On Sunday afternoon, on the waters of the lagoon, the instructors of "Row Venice" got some attention during the women's 4-oared race during the Regata di Mestre.
Their recent report via Facebook reads: A fine showing by our the Row Venice instructors in the women's 4-oared gondola race today: there was at least one RV instructor in every crew from 2nd-6th place. Extra congrats go to Sofia and Carlotta in the blue gondola who, with Cris at the helm, took home their first bandiera in a city-wide race. Taking second place were Elena, Nausicaa and Rossana in the red gondola; Elisa's violet gondola was third, Cris and her crew 4th, with Jane and Sibylle taking 5th place, and Gabriella right behind them. No rest for the weary, though; time trials for the Sant'Erasmo regata are on Thursday. Stay tuned!
I know I've said it many times, but I love what Row Venice has done - offering lessons in the art of Venetian rowing. It's been a nice surprise, however, to see these women do so well in competition as well. Bravo Row Venice! I didn't think I could like you any more than I already did, but you proved me wrong again.
I just have to start by saying that this, THIS story is the kind of news I wish we had more often. And the program these students were lucky enough to be part of, well, there should be programs like this in every school.
For several years, the students in teacher Bob Meade's wood shop class have been building a boat. Not just any boat though. They have been constructing a thirty foot long Viking vessel known as a "knarr", complete with shields on the sides, oars for ten, space for ten to fifteen passengers, and yes, she was planked in the traditional "clinker-built" manner.
The boat was launched in Huntington Harbour - home of Sunset Gondola, and the waterway where the 2013 US Gondola Nationals took place.
Why did they choose a Viking knarr? It turns out that the mascot of Marina High School is the Viking. There's even been talk of trailering the boat around the field during football games. What a great thing for a bunch of wood shop kids to be able to point at and say "we built that".
As I was reading about the students who built the boat, several quotes stood out. They talked about how it was the only class they looked forward to. One guy said it was "the only class he was getting a good grade in!" And then I read the words that I understood all too well: "We're not good at sitting down".
I know exactly what that's like, because I WAS that kid (still am, actually). And this is why I believe we should have programs like this in all schools. There are those of us who prefer to be out of our chairs and doing things. Maybe not all shop classes need to build Viking ships. Perhaps they could build water slides, restore old Corvettes (yes, I saw that movie), or learn how airplane engines work.
All I know is that not every young man does well sitting and listening to lectures.
Bob Meade knows this, and as of today, he is one of my new heroes.
I saw the post and couldn't help but smile...and wish I could get to Venice.
Our friends at "Row Venice" wrote: Sunday, May 22 is the Regata di Mestre, featuring a rare women's
gondola race — 9 gondole with 4 rowers in each craft. We have a total of
10 Row Venice instructors participating, spread over a total of 5
gondola crews. The weather forecast is perfect, so stringete i denti tutte and in boca a lupo, this is going to be SOME RACE!
Four oar gondola races are exciting. The boats go so fast, and when you get a group of vogatori all working together, it is a beautiful thing to witness.
Our best wishes to all of the Row Venice instructors. Have a great race!
Sometimes it's the little things that make me happy.
Sure, big events and bucket-list adventures are great, but little things are worth appreciating as well.
This month I have been spouting off with excitement to anyone and everyone who will listen...about the new floorboard color I've chosen for my gondola - the Phoenix.
Yes, I know. It takes a special kind of weirdo to appreciate such a thing.
If you're actually thinking of reading on, then perhaps you're as weird as I am.
This isn't the first time that we've changed the color there. It's actually the third. Classic Red When she was first shipped to her original owner, Paul Parma in Austin, Texas, she had the classic red that is a standard in Venice. Thom Price did a masterful job with the construction of the boat, and gave her the timeless look of a classic gondola, including the red floor.
photo by Thom Price
The above photo, from the year 2000, is a copy of a copy. There's probably a higher quality version out there, but the main focus here is on color. It was taken at the Squero Bonaldo, where Thom built the gondola, I swiped it from Paul Parma's Facebook page (with permission, of course).
The gondola was later sold to a friend of mine in Houston, who kept things standard. He loved the boat, but later received a captain's job in Florida that was too good to pass up. When he moved to Florida, he sold her to us and we added her to our fleet in Irving (in the Dallas/Ft. Worth area).
Having seen some foot traffic, not to mention Texas weather, the floorboards were due for some new paint.
Bluebonnet Fred Craven, one of my gondoliers out there called me up and convinced me that a color change was in order, and that the perfect hue would be what he called "Texas Bluebonnet blue".
A Texas Bluebonnet floor on a Venetian gondola.
The state flower of Texas is, you guessed it, the Texas Bluebonnet. A member of the Lupine family, the Bluebonnet grows wild, and during certain times can flower in such a way that all you see is a field of blue. Texans love Texas, and anything having to do with Texas. Fred was right to suggest such a color for the boat. Clients loved the color, and it made marketing the boat easy.
