Friday, October 30, 2015

The Jackass

Not long ago, I watched an internet video, which was all over facebook,
of an idiot who tricked his wife into thinking that he'd just tossed their
child over the balcony...

We all have different senses of humor.
I'll agree to that.
There are some, however, who really should have
their "joking license" revoked.

Such was the case with the guy who I'm dedicating and titling
this post in honor of.

A few years ago we had a client who called us about booking a cruise
(not unusual),
He wanted to propose to his girlfriend
(happens all the time).
Where it got weird was when he told one of our booking agents,
that he wanted to take out the ring and have it fall into the water.

The ring going into the water was a decoy, a fake - while the real ring was safely tucked into his jacket pocket.

Like I said, we all have a different sense of humor,
But this guy, in my opinion, just really didn't get it.
He really thought it would be the height of hilarity
to have his fiancée-to-be...have a panic attack as she watched
her engagement ring fly into the deep blue waters of Lake Las Vegas.

Oh yeah, desperate hopelessness is just what every girl dreams of
when she envisions her storybook engagement.

I know what you're thinking:
Why the heck didn't someone try and talk this guy out of it?!
        Believe me, we did try.

And who does this kind of thing anyway?!
        You'd be surprised, we've had a few of these jokers - sometimes
they want to tie a fishing line to the actual ring and drop IT in the water,
only to fish it out. 
These guys DO exist.
I imagine they are the same guys who keep the practical joke industry running strong - squirting flowers, handshake buzzers, fake vomit,
flaming bags of dog poop on your doorstep.
Yes, it was funny, in 6th grade, but if you're about to pop the question,
I think maybe it's time to learn when and when not to act like a jackass.
Asking for her hand in marriage?
Not the time.

Just to put a point on it, I'll give an analogy.
In the event that some guy, who thought it would be funny to do the whole ring-over-the-side gag, has googled it and come upon my blog,
here's what it would be like to receive the equivalent practical joke:

Suppose you love Corvettes, have since you were a kid.
You've always wanted one. A red one. 
It's been the one goal, dream, sign that you'd made it.
Some guys want a Rolex, but you've always wanted that Corvette.
You spent the last fifteen years of your adult life working hard,
investing wisely, and watching the market.
Finally, it's time.
You find the perfect car - the one that matches all your criteria.
You put down more money than you've ever paid for a vehicle, but it's the dream, it's the car, it's the Corvette you've wanted since childhood.

Knowing this is a big deal for you,
your wife sees the opportunity to have a little fun.
She finds an old corvette body at a scrap yard, buys it,
and paints it up to look just like the one you've ordered.
She calls you to tell you that the Corvette has arrived!
They delivered it to the house and it'll be parked at the curb in front of your house when you get home!
You make your way home, and just as you turn onto your street,
you see the car, all shiny and perfect.
Then, a huge garbage truck drives past you, banks hard at the turn,
and crashes into the red corvette in front of your house!
Then your wife runs out the front door of the house laughing hysterically at the look on your face.
"Oh, that was so funny! You should have seen the look on your face. It's ok, the real Corvette is in the garage."

See, wasn't that just hilarious?
Now consider the storybook imaginings of a girl, since she was very young,
that one day her Prince Charming would surprise her with the perfectly
romantic marriage proposal.
He would be a gentleman, get down on one knee,
say just the right words in just the right way.
Everything would be in soft focus.
Her dream would come true.

The next time your reservation line rings,
and it's a guy with this "hilarious idea",
Do the world a favor and talk that jackass out of completely
ruining a great moment.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Comings and Goings in Coronado

I stopped by The Gondola Company in Coronado, California today to visit
with Sean and watch his boats come and go.
It was my first time seeing their new office and dock facility.
Just like the boats - nicely put together and very well-kept.
As luck would have it, I showed up on a day when the gondoliers on duty were Cole Hanson and Eric Bender - last year's tandem sprint gold medal winners at Nationals.
Jackie Molino was there too, running the office and helping the two gondoliers board and depart with their passengers seamlessly.
As Sean and I sipped a little Pinot Grigio, and talked about:
   traditional regatta starts,
      the pros and cons of having cell phones on board,
         and how we both hate iron nails,
I caught some nice snaps of Cole and Eric working their magic on the water.
At the end of a long indietro, Cole gets the boat at just the right angle... spin her around and row off into the canals.
Eric stands on the back, with golden rays peering over the rooftops behind.
If it seems like perfect conditions for photography, it's no coincidence. 
But I wasn't the photographer who set it up - no, she's the one down there on the tip of the dock (probably snagging a much better photo than mine).
many times this week, I've walked down onto my docks in Newport with another gondolier and remarked "I can't believe we get to live here".
I'll bet they say the same thing down there in Coronado.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Gig Harbor Drones

