Sunday, October 28, 2018

Cavallo e Barca Grande

We board most of our gondola cruises in the same docks 
as some of the big charter yachts.

Here's one of the brass horses of my gondola The Phoenix, 
with the 90 foot vessel Dream Maker in the background.

Such contrast.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Bride Transport

This evening I was entrusted with the duty of delivering 
a bride and her father to one of the large charter yachts in the harbor.

I dressed up Stella, with her newly painted purple floorboards 
and matching seat cover and pillows.

We rendezvoused with the yacht,
Two hundred guests looked and waved,
I rowed us around the yacht for all to see,
and then side-tied to the boarding area at the stern.

I swear, this stuff just never gets old.


Thursday, October 25, 2018

A tale of Two Journals

photo by Michael Czerwonka

On Monday the Wall Street Journal featured a great piece on gondolier Michael Angelo Ruffino, and his athletic workout regimen.  
It was a fun spotlight on something I've never seen anyone report on.
There were quotes from John Kerschbaum in Minnesota and Marcello in Providence.
But a reporter at the Providence Journal saw the article and decided to answer it with a report of his own - from the shores of the river in Providence.
photo by Bob Breidenbach

And so a press rivalry,
pointed out a rowing rivalry,
which is similar to a certain World Series rivalry
(which, as a Dodger fan, I don't really want to talk about right now).

The US Gondola Nationals revolves around racing,
but it's not ALL about winning races and getting medals.
The brotherhood and camaraderie is, for almost everybody, 
the most important aspect of this unique annual happening.

Even so, we are all happy to see our yearly races getting some good press coverage.  Maybe this year we'll end up in the Sports Page again.

To read the articles, see...
Wall Street Journal: 

"A Model Gondolier With a Reletless Regimen"
and Providence Journal: 

"Providence gondoliers training to compete - and host U.S. Nationals"

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Training Moon

Under dark skies, on a dew-covered gondola, 
my four-man team set out this evening for a grand tour of the harbor.
Two miles into our row, a bright, silvery, full moon rose from the horizon.
As our crecent-shaped vessel cut through the glassy surface of Newport Harbor, the perfect night air filled our lungs. 

We rowed hard in unison, working out our muscles as well as our methods.
a few boats passed us in the opposite direction,
Sea lions barked in the distance, 
and the night time landscape blew past us on either side.
It was a perfect night for a training run, 
and the moon was no small part of that.

Tuesday, October 23, 2018

Golden Monochrome

photo by Cassandra Mohr

I love black and white photos.
They tend to remove distractions 
so you can see the true beauty of an image more easily.

But sometimes adding just one color can make all the difference.
Here's a great example - the golden rays of the setting sun 
effectively turned this color image into a special type of monochrome photo.

Friday, October 19, 2018


photos by Candace Benson

She was built in Venice in 1960.
Her squero is believed to be the famous Tramontin family shop.

While under construction, her decks were carved by the legendary intagliador known as "Il Santo" - who depicted allegorical characters in his carvings.

After only about four years of passenger service in Venice, she was discovered by Newport Beach resident Janet Curci while on her honeymoon.
She purchased the gondola from gondolier Giovanni Gianni, 

and arranged transportation to California.  
She went into a shipping container in Venezia, 
crossed oceans in a metal box, 
which was hoisted onto the back of a truck.
The next time she saw sunlight was here in Newport Beach.
She was lowered into Pacific water, 
and has remained in Newport Harbor since 1964. 

Once in Newport, the Curci family re-christened her "Lucia" - after Janet's mother, and the name has been displayed on a brass plate on the bow since then.

The most distinguishing feature of the Lucia is her canopy.

She is the only Venice-built gondola in North America with a felze-di-tela canopy, which can be a challenge in the wind, but experienced gondoliers welcome it.

That canopy is removable, and these photos were taken of a cruise when the canopy was off.

Asymmetry, as seen from the stern.

Il Santo's carvings on the bow.

Just another magic moment.

Lucia sans canopy. 


Thursday, October 18, 2018

A perfect Fall Evening

All the gondoliers on the dock tonight agreed that tonight 
was the perfect evening as far as conditions go.  
One guy called it "the best night of the fall".
Here's a shot of Jonah heading in to dock 
after an amazing time on the water.

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Kiss the Girl

photo by Isabella Mohr

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Strike a Pose

photo by Mitchell Lucky

Gondolier Evan Kliewer strikes a pose while rowing a cruise in Newport Beach.

Monday, October 15, 2018


photo by Kalev Pallares

Gondolier Hunter Mitchell is a funny guy.
He's an excellent rower, and an even better singer.
But he's also got a talent for humor on the back of a gondola.

Previously I posted "Photo-Bomb Win!"
Here's another winner.
I'm calling it "Facepalm!"
In this case the passengers were cropped out, 
but this was taken during a cruise.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Beginning a Memory

As I mentioned in a previous post,
We are in the business of creating "Perfect Moments".
Those moments become treasured memories,
and they all start when the gondola leaves the dock.
Tonight I took this photo of Kyle as he headed out with happy passengers, as their memory-making was just beginning.

