Wednesday, August 31, 2016


Gondolier Braydon Butler of the Gondola Company of Newport 
returns to dock with happy passengers on a serene summer night.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Now THAT'S a Vending Machine!

Finally, someone has stocked a vending machine with something that's truly good for you.

Seriously, what they're offering won't make you fat,
won't expose you to artificial sweeteners, and it's good for your heart.
Of course you might get some sun, so bring your best hat and sunscreen.

Ladies and gentlemen, I give you...
(drumroll please)
the kayak vending machine!!!

It's real.
Today is not April 1st and I'm not making this up.
Their facebook post that went up yesterday reads as follows:

16 kayaks are currently available at North Mississippi River Regional Park in North Minneapolis. 16 more are coming soon to the Mississippi Watershed Management Organization Stormwater Park. The return stations are at Boom Island Park.
To reserve a kayak go to: and follow the instructions.
It's very simple:
1. Choose your location (North Mississippi Regional Park for now)
2. Select # of kayaks
3. Pay by credit card
4. Receive a code (via email) to unlock your equipment in a specific locker.
5. Remove your pfd, paddle, and unlock your boat.
6. Shut locker
7. Go paddle
You must have some experience and be 18 or older. All boats must be returned to the Boom Island Return station 3.9 miles downstream.
Make your reservation today!
The Mississippi River Paddle Share is a self-serve kayak rental system where you can paddle a 4 mile stretch of river in your national park: Mississippi National River and Recreation Area (Twin Cities Metro Area).

Of course you've got to give the kayak back when you're done with it,
so it's not quite the same as dropping a few quarters
and getting a Snickers bar, but this is fantastic.
Leave it to those crazy Minnesotans to do something like this.
I did some checking, and it appears that this is not technically the first vending machine to spit out a kayak.  A few years back there was a fun promotion that took place in San Francisco, where a huge vending machine distributed bikes, kayaks, and other items related to outdoor tourism in British Columbia. 
You can read more about it and watch a fun video at this link:

This kayak vending machine is in Minneapolis, and it got me thinking...
if they were to stock that rig with gondolas in October
(right around the time when we're competing at Nationals),
they'd be sold out for sure!

To learn more, see
or search them on facebook for fresh updates.

Perfect Moment in Tahoe

photo by Cody Wright

A photographer in Tahoe who works with Drew at Tahoe Amore,
captured this two-boat shot near sunset. 
The boat in the foreground was a marriage proposal,
and I'm sure that this photo represents one of those perfect moments
in the life of those two passengers.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

4X4 on the Water

photos by Steve Elkins
Tonight, as the sun was just touching down on the horizon,
my guys and I were securing the Forcole on our gondola, The Phoenix
in preparation for our first four-oar workout.
When I woke up this morning, the sun was large and in charge, 
burning bright, with no clouds to burn through. 
But by late afternoon a marine layer had moved in,
and we were once again enjoying that gray haze following the
bright orange ball's touchdown.
We shoved off, got situated, and went about the business of reconnecting
with November of last year. 
I was quite surprised at how well these guys re-engaged with all the work we'd done last year.  I'd have gotten them all on the boat much sooner,
but Jakob was working on a fishing boat in Alaska until just last week. 
Passing other boats I announced that we were operating in "four wheel drive".
After eight months of rowing with one remo, it was refreshing and exhilarating to move so fast over the water.
I lost track of the number of times I shouted "Oh, I've missed this!"
Simon, Jakob and Kalev were all naturals - jumping back into the four-man configuration.  We spent much of the times cracking jokes as we rowed.
Approaching Steve's gondola...
...and passing by quickly.

Of course, there were those "Whoa, wait-a-minute!" moments,
and guys needed to take a break more than they did last October,
but it was a great first run for this team.

