Wednesday, December 25, 2019

Merry Christmas from the Gondola Blog

It's been a great and eventful year.
I am thankful for the time I got to spend on the water and on land with all my friends in the gondola world - both in the U.S. and in Europe.

The above photo was shot on Christmas Eve as Eddie Rivera rowed past the Pearson's Port fish market, heading off for a relaxing cruise with his passengers.

I wish you all a great Christmas and look forward to spending time with as many of you as I can in the coming new year.

Monday, December 23, 2019

Rainy Day Sunset

It rained last night.
At the end of the last night of the Christmas Boat Parade, 

the gondoliers of Newport finished their cruises and tucked their boats in for the evening. 
And then, as if it had been politely waiting until we were finished, 
the rain came down.
Came down in buckets, it did.

This afternoon, Eddie and I pumped all that water out of the gondolas, 
as it continued to sprinkle on and off.

Veteran gondolier Alex Boullon escorted his passengers down the gangway and onto a gondola.
Excitedly they settled into the seat, bundled up in blankets, 

and prepared for the adventure ahead - an adventure that involved the umbrella they'd brought along just in case.

The sky above us was filled with rain clouds, but off to the west conditions were clear enough to bless us with radiant colors as the sun began to set.

As Alex pushed away from the dock, 
the rain began to fall with greater intensity.
The couple laughed as the gentleman popped open the umbrella, 
and their gondolier propelled them ahead towards the PCH bridge.

 Hard rain came down for a few minutes as the sun fell on a distant horizon.

 After spending a few extra minutes under the shelter of the bridge, 
the gondolier and his couple emerged to see even more beautiful vistas.

A pelican and a pair of ducks loitered near the shore.

 For reasons that only the pelican will ever know, he decided to take flight.
I silently thanked him for choosing to do so while I was actively shooting pictures.

Tuesday, December 17, 2019

December Serenity

There is a certain kind of serenity that often comes 
with the month of December.

No, it doesn't come in the madness of traffic-clogged roads.
It can't be found in the overcrowded shopping malls.
And while I love the Christmas Boat Parade, 
that's a spectacularly beautiful craziness of a whole different flavor.

December serenity is found on the waters of Newport, 
with the early-setting sun with fiery colors.
It's lit up by thousands of Christmas lights that stretch across rooflines,
and palm trees, and sailboats, and yes...even gondolas and fish markets.

I snapped these photos this week as gondolier Paul Imler cruised under the Pacific Coast Highway bridge and past Pearson's Port seafood market.

With the tide at a low level, and the three bent palm trees of Bayshores Beach in the distance, Paul rows leisurely towards the PCH bridge.

Sunsets come in many colors, but when they happen on the water, 
we colors below the horizon as well.  
Lately we've been blessed with some brilliant shades of purple.

December serenity - something I look forward to every year.

Friday, December 6, 2019

Texas Blue Light Special

photos by Kevan Burt

I took four passengers out for a cruise last night here in Irving, Texas.
Kevan - the location manager took some photos as the light was beginning to dim.  It was just dark enough for us to show off the cool blue lighting along the rail of the gondola.
The wind came out to play for a while but it was more than manageable.
We all had a great time.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Taking Off in Texas

My wife and I are visiting our operation in Texas this week.
There are lots of meetings, some boat repairs, 
and a little rowing on the agenda.

This evening, however, I had the pleasure of simply watching a gondolier and his happy passengers head out on the water for a relaxing cruise.

I credit management and staff out here 
for making the boat look so good - with cool indigo lights along the rail.
And gondolier Woody for making it all look easy.

Ciao from Irving, Texas!
- Greg

Monday, December 2, 2019

One Starts while the Other Finishes

photo by Cassandra Mohr

With nine separate race events this year at the U.S. Gondola Nationals, 
we had to take advantage of every minute of daylight, 
and in fact a few races went into the evening.

Here you see Michael Angelo Ruffino positioning his gondola "Lucia" in preparation for the start in the Distance Solo race.  
Meanwhile in the background a pupparin finishing in the background.

But there's more to the picture than that.
In the foreground is a gondolier who has competed in this event 
(the Distance Solo) for years.
He's won gold, silver, bronze in this event.

In 2017 Mike won the gold medal, 

but the next year he had to settle for bronze. 
This year he was on a mission. 
This is a sort of "calm before the storm" shot of him, 
because this year signore Ruffino took first place once again, 
and by a good margin.

Finishing behind Ruffino was myself and John Kerschbaum on the pupparin.
We hadn't planned on rowing that event together this year.

We just decided that day to race "for old time's sake"
since we've rowed as a tandem team many times in previous competitions.
We didn't win a medal in that time-trial race, 

but we had a wonderful time rowing that race together.

Thursday, November 21, 2019

Winter Cocoons in Minnesota

photos by John Kerschbaum

Another gondola season has come to a close in Stillwater, Minnesota.

