Tuesday, October 31, 2017


The final results for the 2017 US Gondola Nationals are here.
Many thanks to Mark Schooling, Kalev Pallares, Matthew Haynes, 
and all of the others who helped time and record each and every run.

1. Parker Harrison and Michael Angelo Ruffino, Newport Beach, CA, 39:43
2. "Alessandro" Alex Haynes and "Marcello" Matthew Haynes, 
    Providence, RI, 40:38
3. Adam
"Ivano" Alves, and "Mariano" Richards, Providence, RI, 44:28

1. Michael Angelo Ruffino, Newport Beach, CA, 27:11
2. "Mariano" Richards, Providence, RI, 27:30
3. "Marcello" Matthew Haynes, Providence, RI, 27:31

1. John Kerschbaum and Michael Arnold, Stillwater, MN, 1:48:37
2. "Marcello" Matthew and "Alessandro" Alex Haynes,  
    Providence, RI, 1:50:43
3. Adam "Ivano" Alves and "Mariano" Richards, Providence, RI, 2:23:03

1. "Mariano" Richards, Providence, RI, 1:52:87
2. Hunter Mitchell, Newport Beach, CA, 1:56:40
3. Matthew Raus, Newport Beach, CA, 2:09:87

1. "Marcello" Matthew and "Alessandro" Alex Haynes, Providence, RI, 3:13
2. Adam "Ivano" Alves and "Mariano" Richards, Providence, RI, 3:19
3. Greg Mohr and Kalev Pallares, Newport Beach, CA, 3:28

1. "Marcello" Matthew Haynes, Providence, RI, 3:49:99
2. "Mariano" Richards, Providence, RI, 4:30:69
3. "Alessandro" Alex Haynes, Providence, RI, 4:46:04

1. Matthew Raus, Parker Harrison, Eddie Rivera, Michael Angelo Ruffino, 
    Newport Beach, CA, 34:10:95
2. Greg Mohr, Kalev Pallares, Hunter Mitchell, and Simon Atkins, 
    Newport Beach, CA, 35:51:05
3. Tim "Bepi" Reinard, Parker Russell, Jack "D'Onde" Wilhelm, 
    and "Brentino" Fahringer, Huntington Beach, CA, 42:39:30

1. Michael Angelo Ruffino and Parker Harrison,  
    Newport Beach, CA, 22:59:82
2. Greg Mohr and Kalev Pallares, Newport Beach, CA, 23:27:57
3. "Marcello" Matthew Haynes, Providence, RI, and John Kerschbaum, 
    Stillwater, 25:17:00

1. Tim Reinard, HB, 7:18:87
2. Greg Mohr, Newport Beach, CA, 10:28:90
3. John Kerschbaum, Stillwater, MN 12:21

Monday, October 30, 2017

The Starting Line

photo by Tony Storti

The races have all been run,
The songs have all been sung.

The times all recorded,
The medals all awarded.

We trained, we paced.
We rowed, we raced.

At this point all competitors rest
and reflect on a weekend that's always the best.

I have lots of photos, and many a story,
of camaraderie and of rowing glory.

but now there's so much cleanup to do.
So I'll just tease you with this great view.

The starting line.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

Day Two - Ready and Waiting

photo by Tim Reinard
Today is the second day of our two-day competition 
in Huntington Harbour, CA.
Yesterday some fantastic races were completed,
and today there will be many more.

This year we have six Venice-built gondolas, a pupparin, and a small sandolo.
This is the largest collection of Venice-built craft in one place right now in North America.

Here's a photo of all eight boats - ready and waiting to be rowed.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

...And History Was Made

photo by John Kerschbaum
Every year at the US Gondola Nationals, we see something new.
It might be a new event, a different type of course, 

or a new way to interact with the folks watching the races.

This year we saw the first ever all-female tandem team - and they were fantastic!

Sofia and Giuliana stepped aboard the pupparin today, 
rowed their hearts out, and won the hearts of everybody.

Bravo, ladies.
You represent your servizio well, and American gondoliers in general.
(Sofia and Giuliana row cruises at La Gondola in Providence, Rhode Island)

This is the Day!

The US Gondola Nationals is happening again today.
I could not be more excited.
I would write more but as you read this I'm either racing, 
preparing to race, or recovering from a race.

To read more, go to:

Friday, October 27, 2017

The US Gondola Nationals - Quick Facts

Some folks here in the US have never witnessed a gondola race, 
never known the joy of standing on a bridge as a group of shiny black gondolas come barreling towards them - with guys in striped shirts shouting in Italian as they put all of their might into rowing their iconic boats under the bridge and towards the finish line.

If that description of gondolas differs from how you've imagined them, you're not alone.
Most of the time we row slowly, sing softly
and work to create an atmosphere of calm serenity for our passengers.

But for two days each year – we row fast, yell loudly 
(sometimes in Italian), 
and create, well, pretty much the opposite of calm serenity.
There are no passengers.  
In fact we pull the seats out entirely in order to lighten the boats.
It's jolly madness, and we love it!

