Saturday, August 29, 2015

A Taste of Italy at BCYC

Today Simon and I brought two gondolas to the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club
(at the opposite end of the harbor) for their "Taste of Italy" night.
There were about a hundred people in attendance - all enjoying great food,
fun conversations, and all waiting to climb aboard a gondola for a short but enjoyable cruise.
Two Venetian beauties, ready and waiting.
Heading under the bridge to Balboa Island.
Our route was from BCYC, to the Marine Avenue bridge to Balboa Island,
a loop under, and ten back to the club.
The sprint course for this year's USGN will follow a similar route,
but turning at a buoy just prior to reaching the bridge.
Longer races include passage through the arches of this bridge.

 Simon and his passengers enjoying the last hour of sunshine.

 My passengers catching the sun's remarkable "splashdown".
One more great twilight shot.

Soon many of you will row these waters during the races this November.
The folks at BCYC are looking forward to watching...and cheering.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Perfect (for about 20 minutes)

There's a span of time - after sunset and before it gets
completely dark - where the very best colors temporarily reside.
During that short time, it's absolutely perfect.
Here are four shots I took tonight in the canals of Newport.

Looking over the carved deck of the Wedding Gondola.
Steve and his passengers glide by.
The only thing that makes a sunset better: Palm trees, of course.

Sunday, August 23, 2015

Venice Tourism Debate

Venice has been a popular tourist destination for generations, but lately things have changed in ways that many venetians aren't entirely happy with.

A collection of factors have come together to create a situation that is arguably detrimental to this precious city on the Adriatic.

A clear picture is given in this article in the International Business Times:
Venice Tourism Debate 2015: Residents Fear Visitors Are Destroying Their City, Demand Authorities Crack Down On Cruise Ships

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Palio della Voga di Cervia

As I write this, the lifeguards are getting ready to race in Cervia.
This is the week of the Palio della Voga of Cervia - a popular competition between rescue personnel on the Adriatic Riviera. The event was established in 1992, with the original idea coming from the lifeguards of the major towns of the Adriatic coast.

Cervia is one of the many beach towns that stretch southward below the Venetian lagoon.
In that region, the lifeguards row an interesting craft:
It's a short catamaran setup, with oarlocks on either side and no sailing gear.
The rowing is done standing, while facing forward, allowing the lifeguard to look forward and enjoy a high vantage point.
Two oars, standing, and facing forward.
If this rowing arrangement sounds familiar, then you might be from
Long Beach, California.  It's quite similar to what they do on some of
the boats at the Gondola Getaway.

Some good images of the Long Beach two-oared boats can be seen
in my post "Busy Times at Gondola Getaway".

The lifeguards aren't rowing Naples gondolas, but it's essentially the same motion.
If I were a gondolier from Long Beach, I might consider showing up in Cervia and trying to join the competition as a wildcard.

Here's a short video with some good examples of the rowing style:

if the video doesn't appear, go to:

The races take place in a tight straight central waterway.
Unlike most Venetian rowing races, these are short sprints of 200 meters,
with a down and back format.

I discovered this brief video (only 47 seconds) which shows the return leg of a race with the crowd going nuts:
if the video doesn't appear, go to:

This short-burst-sprint approach is fitting for rowing lifeguards - as you can imagine, if they see a drowning victim, a safe rescue depends on quick response.
Many of the races I've seen have taken less than two minutes from start to finish.
It almost reminds me of a rowing drag race.
The racers speed down a concrete channel,
with lots of banners and sponsor signage,
and the crowds are big, all cheering as the lifeguards compete against each other.  Announcers give excited play-by-play over the sound system, with popular upbeat music thumping loudly throughout.

Another interesting difference:
many of the races take place after dark, under lights.

This next video is a long one - 25 minutes, but it shows many different races and gives a clear picture of what it all looks like AND sounds like:
if the video doesn't appear, go to:

Of course the lifeguard factor is strong here.
Most competitors wear their swimsuits, there's lots of red, and the boats all say "salvataggio" on the sides (rescue).
At the end of some races the rowers throw themselves into the water and take a celebratory swim!

There are men's races, women's races, and even rescue demonstrations by large Newfoundland dogs. 

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cavallo Soto Ponte

Indirect light reflects off a single brass horse
in the shade of the Newport Blvd. bridge.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

On Shimmering Water

This evening Simon and his passengers glided on the surface of shimmering pre-sunset waters in Newport harbor.  Here are a few snaps.



