Wednesday, December 30, 2015
A lone gondolier glides into the landing in front of Venice's
famous Gritti Palace Hotel.
This hotel, like many other well-known places of lodging,
was once a palazzo - home to a famous and powerful Venetian family.
The Gritti sits right next to the traghetto of Santa Maria del Giglio - one of my favorite gondola stations.
Tuesday, December 29, 2015
Some competitors managed to edge out others by only a few seconds.
As you can imagine, there was a lot of attention focused on what was happening down at the end of the dock, where a guy with a stopwatch was recording those finishing times.
At the center of it all were a few guys who went above and beyond,
to make the 2015 US Gondola Nationals run so smoothly.
Mark Schooling of Gondola Paradiso,
and Matthew "Marcello" Haynes of La Gondola
carried that burden like pros, with a couple other guys helping along the way.
In the above shot, we see Mark Schooling recording the exact time the ferro crossed the line during one race, with several of us looking on.
Monday, December 28, 2015
When you boil it all down to what we do,
(or at least what people think we do)
it's "rowing off into the sunset".
At least that's what most folks seem to envision
when they think about taking a cruise on a gondola in California.
And we actually do a lot of that.
Of course we do lots of other things besides rowing,
and it's not all "into the sunset",
but then when you roll back the recording of your fondest memories,
it's moments like this that always seem to rise to the top.
When I have to escape inside my mind
(i.e. when I'm in the dentist's chair)
I always seem to go back to one of those perfect moments - the ones where
I'm chasing the setting sun.
It's a futile effort (I'll never catch it),
but for five or ten minutes it's a wonderful pursuit.
Saturday, December 26, 2015
Special thanks go out to the staff at the Orange County Register
for allowing me to feature their images from the competition.
To see the full slide show, go to:
Friday, December 25, 2015
Thursday, December 24, 2015
Last Sunday twelve Santas rowed toward Murano on a caorlina and a batea. After a visit to S.Donato church we sliced and ate a couple of panettoni and drunk some white sparkling wine kindly hosted by the owner of "Al Canton", a bar just on the corner of Fondamenta San Lorenzo, that allowed us to use a small table.
Here are two photos taken by GSVVM member Daniela Costantini.
Tuesday, December 22, 2015
Next Level Sports Complex in Garden Grove, October 24th.
Mike Ruffino, who'd been training for quite some time,
prepared himself for a unique competition;
one that wasn't so much a challenge against another man as it was one against himself.
Like so many contests, it wasn't so much a question of winning or losing as it was a question of how much of himself he was capable of throwing into it.
He centered himself, imagined what would happen next, and called upon his training and his memories of training.
When it was time, Mike stepped into a 27 foot cage with a referee and another man.
Why was Ruffino in a cage fight?
it was partly a bucket list thing,
not only, like so many thing Mike does, a challenge against himself;
but also, because in his own words, he believes in heroism:
I believe in heroism.
I believe it is not exclusively reserved for military,
law enforcement, or fire fighters, but that it is a trait of the common man. I believe that if you have the ability to help someone in dire need, then you have the responsibility.
In my life and travels I have seen muggings, multiple-attacker brawls, and even knife fights, but even if I had not seen any of those, one could spend 10 minutes on Facebook and see videos of people doing something horrible to each other.
What we are less-likely to see are videos of people
stopping something horrible.
I have been very fortunate to have fared well in all of the worst-case-scenarios that have crossed my path,
but what if I see someone being set upon by another who actually knows what they are doing?
A trained aggressor who knows how to really hurt someone?
My beliefs command me to get involved, and my ability or inability to help someone when they truly need it directly relates to how well I prepare ahead of time.
Mike stepped into the ring, fought like mad, and held his own admirably.
A couple rounds later he was the subject of a TKO.
His opponent had won the match, but Mike had won on so many levels - conquering his own needs and fears, learning what it's like to be in such a situation, and truly becoming more prepared for such time as he might be called upon to be heroic.
Three weeks later Mike stepped on the back of a gondola in Newport Beach to compete in the solo distance race:
2.2 miles around Balboa Island, Collins Island, and Little Balboa Island.
Preparing for the race, he once again centered himself, imagined what would happen next, and went out with the plan to fight like mad and demand everything of himself.
As it happened, Mike ended up rowing in a heat where all four competitors were from his home servizio – Gondola Company of Newport.
(Mike's been there since 2008).
They’re a great bunch of guys who, like most gondoliers,
really love their job.
from friends and family, some even showing up with signs.
When these four guys shoved off and started rowing,
there was a lot of cheering going on.
I’m sure he benefitted from the energy-release of yelling.
When the back end of the ferry didn’t disappear into the cutout,
I had to do a quick stop and 90 degree turn.
Thanks to photographer Mindy Schauer of the Orange County Register,
we have some dynamic images of Mike Ruffino’s trip to the finish line.
What I thought was best to do with that turn, it was all power strokes, and after the turn, a really hard back stroke.
the “dance photo”.
photo by Mindy Schauer
He knew he'd finished well in his heat, but Mike was surprised to learn that he'd secured second place overall.
He hadn't rowed cruises since summer, and had only spent an hour or so tandem training the day before Nationals.
He creditsother training exercises with his readiness and level of conditioning.
Mike also does a variation of hot yoga which includes weights.
Some of you might be tired of hearing me say that gondoliers are interesting, but Mike is a prime example.
In addition to all of the above, he's been a sculptor's model for seven years now. He's worked with world renowned artists and some pieces based on his posing have been displayed in galleries.