photos by Ivan Postivka and Hover Images

It's been so exciting watching the new generation of gondola operations
as they've gone through all the necessary preparations,
jumped through the various hoops required in each location,
and then enjoyed that incredible period that involves launching, rowing,
and taking passengers in a new location.

Along the way, each guy has discovered quirks, challenges, and beautiful surprises in his new waterway and the town around it.

Of course as a new business owner, you can do whatever you want with things like advertising, marketing, and your company's offered packages.
John at Gig Harbor Gondola is a savvy guy, and so it shouldn't surprise anyone that he realized the potential of drone photography.

Here are a few shots that prove just how well you can show off both
your beautiful gondola AND the gorgeous place you operate it
(especially if you're in the Pacific Northwest).

Each photo is clickable, and way larger than what you see here.
It's worth opening and admiring each one.
That's no small-time quad-copter there.
I can't even count the rotors.
Gig Harbor is beautiful - here's the proof.

Gig Harbor Gondola is in the Puget Sound area, which means that if you look in the right direction, on a clear day, you might see mount Rainier.
Look closely at the two above photos and you'll see Rainier in the distance.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Jack of All Trades

If you operate gondolas long enough, you realize that it only makes sense to handle boat maintenance in-house.  Most gondola operators start out doing their own boat work.
Working on a gondola requires almost a dozen different areas of focus:
There's wood (all eight different types if she was built in Venice),
paint (which needs to stay nice and shiny),
upholstery - sure, you can farm that out for production,
but you'll still have to care for it,
Metal, which may include brass, aluminum, and stainless steel.
You're likely to have some kind of carpet in the mix,
Some surfaces are covered in a non-skid material,
Ropes, oars, forcole.
Then there's the rowing, and the training of the rowing.
All those unsavory things involving online reviews and fussing over every facet of advertising are your responsibility too.
And then there's beverage handling, probably some kind of food service.
Sheesh! That's more than a dozen, and I haven't even gone into the long list of things you've got to do if you're any kind of business owner.
The focus of our post today:
Yeah, if you're gonna serve champagne, or just provide the bucket so they can bring their own, you're gonna need some of that cubed frozen water.
Today I added "Ice machine installer" to the list of things I can do.
My new machine with the first load of ice.

It would have been a lot easier if the unit had come with all the hoses and connections needed, but then I wouldn't have the profound appreciation for a job well-done, when the thing was finally installed and running.
I actually let out an extremely loud "YAHOO!!!" when the first load of ice went kachunk! in the holding bin (just ask my wife - she was on the phone with me when it happened - not sure if she can hear anymore in that ear).
There are many more disciplines for a gondola operator to fuss over,
but for now, I'm just gonna take a moment and revel in my new title,
as "Ice machine installer".
Maybe I'll enjoy a cocktail using some of the ice made by my new machine.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Watching the Weather

We are now only three weeks away from the US Gondola Nationals -
which will take place here in Newport Beach.

Normally I wouldn't worry too much about the weather here in November.  That's when we often enjoy what they call an "Indian Summer". 
But this year I've been hearing all sorts of exciting things about the weather.
"Experts" are saying that, along with all of my friends in the gondola  business, we're likely to have "El Niño" come to town as well.

So far the forecast is looking great.
It's not clear what we'll get after November 7th yet, but I hope that what I do see in the predictions is a preview of the month to come.
Honestly, I don't care if it gets downright nasty around long as the weather holds until after Nationals.

Until then, I'll be watching the weather, and enjoying vistas like the one my passengers and I saw tonight from the water.

Three Weeks!

The US Gondola Nationals is right around the corner.
Three weeks from this morning, we will be raising the flag, singing the national anthem, exchanging handshakes and hugs, and then racing!
As host, I am honored by the challenge of planning and executing this year's edition, although I appreciate any help offered.
Based on the registration forms, this will be the biggest group of guys (and a few ladies) in stripes.
If you haven't registered yet, go to,
download the registration form, and get your information to us!

