Wednesday, May 1, 2019

A Heated Contest on the Grand Canal

On May 1st, Nena Almansi of Row Venice joined forces with Giorgio Sabbadin - one of her fellow members of the Remiera Canottieri Cannaregio rowing club.  
Their purpose: 
to compete in a tandem pupparin race down the Grand Canal in Venice.

This was the ninth edition of a "mixed" men-women regata organized by the charity Biri Biri, dedicated to the memory of Ettore Pagan.

They rowed their brown/"marron" boat from the starting line at the Giardini di Castello, up the Grand Canal, arriving at the fish market.  

It was not an easy win though.
There were ten boats fighting towards the finish.

According to Nena's account:
the "flying start" has always been complicated.  
In this case the orange boat (which was closest to shore) 
had the disadvantage.
The offshore vessels immediately gained ground, 
thanks also to a more favorable current, 
which lead to a chase between four boats:
the canarin (yellow), 
marron (brown), 
reserve (red and green), 
and viola (a light violet purple).

As they transitioned from the rough waters of the basin to the entrance of the Grand Canal, it seemed that the order would be canarin, reserve, marron, viola.

Some close calls were observed.
Canarin and reserve got tangled up for a moment.
Lots of jockeying and strategic rowing.
In the end, the first pupparin to cross the line was the marron, 
second - viola, 
Canarin in third.

 Top four finishers
1. Elena Almansi and Giorgio Sabbadin
2. Nausicaa Cimarosto and Riccardo Salviato
3. Luisella Schiavon and Nicolò Schiavon
4. Romina Catanzaro and Marino Almansi

 Almansi and Sabbadin with trophies.

Some interesting details:
- Elena Almansi usually competes in tandem with Romina Catanzaro, but because this was a "mixed" event, they ended up on different boats.

- Elena and Giorgio are both members of the
Remiera Canottieri Cannaregio rowing club (colors are black and green).

- Third place finishers were both members of the famous Schiavon family.  Luisella has been part of a winning team from many regatas, including Regata Storica.

- While the fourth boat was rowed by Romina Catanzaro (Elena Almansi's partner), the other rower on that boat was Almansi's father.

- Another Row Venice rower, Cristina Montin and her tandem partner Marino Pompeo finished in sixth place.

Judges included the Famous Vittorio Orio and Luisella Marzi - the first female official in this regata.

Congrats to all the finishers in this unique and exciting contest.

To read more, see:
Memorial Ettore Pagan - Regata mista su Pupparini - Com'e andata

and "A remi in Canal Grande". Vincono Giorgio Sabadin ed Elena Almansi

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Monday, April 22, 2019

Another Perfect Moment

photo by Isabella Mohr

 Robert Moe rows his passengers out on shimmering waters in Newport.

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Lunch with Eddie

Earlier in the week, Eddie rowed a lucky couple out for a lunch cruise 
on an absolutely perfect day in Newport.

Here's a pair of photos from that excursion.

Saturday, April 20, 2019

Two Fresh Launches at the GSVVM

video by Nereo Zane

The folks at the Gruppo Sportivo Voga Veneta in Mestre have a fleet of beautiful boats - Venetian vessels of all types.  
They love them all, and take great care of each one.  
Recently they had the occasion to launch not one, 
but two boats for the first time:
a mascareta and a caorlina.

Here's a nice video by Nereo Zane of the two boats being hoisted into the water and then rowed around along with a few other boats.  
Looks like it was a bit chilly that day, but nobody seemed to notice.  
They must have been having a great time.

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Always Try to Row Towards a Great View

There are many disciplines we try to maintain while rowing gondolas.
Things like: 
Don't fall in the water
Don't let your passengers fall in the water
Avoid crashing into things.

But beyond the safety aspects of our unusual business,
We do our best to make sure that the people in the boat have the most enjoyable ride possible.

With this in mind, we try to maximize their view throughout the cruise.
Tonight I was on the water and followed my standard route - one that gives my passengers the best view of the post-sunset sky.