Rowing a gondola requires many skills, which often need to be employed at the same time.
singing, navigating, reading our passengers and interacting with them.
But despite how easy it may look, that rowing part is athletic.
Once a year we get the opportunity to take that one discipline to it's limits.

The US Gondola Nationals began in 2012 in Providence, Rhode Island.
The folks at La Gondola - a company there that provides relaxing cruises similar to many other gondola servizios - came up with the idea.
In it's first iteration, this event was known as the GondOlympics.

The next year it was held in Huntington Harbour.
With a dozen gondola companies operating in Southern California, 
the attendance was double what it had been the previous year.
A new name was given - US Gondola Nationals - and many American gondoliers got their first taste of competition.

In the years that followed, the USGN was held in Providence again, 
then Newport Beach, CA, and last year in Stillwater, Minnesota.

This year the competition is back in Huntington Harbour, 
hosted again by Sunset Gondola.

The race formats include:
- solo and tandem races, both sprint and long distance
- solo and tandem obstacle course
- tandem time trial on a lighter Venetian boat known as a "pupparin"
- solo time trial on a very small Venetian boat known as a "sandolo" - in this race the gondolier must row with two oars...crossed!
- four-man distance timetrial

Some of the starting points, and all of the finish lines for the races will be viewable from Seabridge Park in Huntington Beach, CA.

The Trinidad Island Bridge will probably be the best place for watching the distance races.  On one side of the bridge spectators can see boats coming and on the other side they'll be able to see them going and viewers will be able to walk or run along with the boats all the way to the finish line on the sidewalk that's opposite the park.

Saturday and Sunday - October 28th and 29th.
Activity begins at 10am
Races are expected to start at 10:30am
We will race until sunset 

Gondoliers competing this year range in age from 16 to 66 years old.
There are currently 30 gondola companies operating in the US.
This is the 6th annual US Gondola Nationals.
The competition started in Providence, Rhode Island.
There are only about 35 authentic gondolas from Venice in the country.
some of the gondolas you'll see at the USGN this year will be up to 57 years old.
We race with working gondolas - boats that take passengers for hire throughout the year.

True Venetian gondolas are 36 feet long and made of 8 different types of wood.
There are only five boat yards in Venice that build these iconic vessels.  Many yards are run by families that have built and maintained them for several generations.
Most gondola builders only launch a handful of new boats each year.
Gondolas are crooked, or "asymmetric" as we often say.  
They are purposely built nine inches off-center to accommodate the gondolier - who rows off of only one side with a long oar.
The oars are 14 feet long, handcrafted by master artisans in Venice, 
and only meant to flex one way.  
They cannot be flipped over and rowed the other way.

Come see it all for yourself.
Just look for all the guys in striped shirts. 

You can learn more about the 2017 US Gondola Nationals at:

More details of the schedule are described in my post "Four Days"

photo by Mindy Schauer

Almost Ready (One Day!)

We've got boats in the water,
gondoliers at the airport,
guys camping out at our house,
and I've got one more gondola on a trailer getting prepped for launch.
Tonight we'll have a fun gathering.
Tomorrow we race!


Thursday, October 26, 2017

Two Days!

photo by Joy Sailing

In two days...we race!
Gondoliers Rafaello and Ivano of La Gondola in Providence, RI take off during the solo sprint event of the 2015 US Gondola Nationals.

For details on Nationals this weekend, go to:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Three Days!

Most of the time we row slowly, sing softly
and work to create an atmosphere of calm serenity for our passengers.

But for two days each year – we row fast, yell loudly (sometimes in Italian), 
and create, well, pretty much the opposite of calm serenity.
There are no passengers.  
In fact we pull the seats out entirely in order to lighten the boats.
It's jolly madness, and we love it!

Come row, or watch, as we compete head-to-head for national titles 
in several different categories 
at the US Gondola Nationals in Huntington Harbour, CA.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Four Days!

Put the pedal to the floor with all four oars!
Another day is over, now there's only four more. 

Yesterday, Bepi posted the schedule for this fantastic event:

US Gondola Nationals 2017 Final Schedule

Friday, October 27th, 6:00pm- "Meet and Greet" at Sunset Gondola. 16370 PCH Huntington Beach, Ca, 92649

Saturday, October 28th racers meet 10:00am-
-Racers Meet at Seabridge Park,

-National Anthem
-Heat sign ups/boat lottery
10:30- 5pm (+/-) Races
-One man distance
-1 and 2 man Sprint and Slalom, 4 man gondola, 2 man pupparin, Masters Sandolo

-Racers and Spectators to meet at "That's Amore" Ristorante next to Sunset Gondola then to O'Mally's on Mainstreet, Seal Beach, after the days races.

Sunday, October 29th
10:00 am-5:00 pm (+/-)
-Two man distance
-1 and 2 man Sprint and Slalom, 4 man gondola, 2 man pupparin, Masters Sandolo,

6:00 pm- Awards dinner at Huntington Harbour Yacht club.
(private event- if you wish to attend please email usgondolanationals@gmail.com for more info.)

