Sunday, August 20, 2017

Viva Mariachis

For the record, I am the worlds foremost gringo,
but for whatever reason, I totally love mariachi music.
Really the whole mariachi thing.
In some ways they remind me of gondoliers:
the uniform, the music, plus they're ambassadors of their culture.
Oh, and then there's the fact that they are super loud.
Ask my mother - I've always been super loud too.
Tonight, for the first time ever, I got to take a boat full of mariachis out on the water - to drop them off on a charter yacht in Newport.
Sunset over Mariachis
We had a ball.
One guy sang a piece of "O Sole' Mio",
Another said "Do you sing?"
and then, of course, I broke out in full Bocelli mode.
He pulled out his guitar, another broke out his phone to record.
It was a party on the water.

Friday, August 18, 2017

Pupparin Workout

photo by Simon Atkins

Kalev and I jumped into the Contessa today for a rowing workout,
and Simon caught us as we passed by in front of the Newport Boulevard bridge.

This year the two-man pupparin time-trial will be part of the events once again at Nationals.
Unlike the gondolas, this boat is lighter, and tips easily. 
Sometimes rowing her feels like a balancing act.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Nationals is Coming!

photo by Mindy Schauer
The 6th annual US Gondola Nationals are only ten weeks away.
Are you ready?
As in 2013, Tim "Bepi" Reinard of Sunset Gondola will be hosting the 2017 US Gondola Nationals in Huntington Harbour.
The dates are October 28th-29th.
Read more at:

Friday, August 11, 2017

Thar She Blows!

On Tuesday, August 8th, there was an eye-catching report
of a "baby Gray Whale in Dana Point harbor".
"How cool is that!" I said.
"I wish that happened in Newport".
Two days later, it did.
One of my gondoliers, Jack Maskrey texted me a video of that same whale...gliding beneath one of our gondolas at dock.
Here's a clip that was put together using that footage:
video by Jay Morris
There it was - a Gray Whale in Newport Harbor.
Later that day, the passengers on one of our gondolas
shot this while cruising:

We often get calls from people looking for whale-watching cruises.
For a limited time in Newport, we were actually providing it!

For more details and some good photos,
check out this article in the Orange County Register:

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Ten Years of the Gondola Blog!

photos by Nereo Zane

Ten years ago today,
I stepped off of a gondola,
and sat down to write my very first blog entry here.
A decade has passed, and as of now there are 2,800 posts on the Gondola Blog.
I didn't expect it to happen.

As some of you already know, the Gondola Blog started as a short-term web journal that was to follow the preparation and progress of a gondola expedition down the Hudson River in New York.

I was excited about this adventure, and thought it would be a shame not to write about it and post photos as we made our way from the state capitol of Albany, all the way down to Ground Zero in Manhattan.

The gondola arrives in Albany, New York
 A proud arrival in Manhattan

We covered 150 miles in six days on my gondola The Phoenix,
rowing in tribute to the "Fallen Heroes of 9/11".
The memories, and experiences were invaluable,
and thanks to Nereo Zane - so were the photos.

John Kerschbaum of Gondola Romantica, Chris Harrison of Gondola Adventures in Texas and I represented the US, while three legendary Venetians rounded out our six man team.
Chris, John and I were lucky enough to row with Vittorio Orio, Bepi Suste, and Enzo Lizska - who were all in their sixties, and rowed circles around us. 
We learned a lot about rowing that week.

Group shot at Ground Zero

After the expedition, I posted photos and wrote about various details and experiences on and around the Hudson River.
My thinking was that eventually I'd run out of expedition content,
and cap it off with a nice closing post.

But there were other stories to tell,
and a wealth of photos that begged to be posted.

Several friends encouraged me to keep writing.
Again, I thought
"I'll just keep posting until I run out of things to write about".

Ten years have gone by, and there are still stories to tell,
still photos to post, and thanks to the efforts of some friends in Providence and Huntington Harbour - there are some fantastic events to report on.