Friday, October 12, 2018


I first caught a whiff of it as I was crossing from one side of the Newport Boulevard bridge to the other. 
Somewhere between dodging cars and trying not to trip over the median, 
I smelled it: the aroma that emerges as soon as raindrops hit dry ground.

It's called "petrichor" - a combination of two Greek words.
Petra means "stone", 

ichor is the fluid that flows through the veins of the gods.

I know this simply because I love the smell so much that I had to look it up.
Of course I was thrilled to discover that it had a cool name like "petrichor".
Turns out that while it may be rooted in Greek language and mythology, 
it was actually coined in 1964 by two Australians.

The Australians have given us many great things:
Hugh Jackman, the Bee Gees, Kylie Minogue, 
the Mad Max films, Vegemite (ok, maybe not Vegemite), 
but I'm throwing petrichor on the list now.
You read it here first.

So, where was I?
Oh yes, I was dodging traffic on the bridge.

Why was I up there?
To take some snaps of gondolas here in Newport on an evening where the clouds were beginning to look increasingly, shall we say...unfriendly.

A few raindrops had come down - enough for the above mentioned aroma to present itself - but it didn't really rain for another thirty minutes.

From up on the bridge I watched Mike Olsen heading home 
and Evan Kliewer rowing in my direction. 

 Mike heads home.

Evan begins his cruise.

gondolier greeting on the water.

After scampering across six lanes of traffic, I was rewarded with a nice down-shot of Evan's gondola as he emerged from under the bridge.
 Mmmm. Looks like a dinner-cruise.

 There are so many great angles to appreciate a gondola from.
This is one of my personal favorites.

Rowing off into the canals in the west end of Newport,
under increasingly darkened skies.

Thursday, October 11, 2018


Simon, Jonah, and I had the pleasure of rowing a three-boat-flotilla this evening with a great group of passengers.

 Look at us.
We could sell ice cream in those outfits!

 Out on the water, I snapped a shot as Kyle cruised through our group.

 Here's a close-up of Simon and Jonah alongside each other.

We rowed as a group for a half-hour and then turned around to head home.
With the breeze at our back, we brought the gondolas rail-to-rail.
Each of us rowed with one foot on another boat, 
and we glided along - rafted together.

After an hour of rowing in tight formation, 
we dropped our passengers off at a restaurant and headed into dock.

 Simon's silhouette.

Jonah bringing it home.

I love rowing flotillas.
We get to entertain a group of people, 
take turns singing,
and it's so fun to raft-up with all the neighbors looking and waving.
Can't wait to do it again.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

The Torch is Passed in Ft. Lauderdale

Several years ago I had the pleasure of meeting Martha Beachem in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
She's been running cruises there at Las Olas Gondola for some time now.
The other day she shared the news with me that she has now taken over as owner of the boat and the whole servizio.
Here's a press release:

The torch has been passed at Las Olas Gondola in Fort Lauderdale to longtime Florida Operations Manager Martha Beachem. In July 2018 the contract was finalized and signed for Gondolier Martha to take over as owner/operator of the business after the purchase from Mike Novack. She will maintain the excellent quality of your gondola experience as always and looks forward to continued success on the One and Only Venetian Gondola in the "Venice of America"!

There's no place anywhere quite like the waterway there in Las Olas,
and not surprisingly - there's no other gondola quite like 
the one they operate there. 
She's uniquely suited to face the challenges there, and do it in style.

Big congrats to you, Martha.
I couldn't think of a better gondolier to pilot that boat and carry the torch!

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Brass Lady with a Beautiful Flag

photo by Isabella Mohr

There's more to a gondola than just the hull.
There are so many details.
One of my favorites is the "canon" - a brass ornament on the bow.
This one resembles an angel carrying a flag.
It was created by my friends at Fonditore Valese in Venice.

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sunset Musings

I sometimes wonder: 
if we lived on a planet where the sky was always in sunset mode...
would we even care? 
Would those colors bore us?

I suppose if every bird looked like a peacock, 
they'd all just be "birds", right?
If rainbows were on every horizon, would they be as unremarkable too?

But these things, and so many more, ARE remarkable.
Whether or not it has to do with their rarity is a question to muse over.

I like to contemplate such things...
from the back of my gondola...
while watching a sunset like this one.

Sunday, October 7, 2018

Sunset Dripping from Steel

The stainless steel ferro blade of a gondola eclipses the setting sun, 
with the solar reflections appearing to drip down from the iconic bow-piece.

Saturday, October 6, 2018

Tossing Aft

photo by Cassandra Mohr

Here's another installment in my series 
of message-in-a-bottle placement photos.

A lot of guys set the bottle gently in the water.
But I'm a short-attention-span guy.
I got tired of that and started tossing it,
...and our photographers did their best 
to try and capture the right moment.

Here's one with he bottle on a low trajectory 
towards the water behind the gondola.