Monday, November 30, 2015

Like Christmas!

photo by Joy Sailing
Two years ago we learned the importance of having good oars.
One of the stronger competitors at the US Gondola Nationals managed to push a remo past the point of it's potential.
The resulting "Crack!" filled the air like the sound of a home run being hit at Dodger Stadium.
(read more about that at "The Snapper")
As it happened, the oar was mine.
I never forgot that moment (and the guy who barely escaped being hurt after it snapped probably didn't either).
So when Tim of Sunset Gondola was making a large purchase of remi from Venetian master Saverio Pastor, I was thrilled to be included in the order.
Several of those pieces went directly into storage in my garage - not to be opened until Nationals.
On the first morning, just before the sprints were to begin,
John Kerschbaum and I did the honors of unwrapping those beautiful gifts.
It was like Christmas morning.
Saverio Pastor is one of the only remaining craftsmen in Venice,
carving oars, forcole, and a few other items for Venetian boats. 
He apprenticed under the legendary Giuseppe Carli before opening his own business.  Saverio has taught a few carvers as well,
but most of all - he creates magnificent works of form and function.
Really, the rowing hardware of a venetian boat is a rare dichotomy:
1. it's gorgeous, a true work of art
     (and many grace the halls of both galleries and museums)
2. it works! I mean really works. Both remi and forcole, when carved right,
and used properly, are profoundly effective in propelling their boats.
Saverio Pastor working on a forcola in his shop in Venice.
Some of the many remi on Saverio's racks.

Unwrapping amazing things.
photo by Joy Sailing
A few different remi in action at the start of a solo sprint heat.
Three of the four remi were part of the purchase, with the blue and orange striped one having been unwrapped and painted earlier in the year.
photo by Joy Sailing
A good shot of a fresh pastor remi in the hands of
a gondolier from Coronado, California.
photo by Joy Sailing

Many thanks to Saverio Pastor for such terrific oars.
They are great to row with,
        even better to race with, 
                and not one of his oars snapped.

You can visit Saverio's website at

See more photos from the shop through the lens of John Synco
of Gig Harbor Gondola at:
"Photos from Saverio Pastor's workshop"

Friday, November 27, 2015

Steve and the Sunburst

photo by Isabella Mohr

Just another gorgeous moment captured on the water this evening in Newport.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Happy Thanksgiving from the Gondola Blog.
We all have so much to be thankful for.

Take moment, right now as you are reading this,
and reflect upon those things.

Now think of the people in your life who you are thankful for...and make a point to let them know how much you appreciate them.

Happy Thanksgiving, my friends.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Stripes in the water

I love a good striped remo.
It takes a lot of time and effort to get the stripes just right,
but in my opinion - it's worth the trouble.

People expect a few things when they think of Venetian gondolas,
and while striped remi aren't as widely expected as striped shirts,
I still think it's worth doing.

This is one of the many remi used in competition
during the US Gondola Nationals.

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Every Ounce Counts

Setting the boats up for racing at Nationals, we used five gondolas.
Four of them were mine.
I had my guys strip the boats of most of their removable parts.

But as the day went on, I realized I hadn't done a sufficient job of it,
because I kept noticing more and more items appearing on the docks.
I recognized them because they'd come from my boats.

First it was the seat base pieces,
Some loose blankets,
an extra hammer.

Each guy who stepped on a gondola would look around
and see if there was any extra weight he could get rid of.

I wasn't around for a lot of these "lightenings", and there wasn't anything
in the rules that said you couldn't remove things if you "didn't need it".
It got comical though when I noticed a floorboard
and a small fire extinguisher on the dock.

But then I guess that when you're racing...every ounce counts.

I suspect that we'll see some guidelines in the future
about removing things from the boats.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Semi-Parallel Lines

photo by Joy Sailing

Gondoliers Rafaello and Ivano of La Gondola in Providence, RI take off
during the solo sprint event of the 2015 US Gondola Nationals.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Three, Two, ONE!!!