Friday, October 23, 2015

Associazione Gondolieri

Walking by the Emilio Ceccato shop - at the base of the Rialto,
I saw the familiar window display, but with one new detail: patches.
On display, on several different garments,
and loose in three different colors, were patches
emblazoned with the logo and name of the Associazione Gondolieri.

Just today a piece went live in the Huffington Post about these patches.
Turns out, our friend Marie Ohanesian Nardin is the author.
Marie hosts a blog and is the author of the book "Beneath the Lion's Wings".
So next time you're in Venezia, stop by Emilio Ceccato,
and buy a patch for your favorite gondolier's shirt, and support the efforts
to protect the gondola and all that she represents.

Thursday, October 22, 2015


It's common for a gondolier to put a foot on the wall - they do it all the time in Venice.  This curious looking move allows them to stay as close to the wall as possible without bumping into it.
One afternoon, while crossing the bridge at San Moise,
I saw this guy pulling the move...on a pole!

I'd never seen it done before, but the way he did it made me think that he probably executes the move several times a day.

Bravo, foot-to-post guy!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Special Requests and Dietary needs

The US Gondola Nationals is less than a month away.
So many exciting things are happening in my office as we
plan and prepare for it all.

Just today my amazing wife informed me that she'd
secured breakfast for both days.
I think I actually did the "happy dance".

Among the many interesting things I've seen while preparing for this event:
Registration forms.

As I go through the mail each day, I'm excited to see who has sent in their registration.  There are so many friends who I can't wait to see.

One of my favorite things is reading what some have written in the "special dietary needs" section and the one that says "additional information you think we should know, or special needs you have".

This guy wants this,
that guy needs that,
one guy's a vegetarian,
another guy wants the meat that the vegetarian isn't gonna eat.

Most of it is quite understandable, and really,
exactly why we designed the forms with those questions included.

Also, as I look at the forms, I know who not to sit next to if I'm planning on leaving any bacon on my plate.

With much thoughtfulness, a few entrants mentioned that they'd be
bringing young children - a good thing to be prepared for
(I wonder if they'll be wearing stripes).

One guy requested that we have spritz.

Another "Lots of pasta!"

A certain rower mentioned that they'd like "a strong oar".

"Wine! A lot of wine!" was the single request from another guy.

"If there could be some attractive middle-aged women,
I would be grateful".
This one served as prime evidence that gondoliers have the best sense of humor.

Then, there was this guy.
He wrote "see reverse" , and this was on the back of the page:

I believe the term "for the win" was designed for situations like this.

Of course, a well-thought-out set of requests like the one we see here, deserves serious consideration. 
My team and I have given thought to each point listed.

Without question, "Dukes of Hazzard" was one of the best TV shows ever.
(along with "The A-Team" "Six-Million Dollar Man", and "Miami Vice")
This weekend, however will be packed with races to row, so I haven't set aside a 70's TV show viewing lounge, but in the interest of making everyone happy, I can certainly look into doing so (especially if it means that fewer of you will be racing - because I can use every advantage I can get).

Likewise, if liquoring you all up will slow you down on the race course, I'm happy to line up as much vodka, Prosecco, Campari and Heineken as I can pump into you.
(again, I'm fifty years old, I can use the advantage)

Sorry to say that I could only find a used foot massager.
I'm not sure how clean it is, but you're welcome to use it.

"Temperature must be 68 degrees" -yeah, I'm sure that we can accommodate that.
Somewhere on the property I think it will be 68 degrees. 
You can dress there.
If you find that it's in the walk-in fridge, just tell them that it's your "private dressing room".

If you really think you'll need a Janet Jackson headset microphone, my staff and I will see what we can do, but you should know that you'll be called upon to sing the national anthem, and at least one of the following songs at the Saturday night singing event:
"Oops, I did it again" by Britney Spears
"If you liked it you should have put a ring on it" by Beyoncé
or "Bohemian Rhapsody" by Queen
(any selection from the "Rocky Horror Picture Show" will also suffice).
Any singing will, of course, need to be done immediately after consumption of the requested two bottles of red wine and both four packs of Red Bull.
Bonus points if you incorporate the rolling fake trees into your performance.

Of course after all of this debauchery, we will most certainly need a Catholic priest to take confessions and hose us all down with holy water.

All of the requested line items are available, but will affect the registration fee.

