Tuesday, September 29, 2015

The “Happy Face Gondolier”

I hate to say it, but not all gondoliers in Venice appear to love their jobs.
I encountered several who seemed like they weren’t quite digging it – at least not nearly as much as I think I would if I had the good fortune of rowing a passenger gondola in La Serenissima.

Oh sure, we all have our off days, and I assume that the day-in day-out traffic of clueless tourists would change my overall levity of spirit, but still, there were a few guys who just seemed to need a career change.
This guy was not one of them.

My friends, I present to you:
The “Happy Face Gondolier!”

I saw this guy cruising through San Moisè with a smile on his face.
 have no idea what his name is, or what his deal is.
I just know that this guy rests at the top of my list of guys I want to be.

Look at this guy.
He’s happy as can be – loving life.
Heck, he’s even got little happy face stickers on his hat ribbon – one on the crown and the other two on the trailing ends.

This guy is truly “having a nice day”.
There’s even a happy face on his remo.

He's got a great attitude, and a beautiful boat to match.
Check it out:
Wedding gondola with full carvings - even on the rails,
Gorgeous tapestry cloth seating,
carved forcola with gold leaf inlay,
and he works the best job in the world,
taking passengers in Venice,
rowing through a heck of a nice area.

I'd be smiling too!

I don’t know about you, but I, for one, wanna be that guy!

Monday, September 28, 2015

Under the Roof in San Trovaso

Venturing into the shop at Squero San Trovaso, 
I saw this beautiful wedding gondola, with the light from outside bouncing off of all her carvings.

There are only a handful of gondola yards in Venice.
These operations are usually specific to the gondola – as she is built and maintained using methods and materials that date back a century or more.

A “squero” takes it’s name from one of the tools that gondola builders use to measure with (a sort of “builder’s square”).
Squero San Trovaso seems to be in almost all the tourist guidebooks and is by far the most photographed of all the gondola yards in the city.

A lot of the work at Squero San Trovaso takes place outside, 
but there’s room for a few boats in the shop to receive extra special attention – no matter what the weather conditions may be.

The “Wall of Forcole”

There’s the Great Wall of China (kinda big),
In the 60’s Phil Spector gave us the “wall of sound” (kinda loud),
And if you were listening to KROQ in the 80’s – Wall of Voodo 
(kinda New Wave).

Meanwhile, in the workshop of the Gruppo Sportivo Voga Veneta in Mestre,
There’s the “Wall of Forcole”.
I’m sure that every rowing club in the Veneto has a similar collection, but this one happened to be right there in front of me when I was creeping around with my Nikon.

Of course there are a heck of a lot more forcole in the club, in fact they’ve got one boat that has 14 forcole that are kept in their own large wire basket.

Back in the “remo room” there are many sets of forcole which are neatly tied together and hung from wall hooks next to their respective remi.

Ask any rower and they’ll tell you – it’s not all about the boat and the oar.

With voga-alla-Veneta, you’re gonna need a few of these.

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Off the Boat and onto the Ship

Somewhere in the middle of the Adriatic last night, I drifted off to sleep – aided by the rocking and rumbling of the engines eight decks below in the Royal Caribbean ship we’d boarded earlier in the day.

It had been a long week of nearly constant adventures in Venezia.

We flew into Marco Polo, entered the city by water taxi, moved into our apartment,
and jumped immediately into “GO” mode.

My gondolier Simon and I met Nereo Zane at the Fondamente Nuova and we all boarded a moto-navi ferry for Burano, where we watched the last big regatta of the season from the back of a GSVVM club chase boat. 

The whole idea being that to better host the upcoming US Gondola Nationals competition,
I should get a better look at how they do things in the Veneto.

For the next week, Simon and I woke and were out the door earlier than most Venetians, catching the tram to the Punta San Giuliano stop, walking to the club, and rowing with maestro Mario Rossetti (who would pass us each day on his bicycle). 

Mario and Nereo had us rowing all the different stations on a four-oar sandolo,
tending to each and every aspect of voga-alla-Veneta that we had wrong
(and that seemed to be a full time job for them).

Wanna feel unworthy of the craft of Venetian rowing?
Spend time on the water with a bunch of old guys from a rowing club in the Veneto.

We were surrounded by men who were all in their sixties and seventies, all of whom were in better shape than us, each rowing with absolutely perfect form.

In the afternoons and early evenings I gathered supplies and picked up the various items I’d ordered – from brass to hats, to pom-poms for the gondolas.

I received double-cheek-kiss greetings from hat maker Guliana Longo,
had coffee with master oar and forcola carver Saverio Pastor,
and got a remarkable personal tour of the Valese foundry – learning about the many processes necessary to produce the gorgeous shiny brass horses we have on the sides of our gondolas.
To call it a "walking tour" of Venice would be a lie.
Many times it was a "running to catch that vaporetto so we can get to the shop on time" tour.