The Gondolier
Richard Corbaley grew up in a small town in the mountains just outside of Yosemite.  Among other things, he enjoyed swimming in cold, glacier-melt pools, free-diving for fishing lures.
When he came to the coast he started surfing in 2011, and that summer he started rowing at Sunset Gondola under the instruction of Tim Reinard.

His First Nationals
In 2013 the US Gondola Nationals was hosted by Sunset Gondola in Huntington Harbour, California.
Nobody knew how he'd do, but his boss Tim, and a friend, Stefano both told me they thought he'd compete well in the races.

Sure enough, in the solo distance race,
Richie came in 3rd overall, winning the bronze medal.
Details of the race can be found in the post "Spent".

His good friend Stefano ended up coming in first.
Details of their finishes and standings are in my post "First and Third".

Stefano and Richie - first and third.
photo by Dawn Reinard

2013 - bronze medal - 3rd place

His Second Nationals
in 2014 the US Gondola Nationals took place in Providence, Rhode Island.
Richie had a little more experience under his belt.
He'd been in a competition and knew more about this kind of rowing.
The solo distance competition that year was a two boat head-to-head format.
Richie ended up on a boat next to Eric Bender from The Gondola Company in Coronado, CA - who had finished second the previous year.
Details and photos of the race can be found in my post "Solo Distance - "Snapper" and Richie".

Richie and Eric trying to get past an unexpected obstacle.
photo by Cole Hanson

There was plenty of racing drama.
they pushed each other the entire way,
and the end result was a first and second place finish.
Bender took the gold, Richie, the silver.

2014 - silver medal - 2nd place

Last Weekend - 2015 US Gondola Nationals
This time the races were held in Newport Beach, in the waters around Balboa Island and her accompanying islands.

Fifty competitors converged for a two-day event on November 14th and 15th,  2015.  This was the biggest field of racers yet assembled - meaning he'd have to be faster than even more guys than before.
The solo distance event was a four boat head-to-head - plenty of chance for chases, pursuits, and other race drama.

The Course
The route was a counter-clockwise run from the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club, heading north and passing beneath the Balboa Island bridge.
Racers continued west until the small eight-home island, Collins Island at the end of Balboa Island.

The course turned south-east, crossed paths with the car ferry, 
and then east, hugging Balboa Island.
A final turn to the left set racers on a return to the yacht club
for a last dash to the finish line.

The total distance: 2.2 miles from start to finish.

A Near Rematch
I spoke with Richie about this most recent race.
Richie told me that he and two other guys were on their boats,
waiting for the fourth boat to load so they could all line up for the start.
Initially the fourth boat had Eric Bender on it,
but another guy wanted to race, so Bender obliged.
Richie was disappointed that he and Eric wouldn't get a chance
to race directly against each other again.
But right before the start, Eric told him that He'd "better win this race!"

Also at the starting line was gondolier Ben Landis from The Gondola Getaway in Long Beach, California.  I'd heard several people talk about Ben and how he would be "one to watch" this year.

Gondoliers ready and waiting to start.
photo by Amora Ray

Go Time!
The signal was given and the race began.
Richie and Ben started to pull away from the other two rowers.
Ben had the inside track.
The gondoliers and their two boats were neck-and-neck.
Approaching the Balboa Island Bridge, they chose separate arches
and continued to travel alongside each other all the way to the
turn at Collins Island.
Richie started to pull ahead, and after the turn
he moved into a more inside track, hugging the island.

Richie in action!
photo by Amora Ray

The two rowers have been friends for 4 years,
so they talked a little - joking and teasing each other.
Ben said:
   "hey Richie, I'm dying here"
Richie said:
   "yeah me too."
   "you can slow down, I won't catch you."
Richie knew better than to do that.

Doing his best to take the shortest route possible, Richie rowed as close to the shore as he could, struggling sometimes to avoid the bowsprits of moored vessels.
A crosswind from his starboard side tried to force him into boats and obstacles.