As usual, it did not disappoint.

My friend Kyle came rowing in our direction and I thought 
"Wow, too bad his passengers are missing this great view".

And then he passed me and I looked the other way...  

At that point I realized that Kyle had a different idea - a way better idea - as the big bright moon rose from the horizon.

Next time I'm heading out, I'm gonna take a good look at what the moon is predicted to do, and I might just change my plans.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Two Rings

Here's a new one.
I was rowing a cruise last week and the gentleman proposed.
(not new)

She said "yes".
(also not new)

He pulled out a ring and put it on her finger.
(Pretty much happens every time)

But then he pulled out another one.
She got all excited, saying "You remembered!"

He said that it was a fake and went on to explain that this ring could be worn at times when they might be worried about losing the real one.
Turned out they had actually talked about it long ago and she was so happy that he remembered.
Smart guy.

After 26 years on the back of a gondola, I thought I'd seen it all 
(but then again, I know better than to say such a thing).

 Proposal in action.

 TWO rings.
There were subtle differences so they could keep track of 
which one was the decoy, but it's hard to tell at first glance.

My hat's off to a guy who goes the extra mile on things.
In this case the gentleman had the two rings made by the same jeweler side-by-side. Very clever.

Big congrats to Jerry and Amanda.
I wish you all the best, 

and I hope you take that fake ring to some amazing places.

Saturday, April 13, 2019

The Photo

We are often asked to snap a photo or two of our passengers once they're on the gondola. I've been at this since '93 and the only thing that's changed is the thing I've been handed to take that photo.

First it was a film camera, then it was a small digital camera, 
and then it was one of a series of smartphones.
Whatever the case, to be a good gondolier - you've got to be able to take a good photo, no matter what they hand you to take that photo with.

Tonight I snapped this one of Mike O. snapping that ubiquitous shot with a phone, as Kyle rowed his passengers off towards that slowly setting sun.
It might seem like an unimportant photo 
(because we do this every day) 
but to that couple on the's a memory of a lifetime.
We take that very seriously.
(and we never take this amazing job for granted).

Friday, March 22, 2019


At the traditional varo for Alessandro Santini's new gondola, 
his wife Roberta Billi did the honors of christening the new boat 
with champagne - delivered, of course via a bottle-smash.

Fortunately the ferro of the new boat is a solid piece of steel, 
so she was able to proceed without concern of damaging the new boat.

Here's a great photo that was taken just as the smash took place.

To see more photos from the varo, view my previous post:
"Santini's Varo"

Sunday, March 17, 2019

Santini's Varo

I first met Alessandro Santini here in California.
He and his wife Roberta were vacationing with their kids in August of 2018.  In between family surf sessions and sightseeing, 
we had tacos and talked about gondolas.

He told me about the boat he was having built and I pretty much begged him to send me photos of the varo (a ceremonial launching party in Venice).
I had hoped to get to Venice in time to attend the varo, 
but it was not meant to be.

A career gondolier in Venezia, Alessandro had the boat custom built.
He chose the famous Venetian regata-winner-turned-boatbuilder Franco Crea.

 A beautiful work-in-progress.

There are only a handful of outfits producing gondolas in La Serenissima these days, and Crea is by far the most prolific.  He and his accomplished squerariolo Francesco began the process in July, and by late October she was complete - ready to kiss the waters of Venice.

But conditions weren't the best for a perfect new boat.
Strong scirocco winds, very high tides, and people away on holiday convinced Alessandro to wait for a better time with the right weather.
The perfect showpiece of a gondola waited patiently in Franco Crea's facility until the big day.

When you're an established gondolier, and you're having a boat built,
you have certain things custom-done according to your wishes. 
Signore Santini arranged with the accomplished Venetian carver "Marzio" to design and create some remarkable pieces to serve as the portela in the front, and the scimier mounted atop the seat-back.

Custom portela.

In addition, the pusioli (arm pieces) were custom carved, along with the decking areas in the stern around the forcola - complete with a flat charcoal black background to contrast the raised carvings.

