Sunday, February 28, 2016

Lucia's Prow

photo by Isabella Mohr

One of our student photographers
(who happens to have the same last name as I do)
captured this beautiful image today - just moments before the gentleman
in the gondola proposed to his lady.

The gondola is the "Lucia" - a fifty-six year old wedding gondola which was imported in the 60's by the Curci family of Newport Beach.

I wonder if the guy who sold her to the Curci family had any idea she'd
still be cruising today.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Coronado Caorlina Takes Off

While visiting my friends at The Gondola Company in Coronado, CA,
I watched boats come and go.
I posted some thoughts and photos in my post
Among the many boats in the fleet,
this San Diego servizio has an amazing caorlina.
After watching Eric and Cole row gondolas around, 
I witnessed them board and depart on the caorlina.
He are a few snaps of the cruise: 
Jackie take a group photo with Cole and Eric in the back.

The gondoliers prepare...
...then step on.
Cole performs a sweeping "tirare" while standing on the bow.
The big boat gets under way,
and cruises out into the canals.
To see better photos of the caorlina in Coronado,

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Two Sides of the Horizon

 On the water tonight in Newport, one lucky couple and I got to enjoy
the golden hue of color at the twilight ending after sunset.

Then I spun the gondola around and we watched a full moon rise
over the other side of the horizon.
Just another boring day at the office.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

No Show? Nap Time!

photos by Mark Schooling
What do you do when you've got a series of cruises,
all booked in tight sequence,
on a busy Valentine's Day weekend,
and you find out that one's a "no show?"
Mark on Oxnard knows what to do.
Do you see him anywhere in this picture?
I can't see him either,
Just a woman and her dog on the dock.
Of course, if you could look inside the batela,
you would discover the gondolier...
 ...catching a few "Z's" with his head under the deck.
No doubt, dreaming about what many of us dream of:
rowing a beautiful boat during sunset on placid waters.
The Italians have a name for it that's familiar if you speak Spanish:
Gondoliers in Venice have an appreciation for these afternoon naps,
and can be seen catching a few "Z's" of their own in Bacion Orseolo.
See my post "Siesta".

Friday, February 19, 2016

...Part Photographer...

A good gondolier is many things.
He's part boat captain, part tour guide,
part wine get the idea.
There are many other disciplines required.
Among them, he's also got to be part photographer.
As I was out on the water in Newport tonight,
I passed two gondolas from the Gondola Company of Newport.
While approaching the first boat,
I noticed Eddie step from the back of the gondola,
down into the passenger area,
while continuing to row in sotomorso fashion.
He took a phone from one of the passengers and snapped a few shots of them while they smiled for the picture.
He handed the phone back and stepped back up on the back,
continuing to row.
Next, I passed by Parker, exchanging greetings
and continuing on into the canals.

It was a gorgeous night, with a bright, beautiful moon overhead.

What an amazing job we have

Thursday, February 18, 2016

The Week in Review

People are not surprised when I tell them that Valentine's Day is the
busiest day of our year in the gondola business.
And it makes sense to them when I explain that the week surrounding it
is the busiest week as well.
What most folks don't realize - is that it's not just a day,
and it's not just a week.

For me, Valentine's Day begins about three months early - when I decide which boat or boats will need to be hauled out for service and whether or not that work can be done in time for the big rush of cruises.
Like training for a competition, planning a vacation, or preparing for wedding, the success of the event depends on how you use your time in the weeks and months leading up to it.

I would love to post a bunch of pretty pictures of my staff and I sanding, painting, and doing other tasks on the fleet of gondolas we have here in Newport, but, well, we were too busy doing those tasks.  And besides, I'm sure they wouldn't be "pretty pictures".

I suppose it's also like a stage production:
lot's of set building and rehearsing before the curtain opens.

My friend John Kerschbaum comes out from his operation Gondola Romantica, in Minnesota each year to row with us.
For over a decade he's shown up about a week prior to the 14th.
John has seen varying levels of preparedness...and different levels of stress on my face.

This year was a good one.
All boats were in the water before John showed up, and while there was still plenty to do, most of the tasks remaining were secondary or ones I like to call "bonus points" items.

Adding finishing touches to the pupparin "Contessa"
photo by John Kerschbaum

We never know what the weather will look like as we come into January and February. 
Quite often we need to wait a week or so before we can paint a boat.
Things got rolling earlier this year because we were told that it would be an El NiƱo year.
Much to everyone's surprise, it was more like summer,
and so there was no need to delay varnish and paint projects.