His bucket list no longer includes "cage fight,"
but there are plenty of other interesting items.
He'd like to work on a cruise ship,
drive in a demolition derby,
and "bulldog and alligator."
On Christmas Day he'll head to Northern Ireland
and work at the Vagabonds Hostel (another bucket list item).
The Photo - I Mean THE Photo
With all of the sculpture posing and other remarkable "image captures" he's ever been the subject of, I really don't think anything can compare to the photo Mindy Schauer snapped of Mike Ruffino, just a few strokes from the finish line.
If the world sees only one image of voga-alla-Veneta in the United States,
I hope it's this one.
Special thanks go out to the staff at the Orange County Register
not only for showing up and taking great images,
but also for allowing me to post them here.
To see the full slide show, go to:
Simon Atkins managed to get a GoPro camera on that boat before the race,
and the full run is viewable on YouTube at:
Sunday, December 20, 2015
On his way home to Alaska to spend Christmas with family,
my gondolier Jakob snapped this from the window of a plane
taking off from John Wayne airport in Orange County.
I got to see the boat parade as I flew out!!
He'd been on a gondola with passengers just 24 hours earlier,
watching the parade cruise by, but this was a whole different view of it.
I've seen this angle of the harbor many times, but rarely at night,
and never with the boat parade going on.
What a fantastic treat.
Friday, December 18, 2015
Thursday, December 17, 2015
Tuesday, December 15, 2015
that set it apart from other gondola yards.
It's by far the most photographed squero in Venice.
All the guidebooks include it as something to see that's truly Venetian.
It's an active yard, with something to see just about any time you stop by to watch. Some activities can easily be seen from across the canal
(where most of the tourists go to peer across the water).
Seeing a couple guys turn a gondola up on one side by hand or a group of workers wrestle a boat out of the water on rollers are good examples.
Other things are best appreciated from inside the place.
I should make it very clear, however, that most outsiders should not try
to get into the squero unless involved with a film crew that's made prior arrangements.
Remember - these guys are workers.
They've got work to do.
Imagine if a bunch of tourists with cameras decided to just "show up" at a construction site and try poking around, or if they stepped out of the elevator at a law firm and started trying to chat people up about "what it's like to be a lawyer".
However, if you're a gondolier who has a Venetian friend, the right attitude, some photos of your boats on your phone, and some lucky timing - you might just manage to get in the door.
I'm posting a few different photos here this month from just such a visit.
Walking around (and trying to stay out of everyone's way), I noticed a certain wall, which I'd seen a few hats on in previous years.
It was clear that the wall had received some attention since the last time I'd been there.
My friends, I give you: The Wall.
Monday, December 14, 2015
Sunday, December 13, 2015
I thought about giving this post the title
"Yeah, I'm calling you from the office..."
Stepping off the traghetto boat after a quick crossing,
I spotted this guy "sitting in his office" on the phone.
If I had to pick one place to be planted to people-watch,
it would definitely be at a Venetian traghetto quay.
This was at Santa Maria del Giglio,
but many others are just as great to watch.
Some interesting boat details can also be observed here;
including varnished floorboards in the gondola in the foreground,
as well as a very unique perimeter trim design.
Anyone wanna venture a guess who he's talking to?
Saturday, December 12, 2015
Thursday, December 10, 2015
After dinner tonight, my wife and I took a stroll through the casino
known as The Venetian and I looked for gondoliers.
I found the boats, but none of their pilots.
Turns out that even Las Vegas gondoliers need their sleep from time to time.
Maybe next time I visit, I'll go before midnight.
Here's what the gondolas looked like as they rested for the night.
Wednesday, December 9, 2015
It turned out that gondola owner Joe Deverell was visiting Las Vegas
for a convention, so we met up and along with some of my staff,
took a boat out under the bridge and sang a few songs.
Monday, December 7, 2015
Among the many competitors at the US Gondola Nationals,
there were a few guys representing new operations.
The newest being Gig Harbor Gondola in Washington State.
John Synco is no stranger to us in Southern California - he's been rowing
here for years, but a while back he and his family moved north.
We all missed him.
He missed us (or at least a few of us),
but he also missed rowing a gondola - missed it terribly.
After great determination, and help from friends who understood the need to row, John managed to launch his own servizio in Gig Harbor, Washington.
He was seen rowing at this year's competition,
looking sharp in white pants and a "Gig harbor Gondola" striped shirt.
Saturday, December 5, 2015
While we were rowing three boats here in Newport
(and feeling pretty good about ourselves),
The folks down in Coronado were taking this flotilla thing to black-belt levels.
Owner Sean Jamieson sent the above photo with the following text:
Hey check this photo out.
This is a fleet cruise with 38 people.
The gondoliers at The Gondola Company know how to do things...
including turning five boats around in tight quarters.
Looking good, Coronado!
Thursday, December 3, 2015
Wednesday, December 2, 2015
Tuesday, December 1, 2015
Two years ago, Tim Reinard was able to get four boats racing side-by-side.
It was a first for US competition - giving each rower more competitors to race against.
One of my main objectives in planning this year's Nationals
was to field as many boats as Tim did.
I love the race drama, and it makes for great photos too.
I had four of my own, but one gondola - the Phoenix - was heavier than the others.
Three across was good, but four would be better.
I talked Tim into bringing me one of his gondolas, and we had it:
From left to right they are:
"Lucia" (also known as the Curci Gondola)
"The Wedding Gondola"
my newest addition - "Stella"
and Tim's boat - "Michaela"