Tuesday, August 18, 2015

"Business Extra"

Earlier in the year, my wife and I were invited to step in front of the camera
for a series of short videos for American Airlines to promote their "Business Extra" program.  They came to Newport, spent a day shooting video of us
on the water and in interview format.
My wife looks and sounds amazing (as always).

To see the clip, go to
and click on "Hear from a customer" in the lower right hand side.
While you're there, think about signing up - it's been a great program for us.

Special thanks to our passenger-couples Anthony and Maria, and Don and Lori.
The other gondolier was Jakob Easton, who handled the boat like a pro.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

US Gondola Nationals - Website is Live!

While many of you might have wondered if I fell off the edge of the earth
or crawled into a cave for a long nap, I've been quietly and diligently planning and arranging things for our big shindig out here in November.

Some details are still being tended to, and there's plenty more to do before we're ready to pop the corks and break ahem, NOT break oars,
but to appease some of your curiosity, take a look at the website:

Some of the race details are outlined there.
Maps will soon be added.
Mark your calendars, my friends!

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Final Systems Check

You don't just "pick up" Venetian rowing, at least not without some work. 
For the last couple weeks Micah - one of our new trainees has been out
on the water, getting lots of knowledge and practice from a couple of my favorite gondoliers.

Today was Micah's final rowing test - the "final systems check".
Micah rows while head trainer Simon enjoys the ride.

We don't wear shorts on passenger cruises, but for training, and other non-passenger adventures, definitely.

Today was a "shorts day".
Heck, shorts were invented for days like this.

It was a great day to be out on the water.

He's got an impressive crew rowing background, so a lot of attention was focused on translating the movements.  Thanks to my gondoliers Simon and Kalev, and tenacity on Micah's part, today he passed with flying colors.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Just the Photo - Stickers and Stripes

photo by Kierlyn Densham

Gondolier Simon wearing red stripes, rows the gondola "Stella" in Newport
using a remo with red stripes.
Stella still has her trademark flag stickers on the tail.

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Seeing the Wind

photo by Jakob Easton

There's wisdom in the old African proverb
"Smooth seas do not make skillful sailors"

It lines up well with Neitzsche's
"that which doesn't kill me makes me stronger"

Now I'd like to add one of my own:
"Always know what's in the room...before you enter the room"

But you can't always do that.
For centuries we've been unable to anticipate what the wind conditions would be in the hours or days to come.

19th Century poet Christina Rosetti summed it up in her own way:

Who Has Seen the Wind?     
Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.

Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
Of course they didn't have the same level of technology back in the 1800's.
Now, with the aid of weather stations, orbiting satellites,
and supercomputers, we can actually SEE the wind.
A while back I was introduced to a website known as
and it changed the way I looked at the wind.
For the longest time I would consult the basic weather forecast sites,
take note of the projected wind direction and speed, and plan accordingly.
But with Windyty, I can actually see the wind. 
I can zoom in and follow the direction of the arrows which indicate both
wind direction and speed. 
Then, when I get a call about gondolas in my Texas or Nevada locations,
I can zoom out the map and tap in closer to those other locations.
Of course it's not perfect. No weather forecast is.
What's the old saying?
"The weather man is the only person who can get it
    completely wrong, and still have his job the next day".
With Windyty, we can actually get some hint of "what's in the room"
before we "enter the room".
This website was designed by a pilot and extreme sports guy who wasn't
satisfied with what was out there. 
The program doesn't just show us the winds on the surface of our sphere,
it also allows us to see them at various other altitudes,
gives color coded temperature readings, rain, and even waves.
Windyty - it will change the way you "see" the wind.

Saturday, August 1, 2015

Afterglow in the Afterglow

This evening I had two separate marriage proposals on my boat.
The second one had a fun twist:
Once she said "yes", he said "how about now?"
In short order we were all standing on a beach in the harbor,
and I had my ceremony book with wedding text that the gentleman and I had agreed upon ahead of time.

It was an ambush wedding:
He said "will you?"
she said "yes"
he said "will you - right now?"
I said "Got the ceremony right here"
She said "heck yeah!"
And there were relatives waiting on the beach.

Afterwards, we cruised through the harbor, loving the beautiful twilight sky.
There was a beautiful post-sunset afterglow,
but it didn't compare to the afterglow coming from my passengers.
The above photo was taken while approaching the Newport Boulevard bridge,
with another gondolier and his boat beneath the bridge.