Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Sweet Sixteen in Boston

This week the "Boys in Boston" opened for their sixteenth season.

It seems like only yesterday they were taking delivery of two beautiful gondolas from Venice (one built by Thom Price, the other restored by him).

The area where they row, known as "the Esplanade" was actually designed originally for gondolas, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that they look perfect there.

Even so, you can't just find a nice place, toss gondolas in the water,
and expect everything to fall into place.

Success requires work, especially in this business.

Joe, Steve, and the staff at Gondola di Venezia are no strangers to hard work, and they certainly know how to run a successful gondola operation.

Happy sixteenth season to my friends in Boston.
I hope this summer will be the best yet!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Row Venice Makes a Statement

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.

Good luck in the next regatta.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Just the Photo - Cole at Sunset

California Vikings Launch Ship

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.

On Friday, May 20th, the boat was ready for launch.
Here's an article which gives some of the details:

An earlier article includes the words "No Other School Has This"

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.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

GO, "Row Venice", GO!!!

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!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Dig Two Holes

Over 2,500 years ago, the Chinese philosopher said:
"Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves"

Yesterday, John Kerschbaum, the Minnestona gondola owner told me:
"Before you seek to replace the bottom of your gondola,
dig two holes"

John said:
The plywood bottom has been failing for the past few years.
I don't want it to be a problem during the gondola Nationals.
So it's time to put new plywood on the bottom.
I'm totally intimidated by this project.
1. is that I have never done this before.
2. is you never know what you're going to find when you start taking it apart.
I have a feeling that I have my work cut out for me.

The second hole.
Holes in the ground are nothing new when it comes to gondolas.
No squero in Venice is complete without a hole or two in the shop floor - used for the same reason.
Outsiders might question why.
Why not just lift the boat up a bit higher?
But by keeping the boat lower, you have easier access to the bottom planking, where the work needs to be done.
My friends in Minnesota are an inventive group of guys.
Here we see that they've employed a clever type of lifting frame.
Of course you can't rely entirely on gear.
You've gotta have guys too.
Having your gondoliers involved gives them ownership of the work too.
One guy has two fingers behind his buddy's head,
the other is about to pour water on his fellow gondolier.
Looks like they have a healthy sense of humor.
Best of luck to John, Michael and Noah on their new challenge.
Gondoliers all over the country look forward to rowing that boat during Nationals in October.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Snapper's Solo Sprint to Gold

At the 4th Annual US Gondola Nationals in November of 2015,
there were many different races to compete in.
Perhaps one of the most exciting to watch was the Solo Sprint.
It took off right in front of the Bahia Corinthian Yacht Club
(where everyone in attendance was watching),
headed north up the canal,
turned at a buoy in front of the Balboa Island Bridge
(where there were more spectators),
and raced back to finish in front of the yacht club.
Sprints are all energy. 
From start - all the way to finish,
it's a matter of burning every ounce of fuel you've got in the tank. 
There's not a lot of pacing yourself.
Adding to the excitement, this year we were able to field four gondolas
in each heat.
This means you're not just racing the clock, or one other guy.
You're up against three other guys who all want to get to that buoy first,
not to mention beat you back to the finish line.
Oh, and the challenge of not bumping into each other
can also make for a fun race to watch.

This year the fastest guy on the water in the sprint event was Eric Bender.
Yeah, the guy I like to call "The Snapper", because he actually snapped an oar in the 2013 Solo Sprint competition.
Eric smiling right before his heat in the Solo Sprint event.

The challenge of getting all four guys (and their boats) out,
evenly positioned, and properly spaced...well, it's not nearly as easy
as Marcello and the guys on the dock made it look.
I will be forever thankful for the ingenuity and dedication of the gondoliers who made the starting procedures happen so well.

It's officially "GO TIME!"
Some guys bend their oars more than others.

Now and then we saw heats where all the racers were from the same servizio, and that was the case with the heat that our story revolves around.

Starting of, from nearest the dock to furthest, we had Al Macina,
Cole Hanson, Eric Bender, and JR Starlin.

Watching four gondolas take off together is awesome.

The route for sprint events this year covered .58 miles/.94 kilometers.
This was a bit further than previous sprint routes, and having a buoy turn
made for some great spectating.

