated an old cocktail from the 30's.
Combining grenadine, Orange juice, and of course, tequila - if properly
created, the drink settled into a stack of colors in a glass. 

In 1972, the Rolling Stones held a private party at that Bay Area establishment known as The Trident.  Mick Jagger and those around him took a liking to the drink and reportedly requested it during their cross country tour. 
The drink was known as the "Tequila Sunrise".
The popularity of the drink exploded, and today it can be ordered at nearly any bar in the country.

Tonight, out on the waters of Newport, my passengers and I
enjoyed a "Tequila Sunset".
Yes, there is a cocktail by that name too,
but the one we were savoring was ahead on the horizon.

As gondoliers, most of us are expert sunset-watchers.
Tonight's was a classic clear-sky "Tequila Sunset".

It never gets old. Never.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Tahoe Press: "There’s a New Gondola in Town!"

Drew up in Tahoe was featured in a fun article in The Tahoe Journal:
"Ciao, Tahoe Amore! There’s a New Gondola in Town!"
It's a fun read, and the kind of press all gondola operators enjoy getting.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

The "Comings and Goings"

Sitting on the dock, talking with my teenage daughter,
we watched several cruises come in or go out.
I didn't have my Nikon with me, but here are a few snaps I took
with my phone on a perfect evening in Newport.


Thursday, July 23, 2015

Trent Takes Off

This evening in Newport, I stood on the dock and watched
another happy couple depart on their own personal voyage to the sun,
this time with gondolier Trent on the back of the boat.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Poem

Tim Reinard of Sunset Gondola has turned his creativity in a literary direction.
He posted a deep, history-inspired piece of prose on his blog:
"American Gondolier".

Monday, July 20, 2015

"Regatta Report!"

photo by kathleen Gonzalez

Our friend Kathleen Gonzalez (author of the book "Free Gondola Ride")
was lucky enough to be in Venezia for a regatta.

She posted a nice summary of the race in her Seductive Venice blogpost: "Regatta Report!"

Voga Alma Mater

photo by Angelino Sandri

The Venetian style of rowing, known as "voga alla Veneta" is a brilliant
thing - combining different movements that incorporate the entire body.

The rower can take advantage of their full reach, use multiple muscle
groups - beginning at the feet and ending in the hands,
while everything in between contributes to the effort. 

All this is done while standing and facing forward.
The fact that the rower stands, gives him or her a better vantage point than if they were seated.  In addition to having the ability to use their whole body muscle-wise, they can also use their body weight - stepping left, right, forward or aft - to affect the way the boat behaves. 

While voga-alla-Veneta may be amazing, it's not the kind of thing that you just figure out on your own.  The various strokes, stances, grips, and techniques are usually passed on from one person to another.

In my time on the back of a gondola, I've had three main teachers.
The first taught me the basic push-and-return "premèr e stalìr".
It was all he knew, having been taught by an American, who was taught by an American, who was taught by an get the idea.
I have always appreciated his teaching, and while the curriculum was limited, he'd learned and rowed in a sandolo operation, where those two strokes were all that was used.

My second teacher was Angelino Sandri, who operates Gondola Servizio
on Lake Merritt in Oakland, California.  He had learned to row a gondola from gondoliers in Venice.  Angelino's knowledge was much more complete, and he did his best to put as much of it into my head as possible.

I flew up to the Bay Area, got out on the lake with Angelino, and learned a great amount in a short time.  It's remarkable how much can be accomplished when you bring a knowledge-hungry student and a great teacher together.  A few follow-up phone conversations and another session on the water - this time here in Newport - and I was ready to go!
Realistically, I was ready to continue learning on my own
(because you never stop learning).

That was fifteen years ago.
I would go on to receive further training from Arturo Morucchio at the GSVVM in Venice, building upon the valuable knowledge I'd received from Angelino.