One thing is for sure though...
There will be NO HIPSTER MUSIC at my edition of the US Gondola Nationals.
Anyone caught walking in wearing flannel, faux-distressed boots, an ironic anything, and sporting a too-well-groomed beard will be summarily baptized in our free-range, locally-sourced, sustainable salt water.

Musicians should think twice before they reach for a banjo or mandolin.
And anyone wantonly yelling "HEY!" in their songs may find themselves getting pelted with the M&Ms, nuts, pistachios, and 375 seedless grapes mentioned in the request above.
(I think I know how to rig up the used foot massager as a catapult)


Anyone wanna guess who's registration form had that on the back?

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Following Kalev

Fellow gondolier Kalev and I both had cruises leaving at the same time
this evening, so I snapped a few shots while following him. 
This was the best of the bunch.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Pre-Race Huddle

Prior to the September 20th women's pupparin regatta off the east end of Burano, Simon, Nereo and I observed a pre-race meeting on shore.
All nine colors were represented, and you can see many of them displayed on the nine ladies in the shot.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Passing Under Rialto

photo by Simon Atkins

One of my favorite memories in Venice involves rowing under the city's
most iconic bridge - the Rialto.  I'd guess that for the guy in this photo,
it's not a gigantic thrill now, because he's probably lucky enough to do so several times a day. 

Although you have to wonder if such a thing ever really gets old.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Two Boats at Ponte dei Ferali

photo by Simon Atkins
This is a GoPro snap by Simon while standing on the Ponte dei Ferali,
which is just steps away from the Valese shop, in the maze of corridors
behind Piazza San Marco.
I love this spot, and every time I'm in Venice I see nice boats there.
I saw two wedding gondolas there a few years back:
And two gondoliers with brown shoes back in 2000:

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Oxnard in October

I stopped in to visit Mark Schooling at his operation
in Ventura County this evening.

There are a few gondola companies that have launched in the last few years, and Mark's Gondola Paradiso is one that I've been quite impressed with.

The boat design is Venetian, and definitely traditional,
but one that you won't find anywhere else but the Veneto,
and even then there are only a handful of them.
This one is a real showpiece, with so much beautiful wood on display.

The weather down in Orange County has been remarkably hot and
humid lately, but rowing around Channel Islands Harbor tonight,
the temperature was cooler and the  conditions were ideal - a nice escape
from what's felt a bit more like the Everglades than So Cal.

For more on the boat and the servizio, see:
"Batela Launch!",
"A New Boat on the Water",
and "Batela Bellissima!"

Monday, October 12, 2015

The Train

In many sections of the San Marco region of Venice, there are canals that
seem to have a constant train-like procession of gondolas.

It's not easy to row such a long boat through these narrow and twisting canals.
Rowing as part of a tip-to-tail train makes it even more challenging because each gondolier has to do it all at a very defined speed.

A lot of us American gondoliers see photos of our Venetian counterparts
and say things like:
"Eh, I could do that."

But keeping things from bumping on either side of the boat is one thing, worrying about the fore and aft as well brings things to "expert" level.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Venice Still Life

Tails of gondolas in front of a vaporetto platform

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Antonio's Love

On an overcast morning in Venice, on my way between buying striped shirts and picking up hats, I came upon this gorgeous gondola.

Tied up next to the Rialto Bridge alongside a perfect water taxi
there she was - with just about every extra detail a gondolier might want 
on his boat.

The stainless steel ferro had a classic engraving 
of the flag of the Venetian Republic.

The seating was done in black with pillows 
that matched the portela and scimier.

Fully carved decks indicated that she was a "wedding gondola".

The cavalli were trumpeting angels - done in gold,
the pom-pom ropes had gold to match,
and I noticed that the pusioli (those arm-pieces that the cavalli sit on) 
had extra high pedestals for the angels to rest on.

While the whole gondola was done on a black and gold theme, 
the main field of the floor had been finished with a wood-grain look.  
With yellow scallops, this was both unique and classy.  
It also seemed to warm up the feel of the interior.

The scimier was striking in gold.

One rather interesting thing the gondolier had done involved the standing area behind the seat.  This area normally has two somewhat narrow trastolini boards, which are mounted a step down from the rail.  
Ahead of them is a larger piece, that rests on the rails, and is painted shiny black like the decks.

