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.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Friday, May 12, 2017

Solo Sandolo

Among all of the gorgeous and iconic gondolas in Venice,
there are a few smaller black boats that might look similar
to the untrained eye, but are quite uniquely different in their own way.

These are called sandoli, and the passenger versions of these boats
are a rare treat to ride in because their compact size,
and low clearance allows their operators to take them
some places where a gondola might not venture.

Here we see a lone sandolo plying the waters of the Grand Canal,
with happy passengers - taking in the view and the experience.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Twenty-Two Degrees to Port

photo by Greg Mohr

Walking around the iconic Squero San Trovaso, I came upon this gondola which the workers there (known as "squerarioli") had tipped over onto her port side for maintenance.

Looking at her straight on from the front, I saw a gondola from an entirely new angle (something that doesn't often happen for me),
and I had to snap a picture.

As I stared at the photo later, I couldn't help but wonder
what the exact angle might be.
A little creative work with a protractor,
and I believe the angle to be 22 degrees from the horizon.

Oh, and that unusual conglomeration of stuff in the right-hand side
of the frame is very unique to Squero San Trovaso - you can see
 another angle of it in my post "The Wall at Squero San Trovaso"

If you want to see a larger version of the above photo, click on it.
There's so much to take in with this image.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Shadow on the Water

If you're in the right place at the right time, you can see a defined shadow
on the surface of the water.  Here's an example of lucky timing and
placement in Coronado, California at The Gondola Company.

Friday, May 5, 2017

Ruben Goes to Xochimilco

photos and video by Ruben Jay

Venice, Italy is well known around the world.
Well known, often imitated, and often compared to places with similar traits.

Venice, California, for example, was referred to as the "Venice of the West",
and it seems that there are dozens of other places all over the globe that
have been called the "Venice of the ____" (fill in the blank).
Suzhou is known as the "Venice of China",
Amsterdam - the "Venice of the North."

Some of these places were outright copies,
others developed on their own and then someone noticed the similarity.

Such is the case with Xochimilco - a place just south-east of Mexico City.
I've posted about this remarkable location before, and there are plenty of other sources you can find online to read about the waterway and the history behind it.
Today I want to share photos and video of the place.

My friend Ruben Jay is there right now, enjoying Cinco de Mayo (lucky guy), and he took a ride a couple days ago and sent these great photos and video clips for us to gaze at.

So get yourself a nice cold Mexican beer,
grab a taco, and check out the "Venice of Mexico".

The boats in Xochimilco are wide, flat, and designed to host about twenty passengers.  Most have a central table with chairs on both port and starboard side.  Since first impressions matter when trying to get people to climb aboard your boat instead of the next guy's boat, the fronts of these boats are boldly decorated.

Ruben and his relatives stepped aboard the "Lupita", with a bold arching name on the front, and every single inch of surface painted in bright colors.

The boats are known as "chalupas" as well as "trajineras".
I could try to outline the subtle differences between the two names, but the truth is that I'm a pathetic gringo, and I have no flippin' clue if there even are differences.
They are boats - this much I know for certain.

The passenger vessels of Xochimilco are often referred to by outsiders as gondolas, and it's not surprising.  After all, they not only carry passengers, but they are also propelled by guys with poles.
Yes, we know here at the Gondola Blog that Venetian gondolas are actually not pushed around with poles, but those who are less versed in gondolas often believe that to be the case.
So when they see a guy outside Mexico City, pushing an ornately decorated passenger boat...with a pole, they shout "gondola!"

It's not rowing, but it is work.
After all, look at the size of those boats, imagine how much they weigh.
They're made of wood, and apparently they bump into each other often - I'd guess they're built heavy.
So pushing something like that along is no small task.
I'd be really curious to see a few English punters go there and give it a go.

Xochimilco punting in action:

Each chalupa has a lightweight aluminum roof.
Ruben told me that the way the guys maneuver to turn
often involves bumping the corner of the roof in the back with his pole.
Here's an example:

There are a heck of a lot of chalupas on the water there.
Here's a short video clip of the view as the "Lupita" was gliding along.
Notice how all the chairs are stacked in some of the boats.

Heading out onto the water, the "Lupita" encountered dozens of other vessels like her, with passengers out enjoying the floating festivities.
When you first board the boat, there are drinks in buckets on the table,
and you pay for whatever you consume, but along the way there are boats
that will come alongside and sell you everything from food to souvenirs.
Ruben chose roasted corn on the cob.

Not sure if he bought any grande-sized emoji pillows,
but they were available too.
The "Lupita" passed by a very strange island known as "Isla de las Muñecas" - the Island of the Dolls - which has a sad origin and a sometimes creepy look.
You can read more about it at
And then there are the musicians.
Lots of boats go by with different musical offerings.
Here are a pair of video clips of musical boats going by:
Ruben tells me that rides come in increments of two or four hours and break down to roughly $20 US dollars per hour.
You are given a bucket of drinks from beer to sodas,
and you pay for what you drink. 
Oh, and it's a heck of a lot of fun.

 Punting poles - looks like they stripe some of them.

Big thanks to Ruben Jay for the photos, video, and information.
Happy Cinco de Mayo!

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Back at the Villa Contarini

Nereo Zane sent me these images from his visit to the Villa Contarini,
where there is a gondola on the small lake they have on the property.

I've posted about this place in the past.
Nereo sent photos and information for my post
"Rowing the Pond at Villa Contarini",
and Felix at Row Venice shared some info with us last year about an event there as well - see "Shakespeare in Gondola"

The villa is quite a property, as you can see
from this screen capture Nereo sent me.
I love to see gondolas in places like this.
More than that, I love to row them.
Maybe someday I'll get the opportunity to row this one.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Carmen Makes Her Entrance

Maestro Luigino Marcuzzi has done it again.
He launched yet another remarkable handcrafted boat.
photo by Moitza Nicolini
"Boat builder" - yes.
"Maestro d'ascia" - certainly.
But really, as Nereo Zane puts it:
          "The man is an artist"
...and this batela should serve as a clear example of that.
If she looks familiar, perhaps you remember seeing her
in my March 8th post "Matte Black Batela".
I've never known Maestro Marcuzzi to be loud and boisterous,
but then, with all of his creations out there attesting to his great ability
he doesn't really need to brag. 
photo by Moitza Nicolini

The GSVVM rowing club is quite proud to have this artist among their ranks.
The new batela was named "Carmen" in memory of a club member
who passed away two years ago. 
No doubt her family and friends are pleased to have such a boat
carrying her name across the waters of the lagoon.

photo by Moitza Nicolini
I haven't seen her in-person yet, but from the photos,
it seems that Mr. Marcuzzi dialed up the awesomeness
with the decking at the stern of the vessel.
Here's a close-up:
Congratulations to Maestro Marcuzzi
and the GSVVM on the launch of this elegant vessel.
 photo by Daniela Costantini