At one point, before reaching the Balboa Island Ferry, he actually had to jump off the gondola onto a dock, turn the boat and shove it back out.
He told me "Anything to save the boat"
(I was thankful to hear this, because he was rowing one of my boats!)

Ferry Crossing
All racers had been told to be careful not to block the car ferry that crosses between Balboa Island and the peninsula.
In the hierarchy of vessels in Newport, all other boats, by law,

must yield to the ferry.

Following the shore of the island,

Richie could see the cars driving onto the ferry.
The ferry only takes three cars per trip,

so it doesn't take long for it to load.

Richie said
"I knew that it would be a race against time to make it past.
As the final car was loading, I put on the gas.
The ferry engine started.
Before the ferry pulled out, I passed it within 2 feet of the back of the boat, looked back and Ben had made it too."

According to Ben, it was
"Just barely - I was surprised they let me go by."

Final Approach
After the ferry terminal, Richie felt a second wind coming on.
He reset his body position,
changed the angle of his stroke,
changed the technique of his return stroke,
and really started to pull away.

Coming around the last turn, Richie sensed a tail wind
allowing him to row without any correction.
"From then on I was able to row with no return stroke,
stood as far back as I could and powered home."

Tim Reinard and Mitchell Smith caught this clip of Richie's finish.

After the Race
Richie crossed the finished line faster than anyone else that day.
He credits many for the success of this race, especially Ben Landis,
who challenged him the whole time.
"I think that without Ben next to me or right behind me,
I would have settled in and finished with a longer time."

That's one of the great things about head-to-head competition.
As it happened, Ben received the bronze medal that night for third place.
He earned a silver in the solo sprint as well that weekend.
Ben Landis was indeed "one to watch",
and he represented his company well.

Ben Landis and Richard Corbaley
First and third - deja vu.
photo by Amora Ray
Ben told me "finishing that race and shaking Richie's hand was one of my favorite moments of the weekend."

After getting back on the dock, Richie gave Ben a really big hug,
and his girlfriend took a photo of the two of them.
Rivals in the race, friends everywhere else, really, kind of like brothers.

2015 - gold medal - 1st place

Three, two, one!

Monday, November 16, 2015

USGN 2015 - Race Results

The 2015 US Gondola Nationals is now finished, over,
one for the history books (if they ever write a history book of such things).

There is so much to say, so many stories to tell, and the images, well,
they've been coming in from several directions, and they are great.

This was the first Nationals where I didn't pick up a camera once
(which means you can expect much better photos than usual).

We're still cleaning up and getting things sorted out.
This evening, I met up with Tim Reinard of Sunset Gondola
and Marcello Haynes from La Gondola in Providence to assist in getting
Tim's boat out of the giant raft of boats in front of the yacht club. 

The raft of boats on the morning after.

Later on, my four-man racing team and I rowed the rest of the competition boats back to their home docks.

With so much on the line lately, I've been pretty serious and stressed.
Tonight we just had fun - rowing and joking around.
It was the perfect ending to such a great but stressful week.

I'm still going through all the images, but in the mean time,
let's look at the US Gondola Nationals through the eyes of the press.

In addition, here is a look at the official standings of top 3 finishers in each race.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

First Look at Nationals

The 2015 US Gondola Nationals is complete.
It was a great time, and I am so very thankful to my many friends who helped make it go so well.
We are all tired now, and I will probably sleep for quite a long time.
But for now, let me just share a few snaps I pulled from my phone.
More posts will come, but for now, it's time for bed.

Saturday, November 14, 2015

It's Time!

The 2015 US Gondola Nationals starts today!
This morning we will gather at the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club in Newport Beach.  Fifty guys in stripes and plenty of fans will enjoy sunshine, great views, and just a little bit of drama, as gondoliers from around the country duel for medals and bragging rights (but probably more so because it's so much fun).

If you're coming, I'll see you there.
If not, we'll miss you.

Friday, November 13, 2015

Yes, We Have...Bananas!

Last night my wife and I went completely nuts at Costco - buying snacks, supplies, and a whole bunch of other things needed for the weekend.
With 50 competitors coming into town, we decided that we'd need a lot of,
well, just about everything.

