Sunday, January 30, 2022

Sunset in Venezia

 photo by Alessandro Santini

Yeah yeah, y'know...
Just another boring gondola sunset shot.

(Truth is, they never seem to get old)

My friend Alessandro sent me this great photo of a brilliant sunset in Venezia, with the iconic dome of the basilica di Santa Maria della Salute in the background.

I've been a fan of Alessandro's gondola
since she was launched in March of 2019
(see "Santini's Varo")

Big thanks to Alessandro for taking my desire to get to Venice...
and turbocharging it! 

Monday, January 24, 2022

Clouds at Night

 photo by Kalev Pallares

Sometimes clouds are even more beautiful at night.

Gondolier Kalev snapped this shot tonight in Newport
while rowing our 1961 wedding gondola.

One of my favorite things about working on the water
is the way a nice view can turn into a spectacular
double-image when conditions calm and the surface
gets smooth - reflecting like a mirror.

Thursday, January 20, 2022


Witnessing an ambulance pass in Venice is anything but boring.

It's typically:
and creates all kinds of problems for people to solve who are left in it's wake.
And I DO mean "wake",
because an "ambulanza" creates QUITE a WAKE on it's way to whatever destination it is speeding to or from.

I've witnessed several of these passes, but on one occasion I was at the top of the Rialto bridge when this sucker went flying by.

I heard the siren as it approached, managed to snap only two shots of the actual vessel before it was gone, but the telltale signs were clear in the waters of the Canale Grande afterward.


Of course we've been here before,
On this very bridge in fact.
In my post "Ambulance Aftermath", we looked at a similar scenario, and analyzed the various ways gondoliers dealt with that notorious wake.

On this occasion, the gondolier in the shot handled it like a pro!
Need proof?
Look at his passengers.
They seemed to take it all in stride, smiling and enjoying their cruise.

He rode it out, and just kept on rowing.
And they got back to the business of snapping those all-so-important bucket-list photos (this one being on a gondola with the Rialto in the background).

Meanwhile, THIS guy, shows up after it's all gone down,
and says "Hey guys, did I miss anything?"

"This guy"

Monday, January 17, 2022

I Saw the Sign


Walking through Venice is wonderful.
You never know what you'll see around the next corner,
or from the top of the next bridge.

A while back I was crossing the bridge over the canal known as Rio del Fontego dei Tedeschi, and I saw this sign,
and the gondola activity going on behind it.

This is the canal that feeds into the Canale Grande just north of the Rialto Bridge.  The servizio name on the sign is that of the Traghetto di Santa Sofia.  They have a large traghetto and stazione across the Grand Canal from the fish market, but this appears to also be part of their service area.


Saturday, January 15, 2022

Canterbury Punts


On a driving tour through England, our guide stopped in a small shire to show us some sort of school or shopping area, but when we crossed a small bridge I spotted Something much more interesting.

No, it wasn't gondolas.
Not exactly.
But it sure reminded me of a small walk-up servizio.

Here were two guys, standing at the spot
where a bridge and a canal met.

There was a large umbrella, a sign,
and as I looked down beyond them...


Sure, I'm in the gondola business,
but punts fascinate me.
They are quite similar in some ways to our beloved gondolas.

They had their rates and even a small board indicating who was out, and when they might be coming back.

I snapped some photos and grabbed a brochure before my mother-in-law got a good grip on my ear and dragged me back with the group.


Yes, it's true.
There ARE punting operations in England that resemble walk-up gondola servizios.
I didn't get a chance to get out on the water with these gentlemen, but later in the day, in another place, I did.
But that's another story for another post.

To learn more about these punters, go to: 


Thursday, January 13, 2022

When it Rains...

I snapped this from the vaporetto on a rainy day in Venice.

My guess is that those folks in the gondola had
   "take a gondola ride"
at the top of their list in bold Sharpie marker. 
Yes, they were determined.
And the gondolier was prepared that day
with rain gear to row in.

My gondolier friend Alessandro Santini says the guy on the back of the boat is Luciano Costantini, and that beautiful gondola came out of Franco Crea's shop.

Of course the boat is gorgeous,
Check out the artfully carved perimeter trim.
And I love the gold carvings on the bow and stern:


but what caught my attention was the remarkable array of umbrellas!

  I mean LOOK at that!
They look like Romans ready to repel a volley of arrows!

But not Grandma.
No no.
She's like the Honey Badger - she don't care!

If anything, Grandma looks like she's quietly plotting some kind of revenge, but one that must be served cold.

Meanwhile, working on the back of the boat, is Luciano.

