Sunday, September 30, 2018

Perfect Moments

photo by Cassandra Mohr

I often tell my staff:
We are in the business of creating perfect moments.

Some companies sell you things 
(like clothing, electronics, fuel for your car), 
but what we sell is something intangible.

It's not something you can put in your pocket,
not something that can get lost or stolen,
not even something that rusts or gets broken and thrown away.

What we provide - if the job is done right - is a perfect moment...
that our clients will carry with them for the rest of their lives.

Oh sure, there are those who are just out for a nice time on the water.
Some of our passengers are just taking a "date night" excursion,
but many of the people who step aboard our gondolas 
are there to celebrate something.
And of course we are entrusted with quite a lot of marriage proposals.
These are the cruises where "good enough" just isn't.

Author Vicki Corona said it best:
"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take,
but by the moments that take our breath away"

Perfect moments are what we provide.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

No Place I'd Rather Be

photo by Cassandra Mohr

I love being a gondolier.

Happy passengers,
fresh ocean air,
smooth waters,
gorgeous sunsets,
and great memories being made on my boat.

There is absolutely no place I would rather be 
than on the back of a gondola.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Golden Light on the Phoenix Ferro

I snapped this from the water tonight 
as a couple of us rowed alongside each other.

At just the right moment golden light reflected 
off the stainless steel ferro of the gondola we call The Phoenix 
and I was fortunate enough to take a few photos.
This one was my favorite.

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

A "Fisheye View"

If I were a fish, and I could still row a gondola, 
this is what I think things would look like from the back of my boat.

Although I suppose if that were true,

then the couple would be staring back at me, saying:
"How in the heck is a FISH rowing our gondola???"

Tuesday, September 25, 2018

The Overhead Sotomorso Stretch

photo by Mitchell Luckey

In my previous post "Sometimes" we see Yours truly 
caught in the act of tossing a message-in-a-bottle into the water.

Then more recently "Jonah Stretches" featured a gondolier rowing with one hand while discreetly placing a bottle in the water off the port side.

Here now, Simon shows us the "Overhead Sotomorso Stretch" 
while placing the bottle on the starboard side.

For bonus points, he even smiles for the camera!

Monday, September 24, 2018

Overhead Foot Action

photos by Cassandra Mohr 

In my previous post "Low Bridge" I pointed out that 
"when the tide is high, you've gotta get low",
and often that's enough, but there are those times 
when the bridge is a few inches too low.

So you move your passengers all the way forward to lower the ferro,
and after that's cleared the bridge, move them back to their seat 
and drag yourself as far back as you can to bring the tail down.
The tail is often the highest point on the gondola, 
so that's where you've got to get creative.

Any gondolier who's ever faced this situation knows 
that you can push the boat down from the underside of the bridge.
Some guys stow the remo and do a double hand bench-press push.
In the case of this bridge, there's often a crosswind just beyond it,
so I usually keep one hand on the remo and push with the other.

Sometimes - when you're already 80% through - and then you realize 
pushing with your hand isn't gonna cut it,
well, you can always get one of your feet involved.

And that's what I did in this photo.
For the record, I did manage to keep the bridge from ever touching the tail of the boat.

There you go, folks:
Overhead Foot Action!

It may not be graceful, but it works.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Stripes in Action

photo by Kalev Pallares

There's nothing quite like a Venetian remo 
with the traditional chevron stripe pattern.

I painted this one orange and blue in honor of my rowing club 
back in the Veneto: The Gruppo Sportivo Voga Veneta in Mestre.

Friday, September 21, 2018

Shots From the Dock Tonight

Once again I found myself at that perfect time of day, 
with golden sunlight reflecting on blue water, 
and Venetian boats coming and going to and from our marina.

Such circumstances require photographs.
Here is visible evidence of the perfect evening we had in Newport this evening.

Ferro in waning sunlight.

Jonah departs on Stella.

 Twelve ladies, two gondoliers, and countless memories created on the water.

 Evan executes a powerful dar-zo poppa to turn his boat.

Alza remi!
(solo version)

 One set of cavalli in the sunset.

Another set of cavalli.

Plying the waters among gargantuan charter yachts.

So Many Stories

I shot this in Venice, and it appeared in a post a few years ago, 
but I kept seeing it again and again as I went through old images.
Eventually I decided that it deserved it's own post.