Minnesota, here we come!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Rainier from Gig

photo by Janet Halseth Perry
Think your gondola location has the best view?
The folks at Gig Harbor Gondola might have one better.
Imagine rowing with Mt. Rainier in the background.
Here's a nice shot taken from the Gig Harbor waterfront.
Many thanks to Janet Halseth Perry for this great image.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Training at Sunset

top three photos by Ruben Jay
With Nationals just two months away, Kalev and I decided to take a jaunt
on the Contessa to work on our tandem rowing skills.
 Heading out,
and chasing down the sunset.
We met up with Simon as he was out with passengers.
The three of us circled around and sang "Santa Lucia".
What a perfect night on the water.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Cowardly Sabotage

I'm a big fan of keeping things positive here on the Gondola Blog.
You won't see many things here that denigrate another person or group of people.

I will make an exception today,
and in a moment you'll understand why.

This coming Thursday there will be a blessing on the steps of the church of Santa Maria della Salute - a tradition that goes back a very long time.
All of the rowers in the upcoming Regata Storica will be there,
with each two-man team aboard the gondolino that they will compete on
just three days later.

Yes, it's that time again.
The Regata Storica is right around the corner.
Nine sleek racing boats which are used each year for this race have been stored and maintained by the Commune di Venezia to be used in the ultimate rowing race through La Serenissima.

So far all the things I've said could describe what happens each year at this time.
Nothing new.

And then it happened,
someone gained access to the gondolini that were stored and ready for launch on Friday, and amazingly, managed to chop seven of the nine boats in half with some sort of a saw.

Yeah, let that sink in for a minute.

Here are some images that have been circulating online.

For most folks, a series of questions come forth:
- What kind of person does this?!

- WHY would they do it?

- How in the world did they get away with it without being caught, or even seen doing it?  As of this writing, nobody seems to know who did it or why. 
There are many theories, but that's it. 
The police are investigating this,
so it's probably just a matter of time before the truth comes out.

And of course there's the practical question...
- What can be done in this short period of time?

Imagine if the Superbowl could only be played with one particular football,
and someone put it into a woodchipper.

Here's where, if I had less self control,
I'd launch into a blistering tirade of filthy language.
But since my kids read the blog I'll just say this:
Take the very worst insults and foul language,
spin it up in a blender of rage, and give it a Soprano's-style delivery...
and THAT'S how I feel about the person or people who did this.

The Venetian spirit, however, is remarkable.
From the time their forefathers began building the foundations of the city,
Venetians have shown the world that they are survivors,
they're resilient,
and they have a natural skill in adapting and overcoming.

See, at this moment, in a building on the island of Giudecca,
three masters of boatbuilding are working tirelessly to save the day.
Roberto Dei Rossi, Gianfranco Vianello "Crea" and Dino Tagliapietra have come together to put these remarkable boats back together in time for the blessing on Thursday.

And it won't just be a cosmetic patch job either.
The seven gondolini will be race-ready.

So on behalf of Venice and all of the fans of Venetian rowing around the world, there is one other thing I'd like to tell those cowards responsible for this disgraceful act:

You failed!

I hope you enjoy watching the Regata Storica this year.
I know I will.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Selfie Sticks are Welcome

photo by Mitchell Luckey

I know they can be annoying and in some cases unsafe in amusement parks and other places.  But on the gondolas here in Newport, selfie sticks are welcome, and photobombs by the gondolier are encouraged.

US Gondola Nationals 2016!

photo by Ignus Holm

It has been announced.
In two months, we'll be converging on Stillwater, Minnesota
to take part in the 2016 US Gondola Nationals!
Here's the message from John Kerschbaum of Gondola Romantica in Stillwater:

Hello USGN community,

Mark your calenders for the 2016 US Gondola Nationals being held in Stillwater Minnesota on October 22nd and 23rd.
I hope to see everyone at this annual one-of-a-kind event.

The more of you that can come the better.
If there is anything I can do to help get you here please contact me at 651-755-3002. If you need help with lodging let me know and I will see what I can do.
For lodging info go to Registration forms will be out early next week. It is best to fly into Minneapolis/St. Paul international airport.