I realize each time I write about our beautiful weather, that some folks in other regions might be quietly loathing me
(as they receive yet another dose of snow or pouring rain).
Although it's important to note that we need rain here.

Snow covered gondolas in Minnesota
photo by John Kerschbaum

We're living in a sort of careful-what-you-wish-for situation.
California has been in drought for many years.
We love the sunshine, love our "beach weather",
but we really need some water around here, stat.

I think there was a collective sigh of relief when we first started hearing that it would be a rainy winter this time around.

So if you're reading my posts in wet or snowed-in places,
and jealously observing sunshine and summer-like scapes,
just know that if it doesn't rain some more,
we'll get it big time on the karma index.

With the 14th falling on a Sunday this year, and Monday being a holiday,
we had folks booking cruises from Friday through Monday. 
Wind was light nearly all of the time,
and it was one of those weekends that you pray for in this business.

Hunter pilots the Wedding Gondola.
Digital and analog options:
iPod on one side, bugle on the other.
 Jakob talks to his passengers before their cruise on the "Lucia".

I've had my fair share of awful V-Days, but this wasn't one of them.
My gondoliers, office staff, and dock/operations staff were totally on point.
I could not be happier with all of them.

Mike B. rows "Contessa"

Out on the water we had the usual yearly occurrence of "gondola traffic" in the canals north of the Newport Blvd. bridge.

Not only did we have all of our boats gliding to and fro, our friends at the Gondola Company of Newport were also out in full force.

Lots of boat-to-boat greetings and fist-bumps were exchanged throughout the day and into the night.

Eddie of Gondola Company of Newport
with four passengers and traffic in the background.
My messy workspace.
Being followed by a pupparin.
Passing Hunter at sunset.

A rare sight on Valentine's Day:
Only one boat under the bridge.
This one was from Gondola Company of Newport.

Seven or eight of us hung out until the last boat returned from the final cruise of the night.  As Simon rowed into the lagoon, turned and backed his gondola into the side-tie, we all clapped and cheered.
Simon looked over at us like a guy who didn't realize he'd won something.

Most nights I found myself in the Jacuzzi before turning in for evening.
On the night of the 14th (ok, really it was the morning of the 15th) my backyard was a rather loud place, with a bunch of my gondoliers splashing and sharing crazy stories.
I'm sure my neighbors enjoyed it all at 3am.

Six gondoliers in various states of sanity.
photo by Isabella Mohr

the hangover I had the next morning had nothing to do with alcohol
and everything to do with all the rowing I'd been doing,
...and all the sleeping I hadn't been doing.

As we don't offer any kind of food service cruises on Valentine's Day,
the day after is often when we get a lot of them.
On this 15th of February, I think just about every cruise went out with dinner, appetizers, or dessert.

While John comes out each year from Minnesota to row here at Gondola Adventures, Marcello from La Gondola in Providence, RI has been joining Tim at Sunset Gondola in Huntington Harbour the last couple of years to do the same.

This coming October the US Gondola Nationals will be hosted by John in his Stillwater, Minnesota location.
Seeing this as an opportunity to get all previous hosts together at one table with the upcoming host, we gathered at my house for a summit meeting of sorts.

Marcello, John, Greg, and Tim.

Grilling, eating, drinking and talking were all on the docket.
Tim had just taken Marcello on his first surfing trip to San Onofre,
so we had plenty to talk about
(in addition of course, to the whole "so, how was your week?" stuff).

We had a great time going over the various ways things can be done,
and John came away with lots more to think about,
and more support than he'd realized he'd have.

As much as I love gondolas, I sometimes think I love the people in the gondola world just as much, if not more so.

This morning I woke up,
thought about all the things I didn't have to get done,
and went back to sleep.

I woke up several hours later, thankful to have gotten a full night's sleep,
and ever so thankful for the great week behind me.

Wednesday, February 17, 2016



That's the technical name for the smell in the air
when rain falls on the dry ground.
Bet ya didn't know there was a name for it.

It's not a very old name.
It was first coined by two geologists in 1964.
The "petri" comes from the Greek word for stone,
and "ichor" refers to the fluid that ran through the gods of Greek mythology.

Of course, long before anyone had a fancy name for it,
we just called it "the smell of the rain" or something like that.

For the last 14 months or so, we've been fearing the "Rain-Pocalypse"
that so many forecasters have been barking about, and while we certainly do need more water here in California, I didn't want it.

I didn't want it to fall on the US Gondola Nationals in November,
on the Christmas boat parade in December, and I most certainly did not want to see any rain on or around Valentine's Day.