Follow the 1 and 2 man distance races with live reports on The US Gondola Nationals Facebook page delivered from chase boats and spectators. General viewing for the public is good at Sea Bridge Park and the Trinidad Island bridge. Bring a picnic and blanket to the park and enjoy a fall day of racing.

Only four days left.

Monday, October 23, 2017

Five Days!

In five days a bunch of gondoliers will convene for 
the 6th Annual US Gondola Nationals in Huntington Harbour.

Everyone is planning on racing,
but we are also looking forward to the social aspects of the event.
There's nothing quite like being surrounded by people who share your passion and enthusiasm for voga-alla-Veneta.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Six Days!

In six days a bunch of gondoliers from different parts of the US 
will all wake up, put on their stripes, and take to the water 
on Venice-built boats to see who can row the fastest.

Gondolier "Boston Charlie" deftly navigating the slalom course 
at a previous competition in Providence, Rhode Island. 

Learn more about this year's Nationals at:

Saturday, October 21, 2017

One Week to Go!

Marcello and Alessandro of La Gondola in Providence, RI power their way towards the finish line at the 2014 US Gondola Nationals

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Racing Time is Near!

The US Gondola Nationals is a little over a week away.
Tim at Sunset Gondola has been working diligently to get things lined up.
He recently posted a map showing the routes of the various races.
Click it to enlarge.
Four years ago the waters of Huntington Harbour saw
the West Coast's very first gondola races. 
This year many of the routes are virtually the same.
photo by Richard Sonnen
Gondoliers from the East Coast and the Midwest will join many from
California for solo, tandem, and four-oar events.  Some will be time trials,
while others will be multi-boat head to head regatas.

Countless hours have been spent rowing in preparation for this.
Some gondoliers are preparing for specific races,
while others plan to row every event they can.
All of the gondoliers coming to Nationals this year share one thing:
We all can't wait to see each other,
row together,
and take part in such a terrific thing.

The US Gondola Nationals takes place on October 28th and 29th.
For more information, go to:

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Gondoliers Become Ganzers

photo by Mark Hunt

I received this from Joe Gibbons at Boston Gondolas today:

Retired gondoliers: "Ganzers"
Has anyone out there heard this term?
Maybe I have misspelled it but I once witnessed an older man hanging out at the basin behind Saint Marks Square, assisting tourist onto gondolas using this unusual stick that looked like a fancy cane. When I asked about him I was told he had rowed gondolas for many years and he was now retired. His entire life was spent on and around the boats that we all love. He opted in retirement to stay close to what he knew so well, by assisting people onto the departing gondolas, he was often rewarded with small tips but more important to him was his association and the camaraderie that he had with fellow gondoliers and probably a few good glasses of wine . They referred to him as the Ganzer!

Over 22 years ago, after visiting Venice with my wife, we became infatuated with everything GONDOLA. Its amazing how much history and information is out there. With a stroke of luck we found out that Tom Price, sent by The Watson Foundation, was in Venice striving to work with the remaining Squeros to protect, preserve and help educate the public about the values in preserving the traditions of gondolas with a rich history going back nearly 1000 years. Tom is a real special guy and we sincerely want to say a big thank you to him for exposing his knowledge, his contacts and his Venetian friendships to us.  Boston Gondolas would not exist without the help and Support we got from Tom.

With nearly 10,000 miles of rowing behind us and countless memories, Steve and I are about to become Ganzers. Our very last tours are now behind us. Sure it is bittersweet, the mind says keep rowing but the body tells us otherwise. No doubt this is a young man's game! It's time for me to spend some time with the grandchildren, maybe fish a little, and indulge into other aspects of my life.

A very special thank you goes out to our staff. Charlie and Tony have been loyal and dependable gondoliers, we could not have continued the past few years without them. Our Musicians are awesome, Pete Bufano, Tara, Justin, Tony, Abbey, Yaeko - you guys helped make Boston Gondolas the first class operation that it is. Thank You!!

There have been countless friends along the way, but there is only one guy that has never missed a beat from the very first day we opened. Steve Bruno, my business partner and good friend . YOU ARE THE BEST. Steve's wife Sue and my wife Camille have put up with our absence now for 17 years during gondola season, now those are good women!!  Thank you girls!

Goodbye to all that have been part of this incredible journey.

We will no doubt miss the daily adventures of rowing gondolas but we are now GANZERS.

Joe Gibbons and Steve Bruno

PS:  We are looking for someone with the passion and desire to own and operate Boston Gondolas here in Boston on The Charles River. If you have interest please email or Call Joe:    

joegibbons1@yahoo.com or 617-460-1239

My friend Joe, his wife, and their friends and family built something beautiful - something great for the community, and they had a great run.
The gondola business in the US is better because of it.
I wish Joe and Steve the very best in their future as ganzers.