I hadn't been out on the waters of lake Merritt again until this last June.
While following my daughter's band on tour, I found myself just five minutes away from the lake, with a few hours of spare time so I jumped at the chance to call Gondola Servizio.

When I arrived, I was impressed to see that Angelino and his wife April now have a full shop of Venetian products.  Their operation is now based out of the Lake Chalet restaurant building, with a private dock accessible through a door of the shop.

As usual, the boats looked great, and well-appreciated.
Angelino hand a nice bottle of pinot grigio on the boat.
He had expected my wife to come as well, but she got caught up with
band business and was feeling a bit under the weather.

We stepped aboard a gorgeous boat built by the dei Rossi family on the Giudecca in Venice. 
I knew this boat because I'd rowed her the last time I was in Oakland.
Angelino has an enviable relationship with Squero dei Rossi,
having brought many great boats from their yard to the US.

We rowed out onto the lake and I was hit with a flood of memories.
So much has happened in the last decade and a half.
Angelino directed me to a spot at the south end of the lake where a new area had been developed with a few nice bridges to sing under.

We rowed around, taking turns snapping photos and toasting with a brilliant pinot grigio.
It was like a homecoming, like visiting my "Voga Alma Mater" in a way.

Here are a few photos of that memorable time on the water:
An asymmetric beauty at rest.

photo by Angelino Sandri
photo by Angelino Sandri

After our time on the waters of Lake Merritt, I thanked Angelino
and watched him greet passengers for his cruise.
Stepping out of the building, I snapped a few shots of them
as they took off on a peaceful and romantic voyage.

 Gondolas on lake Merritt - it's a beautiful thing.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Golf Tournament Coverage

Video shamelessly swiped by someone other than the Gondola Blog staff
(who then sent it to the Gondola Blog).
I can hear it now over the walkie talkies:
"Alright, go to commercial...oh wait! Get a shot of that gondola!"

What do you do when there's a celebrity golf tournament near your gondola operation? You row over there and be as visible as possible, of course.

Today our friend Drew up in Tahoe managed to be in the "right place, at the right time" and as I would expect - was just too eye-catching for the camera operators to pass up.

Nice job, Drew!

Friday, July 17, 2015

гондола Царском селе

photo by Andrey Krasov

Here's a nice shot of the gondola in Tsarskoye Selo - a place so named because it was the "Tsar's Village". 
The waterway is on the grounds of Catherine's Palace,
24 kilometers south of downtown St. Petersburg in Russia.

We've seen this boat before in previous posts.
(see below for a list of posts)

This shot was taken on June 21st of this year, by Andrey Krasov,
and it's one of my favorites so far. 

The building in the background is a Turkish bath - Emperor Nicholas I ordered it's construction in 1850.  It was the last structure built on the park grounds, as a symbol of one of the Russian victories over the Turks in 1829. 

Many thanks to Andrey for this nice snapshot of life in Tsarskoye Selo in the summertime.

List of previous posts about the gondola in Tsarskoye Selo:
   -   Гондола!
   -   Russian Gondola Under the Flash 
   -   Just the Photo - Russian Registration
   -   Just the Photo - Russian Ferro 
   -   Russian Gondola Newlyweds

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Gondolas in Milwaukee

Some time around 1990, an Italian transplant and his sons built a couple gondolas in their garage in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 
His name was Carlo Treviso from Sicily.  Based off of a model from Venice,
they created their boats using mostly oak and elm. 
Three gondolas were built by the Treviso family. 
In 1991 their gondolas began taking passengers on the Milwaukee River.
The Wisconsin servizio continued offering cruises for many years.
One of the annual events on Carlo's calendar was the "Festa Italiana",
which currently takes place at the Summerfest Grounds - along the shores of Lake Michigan. 

Eventually Carlo's sons took over for a few years, he passed away,
and some years later the boats ended up being owned by the organization responsible for Festa Italiana.

I spoke with Bill Jennaro, who has the honor of running the gondola cruise division of Festa Italiana.
He told me that they now have four gondolas. 
The fourth boat (a Venice-built gondola)
was bought from Mike Novack in New Jersey.