As it happened, we had a dry Nationals,
only one night of rain during the five nights of boat parade,
and V-Day? Well, not only did it not rain,
the weather couldn't have been better.

Today, as I stepped out the front door in my t-shirt and shorts,
and went to move my car after street-sweeping night,
I noticed rain drops, and with my first breath - petrichor.

My knee-jerk reaction was one of worry,
but then I realized that it's February 17th.
Valentine's Day is behind us.

I smiled, breathed, and walked in the rain - enjoying the smell,
and not caring one bit about the water that was falling on me or my gondolas.

Raindrops on the windshield.

Someone told me today that those forecasters are now saying that the rains will come in March.

I'm glad they were wrong about things so far.
I hope they are right about it now.

Bring on the rain!

Monday, February 15, 2016

The Day After

I fully intended to post a dozen pictures or more on Valentine's Day,
along with all of my thoughts and feelings,
interspersed with great gems of wisdom.
But then I ended up rowing until the cows came home,
carrying everything to and from every part of my operation,
washing blankets glassware, and striped shirts,
and then joined a bunch of hooting and hollering gondoliers in my Jacuzzi at 3am.
Pretty much the norm for V-Day around here. 
We had a very successful Valentine's Day.
I'm sure I'll be posting some photos from it in the days to come,
but for now, here are some from the day after. 
Some guys in the gondola business
(who are much funnier than I could hope to be)
started calling February 15th "National Gondolier Recovery Day".
Truth and humor sometimes go hand in hand.
Of course today we ended up rowing again,
but it wasn't quite the non-stop slam-dance of cruises we had yesterday.
John Kerschbaum from Minnesota gets ready,

climbs aboard,

and rows off to chase the sunset.
Heading out on the pupparin "Contessa", my passengers and I met up with a few other gondolas under the Newport Blvd. bridge.
Heading under the bridge.
The colors on the horizon were radiant as usual.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

The Day Before

It was a great day.
Really beautiful for the middle of February.
We had some fog, which kept things interesting,
but eventually it burned off to reveal clear skies.
Not a bad day for the eve of Valentine's Day.
Here are a few shots from the water.
I'd write more, but I'm just too darn tired,
and I've got to pace myself for tomorrow.
Rowing "the Phoenix" with one of my Gondola Co. of Newport friends up ahead.
Mike B. on the pupparin "Contessa" with Steve emerging from the lagoon in the background.

Steve and Joey on two very different boats.

Fog comes in.

Hunter on "Stella".

Rowing "Lucia" as the big orange ball drops.

John Kerschbaum about to drop a bottle message in the water.


Friday, February 12, 2016

Perfect Moment in Naples

photo by Dan Slater

Thanks to Mac at The Gondola Getaway for this photo of a perfect moment
on the water in Naples, California.

Dan Slater took the shot on February 10th by the Colonnade.
The gondolier is my friend Gary Serbeniuk.

We're looking forward to a whole weekend of this here in Southern California.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Stella Gets a New Portela

Last year about this time, we were launching Stella - a classic Tramontin gondola that had been used in an expedition around Staten Island in New York.
She's forty years old, so some pieces have some mileage on them.
The portela was coming apart in a few places.
I decided that since I'd never built a new one, I'd give it a shot.
The original portela served as a pattern.
Kalev and I cut out the new piece, and he slathered it in penetrating epoxy.
I selected an old piece of trim from a retired boat,
and cut it down to serve as top and bottom border.
Everything received five coats of shiny black paint and the whole thing sat for two weeks to cure - first in the shade, and then in the sun.
Finally it was time to add the finishing touch: brass.
When I was in Venice last September, I picked up several pieces from the Valese shop, and even visited Carlo at the foundry in Cannaregio.
I'd ordered all my brass weeks before the trip, but standing in the shop,
I fell in love with this one round medallion piece.
It was an impulse-buy, but I knew there would be a place for it.

Stella got a new portela.
It was an enjoyable task to complete, and thanks to the masterful work of Valese, the Lion of St. Mark shines in brass from the center.

To learn more about Fonderia Valese and their shop near Piazza San Marco,

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Calm Before the Calm

Tonight, with the Valentine's Day weekend just a few days away,
all was clear and beautiful in Newport. 
With zero percent chance of rain in the forecast,
and expected summer-like temperatures,
and calm winds, it felt like a dream.
For the record, I hope it rains incessantly...starting on the 16th.

Jakob handles wine service duty while Evan rows off into the sunset.