A Journey Starts with a Single Gondola Oar Stroke
“You are who you are because of where you were when.” – Morris Massey
Sixteen and a half years ago, I walked up to the office of Gondola Company of Newport answering a job ad at a local junior college. Gondolier? Sounded different — and not in an office — I was hooked. After weeks of practice, I eventually passed the test and became a gondolier plying the canals of Newport Beach. I became a member of a select and rare breed, the “American Gondolier”.
Gondolas are an amazing thing. Few people learn the true art of handling these special boats. I have been fortunate to have the time and ability to learn how to row such unique vessels. It is hard to describe the anxious excitement I felt waiting for the first gondola I had built to be finished so I could hop on and feel it under my feet. It is simple, elegant, and looks thoroughly Venetian, yet is a purely Californian design.
Gondola Company of Newport – My home away from home. Sixteen and a half years of rowing for Gondola Company of Newport allowed me to hone my skills not only from a rowing perspective, but also gave me the foundations of how a gondola service is operated. The core of my knowledge and experience comes from here. The friendly atmosphere and treating everyone as a member of the family are both major parts of what I took away from Gondola Company of Newport.
Sunset Gondola – Bepi gave me my first opportunity to row an authentic, squero (Venetian boat yard)-built gondola. It took me 12 years to set foot on a true Venetian gondola. The “Gondola Get-Togethers” at Sunset Gondola are an event not to be missed. It is the one place where as a gondolier you can feel that same wonderful excitement your passengers feel on every cruise. I would be remiss if I did not mention a big thank you for Bepi’s hosting of the 2nd Annual U.S. Gondola Nationals. It was an incredible event enjoyed by all.
Gondola Getaway – Gondola Getaway provided an intriguing opportunity. Nowhere in America is there a more divergent group of gondolas in one place. Most companies have one type of gondola, with subtle variations. At Gondola Getaway, they have a large range of boats. From the little sandolo to the racing pupparin all the way up to the huge 14-passenger Carolina. Every boat requires a different technique, in stance and handling of the gondola oar. Gondola Getaway showed me that there is no “one way” to row in the Venetian style.
I should also tip my hat to Mac, the manager of Gondola Getaway. He has done amazing work since taking over managing the business a year and a half ago.
Gondola Adventures – While I never rowed for Gondola Adventures, located across the bay from the Gondola Company of Newport in Newport Beach, I saw Gondola Greg and his gondoliers nearly every day for 16 years. It was only in half jest when I would tell my customers that I would knock the Gondola Adventures gondoliers off their boats with my oar like a jousting knight, if only they were not so fast that they could run away. It was all in good humor. I always liked to row past those gondoliers and have some funny little thing to say to see them laugh. “Look out for the hippo around the bend, she is grumpy today!”
I have more thanks to say to Greg, the owner of Gondola Adventures, but that is for a later post.
That is all for now, I can’t express the gratitude I feel for everyone who has helped me with my new endeavor. Best wishes and good luck. I migliori e buona fortuna (All the best and good luck)!
Mark Schooling Owner and Gondolier