Friends in Boston, Minnesota, Coronado, and New Orleans have sent great photos and content.
More recently Oxnard, Lake Tahoe and Gig Harbor have seen new operations launch on their waters, and those boat owners have allowed me to post about their servizios.

In the last ten years, I've been blessed with so many new friends in and around this crazy, romantic, unusual business.
I've lost a few as well - my rowing coach Arturo Moruccio and most rerecently, expedition rower Enzo Lizska passed away earlier this year.

In the last ten years the gondola world has changed.
several operations have opened, dozens of new boats have been launched in various locations, and a few servizios have closed or relocated.

As of this writing there are thirty gondola operations in the United States, with dozens of Venice-built boats, and lots of US-built craft as well.
We have an annual competition called the US Gondola Nationals, which has strengthened friendships among gondoliers all over the country. 
This annual event has also changed the way so many of us look at rowing, and has turbocharged our enthusiasm.

Of course there are so many other places around the world where gondolas or similar boats are operated, and then there's Venice herself.

With all of this and so much more to write about,
I have kept going with the Gondola Blog.
I owe each and every one of you a debt of gratitude for reading,
contributing, and commenting.
Every day I am thankful to have fallen into this unique business,
and there is nothing I would rather do.

The Gondola Blog is ten years old today.
Here's to many more great years on the water for all of us.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

The Incredible Flying Ruffino

Here's one of my all-time favorite photos from the US Gondola Nationals
in Stillwater, Minnesota. 
Funny enough - it's not a dramatic racing photo,
not a fun group shot, and not an image of someone receiving a medal.

This is a split-second image of a remarkable jump,
performed by Michael Angelo Ruffino.
He managed to do it while rowing,
and yes, he landed perfectly on the deck and kept on rowing.

Here's a close-up, just because, well, a shot like this deserves a close-up.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Waterfire from Above

photo by John Simonetti

This is an image that begs to be clicked on for enlargement.
Here we see one of Simonetti's wonderful photos of Waterfire in Providence, Rhode Island.

In the lower left-hand corner you can see a gondola just emerging from beneath a bridge.

The gondoliers at La Gondola are fortunate enough to get to row through this event many times each year, and when they hosted Nationals last time, they let some of us out-of-towners give it a try as well.

We've talked about this event here on the Gondola Blog many times, determining that as amazing as it really defies description.
Even so, a strong attempt was made in the post "What is WaterFire?"

I can't wait to see and experience it all again one day.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Always Alaskan

As I write this, and summer is getting into full swing here in
Southern California, The sun is also shining on Alaska.
In fact this time of year, it shines a lot up there.

Two of my favorite gondoliers are currently working on a fishing boat in Alaskan waters, enjoying the Midnight Sun, and having the kinds of adventures that young men dream of.
Jakob Easton lived in Alaska for many years, while Hunter Mitchell is experiencing the 49th state for the first time.

But when the season winds down, they will return to Newport,
and begin training for this year's US Gondola Nationals.

If you've ever lived in Alaska, you know that no matter how long ago you lived there, it'll always be in your blood.
I lived in Nome, Alaska in my twenties,
and even now, a piece of my heart is still up there.

The other day I was watching a show about a woman who lives in Alaska,
far north of the Arctic Circle, and her motto stuck with me:
"If it hurts, don't think about it."
- Sue Aikens

If ever there were a perfect quote for arctic survival - that's the one.
Rest assured, that this October, as we set out on the water to compete with our esteemed rowing colleagues at Nationals, I will be shouting that little piece of wisdom from Sue Aikens.

Monday, July 10, 2017

Simon Drops the Bottle

photos by Kalev Pallares
Here's a fun sequence of Simon Atkins dropping a message-in-a-bottle
in the water for one of his passengers to retrieve...moments before a
marriage proposal takes place.

