Friday, September 30, 2016

Ruffino Rising

I snapped this on the water a few days ago of Michael Angelo Ruffino,
as he trained to defend his silver medal from last year,
and hopefully claim a gold medal this year.

In his poetic words:
He was "training to crush men's dreams of glory"

This October 22nd and 23rd are going to be the highlight of my year.
I cannot wait for the US Gondola Nationals.
I love the friendship, the fellowship,
the camaraderie with the only folks who really get what I do.
I love the competition, as well as the anticipation of it.

Of course I'm looking forward to the four-man event,
but while I don't plan on racing in the solo distance regatta,
I think it's the one I most look forward to watching this year.

Let's see just how much whoop-ass Signor Ruffino can unleash.


To read more about Mr. Ruffino, check out the post
Ruffino - From Cage to Rage

Monday, September 26, 2016

Rowing the Pond at Villa Contarini

Nereo Zane sent me this beautiful photo of a gondola
near the Villa Cotarini with the following text:

How are you my friend?
Today I rowed a gondola in a pond situated

inside a "villa veneta" next Padua.
Please find the attached photos and enjoy.

Here's a happy Nereo, seated in the gondola,
enjoying the afternoon shade.
This is at the Villa Contarini, near the Brenta River, upstream from Padova.
We think of Venice being only that city on the lagoon, but her influence is evidenced all over the region, and indeed, throughout various parts of the Mediterranean.
How great it must have been to come upon a beautiful black gondola
in a pond out in the country, to row her on those placid waters,
and rest in the shade of the trees of the Villa Contarini.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Floating Island

This was brought to my attention a while ago, and with all that was going on,
I forgot to post it.
Here's a couple who have built themselves a remarkable floating habitat up in western Canada.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Cliché Quotes

"Pain is weakness leaving the body".
I don't remember where I heard that quote, but it came to mind today
as I was coaching Matthew Raus on the waters of Newport.
It seemed like the right thing to shout, along with
"Celebrate the pain you are feeling",
and many other pieces of pseudo-psychology as they pertain to racing.

Matt and I were out there in the whistling wind,
to tweak his rowing technique and push him to places
that he wouldn't otherwise go
(even if it took a bunch of cheesy quotes, shouted like a swim coach).

This wasn't the only sailboat to cut across our bow.

Matt rows past the Lido Bridge.
Spectators come in many forms.
Here's a gigantic sea lion.

Approaching the tip of Lido Island, I told Matt that
the race isn't won on race day - it's won on the days,
weeks and months spent on the water.
Prepare to win and you're more likely to win.

While I'm not necessarily a fan of all that Lance Armstrong did,
he did write an amazing quote in one of his books:
"There comes a time in every race when a competitor meets the real opponent, and understands that it's himself"
Today, despite all my cliché quotes,
Matthew Raus rowed harder and faster than ever.
I can't wait until Nationals.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Swan in Perth

Western Australia's only gondola operation is on the water,
and looking better than ever.

Alan and Antoinetta's beautiful Aussie-built gondola is now at a new location.

They write:
We’re now in one of Perth’s major projects, Elizabeth Quay,
which opened earlier this year.
It’s still a work in progress but we have a permanent mooring for the gondola which is huge advantage over our previous operation.
A huge advantage indeed:
We used to trailer the gondola for every one hour booking,
this involved  driving it from home on the 34 ft.
long trailer, launching it then motoring it to the pickup point, this took 2 hours before and after each cruise.
Now that's dedication.
Living below the equator, they're just coming out of winter and looking forward to business picking up.

Check out the new website at:

Great boat, great place, great people.
Here's wishing Alan and Antoinetta a fantastic year.

To read more about the boat and the operation, see my post:
GONDOLAS IN AUSTRALIA - "Gondolas on the Swan"

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

GCON on the Move!

This afternoon I shadowed the four-man team from the Gondola Company of Newport as they trained for Nationals this October in Minnesota.
Sitting on the boat, Mike Ruffino and I
discussed the virtues of breakfast burritos.
Matt and Eddie concentrated on stretching and rowing position.
Chunky drops of rain fell around us,
but it only seemed to prompt a smile from everyone.
We all know that there's a chance of rain (and even snow) in Minnesota,
so rowing in the rain - well, the GCON team welcomed it.
Parker got into the mindset of a pope gondolier.
Then they were off,
Rowing out into the bay.
Each man concentrating on the duties of his station.

I climbed up onto the Newport Boulevard bridge
to grab some good photos of the boat as she went by swiftly.

With the US Gondola Nationals almost exactly one month away,
Everyone who's going is getting excited about the races they're training for.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Tanti Auguri Saverio!

Today is Saverio Pastor's birthday.
And while I don't do a lot of birthday posts anymore
(because I found that I was spending so much time
wishing people "tanti auguri" here on the Gondola Blog),
There are always exceptions.

When it comes to exceptions, I can think of nobody more worthy of our attention on his birthday than a guy who carves forcolas and oars.

Here's a collection of photos I took last year in Saverio's shop
on a rainy day in September.

Happy birthday Saverio.
Keep carving masterpieces.