More than most people, I love photos that tell a story.
You look at the image and it tells you about something going on.

In this case there's lots going on.
So many stories.

The folks on the near boat are probably American and they're definitely 
with a tour group (matching lanyards), probably came off a cruise ship.
 Shorts, baseball cap, ladies dressed batter than the men.
Likely Americans.

The boat in the middle has tourists from another part of the world, 
but their gondolier cracks me up most - he's either tired or just "over it".
Shades on, collar popped.
He's probably heard bad versions of "That's Amore" 
over a million times from tourists, 
followed by "Hey, why aren't you singing?".
I have so been there.

Maybe he's annoyed by someone on the bridge ahead, but...
then there's the guy in red stripes who finds something amusing.

Here's a guy who loves his job.

Meanwhile the folks on the fondamenta are just trying to figure out how the heck they can get on one of those famous boats, 
Everybody, and I mean everybody has got to check "gondola ride" 
off their list of things they did in Italy.

and it looks like there's a fourth gondolier who'd like to make that happen, 
if not for all the dang traffic.
 The guy in the back (with the epic mustache).

All this with the iconic Hotel Bauer in the background.

And don't even get me started on the gondolas.
Too many interesting details to mention.

I could look at this photo all night.

 Varnished carved trasto da prova,
gold canon,
and that torch carving!

Gorgeous old-school gold background on those arm-pieces,
trumpeting merman cavallo,
gold and black pom-pom cords.

Not one, but two raised deck trim arrays.

More traditional gold background to accentuate those black 
carvings on trasto da prova and portela placed for display. 

And of course, there's nothing like a pristine black gloss 
paint job on the long bow of a gondola.

The photo was taken of the canal known as the Rio de San Moise 
as it passes by Campo San Moise, with a servizio of the same name.

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Jonah Stretches

photo by Kalev Pallares

Here in Newport we often help deliver proposals via message-in-a-bottle.

Some guys toss them, while others place them quietly in the water.

And of the second category, guys have different methods of placement.

Here we see Jonah's "stretch technique".

The guy is limber.
I'm not sure I could do that if I tried.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Monday, September 17, 2018

Photo-Bomb Win!

photo by Kalev Pallares

I tell passengers all the time that: 
"I could never go into the Witness Protection Program - I'm just in 
way too many people's photos".

We, as gondoliers are part of such terrific memories.
We're also part of so many enduring pictures.

At this point I pretty much have a knee-jerk reaction:
pull out a camera or a smartphone,
and I'm already smiling for the photo.

I thought I was at the top of the photo-bomb game...
until I saw Hunter in action.

I hereby concede the photo-bomb trophy to the harp-playing, 
crooner-song-singing, surfer named Hunter Mitchell.

Crouched, one-hand rowing, 
standing on one foot with the other leg extended, 
and the "Thinker" pose in full effect.
Hunter wins.

Seriously, click on the photo for an enlarged version.
The dude's got game!

Thursday, September 13, 2018

Low Bridge!

photos by Cassandra Mohr

When the tide is high, you've gotta get low.
Sometimes it's a simple matter of ducking your head.
Other times you find yourself sitting like a canoe guide 
and hoping both tips of the boat make it under.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Vittorio Orio Salutes the Fallen Heroes of 9/11

Every year on this heavy day, Vittorio Orio has rowed the Grand Canal in Venice - in reverent honor of those who gave all on September 11th, 2001.
This year he was joined by Giovanni Fracassi - owner of Ristorante Da Ivo
(a sponsor and great supporter of tribute rows and expeditions).

Vittorio is well-known in Venice, 
as well as in the Venetian rowing community around the world.
A simple search of his name on this blog 
will provide you with plenty of reading material.

Here's a fresh news piece from Venice today:

Monday, September 10, 2018

Bandiera on the Bow

Even out here in California, we still fly the flag of Venezia on our boats.
Here's one on the bow of a gondola in Newport Beach.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Three Shots from the Back of the Boat Tonight

 A lone gondola rests in the light of the setting sun.

 Two gondolas sharing the canal with me.

Another perfect evening.

Friday, September 7, 2018


photo by Cassandra Mohr

Sometimes a guy needs to ask an "important question".

Sometimes he'll go out of his way to make sure he does it 
in the very best way possible.

Sometimes that question is delivered via message-in-a-bottle.