Many nights we crashed early and didn’t sleep nearly enough,
waking again the next morning only to hit the ground running.
We'd grab espresso and cappuccino at a counter next to Piazzale Roma.
I wish I could have seen more friends and gone more places in Venice, but the time did not allow.

I boarded the ship exhausted and in great need of sleep,
Even so, as I sat down for a sandwich in the upper deck dining room,
I looked out across the lagoon and spotted my rowing club.

Immediately my thoughts went into calculation mode:
“If I get off the ship now, I can use my ACTV pass to get on the tram,
It’ll take me twenty minutes to get to the GSVVM.
In another twenty minutes I can have a mascareta hoisted into the water and get about an hour of rowing in before I have to do it all in reverse”.
I definitely have a healthy obsession.

I awoke this morning, somewhere off the coast of Croatia.
For the first time in a week, I had a full night's sleep - working my way out of the territory of "sleep debt".

In the next week I will explore towns in Croatia, Greece and Turkey, and yet all the while I'll be thinking of my time in Venice.

Monday, September 21, 2015

Ten Snaps

I've been in Venice for a day and a half now.
Seen so many friends and already had a week's worth of adventures.
Here are ten snaps that just insisted on being posted.
Nine colors taking off at the starting line of a women's pupparin regatta off of Burano on Sunday evening.
"One of these things is not like the others"
Part of the fleet at GSVVM.
Two silent beauties at rest.
He's got a hunch.
The view from my friend's gondola.
Sun setting slowly on the Canale Grande.
Twilight sandolo in a quiet canal.
Simply Serenissima.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Trans-Atlantic Insomnia

I can't sleep.

I didn't sleep much last night,
and for the last week I've been running at full throttle,
planning and preparing for this trip to Venice,
and now here I am on the plane:
with the seat fully reclined, lights out, had a glass of red wine,
and I've got relaxing music in my headphones.

Still, I can't sleep.

All the boxes are checked, all my ducks are in a row,
but there's one factor that always seems to cancel everything else out:

I am stoked out of my mind!

I'm going to Venice. 
For months I've been planning and preparing for this,
and now, at thirty-five thousand feet of altitude, 
I'm traveling over six hundred miles an hour towards my destination.

Physically I'm exhausted,
and in this reclined seat, I am quite comfortable.
The logical side of my brain understands all the reasons why I should close my eyes and just check out.

Ah, but then there's that other part of my brain,
the one that's jumping up and down outside the window, in goggles and a snoopy hat out on the wing of the plane, screaming:
Yeah, that guy is keeping me wide awake.

This is not my first bout of trans-Atlantic insomnia.
It happens like this just about every time we make this trip.
Invariably I arrive completely wasted, staggering off the plane, and wondering if maybe I could just crawl into a corner and die - all the while cursing that side of my brain that wouldn't shut the heck up somewhere over Greenland.

Maybe, just maybe I'll manage to drift off sometime soon.
If not, I'm thinking that if I could just bang my head hard enough against a bulkhead, I might succeed in knocking myself out.

I can't sleep.
Don't know why I can't just fall asleeee........

Friday, September 18, 2015

Dark Ferro on Bright Background

photo by Andrew McHardy
Our "Man-About-Town" in Venice, Andrew McHardy snapped this cool shot of a prow and ferro in the shade, with the buildings in the background in the sun.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Gig Harbor Gets a Gondola!

It's official.
Our friend John Synco - gondolier of so many years here in southern California, is launching his own gondola business in Gig Harbor, Washington.

John and his wife Trish moved to the Evergreen State a few years ago,
and not surprisingly, Mr. Synco began to experience rowing withdrawals.
After much deliberation, the Syncos decided to go forward and try to acquire a gondola.

A combination of enthusiasm, tenacity, friendship, and bold thinking brought them a boat sooner than expected, in the form of "Nellie" - a gondola that has served for many years at Sunset Gondola in Huntington Harbour, California.

Tim of Sunset accompanied John, as they trailered the gondola north to her new home in Gig Harbor.

Tim, rowing Nellie in her new home.
John, enjoying a ride in Gig Harbor.
Tim shares a moment with the boat he originally brought over from Venice.
A view from the back of the boat.
The only thing missing is passengers - but that will soon be remedied.

Passenger cruises may be departing even as you read this.

My hearty congrats go out to John and Trish on their new endeavor.

To learn more about America's newest gondola operation,
check out gigharborgondola.com

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

2015 Regata Storica

Photos by Andrew McHardy

Our friend Andrew is in Venice.
He went there to see the Regata Storica (and to make us all jealous).

I received a message from him a couple days ago with photos that I featured in "Swingin' by San Trovaso".