Finished Forcole with fresh signatures.
Planes lined up on the runway.
A wall of remi.
Talking with his co-worker
(and probably talking with the forcola too).
 The master and his masterpieces.
 My personal favorite remo.
 So many tools and patterns.
Non-electric equipment.
So many remi - all waiting to be put into service.
To learn more about Saverio Pastor's craftsmanship, go to:
Or search his name here on the Gondola Blog.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Lotsa Varnish

Mark at Gondola Paradiso pointed this out to me today.
It's a travel blog with some great photos of a remarkable gondola.
Take a look at this post on The Aussie Flashpacker:
A Private Gondola Tour & Romantic Dinner with SIT Italy

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Two Guys at Sunset

I managed to snap off a gazillion photos this evening
as the sun was setting and some of the Newport gondoliers were passing through the reflecting waters.
Of the multitude of images, about a dozen were decent,
but two were actually worthy of posting.
Here's Evan with two passengers on The Phoenix.
 And here's Jakob with a full boat (six passengers),
tipping his hat as he rows the Wedding Gondola.

This job definitely doesn't suck.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Four in the Morning

After much failure and frustration, I realized that all three of the other guys in my four-man team had schedules with classes and other commitments at conflicting hours.
Last night, in mad desperation I bit the bullet and texted that I would be willing to do an early morning row.
If you know me, then you know that I'm prone to 3am and even 5am bedtimes.
Mornings are not my strong suit.
But desperate times call for such sacrifices.
SO I talked them all into an early morning jaunt around Lido Island.
I brought the coffee and granola bars,
and even stood outside Kalev's bedroom window and hollered up,
waking him and his dog (and probably annoying the neighbors.
As the sun was rising, we prepared the gondola.
A thermos of coffee later and we were off and rowing.
Everyone laughing and cracking jokes as we fell into rhythm.
Four guys, on a gondola, rowing in the early morning light.
"Forte, forte!"
It was a glorious morning, with glassy waters, curious birds and sea lions, and lots of traditional crew boats skimming by.

"Hey, Greg, wanna stop taking pictures and row a little?"
We had a fantastic time, got an excellent workout, and I got a better understanding of why so many people like getting up in the early morning.
Then we wrapped up the boat,
and I went home and crawled back into bed.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Going IN the Boat

A little gem of wisdom coming from Mark Schooling - owner of
Gondola Paradiso in Oxnard, California:
"Gondoliers stay on top of the gondola. 
Gondola owners go IN the gondola"

Truer words were never spoken.

At first you think there might one day be a single reason to crawl up into the bow or stern of a gondola, but sooner or later you begin to realize that there are innumerable instances where you must perform this contortion.
They often present themselves when it's hot,
and the sun has turned the space you're entering into an oven.

The other day Mark sent me these photos - taken during a seam-filling adventure he'd undertaken.

Here's a shot from under the deck:

I think the roll of blue masking tape on the chest is a nice touch.

The next day, sure enough, I found myself needing to repair a running light in the bow of one of my gondolas.

It's times like these where I question the placement of running lights.
I wonder why the idiot who installed them, placed them so far forward.
Then I remember that the idiot who installed them...was me.

When you find yourself jammed up into the narrow tip of a gondola,
Sometimes you can get grouchy.

You're squirming uncomfortably,
and discovering that if you drop one shoulder behind you,
 then you'll be able to wiggle up even further... but then,
you'll have to perform your task with only one hand.

Even on the sunniest day, if you go far enough into the boat,
your body will effectively block the light from getting into the space
where you need to perform your task.
Trust me - bring a light.

You're sweaty, there's a hull frame jamming into your rib cage,
and right about then someone stomps down the float-dock - shaking and rocking your gondola all over the place.

In this "perfect storm of frustration", it's important to keep your cool.
Oh sure, you can get angry, just do your best to channel that anger.
Grab your crimping tool, reach way the heck up there,
and pinch the living daylights out of whatever it is you crawled your sorry self up there to pinch.

It should look something like this:

In case you were wondering,
Yes, I just described my "IN the boat" experience from the other day.
I sincerely hope that Mark's was less painful.

Cheers to Mark in Oxnard, and all the other gondola owners out there,
who have put themselves in painful positions to serve their beloved boats.

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Festivities Afloat

Some awesome things are happening on the water in the Veneto.
Here's a video that popped up in my Facebook feed a couple days ago.
I believe it was taken by my friend Gilberto Penzo.
I don't know everybody in the frame, but I'm quite certain that the guy playing and singing a John Denver song is the crazy Kiwi Andrew McHardy,
And I believe I see Peter Dever in there as well.
Sure wish I could have been there to experience it first-hand.


Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Another Four


I had the opportunity to go out on the water today with the four-man team from Gondola Company of Newport, as they did a training run for the upcoming US Gondola Nationals.

Eddie, Matt, Mike and Parker are all seasoned rowers, and they've competed before in various events, but it was clear to me on the water today, that they are determined to make a statement with their oars this October in Minnesota.

I can't wait to see them compete.

Mike shows his spirit.
Parker in command.
The four of them in action (with me clinging to the prow
and trying not to drop my phone, or myself, in the water).