Largo A few years later the Phoenix was moved here to Newport. The Bluebonnet colored paint wasn't so easy to find, so when it was time to repaint, we went with "Largo Blue" by Interlux.
I was happy with the new color, but three and a half years later, the color had washed out and I had grown tired of Largo.
It was time for a new shade. A deeper shade of blue.
Sapphire While painting stripes on some oars, I discovered "Sapphire Blue" by Interlux and couldn't wait to use it on floorboards.
When we hauled the Phoenix out, I bought a bunch of Sapphire Blue and got to work.
My wife tells me these floorboards are white with gold.
Blue was already my favorite color, now I have a favorite shade.
In the direct sunlight they really glow. Once in the boat, and in lower light, the new color will show a much richer tone.
Intergrip Some of the surfaces we step on can get slippery in the evening or during rainy conditions. Having nearly wiped out way too many times because of the evening dew, I decided to give the forward trastolini boards a non-skid surface. Interlux makes a product called "Intergrip" that is, essentially, sand. (yeah, yeah, yeah. Go ahead and enter your own version of the "Gondola Greg actually paid money for a can of sand" wisecrack here) Adding this non-skid compound to the paint allows you to make non-skid in any color you desire.
Non-skid - now available in my favorite color!
photo by Isabella Mohr
While I was at it, I did the same thing with the two trastolini at the back of the boat as well. These are traditionally painted black, but I like having a contrast color there, so it's easier to know exactly where you're stepping in low light conditions. My staff and I have done this with other gondolas in the fleet. But with the Phoenix, we had one more sort of large piece to consider. If you were on this boat during the four-man race at Nationals, you may have noticed the big floorboard piece at the back of the boat.
I decided to roll it in blue non-skid too. Why not. I had lots of it, and it was fun to do.
Sapphire Blue non-skid with black scallops.
The gondola isn't ready for launch yet, and that's fine with me. All this paint needs to cure completely before I let anyone step on it. I'm actually not sure how I feel about people walking on these floorboards.
It was a lot of work, but I enjoyed every minute of it.
Special thanks to Thom Price, Paul Parma, and Fred Craven for helping me piece parts of this story together.
Full gondolier name: "Roto Sorixo". He grew up in Southern California, learned the art of Venetian rowing at Sunset Gondola, under the tutelage of Tim "Bepi Venexiano" Reinard, and Tyson Davis. Roto also rowed passengers in Alamitos Bay, and in my servizio in Newport Beach.
At some point he came into possession of his own gondolas. One has operated in Oxnard and Lake Tahoe. The other, a curious yellow gondola, spent years in his driveway, receiving careful restoration.
Now, if you know him, you know that Roto keeps his cards face down on the table. You never know what he's got planned until it happens.
Last month he launched an operation in Long Beach, in front of the Maya Hotel - across the water from Rainbow Harbor and Shoreline Village, and a quarter mile down the channel from the famous Queen Mary.
Sometimes I think I could launch a whole separate blog called "Everybody Loves the Gondola". It would be easy to fill, with photos from around the world. There are gondolas, advertisements, and other examples of how this unique boat from Venice is loved, revered, and admired everywhere.
It also helps that many of my friends share these little surprises with me when they discover them - often in unexpected places.
Sometimes I think that, and then I remember that I only have 24 hours to work with each day. So, instead, I post those little gems and curiosities here from time to time.
Today, being the fifth of May, it seems fitting to include an installment from south of the border.
Thanks to my friend Drew from Tahoe Amore for this surprise in Ensenada.
Yes, everybody loves the gondola, and I'm sure that the owner of this Italian restaurant in Ensenada... loves the gondola on his roof!
After extensive research (that means I Googled the crap out of it), I discovered that the gondolier who stands up there used to have an oar. How it disappeared is a mystery: - hurricane - sun damage - theft by banditos - theft by a fisherman who lost his original oar - theft by stupid American tourists (probably of the Spring Break variety)
My money is on hurricane or drunken fraternity jocks during Spring Break.
I have no particular loyalty to the Denver Broncos football team, the New York Mets, Edmonton Oilers or Florida State. They're typically not on my radar.
But I am a huge fan of another organization which also calls those colors their own. That would be a certain rowing club in Mestre.
I've been a member of the GSVVM since 2000, and while I don't get there often enough, when I do get to row with them, it's like Christmas for me.
So it should come as no surprise that I have an orange and blue striped remo in my collection of oars. It wasn't easy - I had to mix the orange myself because none of the marine paint suppliers seem to think orange is worth their time.
But it was worth the extra step (and fun to do). So this post is dedicated to all of my friends at the Gruppo Sportivo Voga Veneta in Mestre (Now can you see why I usually abbreviate it?) There are a lot of great rowing clubs in and around the lagoon, but the GSVVM is the one I call "home" in the Veneto.