Cole Hanson begins his turn at the buoy, two guys approach the turning
point, while "The Snapper" begins his charge towards the finish line.
photo by Mindy Schauer

We were lucky to have a GoPro camera mounted on the boat that Eric Bender rowed in the Solo Sprint race.
Thanks to Simon Atkins, here is the video from that heat:

As with many of the other races, the top placing finishers had times
that were very close to each other. 
Without a doubt - every second counts.

Top 3 finishers
1st   Eric Bender     The Gondola Company       Coronado, CA          7:46:73
2nd  Ben Landis      Gondola Getaway              Long Beach, CA       8:01:02
3rd   Jakob Easton  Gondola Adventures, Inc.   Newport Beach, CA  8:05:59

Matthew "Marcello" Haynes announces the medal recipients.

From left to right:
Eric Bender, Eddie Rivera (receiving for Ben Landis), and Jakob Easton.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Coronado's Gold

Eric Bender rows on gold-reflecting water in Coronado, California.

Saturday, May 14, 2016

A Deeper Shade of Blue

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.

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.

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.

"Largo Blue" from 2011 post "Photos from the Prodigy"
photo by Cassandra Mohr

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.

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.

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.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Gondolas Under the Lights

Realtors like to say that it's all about "location, location, location".
There are hundreds of gondolas available to take cruises in Venice,
but the owners of these two boats have definitely got a prime spot.
Situated on the south shore of the Grand Canal, and right between the Rialto Bridge and her vaporetto stop, the visibility is prime.
They've also been smart enough to light up their boats,
so people walking by (day and night) will see their gondolas.
Both vessels are wedding gondolas, with fully carved decks.
The first one has a red theme color. 
Floors, upholstery, and seat cushions are all done in red. 
The pom-poms and ropes between the cavalli and even the ribbon on the gondolier's hat continue with the color red.
The gondolier has also tied in the gold from the brass fixtures and the scimier (that decorative piece on top of the backrest). 
The upholstery has a matching yellow-gold trim and throw pillows.
The second gondola has a blue theme.
The floorboards are a nice rich blue,
the seat trim and pom-poms are also blue.
For bonus points, the gondolier's deck has a blue carpet.
The upholstery on this boat is made from a blue and gold brocade.
Like the first boat, the gold in the seats and throw pillows ties in with the brass and gold leaf paint on the boat and scimier.

Location is important, so is visibility, I think it also helps that these two gondolas have their own covered boarding dock.

They look so nice, even nicer under lights.

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Roto Sorixo's New Servizio

I have a friend named "Roto".

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.

The company name is La Luna Gondola.
The website -

Here are some photos he sent me this week.

Under the Queensway Bridge.
Promotional setup, including chairs from the gondola.

Roto on his gondola.

As you can see, she is no longer yellow, but still retains the name "Giallo".
With traditional black paint and a red color scheme, she looks almost just like her counterparts in Venezia. 
I say almost, because no other gondola has upholstery quite like this.

Her age is a mystery, as well as her squero.
We know she was built in Venice, but as of yet,
we don't know who built her.
When she served in Venice, she was #181, and the tags are still on her.
Roto tells me:
I don't know who crafted her or when,
but she was built well and rows exceptionally. 
My compliments to the builder, whoever that might be.

 Interior view.
Roto and gondolier Eric England, ready to row!
Roto's wife takes a turn on the back,
with the Queen Mary in the background.

Traditional brass cavallo.
Roto shared this photo with me saying:
Here is a picture of my grandparents from Trieste. I wish I could have taken them on a gondola ride, that would have been awesome. Maybe one day!
 Congratulations to Roto and his family.
Thanks for keeping us guessing for so long.
I'm glad you finally put that beautiful boat in the water.
Best of luck in your new endeavor.
     Company: La Luna Gondola
     address: 700 Queensway Dr.
                  Long Beach, CA 90802
     phone number: (562) 452-0175

Friday, May 6, 2016

Jakob's View Tonight

photo by Jakob Easton

After a surprisingly strong downpour this morning,
the day settled into a sort of Seattle-like weather pattern.

Then, just around sunset, those pesky clouds slid out of the way
just in time for a dramatic finish.

Luckily, my gondolier Jakob was there to snag a quick photo.

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Cinco de Gondolieri

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.

Whatever the case, happy Cinco de Mayo, amigos!