John and his staff at Gondola Romantica hauled out the boats onto trailers and John parked them both on his property. 

After that the unique "Kerschbaum tenting process" began. 
He's got it down to quite a science now. 

First, the A-frame of lumber,

Gotta make sure it will hold as the snow loads up through winter.

then the plastic sheeting, and a whole lot of tethering with ropes.

After all that, John wraps clothesline cord around and around each boat.
This keeps the plastic from ballooning out when the winter winds try to blow open the sheeting - which puts stress on all the anchor points.

It's all about getting those precious gondolas wrapped up tight in their cocoons for winter.  
Bonus points if it’s all done before the first dusting of snow.

Friday, November 8, 2019

Rowing and Hauling in Providence

photos by Matthew Haynes

Each servizio has it's own rhythms, and it's own collection of punctuating events each year, which dot the calendar, and mark the changes of the seasons.

In Providence, Rhode Island, like some other northern port locations, one of the biggest landmarks on the calendar is the end-of-season haulout.

After the last passenger cruise is rowed, everyone gets together to move all the boats.  They row down the Woonasquatucket River - joining the Providence River, through the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier, up the Seekonk River, and to the ramp in Bold Point Park for haulout.

I've heard about this traditional row for years.  
One day I'd love to be part of it.
Spouses and girlfriends sometimes come along,
 and someone has a habit of doing the row wearing a banana costume.  
(see the post "Going Bananas in Providence")
If I can ever attend, I'm totally bringing my collection of honking rubber chickens.

Banana man passes under the 195.

Giuliana rows the sandolo past the Manchester Street Power Station
right before reaching the hurricane barrier.

From the stern of the famous "Emerson gondola", Marcello snapped this 
as he was approaching an opening in the hurricane barrier.  
Looks like he brought an extra canoe along.

Giuliana exits the Fox Point Hurricane Barrier.

BANANA!!! (and Giuliana).

At the end of the row, all boats were hauled out and ready for their next destinations.  In past years all the boats have gone into workshops or cold storage, but this year a couple of them (and a few staff members) are slated to travel south to Florida for a winter operation in Naples.

A whole season in Providence has come to an end.
Lots of cruises, numerous proposals, Waterfire nights, and great memories.
The grass is still green but fall colors can be seen in the background.

Special thanks to Matthew "Marcello" Haynes for help with text 
and proper spelling of river names.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Stella from PCH

This evening I pulled off to the side on the Pacific Coast Highway bridge 
and snapped a few pictures of Kalev and his happy passengers on board the gondola known as "Stella", while some of Newport's rowing crew teams slid by on smooth waters.

Tuesday, November 5, 2019

Alza Remi with Josh

photo by Cassandra Mohr

At the end of heat #2 in the Sprint Tandem event at the U.S. Gondola Nationals, Josh Sopp and I raised our oars in a traditional salute, 
as Al Macina and his son Dante crossed the line.
It was just one of a hundred great memories of the weekend.

Sunday, November 3, 2019

Here's to...

photo by Cassandra Mohr

Here's to dirty white pants,
Sunburned skin,
Torn up hands,


At Nationals...

We compete in whatever conditions we get.

Rain in Providence, we race!

Gale force winds, we race!

Crumbling forcola, we race!

Broken oar, flip it over and keep racing.

Here’s to a crowd of people all cheering in striped shirts.

Here’s to that pain that you’ll remember after the race, 
but you’re ignoring right now.

And here’s to pushing it as hard as you can till you hear that marvelous word from the judges: "TIME!"

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Last Cruise of 2019 in Stillwater

photos by John Kerschbaum

I was honored to row once again with my friend John Kerschbaum at the U.S. Gondola Nationals.  We "got the band back together" and rowed tandem in the Distance Pupparin event, bringing back all kinds of great memories of the different Nationals races we teamed up for and all the expedition rowing we've done.

After A big breakfast on Monday morning, I dropped John off at the airport and he flew back home to Minnesota.  Today he sent me a few photos of the last cruise of the year there in Stillwater.

John wrote:

Last Cruise of the season. It was 32 degrees with a 15 mile an hour wind. First year wedding anniversary. A good time was had by all.
After that, John and Michael rowed the gondola to the ramp.
 Michael Serge presses the oar forward 
with Stillwater's iconic Lift Bridge in the background.

Meanwhile, someone from the Dock Cafe - a restaurant on the water - posted this photo of the final voyage of the year.

Then it was time to trailer...

...and remarkably, Michael seemed to be superglued to the deck of the boat.

I've gotta say, he does have good balance.

In the days to come, John and the Gondola Romantica staff will position their two gondolas on his property, prepare them for winter storage, and erect shelters over each boat - hopefully before the snow comes down.

As our dear friends in Minnesota tuck their boats (and their business) in for winter, I wish them success in the process, and plenty of firewood to keep warm til spring.