Makin' it look easy, while rowing in Alaskan rain gear.
Cheers to you, Luciano!

(don't get too close to Grandma - she looks pissed!)


Tuesday, January 11, 2022

Candles in the Canal

photo by Kalev Pallares

Just another perfect moment on the waters of Newport Beach.

Polished brass sirens and gold-leaf guilding glow in the twilight, while freshly painted floorboards reflect the light of the candles in a magical way.

Saturday, January 8, 2022

Raising the Red Gondola - The Life Jacket Trick


The internet tends to present a less-than-accurate reality.

Spend five minutes on social media and you’ll be convinced that everyone’s having a better life than you are. 

We don’t hesitate to post about victories and good grades. 

But nobody posts about how they got a D+ on an exam, or how crappy their vacation is going.


Back in 2008 I arrived at my docks after a night of rain to discover that one of my gondolas had become a low rider.”

What can I say?  Some boats just decide to identify as submarines, only to discover that they’re made of wood - which happens float. 


When my boat swamped, I thought a lot about whether I wanted to share this “non-victory” with the world. 

Surely someone out there might find some kind of perverse joy in seeing that I’d failed at something. 


In the end I thought about how many times I’d learned from other gondola owners, and I decided to post about it and also about how I managed to get my gondola back on top of the water. 


It was a clever trick involving ratcheting tie straps hooked to both sides of a slip and strung beneath the boat. 


You can read all about it in my post

"Raising my own titanic"


For those of who haven’t yet experienced this level of boat-ownership-joy, the object is to get all of the rails of the gondola above the surface:

just enough height to prevent water from flowing back into the vessel as you bail or pump out the water that shouldn’t be there already. 


But the method I employed was only effective because the boat was in a slip. I’ve often wondered what I would have done if the boat were on a side tie. 




Once a gondola has “become one with the surface of the water,” all sorts of stability elements pretty much go out the window. 

Untie her and try moving her to a slip and she’s likely to try and “whale over” on you. The metal ferro blade on the bow tip is heavy.  It has a high center of gravity, and wants nothing more than to seek deeper water.

If the boat flips, you’re into a whole new level of problems, which may include having to fish non-floating parts off the bottom. 


So how does a gondola owner accomplish the lift with the boat only moored on one side?


Mark Schooling at Gondola Paradiso came up with a very clever method using materials that were readily on hand. 


The other day Mark joined the club of gondola owners who've had a boat that experiences a sudden increase in depth.


He showed up in the morning, after a night of rain, to this:

Fortunately the way she was tethered prevented anything from floating away.   There was no way to move the gondola to a slip, so Mark did something else.


He simply gave the vessel more buoyancy … by stuffing life jackets under the decks. 


  Here you see two packs of life jackets, with one about to get stuffed under the trasto de meso.


 Both life jacket packs firmly lodged beneath the trasto.


It was a bit of a struggle because life jackets don’t like to be submerged, but once he got all the life jackets he had in place and climbed his wet self out of the boat, the rails were high enough to clear the surface.  After that it was a simple matter of bailing out the water. 


After some serious cardio as well as weight lifting (water weight, that is), the boat was back on top, and Mark got her covered and ready for the next rain.


This gondola is a favorite among American gondoliers.
Many of us have raced her in the US Gondola Nationals, and a lot of us have also had the opportunity to take passenger cruises on her, both in Huntington Harbour and in her current home port in Oxnard, California.

She's obviously easy to recognize due to her red color.


Gondolier Josh Sopp rows the red gondola

photo by Mark Schooling

(shamelessly stolen from Josh's social media)

Lifting a boat or other object with additional buoyancy is common among salvage divers.  They often have fancy "lift bags" that they inflate using their SCUBA tanks.  Guys like Mark and I don't have that kind of equipment on hand. 

The next time I find myself needing to raise a swamped boat, I'll remember Mark's life jacket trick.

(Hopefully it won't happen any time soon)


If by chance you find yourself doing this,
consult my post "Top Ten - Swamped Boat" list of excuses
to use when people start asking questions.
Further ridiculous posting on this subject can be read at:
"The Tie-Strap Trick"
For more amusing reading about bad things happening to boats, see
"Bad Things Happen - Part 1 - Smashing, Burning, and Sinking"



photo by Josh Sopp

(another photo stolen from Josh - I just HAD to!)


Friday, January 7, 2022

Fox in the Fog


If you think the only places you'll find gondolas are Venice and the United States, well then you haven't been looking around enough. 

For instance, there are several gondola operations in Germany.  One of them - called Gondelfox - operates in a beautiful area just outside of Berlin.

