Thursday, April 29, 2010

Roto Remi

About 9:00 last night, while reading on the couch on a rare night off, I got the call. While fighting the last blast of wind, Jacomo, an excellent gondolier, feet away from the lee of our canal, heard and felt a massive "crack". The oar had snapped and Jacomo was hurled forward into the baggage area, dropping the remains of the oar. The blade gone Jacomo focused on keeping his passengers safe and calm while the gondola flew side ways toward the yachts and docks on the other side of the main canal. At the last moment, Jacomo, 2 meters tall, stood to his full height, his body acting like a sail, he was able to land stern first and roll the rest of the gondola against the dock instead of slamming into it. Then he called me.

Within 15 minutes I was leaving the dock in the sandolo with extra remi and with Roto Sorixo, another gondolier. The resourceful Jacomo had already arranged transportation for his passengers and Roto and I arrived to bring the vessel back. We walked the dock for a while looking for the oar pieces. It was a full moon but the wind, waves, and 11 miles of canals made finding the oar a needle in a haystack. We gave up the search, Roto rowed Nelly back and I followed in the sandolo.

We have never lost an oar. On three occasions gondola oars, improperly stored, have slid from the gondolas at night and, after a search, we have always (grazie Deo) found them. So now, not only was the oar broken, it was gone, and it alone could answer the big question "Why?".

It was 11:00pm I looked at Roto and said "We have never lost an oar I am going to go find it."
Roto looked at the sky and the black, wind swept, waters and meaningfully said "Good Luck."
I rowed vaisana to the place where the oar snapped and made a guess based on wind direction, and the swift incoming tide, where it might go. Gusts up to 22 mph (30+ kph) were a gentle reminder of my great cross lagoon row of '09 from which my left shoulder has not recovered. I rowed and sailed to where I figured the oar might be. Tying off the sandolo I began to walk along the docks with a flash light knowing the odds were against me. But there it was, the blade, 8 feet of it, bobbing against the floats of the dock. To say I was happy with myself is to say the least.

In 11 years of rowing I have only seen one oar snap. It was an old gondola oar, worn from years of use as the stern oar for a 14 passenger caorlina, and it snapped on a windy day. Our oar was two months old, it was aboard the lightest of our gondolas "Nelly". I have a collection of gondola oars, most of them were old when they were shipped over in the gondolas, but not one has broken and they have been through much worse wind than last night. It was the first time in 4 years of operations that one of our boats didn't finish a cruise.

There will be critics, those who say the oar was used incorrectly etc., This is why the recovery of the pieces was critical. I did not want a cloud over Jacomo. By the grace of San Marco, I found the blade and the tale it tells exonerates Jacomo. He was beaten, not by the wind, but by his equipment.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Notte Di Luna, Notte Di Vento

To capture the essence of a moment on any sort of device, thankfully, remains elusive. It does not come across in the video posted here but this night was glorious. The reflection of the full moon exploding into a million diamonds which danced on the wavelets produced by the wind. For the passengers: concerns about the wind were replaced by awe at the overwhelming beauty and for the gondolier: a nice technical exercise against the wind and the memories of the canals alight.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The Changing Channel

These are just a few photos which show the changing face of our view. Day by day, hour by hour, changes in light, cloud and even humidity create subtle changes only visible to those who are on the water for a living. After a rain the mountains are clear in the distance reminding one of the view of the Alps after rain in Venice.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A Voice Crying Out in the Desert

"One of these days, perhaps, the cold bright light of science and reason will shine through the cathederal windows and we shall go to the fields to seek God for ourselves. The great laws of nature will be understood- our destiny and our past will be clear. We shall then be able to dispense with the religious toys that have agreeably fostered the development of mankind. Until then, anyone who deprives us of our illusions- our pleasant, hopeful illusions, is a wicked man."

-Winston Churchill

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Twister of 2010

Today at Sunset Gondola we had a bit of a scare. A tornado picked up a 35 foot catamaran, lifting it 40 feet into the air and dropped it on another boat, impaling itself on a concrete dock post.
It also rolled an SUV across a parking lot about 30 yards. TV crews and helicopters were everywhere. The Modona di Capotela protected this humble gondoliers boats.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Photos Old and New

Here are a few more favorites.

A bit of a calm day

Alone. Sunrise. GSVVM. May 31st 2009

Rainy Day Post

Rainy Days are reflective days. The gondolas are covered as best can be, but they will still fill with water. Here in the gondoliers lair I am watching an endless fusilade of silver bullets exploding in glorious plumes and shock waves as they hit the water and also the ones disintegrating, dashed against the unyielding bricks of the walkways. The boats in the marina are lurching like bound people being led in the dark. Their canvas covers shiver as assorted flags wave cheerfully and triumphantly over their soaking captives.

The water in the channel is silver grey with darker patches where wind or current change the way the light hits the water. The ripples from the raindrops radiate and are swept away by the force of a thousand new arrivals who, like all the others, are home after a long journey. I see no birds except the intrepid Grebe.

We had the most amazing Fall. Warm days and cool breeze less evenings. The cold rolled in in the beginning of December. I can remember only one December when it didn't rain. It's as though God gives us a bath once a year as a Christmas present, giving us a nice cleaning and giving the plants a chance to put on their best. Rain is not good for business but as a gondolier it is important to accept things you cannot change, like the weather.