I learned that there are two veteran gondoliers and two younger guys.
The two veterans are Sicilian and actually worked under Carlo Treviso,
and two younger gondoliers are college students who row crew.

The veterans
The whole crew - veterans, young guys, and fleet commodore Jennaro
This year's Festa Italiana takers place this weekend - July 17th-19th.

The four gondolas will take passengers in a smooth protected waterway.
The boats are not motorized, and are propelled only by the guys in striped shirts, who love their job.

When I spoke with Bill Jennaro, he told me that the Festa Italiana staff love the gondolas, and are so happy to be able to offer cruises as part of the festival experience.
And why shouldn't they?
After all, Not only is Festa Italiana the biggest Italian-American festival in the United States, it's also the only one that has a fleet of gondolas.

To learn more, go to:

There's a good photo of the Venice-built gondola on this page:

And a short video here:

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

The Big One-Eight

Eighteen years ago today my life changed forever,
as Elisa and I welcomed our first daughter, Cassandra into the world.
I learned a whole new dimension and depth of love.
We have been blessed with a multitude of great memories and experiences with her and her sister.
I don't typically post birthday messages here on the Gondola Blog
because as much as I love all my friends, there are just too many birthdays
and milestones to post about,
but I decided to make an exception today as Cassandra turns 18.
Cassandra has grown up on and around boats. 
As soon as I could, I got her on a gondola.

In Venice, her fanatical father dragged her out onto the lagoon for a row.
Of course when you have parents who met at a rock n' roll/heavy metal church, and your dad is a singing gondolier, you tend to lean towards music.
Cassandra has her own band, and while I may be a little bit biased,
They are truly awesome, and her singing is incredible.
Check them out at:

Happy birthday Cassandra.
I'm proud of you.

Monday, July 13, 2015

The Gym

My "office" is great.
The view is amazing, and changes constantly.

It's naturally air-conditioned.
Oh, and there's gym!

Today I decided to do my morning workout on the pupparin.

I ran into Trent as he was heading out with some passengers
on a perfect day in Newport.

Friday, July 10, 2015

Just the Photo - Slicing the Sun's Reflection

I love rowing with the sun's brilliance reflecting on the water ahead of me. 
I always seem to be drawn to the task of lining the bow of my boat up
so she cuts right down the middle of that shimmering reflection.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Messing About with Boats

One of John Kerschbaum's gondoliers, Michael, 
came to visit me today in Newport.

We jumped on a gondola, rowed out onto the bay, and enjoyed a windy
but beautiful afternoon, which gave way to an evening of equal splendor.

A few strokes into the row, and I could tell that Michael knew what
he was doing - although if a guy comes from Kerschbaum's operation
in Minnesota, you can be sure that he's been trained right.

In a short time, he was rowing and smiling on the back of the Wedding Gondola.

We passed Steve Elkins as he was heading out with passengers on the Phoenix.

We docked and helped Kalev get out on the water with his passengers.
He looked great, rowing off in the light of the setting sun.

Next we climbed into the pupparin and followed them up into the canals.

We rowed, we sang, we swapped stories.
In short: we "messed about with boats".

In his book The Wind in the Willows,
one of Kenneth Grahame's characters said:

Believe me, my young friend, there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats.

So true.
It may not always be constructive,
but there's nothing "half so much worth doing."
I've been on boats my whole life, and I still can't pinpoint exactly why
it's so enjoyable to float around on the surface of a body of water,
why piloting a boat (rowed or motorized) seems to allow so many of us
to forget about all the worries and troubles we left on land.
All I know is that Kenneth Grahame wrote, in a children's book,
one of the most solid truths I've ever heard.

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Suit Up!

I had a wedding cruise today.
I rowed my couple to a small beach within the harbor,
Eased the bow of the gondola up onto the sand,
and then performed a ceremony standing there on the beach,
with about 35 or 40 guests gathered around us.