A while ago Alexander Fuchs (owner of Gondelfox) flew in to visit my friend Drew Sainte Marie at Black Swan Gondola

I had to meet this guy.

After both Black Swan and my company - Gondola Adventures had crazy Decembers, we finally got some time to get together.

  from left to right:
Kyle Wolting, Greg Mohr,
Alexander Fuchs, and Drew Sainte Marie

After a quick cup of coffee
(and realizing that I'm the shortest adult male in the world)
we jumped on the dei Rossi gondola we call Celeste and headed out for a row.

I pulled the gondola out of her slip
and handed the oar to Alex.

He was immediately at home rowing "a-poppa".
It's always fun to watch someone who knows what they're doing on a gondola, as they row a new boat in a new place with an expert touch.

We all talked about the different people we know in the gondola world, and Drew and I hammed it up a bit towards the front of the boat.


 As we neared the Turning Basin at the center of the harbor, I pointed out homes where John Wayne and Nicolas Cage had lived, and we noticed a dense fog rolling into the harbor.


Alex smiles with some famous homes in the background.

Fog got thicker as we headed back to dock.

As usual, I made another great friend in the gondola world,
and now I can't wait to visit the Berlin area and row with the Gondelfox.

Thursday, January 6, 2022

Four Guys "Go to the Hoist"


I am am often asked by passengers if I've ever been to Venice.

My answer is usually
"of course, if you're an Elvis impersonator...
ya gotta go to Graceland. 
If you're REALLY into Karate, ya gotta go to Japan."

In my opinion, anyone who rows a gondola owes it to themselves, and anyone they take as passengers, to experience Venice - the place it all comes from.

During my first visit to Venice, I was very fortunate that my friend Nereo Zane introduced me to the GSVVM rowing club. 
It's in Mestre at the base of the bridge that leads to Venice. 
It was there that I not only received expert training, but got to see so many other parts of Venetian life that a tourist never sees.

The GSVVM is a rowing club.  You join, gain access to the various boats they have, and get to participate in all sorts of social activities as well.  Think of it as a gym, but instead of weights and workout rooms, everyone works out on the water on boats, and because it's often a leisure activity, there's a strong social aspect to much of what goes on there.
More importantly, members get to practice an activity that is part of their history, their heritage, and is culturally unique to their region.

couples, families, and friend groups can be seen there together, and often the rowing excursions they take into the lagoon have been scheduled and then looked forward to for days.
In other cases members will just show up, take a boat out on a whim, and then hang out and socialize.
Additionally, there are regattas that members can compete in, and annual events that members sign up for.

During each of my visits to Venice, the GSVVM has been an important thing on my list.
I've learned basics, had fun recreational rows, and even received competitive race training there.
In 2015 Simon Atkins came with me and we spent a week, every day, on the water preparing for the upcoming US Gondola Nationals.  The instruction we received from maestro Mario Rossetti was invaluable, and made a big difference in how we trained once we returned to California.  We believe it also made a huge difference in our race times.

In this post I've included several photos from the "going to the hoist" part at the beginning of one of our training day rows with Nereo Zane and maestro Mario.

Mario and Nereo talk about the planned route,
while Simon steadies the boat.

Another view, with the hoist in the background.

The club decal adorns both sides of the stern of the boat.

Like many of the other vessels in the GSVVM fleet,
this sandolo was handcrafted by the in-house boat builder
Luigi Marcuzzi.

Nereo tends to the forcole as a club gondola is hoisted in the background.


A couple in a mascareta are next to launch into the lagoon.

Nereo exchanges greetings with the couple
as they set out for an adventure of their own.

A close-up of the club gondola.

Our sandolo goes in.

Mario steps in and maneuvers the boat out from the straps.

Simon makes an adjustment to his forcola mount.

What happened next was all rowing, and no picture taking.

We set out into the lagoon, rowed in some of the protected areas in Mestre, than crossed the water into Venice.
Seeing Venice from the water is wonderful.
Seeing it from a boat that you're rowing is the stuff of dreams, and it ends up IN your dreams afterwards.

We moored the boat near the fish market, across the Grand Canal from the Santa Sofia gondola station.

Securing the boat.

After mooring the boat, we headed into a little place called the
Bar Stellina, overlooking the Campo Beccarie near the fish market.

Simon and I snagging a selfie shot while Nereo and Mario talk.

Every experience I've had in Venice seems to be engraved in my memory.
I treasure it all, and look forward to going back, again and again.

Big thanks to both Nereo and Mario for training, translating, and all of their patience with us.