Throw on a regal red carpet for the gondolier to stand on, and remi and forcola from Saverio Pastor, and she was almost complete.
Santini didn't scrimp on the details though - he chose crown-adorned fully shaped cavalli on either side and a traditional "delfino" as his canon decoration on the bow - all in flawlessly bright polished brass.
The ferro is stainless steel with a brushed finish.

 Cavallo with crown.

 Flag-bearing trident delfino.

Envy-worthy brushed stainless ferro with engraved initials.

After more than eight months of building, finishing, and then waiting...
it was finally time - the right time for her varo.

Friends and family assembled outside the Crea facility,
and on a brilliant day in March, Alessandro rolled her out into the sun. 

the roll out.

Alessandro's wife Roberta smiles for a shot with the new gondola.

Maestro Crea himself talks about the boat.

Signore Santini soaks up the moment with Matteo Sinibaldi -
a good friend and fellow gondolier.

The beautiful black boat was rolled into position for her christening.

And it was Roberta's duty to do the honors.

The proud owner cleaned her up, and she was ready to float.

With the aid of a hoist, she gently kisses the water for the first time.

This moment must have been fantastic for Alessandro. 
I wish I could have been there to witness it.

Taking her for a spin.

After the festivities, Alessandro's son Samuel stepped 
on the back to take a few strokes.
I wouldn't be surprised if we see him in stripes one day.

Alessandro Santini is a well-established gondolier in Venezia, 
who now rows a gorgeous new boat.

you can see the gondola and her gondolier in action along the Grand Canal.
Alessandro operates from a docking area in front of the Monaco Grand Canal hotel - just steps from the famous Harry's Bar.

So grab a spritz at Harry's, and then take a ride with Alessandro. 
You'll be glad you did. 

Wednesday, March 6, 2019


photos and video by Martina and Nereo Zane

My dear friends Nereo and Martina Zane (father and daughter) 
sent these gems from a recent parade in Venezia.

To say that "things get a little crazy around Carnivale" would be an understatement.
It's not the kind of naked street parade stuff you might see in Rio, 
but those Venetians do know how to make things memorable.
There are definitely costumes.

Nereo captaining a GSVVM caorlina full of "Mickeys"
(I think the sunglasses really make the outfit work).

Among the many boats that took part, 
the remarkable "Fruit Crate Gondola".

I first mentioned this unique craft in January of 2018.
A guy named Angelo Boscolo built the boat using those wooden crates that fruit vendors often receive their produce in.

To read more, go to "The Fruit Crate Gondola".

See what I mean: actual fruit crates!

Here's the video that Nereo sent me from the same event last year.
You can see the famous "Fruit Crate Gondola" at the twelve minute mark.

The direct link to this video is here: 

Imagine a multitude of rowing boats, with rowers in various costumes, 
all assembling at Punta della Dogana.  
They row down the Canale Grande, 
pass under the Rialto, 
then head up the Canale di Cannaregio - stopping just before the Ponte dei Tre Archi. 

At the heart of the whole thing is a caorlina with a huge rat 
(they call it a "pantegana").
As a grand finale, the pantegana bursts open with colored smoke and a bunch of multicolored balloons are released into the sky.

Nereo was honored to row as captain of the caorlina he was on this year, so video wasn't really an option, but he did get a few snaps of the pantegana as it was opening up.

The colored smoke begins.

It's probably getting hard to breathe on that thing.

And here come the balloons.

Meanwhile, over on the Fruit Crate Gondola, 
they had a rather clever sort of "felze". 
Shaped like a traditional carnivale mask, 
and bordered by lots of greenery, 
this new addition to the boat looked great - especially with two gondoliers rowing in full white angel costumes.

A side view of the "mask felze".

And check out those wings and the traditional tricorn hat.

Big thanks to Nereo and Martina Zane for showing us another side of Venezia.

I'm thinking about adding "row the Fruit Crate Gondola" to my bucket list.