Rowing, and then performing a ceremony, you have to give
serious thought to your clothing.  Do you go with stripes (like a gondolier)
and perform the ceremony as a gondolier? 
or do you choose to row in a suit, sacrificing comfort and mobility to look good while doing the ceremony?

This evening I chose the suit.

With the weather as amazing as it was, the only thing I had to get used to
was having my collar buttoned up with a necktie.

My preference when rowing is still the standard stripes,
but it was fun rowing in my suit, and with a wedding on the agenda,
I definitely did not feel overdressed.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Turkish Gondolas

photo courtesy Kapadokya Jet Boat & Gondola

While everyone seems to be focusing their attention on what's going on in Greece, there's this other country, just across the water called Turkey. 

It's a country that literally straddles the border between east and west,
between Europe and Asia.  When most people think of Turkey,
they picture Istanbul (the city that's actually on that east/west border),
but there's much more to the country.

A good example is a place called Kapadokya. 
Often referred to as "Cappadocia" in the English-speaking world,
this region has a rich history and many remarkable rock formations.

There are many tour operators in the area. Kapadokya Jetboat & Gondola
works to show their customers different perspectives of the Kapadokya region, offering spectacular views from both land and water.
They have a fleet of ten gondolas, three jetboats and twenty-six jeeps.

The gondolas were all built in Turkey.  They cruise on the Kızılırmak river, 
which moves at a speed of10 km/h.  Each boat has a small electric motor to make moving upriver possible, but they do have forcole and remi for proper rowing.

All gondoliers must learn and practice for one year and have lifeguard and first aid certificates before carrying passengers.

Gondolas in Turkey, who knew?

And just like that, I have a reason to go to Kapadokya.

To learn more, go to:

Monday, July 6, 2015


photo by Christian Spence

Sunday, July 5, 2015

US Gondola Nationals 2015 - The Announcement!

photo by John Kerschbaum

I am honored and excited to announce that the US Gondola Nationals will be held this year in Newport Beach, California

The dates: November 14th and 15th (that's a Saturday and a Sunday),
with some possible exhibition events taking place on Friday for those who can attend.

The standard sprint and distance races will be held, in both solo and tandem configurations.  In addition, you can expect to see at least one event involving a four-oar configuration, and one or more events on Venetian boats other than gondolas.

Each installment of this event has been a great achievement on the part of the hosts, and an incredible experience for all who participated. 
I am honored to be this year's host, and will be relying heavily on my staff, and many friends in the gondola business to make this edition of the event the best it can be.

Exact details of race locations and scheduling of events is still to come,
but for now, I am throwing out a friendly challenge to all those American gondoliers, to come out to Newport this November.
Meet, sing, and race with us!

An official facebook page is up - just search:
US Gondola Nationals - 4th Annual.

I look forward to seeing you all then!

The above photo is one of many featured in the post
"Tandem Distance - the Brothers Haynes"
from the competition last year in Providence, Rhode Island.

Saturday, July 4, 2015

The Four of Us on the Fourth

This evening I was fortunate to share the water with a few great gondoliers: Steve Elkins, Steve "Stefano" Anastasia, and Evan Kliewer. 
We made our way as a group, down to the main turning basin of Newport Harbor, to watch one of the fireworks displays.
Stefano had a couple that got engaged on the water tonight, and we all enjoyed congratulating them after their gondolier announced that "she said yes".
On the way there, and during the return-row, there was an unofficial
sing-off going on, as the four boats cruised alongside each other and
each gondolier took his turn singing a song.
The passengers loved it, and so did we.
At one point I realized that the super huge charter yacht "Endless Dreams"
was cruising behind us. 
I called my former gondolier Lars, thinking he might be the guy driving it,
and he picked up the phone saying:
"What!? I LIKE following the gondolas". 
We all enjoyed waving and shouting up to him in the pilothouse.
I told my passengers that "the guy driving that huge yacht started out a s a gondolier" and that "there's hope for all of us".
The fireworks display was great.
We were able to view several different official firework shows, and there
were a number of residents who chose to create their own aerial displays.
All in all, it was a fantastic night out on the water.
The 4th of July is always great in Newport.