He drops it!
Makes sure she didn't hear the splash,
Rows off a few strokes,
 And then nervously checks to see if it's still there!

A minute later the bottle was fetched,
the question was popped,
and she said "yes", of course.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Gondolas Spotted in Boston

photo by Kathleen Gonzalez
Our friend Kathleen Gonzalez, who wrote the book "Free Gondola Ride",
hosts a great blog called "Seductive Venice" - which covers topics on
Casanova, Venice, and all things Venetian.
She was recently in Boston and saw the gondolas there.
Take a look at her post "Not Just in Venice Anymore...".

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Fourth

Happy Fourth of July from the Gondola Blog.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Two Guys Go to Tahoe

photos by Eddie Rivera
Eddie Rivera and Kyle Wolting of The Gondola Company of Newport
decided to drop in on Drew Ste. Marie at his servizio on the
blue waters of Lake Tahoe today.
They sent me some photos, which have left me profoundly jealous.
In the above photo, we see Kyle rowing on the Venice-built gondola
known as "Giallo".
Eddie snapped the photo while rowing "Theresa".
Both gondoliers were heading out of the jetty at the Tahoe Keys Marina.
And here we see Eddie at the dock with signage and boats in the background.
 At one time this gondola was painted yellow, and in serious disrepair,
until a friend of mine worked his magic and brought her back to life. 
The passengers seem happy too.
And here they are:
Kyle on the left, Eddie on the right, and Drew in the middle.

To learn more about the Lake Tahoe gondola operation, check out

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Twenty-Two Degrees from Above

A while back I posted a head-on shot of this same gondola
and called it "Twenty-Two Degrees to Port".

Since I rarely come upon an angle of the gondola that I haven't seen a thousand times, that photo really captured my attention.

As I went through the other images from that day, I discovered this shot.
The boat is still leaning to port at twenty-two degrees,
but this view is from a somewhat higher vantage point.

Like a fine wine, or a mysterious woman - you can spend years, decades, even a lifetime obsessing over her - looking at this remarkable boat.
She is beauty, she is grace, and she has captured the heart of nearly every man who has ever rowed her. 
And yet she has issues, baggage, and imperfection in the form of asymmetry.

Is she perfect?
Can you stop thinking about her?
Didn't think so.

I'm convinced that for as long as man inhabits this earth,
he will never build another boat that matches our beloved gondola.
She is the genuine article, and all of her contemporaries will be measured against her - never to measure up.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Gondolas in Prague

photos by Mark Mohr

You never know where you might see gondolas.
These two were photographed last week by my brother when he was in Prague.

I've heard from my friends at the GSVVM rowing club that they've seen this operation when they brought some of their club boats to the city of Prague.
Here are a few interesting links on the servizio:

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Summer Nights

The seasons can sometimes sneak up on you.
Days go by, and suddenly you realize that a new season is upon you.
That's how I feel about summer - which has certainly made it's presence known lately.

Friday, June 23, 2017

High Tide in Ventura

photo by Mark Schooling

The moon swings around us wildly,
orbiting our sphere in a predictable but incongruent pattern.
Sometimes it's closer and sometimes it's farther from our surface.

depending on that distance, our tides react accordingly,
because as crazy as it seems - that cold stone satellite of ours has a field of gravity of it's own, which brings it's magnetism to bear on our oceans.

Lately we've seen some noticeable high tides here in California.
Mark at Gondola Paradiso sent me this cool shot, taken last night at around 8:30pm in Oxnard (a city in Ventura County).

Normally Mark can stand and row with confidence under this bridge, but last night, the moon and it's gravitational influence had some additional input.

Mark may have had to duck, but it made for a really striking image.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Tübingen Today

A friend of mine was in Tübingen, Germany today - it's a little ways south of Stuttgart.
There , on the waters of the Neckar River, they have some unique boats.
These are long, narrow vessels, which are piloted by solo captains who push them along with poles, with passengers relaxing.