Case in point:
Here's a box of 80 bananas!

I sure hope you guys all like bananas,
otherwise I think we'll be eating a lot of banana bread in the weeks to come!

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Minnesota meets Texas in Calilfornia

This morning began as I stepped out my front door, with a cup of coffee, and admired the beautiful wedding gondola, the "Lucia" parked in front
of my house.
We'd trailered her in from the yard the day before and she was dangerously close to being launch-ready.
 Nearly launch-ready Lucia.

Brandon, the chief rowing gondolier from my Texas operation
has been here since Monday.
We've worked hard alongside several other gondoliers,
to get the boat ready to splash.

Today was the day.
After mounting the ferro and fitting some new floorboards,
we were ready to go, and then John Kerschbaum from Minnesota showed up.

The three of us drove the boat to the ramp and set her afloat.
I gave them each remi and sent them out with the task of rowing her back to her home dock, but only after making a few turns in the sunshine for some photos.

Minnesota and Texas rowing a Venice-built gondola in California.
Amazing that these two guys just met, and were able to row seamlessly in the two-oar style.
And that boat...
That boat, with a fresh paint job, and all new trim...
she looks like a new gondola.
Later we met up with Simon as John and Brandon arrived and Simon and I
were gearing up to bust out on the pupparin.
 Me, Simon, Brandon, and John
(trying to keep our balance on the pupparin).

Four Men in the Ocean

Here's a fun clip of us heading out beyond the shadow of the jetty yesterday.

To see it on YouTube (and probably better quality), go to:

Big thanks to Steve and Simon Atkins for the video and editing.

Moments later some of us were not looking as proficient (but who in their right mind would post a video of that?)

See you all soon.
You ready to bring it?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Into the Ocean

This evening my for-man team and I busted out on the Phoenix and took a little jaunt into the Pacific.
We were there to evaluate whether or not it would be wise to have all four-oar crews competing this weekend take the route out of the harbor and around the seal buoy.

It was a great adventure, and we had a ball, but in the end I decided that the sea conditions would not be consistent throughout the day, meaning that some runs would be much more challenging than others.  Under certain conditions it would be downright dangerous.

This was not the conclusion I wanted to reach, but it is what it is.

And of course we had to endure another of those horrible sunsets we always have out here.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Dress Code

This is being released in a few places, but in the interest of making sure that all who attend the US Gondola Nationals this weekend see it, I'm posting it here.

Ladies and gentlemen, here is our official dress code:

DRESS CODE for the US Gondola Nationals 2015

I strongly encourage stripes – traditional navy and white of you’ve got them.

If you’re more fond of red and white, that’s fine too, but the idea here is to follow suit with the dress code of competing rowers in Venice, and to create a great group photo. 

In keeping with the above, white pants are preferable over black.

Please do not wear shorts.  I love shorts, I practically live in shorts,
but on the gondolas and in front of the cameras – it’s gotta be pants.

Photos and video of these races will be seen all over the world,
and especially in Venice.

As competitors in the US Gondola Nationals, we will be representing voga-alla-Veneta in the US to the world – let’s make it look good. 

You don’t have to wear a hat while racing, but if you’ve got one, bring it, wear it, we will have spectators and they love the hats (so does the press).

In addition to the above, some of you may get a chance to take out a passenger cruise or two, so dress the part.

Marinera overshirts, sashes and scarves are definitely great for this.

 There will be a step-and-repeat banner for photos, so look your best!

One thing I love about this annual event is that whoever you are, and wherever you’re from, if you’re a gondolier, you’re “one of us”.

There’s a sense of camaraderie.

So wear your stripes, be part of the brotherhood, and have fun!

Sunday, November 8, 2015

The "Kerschbaum Trailer-Tent" Method

My buddy John Kerschbaum in Minnesota is a great gondolier.
He's skilled at many things, including camping.
Here we see proof of John's tent-building skills,
But in this case the tent is there to shelter a gondola instead of a person (although I suppose someone could ride out a storm in there).
First the frame...
Then the tarp.