Happy Independence Day from the Gondola Blog

To all my American friends:
Happy 4th of July!

And to all my non-American friends:

We kinda freak out each year on this day.

You're welcome to join us.
Come to my house - we'll barbeque and watch fireworks!

(flag by Betsy Ross, remo by Saverio Pastor)

Friday, July 3, 2015

On the Eve of the Fourth

As we kick off summer here in Newport Beach,
we gain a fair number of temporary residents.

That is to say that, like many east coast beach towns,
they come in droves - families, party people, and all sorts of folks
in search of a good place to cool off during the hot months. 

It really ramps up right before the 4th of July. 
So while my gondoliers and I were cruising under the Newport Blvd. bridge, there were lots of people driving over it (foolishly thinking they'd find a place
to park), coming in for the big day.

It may have been stressful on the roads,
but it was blissful as ever on the water.

Here are a few moments captured by my Nikon tonight:

Steve cruises by with happy passengers.

Jupiter and Venus glow overhead in the twilight.
New gondolier, Trent from Texas, cruises by like a pro
as an unknown gondolier rounds the corner beyond him.

What is WaterFire?

photo by Greg Mohr

Ten years ago, my friend Joe Gibbons in Boston told me about this amazing event in Providence, Rhode Island called WaterFire. 

His tone conveyed to me that it really was an incredible thing.
I asked him to describe it, and while he did his best to explain
what it was, the event he was describing didn't sound as amazing
as his enthusiasm for it.

I heard about WaterFire several more times from different people who'd experienced it, and again, their descriptions did not match how awesome
they clearly thought it was.

Finally, in 2014, I was able to attend the US Gondola Nationals 
in Providence and see WaterFire in person.

It did not disappoint.
And yet while it was happening, I realized that mere words could not
adequately convey the experience.

Of course after all of this negativity about describing it,
I suppose I should give it a try:

WaterFire takes place after dark on the river running through Providence on selected nights.
It began in 1994 as a sort of public art piece.
Metal fire pits, which are mounted just above the surface of the water are

filled with firewood and set alight.
A selection of deep musical pieces is played through a sound system.
The music is from all around the world, with elements of classical, primitive, and new age.
People line the shores of the waterway, drinking wine or hot beverages,
some lay out blankets and have picnic setups.
Gondolas take passengers around the flaming cauldrons,
while staff boats tend to those flames and feed them fresh firewood.  Occasionally other boats cruise through,
sometimes throwing flowers to folks on shore.

See, wasn't that a disappointing attempt at describing it?

The folks at La Gondola in Providence not only hosted an amazing
Nationals competition last year, they offered any visiting gondolier
the chance to row a cruise during this incredible event.

Many of us, from various states, got to see what WaterFire is like
from a gondolier's perspective.
Afterwards, I asked four of the guys rowing that night
to describe WaterFire in three ways:
One word,
One sentence,
What do you like about it?

Two of the guys were from Providence, one was from California,
the other from Minnesota.

Here's how they answered:

"Elemental" - Richie from Sunset Gondola in California

"Art" - Rafaello of La Gondola in Providence

"Enchantment" - John Kerschbaum of Gondola Romantica in Minnesota

"Bliss" - Alberto of La Gondola in Providence

"A gathering of primal elements."
          - Rafaello of La Gondola in Providence

"wind, water, fire, smoke, merging as one in an ever changing sea of enchantment."
          - John Kerschbaum of Gondola Romantica in Minnesota

"A fusion of culture combined with archaic elements."
              - Richie from Sunset Gondola in California

"It's good to be a gondolier during water fire."
          - Alberto of La Gondola in Providence