And sometimes a photographer catches the gondolier in the act of casting that bottle adrift, in order to have the lady retrieve it from the water. one of those "sometimes" photos.

Thursday, September 6, 2018

Kalev Heads Out

Here are three shots of Kalev taking a happy couple out tonight on The Phoenix.  They were celebrating their 20th anniversary.
It's so great when people choose to celebrate their big moments with us.

Wednesday, September 5, 2018

Putzing Around on a Passenger Pupparino

The boat is known as a "pupparin" - although here on the West Coast 
we often put an "o" on the end.  
I guess it's because we somehow expect the Venetian dialect 
to conform more neatly to the rules of proper Italian language.  
Ironic, isn't it, that we expect such a thing when we come from 
one of the most chaotic and inconsistent languages on the planet.

Hmmm, perhaps I'm getting a little off-track.

So, as I was saying, she's called a "pupparin".
Sometimes described as a "little gondola", 
she's actually an entirely different kind of boat. 

As a member of what I call the "sandolo family", 
her hull consists of three sheets and a stern piece.
That is to say that while many surfaces have a curve, 
the boat is a lot more simple in her design: 
three sheets (two sides and the bottom sheet)
and a stern piece - that flat portion of the hull that rises from the water at the tail, and in this case slants out as it rises.

What sets this boat apart from other members of the "sandolo family" is that she has a raised stern deck for the rower at the back.
Most of her sibling boats have the main rower standing down on the floor in the back, but a pupparin places them higher up.
This is significant because it allows that rower to experience things 
a little more like they would if they were captaining a gondola.

Why's that important?
Because the pupparin is known as a training platform for young men 
who are working toward becoming a gondolier.
One of the events in the Regata Storica is a tandem regata where guys under the age of 18 race each other on pupparini.

Adding a seat (and a guy who can keep his balance) and a pupparin is rather well-suited to passenger service (assuming you don't fill the boat with big and heavy people).

At this point there are only two of these unique boats west of the Atlantic Ocean, and they're both here in Southern California.
One is in Alamitos Bay in the Gondola Getaway fleet.
The other resides in Newport Beach in my operation.
The one in Newport was originally part of the rowing club fleet of the Gruppo Sportivo Voga Riviera del Brenta

(the folks who also have "That Big Boat from Brenta".

Angelino Sandri of Gondola Servizio in Oakland, California brought her to the US in or around 1999.  

After several years on Lake Merritt in Oakland, the boat was bought by Tim Reinard and Tyson Davis when they launched Sunset Gondola in Huntington Harbour, California.
After several years of drooling and hinting, I finally convinced Tim to sell me the boat, and she's been here since that January day in 2013.

I love rowing this light, tippy boat.
It takes almost no effort to send her surging forward,
you have to maintain a serious sense of balance,
and because she's got such a low clearance - you can duck under just about anything rowing a pupparin. 

The other night I was rowing with a fun young couple.
the tide was just the right height, and we managed to explore some areas we never could have gone into with a gondola.

In The Wind in the Willows, one of Kenneth Grahame's characters says that "there is nothing — absolutely nothing — half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats." 

I feel like adding to that. by saying:
"When you row a gondola for a living, there's nothing more entertaining than putzing around on a passenger pupparin"

Sunday, September 2, 2018

Regata Storica Parade Views

photo by Alessandro Santini

Once again all those beautiful boats assembled on the Grand Canal for the Regata Storica.

While most folks think of it as a day of racing, 
it began with a history-making procession, 
and to this day that procession is recreated.

My dear friend Nereo Zane was there with the GSVVM rowing club.
Meanwhile, gondolier Alessandro Santini was rowing his gondola near the iconic Santa Maria della Salute basilica.

They both graciously sent me photos as parade and club boats glided by.

A parade boat with costumed rowers enters the Grand Canal.
photo by Alessandro Santini

The GSVVM's 14-oar "Mestrina"
 Mestrina again.

All of the big "desonas" show up on the first Sunday of September.
Here's a great shot of some of them passing Alessandro's boat.
photo by Alessandro Santini

 The Santa Maria della Salute basilica, with crowds of spectators.
photo by Alessandro Santini

 Piazza San Marco and the famous campanile.
photo by Nereo Zane

My GSVVM brothers and sisters giving the "alza remi" salute.

A gondolier's-eye-view from the back of the boat.
photo by Alessandro Santini