Ciao for now,


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Palio di Siena

Last month in my post about Calcio Storico,
I mentioned the "Palio di Siena" - a wild horse race through the city square.

They typically have Palio races on two days each year,
and last weekend was the second one of the year. 
If you're like me, and you're saying "I've got to get out there to see it",
then you'll need to wait until next year.

Here's a clip of the race that happened just two days ago:

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Sepia Stalking

photo by Cassandra Mohr
My daughter stalked me this afternoon and snapped this photo from the 38th Street Bridge. It seemed best in a sepia setting.

Buon giorno from Newport Beach!

Monday, August 15, 2016

Failure to Land in Venice

The Mayor of Venezia is understandably angry.
Not because someone jumped off a bridge,
not because it was the Rialto,
not because the guy was from out-of-town
and not because he was drunk.
The Mayor is angry because the drunk guy from New Zealand had the grave misfortune of landing on a boat.

Remarkably, this guy seems to have survived his failure to land.
I told Kiwi Andrew McHardy
(who alerted me to this story...and who is NOT the subject of it)
that maybe the guy survived because he was from New Zealand
and probably grew up playing rugby.

Here's the article:
Drunk Kiwi in hot water after big splash in Venice

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Steve Comes...and Steve Goes

Out on the waters of Newport tonight,
I caught sight of my friend Steve approaching. 
Fumbling for my phone, I managed to snap off two shots of him without dropping it in the water.
One shot of Steve coming towards us,
and the other of him going off into the distance.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

Simon's Silhouette

Heading out with a happy couple,
Simon rowed into the sunset this evening. 
 I was lucky to be at the right place as the sun was coming in for a landing,
and caught these three images.

At the perfect moment, Simon raised his Giuliana Longo hat with the setting sun right behind him.

Monday, August 8, 2016

American Medals

photo by Ignus Holm

Like many of you, I've given a fair amount of my time and attention lately to the Olympic Games going on down in Rio.

I was raised in a house where every four years we were glued to the TV,
eating it up like the best thing ever shown on screen. 

Summer and Winter Olympics, I love them both.
I enjoy watching spirited competition, but I also like seeing the friendships between athletes from different countries.

Of course I'm pushing for the home team, but I also appreciate a good contest, and if the other team really earns it, then they often earn my respect as well.

At the end of the final match, they award the medals.
Today's post features a photo of Michael Ruffino - winner of the silver medal in the Solo Distance event of the 2015 US Gondola Nationals.
He's one of my favorite American gondoliers,
and I believe he captures the spirit of our competition.

To read more about Mike, see my post "Ruffino - From Cage to Rage" .

Monday, August 1, 2016

Zillen on Traunsee

photos by Ed Mohr

When your dad knows just how obsessed you are with gondolas,
and he's on vacation in Austria and sees some boats that remind him of your obsession, well, you get a photo of some "zillen".

What the heck are "zillen?"
they are long flat-bottomed boats in Austria and southern Germany.
The singular form is "zille".
These boats are rowed by a standing oarsman,
who faces forward and only rows off of one side.
Sound familiar?

I described more about these unique wooden craft a few years ago
in my post "Familiar Rowing Style in Austria"
(along with video and links to other online posts).
That post was based on the zillen on  a lake called Hallstätter See.
The ones above were spotted on the shore of Traunsee - a neighboring lake.

Like Venetians, a lot of the residents of Traunkirchen are fishermen.
The pulpit in the church there is actually shaped like a boat,
symbolizing that they are "fishers of men".

Boat-shaped pulpit

My dad also told me that Traunsee lake is also said to have its own lake monster known as "Lungy". In Austrian folklore, The legends tell of a Waterhorse being ridden on the back by a Mermaid. There are some rare photos and videos online showing what appears to be a large creature swimming in the lake.

(As if I didn't already have a good reason to visit the region)