"Rowing through a bridge, and seeing the fires with their watery reflections framed by the arch." - Rafaello of La Gondola in Providence

"A wise man once said that life is the gap that bridges water and fire,
I don't know about that but it sure is nice to push a gondola around a bunch of campfires, and listen to the music the world has to offer.  They are tricky boats to drive, and you up the ante a bit when there 100 or so fires to navigate.  
It is a great way to bring the community together."
                                            - Will of La Gondola in Providence

"It was by far the coolest thing I’ve ever done on a gondola besides race with Eric.  It was interesting to be the facilitator for such a unique experience.  It’s also a bit nerve racking because you’re rowing a wooden boat so close to the fire.
Boats can catch fire, passenger’s hair can catch fire!" 
                                                  - Richie from Sunset Gondola in California

For the record, nothing caught fire.
John from Minnesota had too many things to mention in this category.

Tim Reinard - owner of Sunset Gondola in California offered a good summary:
"Rowing along the river in Providence during waterFire is like being the star of a Broadway show with out script or words, it seems so primal and ancient.
You feel the heat of the fires as you row by. You hear the deep base of the world music and absorb the sonic atmosphere. You see the dancing shadows and shapes of the thousands lining the banks of the river, the fires casting a picture that Dante would appreciate, and they are all looking at you."

photo by John Simonetti

I did ask one other guy to answer my three questions, but he didn't take direction very well.

Marcello - owner and head gondolier at La Gondola.
"As a gondolier, surreal, though my immediate thought was multi-sensory
(even when told to give a one-word answer I cannot do it!)  
As a business owner, STRESSFUL!

To me, WaterFire is an exercise in sensory perception:
the smell and taste of the smoke, peering through the low lighting and the dancing of the flames, as well as the haze of smoke, the crackling of the wood and the music arching over the entire thing, the feel of the changing warmer and cooler air on your face and arms, and the constant buzz of and interaction with the crowd, it all unites to create an experience that one knows must be reality, but still does not quite feel like it is, actually, real; it is something more born out of a dream, when I can escape the dock and just go out there and row around for a while.

Did you see that? I asked for one sentence!

With the next answer, he gave me a full-blown outline.
As a gondolier, there are a whole bunch of great things about being there on a WaterFire night:
   1.  we are there early enough to always get parking!  
   2.  no fighting crowds - the traffic on the river is busy, but still WAY less congested than on shore!  
   3.  waving to the little children in the crowd, and tipping my hat to the couples, etc., and seeing their response - there is nothing like putting a smile on a complete stranger's face, particularly that of a child.  
   4.  the feeling of being a bit of a celebrity, but one who is nevertheless almost completely unrecognizable out of uniform :)  
   5.  the escape from reality that comes with taking off from the dock into an experience that seems to be out of a much older time and place.

I could go on criticizing Marcello's long answers,
but his perspectives are clever and right on the money.
After reading his and the other guy's descriptions,
I realize that it's about more than just seeing.
photo by Jen Bonin
I've tried to capture it on video, but have determined that the only true viewing platform for something like this was invented centuries ago:
The human body with all of it's senses.
WaterFire is not just something you watch.
It's an all-senses experience.
You see it: fire, water, friends, boats and bridges.
Lots of movement - the only things that don't move are the bridges and the ground under your feet.
You hear it: music, conversation, the crackling of wood
as it burns in the cool night air.
You smell it: charred  and burning wood, moist night air.
You taste it: that same smoke manages to make it to your tongue, 
along with red wine or hot chocolate.
You feel it: The heat from the fires radiates, the breeze glides past you,
the music (at such a high volume) resonates your body.
And those who don't believe in a sixth sense...need to visit Providence
and experience the wonder that is WaterFire.
Because I am convinced that a person with none of the five recognized senses, would still experience the profound feeling in their soul that WaterFire brings.
photo by John Simonetti
To learn more about WaterFire, or to find out about the next scheduled event, go to
La Gondola in Providence can be reached at