He told me he was in a...
"Typical local motor boat....fiberglass hull...Yamaha 40hp.
I've been here 48hrs and I've already been all over town it seems.
I love it here."

Andrew tells me the boat is a common craft in the Veneto,
made by Brube in Mestre.

Andrew's friend, a retired gondolier named Sandro, owns the boat and obviously knows his way around the city.
Here is Andrew's report on the race of the gondolini:
This was the 3rd Regata Storica that I have spectated, and it was my favourite to date as I got to see the three most exciting parts.

The race starts in front of the Giardini so we settled in among the other spectators and waited for the fleet to pass by. I believe this is the most technically demanding part of the race as the water is rough and the boats must maintain their line until the second set of buoys, after which they can pick their own lines. Typically, whoever is leading going into the Canale Grande will win the race.
Lined up to start.
And they're off!
Here are a pair of videos:
Starting in the lanes.
Picking up speed and heading toward the Canalazzo.
After they passed us we blasted down the Giudecca to make it to the paleto (the pole where they turn in front of the Ferrovia train station).
The paleto.
Gondoliers jockey for position so their passengers get a good view.

Here they come!!!
The gondolini appear beneath the Ponte Scalzi.
Here's the turn at the paleto:
By this stage the race is getting down to the business end.

After the fleet turned and raced off to the finish, we headed off again to try and get as close as we could. The spot we made it to was the Rio de la Frescada....The finish line was about 50 metres to the left.
If you look closely you can see the eventual winner, the purple boat, pass between all the heads and boats.
Thanks must go to my dear amico Sandro for being my captain and guide for the afternoon.

Anyone who is into voga alla veneta has to check this regata out! It's really impressive.
For the longest time the front of the fleet has been occupied and fought over by two teams:
Paolo D'este and Ivo Redolfi Tezzat in one boat,
and two cousins named Rudi and Igor Vignotto
(often simply referred to the "Cugini").
These two teams have been duking it out for years,
sometimes with a "photo finish". 
Whatever happens, when they are in the race,
you can be sure it will be interesting.
As it turns out, there was another "interesting moment" involving the two rival pairs on Sunday afternoon.
During the race, the boats got too close and a race official disqualified the D'este-Tezzat boat.

Here is a snap of two photos in a local newspaper showing:
1. The alleged infraction - the orange gondolino attempted a passing maneuver that was unauthorized and the forward oar of the orange boat was under the bow of the light purple boat.
2. The raised hand of one of the Cugini on the light purple boat - this is a rower's way of alerting judges to something.
 I'm certain that Venetians are debating this disqualification as much
as NFL fans are still arguing over the level of inflation of Patriots footballs.

Honestly, I don't know enough of the details to posit an opinion - just
reporting what I know thus far.
Another boat was also disqualified.

Many thanks to Andrew McHardy and his friend Sandro for the great photos and information.

Below are the results of the gondolino race of the 2015 Regata Storica.
1st place: VIOLA Rudi Vignotto-Igor Vignotto 37.03,4
2nd place: VERDE Andrea Bertoldini-Martino Vianello 37.08,4
3rd place: CANARIN Luca Quintavalle-Gaetano Bregantin 37.12,7
4th place: CELESTE Roberto Busetto-Renato Busetto 37.19,6
5th place: MARRON Roberto Angelin-Fabio Barzaghi 37.26,7
6th place: BIANCO Giuliano Pagan-Alessandro De Poli 37.30,0
7th place: ROSSO Alvise D'este-Maurizio Rossi 37.45,1
ARANCIO Ivo Redolfi Tezzat-Giampaolo D'este
ROSA Andrea Ortica-Damiano Allegretto

Friday, September 4, 2015

Swingin' by San Trovaso

photos by Andrew McHardy
Gondolier, world traveler, Kiwi, and candidate for "most interesting gondolier in the world" - Andrew McHardy is back in Venezia.
He's been up and down the city's canals for two days now (taking to the water just as soon as he landed).
Here are a trio of shots he sent me of the famous Squero San Trovaso.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Bridge Proposal with Drone Footage

A while back we had a fun proposal that took place by the Lido Bridge.
Jakob rowed it, and had a lot of fun seeing great memories being created.
We all forgot about it as so many more cruises demanded our attention,
then one of my gondoliers said to Jakob:
"Hey, did you know you were on TV the other night?"
He'd seen it on the local Fox channel.
Here's the segment:

I especially liked the drone and hidden camera footage.

For the record, the lady was supposed to receive a message in a bottle - instructing her to turn her attention to the bridge, but things don't always go as planned.
She saw the people on the bridge, and so Jakob and the guy in the passenger seat had to improvise.
Overall, it was an awesome event.

Big congrats to the newly engaged couple,
and my compliments to Justin Carrillo for both his great footage and editing.