In the case of this gondola, the owner had cut that large piece significantly, and added a third trastolini board - thus giving him more space to step and stand.  Like a number of other gondolas, his trastolini were finished in a non-skid material.

If you enlarge the above photo, and look closely at the rail 
above the trastolini, you can see where the larger board 
would normally end...where the carvings begin.

Many gondolas in Venice have carved decks.
On the more elaborate ones, the carvings can also be seen along the rails, which was the case here.
The gondolier also had a rich black carpet for the poppa deck.
Like a lot of gondolas with carpets, 
he had flipped it up to allow for the tie-up.

Here's a nice view of the front of the boat.
There were so many details to admire on this gondola.

The gondolier told me that she was a Tramontin.
We can see from the engraving on this plate, 
that she was launched on the 9th of June, 1999.

I'm not sure of the meanings of "Warrior" and "Carbon" on this side-slot plate for the portela, but the quality, detail work, and overall finish was crisp and impressive.

Even the plate for the forward buso caught my eye - not only because of the quality of the metal, but also the way that the carving had been done to frame it so nicely.

The Gondoliers in Venezia often display the portelas of their boats so they can be seen from the fondamenta - just like this guy had.  
The light really made the gold pop - especially on a black background.
The shining sun carved in the forward trasto is something I haven't seen before in that spot, and it's a great design there.

As for the engraved word "Ombretta",
Nereo Zane tells me that it's a term gondoliers use for having a single glass of red wine.
He further told me that it also might be the name of the gondolier's wife, as it is a female name.

The lucky gondolier who owns this boat was there and I spoke with him for a couple minutes.
His name was Antonio.
He told me that the name of the gondola was "Love".
My guess is that he was translating for me, and that he actually calls her "Amore".
That would be a fitting name.

She is a truly gorgeous boat, worthy of her station in the shadow of the Rialto Bridge.

Monday, October 5, 2015

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Shot from the Ship - Bridge of Sighs

Here's a photo taken from the upper deck of one of those "evil cruise ships".

Yes, yes, yes - I know, and I bet some of you are ready to weigh in on the subject, but hold on to those comments for another day.

I'm sure we'll be talking about the "big ships" soon.

I was recently held hostage for a week on board one of those lumbering beasts, and as we plowed our way towards the Adriatic, I decided to make the most of things and snap some photos from a vantage point that may very well be gone soon.

Here we are looking down the Rio Canonica Palazzo - a canal named for the fact that it sits behind the Palazzo Ducale (on the left).

The bridge with all the people on it is the Ponte della Paglia.

That enclosed bridge, which is a few stories above the water is the famous Ponte dei Sospiri, or "Bridge of Sighs".

Legend has it that if a couple kisses under this bridge, in a gondola, while the church bells ring at sunset...their love will last forever.

I don't know just how true that is, but I'm sure it serves our gondolier friends in Venice quite well.

To read more about the bridge and the legend,
see my post "Bridge of Sighs" .

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Planes in the Shop

A group of wood-shaving hand planes lined up 
in the workshop of master-remer Saverio Pastor.

To learn more about Saverio's work, 

Friday, October 2, 2015

Just the Photo - Sunset in San Marco

Behind La Fenice

Here's the first of many snaps from the canal behind the opera house 
in Venice known as "La Fenice".  
Lots of gondolas pass through this tight corridor, offering many of 
their passengers a unique view of the famous performance venue.

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Explaining the Game

While watching the regata in Burano,
Nereo Zane describes the way things work to gondolier Simon Atkins.

Perfect Water Taxi

I don't usually focus attention on water taxis.
Ask some gondoliers and they'll place water taxis somewhere between annoying and the antichrist.
There certainly is a different mindset associated from the driver's perspective.

It used to be that Venice's water taxi's were all beautifully varnished floating works of art made with wood in the same way 
Rivas and old Chris Crafts once were.

Once fiberglass entered the scene, they became much more sterile.
I understand the benefits of a boat that will never rot, 
but I've always been a sucker for beautifully varnished wood.

When I saw this beauty, moored next to the Rialto, 
I had to grab a few shots.

I really don't know what to think about the whole hipster-beard-thing, 
but the guy sure does take good care of his boat.

Look closely: you can see the clouds reflecting in that high-gloss deck.

This is truly a gentleman's launch.
I'd expect to see English nobility or Hollywood elite 
climbing out at the film festival.