Here are a few snaps taken of these gondola-like boats.

This photo is my favorite.
Notice the on-board grill with bratwurst cooking.

Only in Germany.

The guys who drive these boats in Tubingen do an expert job with passengers aboard, but like American gondoliers, these pole-pushing pilots also have an annual competition to look forward to each year.  It's called "Stocherkahnrennen", and you can read more about it in my post "Stocherkahnrennen 2011".

As it happens, the annual race took place last week, and there's so fun footage on YouTube now.
Here are a few for your viewing pleasure:


Saturday, June 17, 2017

A Loaded Six-String On My Back

Photo courtesy Allison Images

Not all gondoliers sing,
and even fewer carry an instrument with them on their boat.
Here we see Jimmie in Irving, Texas - ushering his passengers into a perfect state of relaxation, pausing from time to time to serenade them with his soulful voice...and his six string.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Sunday, May 28, 2017

The Long Beach Sensa 2017

For centuries the people of Venice have celebrated their relationship with the sea. 
From the very beginning, when the first Venetians took refuge in the shallow waters of the lagoon, to the naval success, to the great wealth acquired through maritime trade, Venice and the sea have shared a connection of historic significance. 

Venice is in fact married to the sea, and that is commemorated each year in a ceremony where the leader of the city tosses a gold ring into the water, following a parade-like procession of boats. 

Another city which has a great connection with the sea is Long Beach, California. 
This major west coast shipping port owes a lot to the Pacific Ocean. 

Among the many similarities between the two cities, there is one that might surprise people: gondolas. 
And while nobody has as many gondolas as Venice, one of the largest servizios outside the Veneto floats in a picturesque corner of Long Beach known as Alamitos Bay. 
Launched 35 years ago, The Gondola Getaway began as an idea. Michael O'toole had grown up in the Long Beach neighborhood of Naples on Alamitos Bay, he needed an idea for a business class, so he built the project around a gondola cruise business. 
In 1982 he decided to give it a try, and The Gondola Getaway was born. 
Each year a group of rowers from the company rows in the famous Vogalonga in Venice - a Gondola Getaway tradition for 32 years so far.
But this year the gondoliers of Alamitos Bay had something else to celebrate:
An official connection between Long Beach and Venice. 
A new "friendship city" status was recently announced, and to commemorate it, O'toole set up a marriage to the sea ceremony, which took place on Sunday, the 21st of May in Alamitos Bay. 

Invitations were extended to many other local gondola companies, and some of us even brought our own boats. 

Gathering in the morning at the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, we sorted a few things out, and rowed over to the raft of two caorlinas that would serve as the stage for the ceremony.

Music was playing, the Naples Island Contessa and her court were delivered to the caorlinas, and Deacon Miguel Torrado officiated. 

Boats of all types were in attendance, the entire Gondola Getaway fleet, kayaks, stand-up-paddlers, a few dragon boats, and Tim from Sunset Gondola brought his red gondola. 
Kalev and I joined in with our pupparin from Newport.

After the ceremony, i popped a bottle of prosecco, and realized that everyone was already on their way to row the course around Naples island. 
This was not a race, but rather a "fun row" along the same lines as the Vogalonga. 
The great thing about this kind of rowing is that you can carry on conversations with your friends in other boats, you can pull over so people can snap a photo, and in our can stop for a short prosecco break now and then. 

After a full loop of the route, and some of the boats headed back to the yacht club, Kalev and I took our boat through the canals. 

Once everyone had made it to the Alamitos Bay Yacht Club, Mike O'toole shared some announcements, and we all feasted on various dishes from Belmont Shore icons: Angelo's Deli, Buona Gente, Domenico's, Michael's and Papalucci's restaurants 

A lot of people were talking about how this is going to be an annual event, and I for one hope so.
It was a heck of a lot of fun, and I look forward to next year.