And there it is:
The "Kerschbaum Trailer-Tent" method of boat covering.

The gondola is neatly tucked in and ready to hibernate through winter.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Master Manipulator

A couple of my gondoliers and I spent most of the day today
installing new rail on the Curci Gondola.

She was built in 1960 in Venice and imported just a few years later,
landing here in southern California.  this boat, known as "The Lucia",
was lovingly maintained here in her new home,
but eventually she lost a little trim.

A piece here, part of a piece there.
50+ years later, the brass on this proud boat was down to about 60%.

When we hauled her out earlier this year,
I decided it was time for a full rail replacement.
A soft, pliable aluminum option was chosen, and after a full paint job
was applied, and had cured, it was time to do the makeover.

My gondolier Jakob is a man of many skills, but even so, we were all
surprised at just how well he did at manipulating the aluminum trim.
This stuff comes in twelve foot lengths.
Tacking in the first eleven feet goes quickly, but when you're trying to
wrap that last foot of trim up to the tip, with an upturn and an odd twist,
those last twelve inches become a real challenge.
Turns out Jakob is a "master manipulator" when it comes to aluminum trim.
I'm gonna make sure he's on every rail project I do.

Friday, November 6, 2015

A Change of Pace

Getting ready for the US Gondola Nationals, my four-man team got together tonight to take a spin on the water.

We arrived to realize that one of the gondolas had fresh paint on her
(I should have known that - I ordered it),
one gondola was missing the floorboards
(because they're in my yard - also with fresh paint),
and Steve had just taken off on the only other gondola in the water.

So we decided to take the pupparin out with four oars.
It was a good exercise in balance, and fun to get the boat up and moving.
Four guys in a light boat can really get going fast.

Will we be able to get a gondola moving that fast? Not likely.
But it was a great training exercise.

The view wasn't bad either.

Thursday, November 5, 2015

The USGN So Far

Many of us have been fortunate enough to participate in previous editions of the US Gondola Nationals, but each year there are new gondoliers in attendance, and representatives of the press who are seeing it for the first time.
Of course each installment of the competition is unique and different from the others, and this year will be special in its own ways.
But just to get everyone up to speed, here's a summary of the event, and a collection of links to posts from this blog over the years.

The competition will be on November 14th and 15th.
This will be the fourth annual US Gondola Nationals.

More than 45 gondoliers from 12 different companies in 7 states will compete.
Each of the competitors is a working gondolier.

 This year we will have 7 races:

                Gondola               distance              1 man

                Gondola               distance               2 man

                Gondola               distance               4 man

                Gondola               sprint                    1 man

                Gondola               sprint                    2 man

                Pupparin              distance               2 man

                Sandolo                valesana              1 man

Of course an event like this must have good food.
And there will be singing and entertainment.
Most of all, the US Gondola Nationals is a great place for gondolier's to spend time with friends in the business around the country, and make new friends too.

Does everyone want to win?
Yes, of course.
But win or lose, everyone who comes has a great time, and goes home a better rower with new friends and experiences to look back on.

The US Gondola Nationals began in 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island.
It was the folks at La Gondola who had both the dream and the follow-through to make it happen.
The first edition was named the GondOlympics.

The next year we competed in Huntington Harbour, California,
with Tim Reinard and his staff at Sunset Gondola hosting the event.
The event took on a new name - the US Gondola Nationals.

Last year it was back in Providence again, with La Gondola hosting.

This year I'm hosting it here in Newport Beach, California.

After four years of back and forth from East Coast to West Coast, the next installment will happen in the Midwest. Next year it will move to Minnesota, with John Kerschbaum of Gondola Romantica taking the helm.

To learn more about the US Gondola Nationals, go to

To chronicle some of the moments throughout the last three years of the event, here's a collection of posts that appeared here on the Gondola Blog.
2012 - Providence, RI


2013 - Huntington Harbour, CA


2014 - Providence, RI