Aug
21

Latest on the gondola disaster

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A view from the Rialto Bridge.  I took this on a morning in April, 2009 -- nowhere near the height of the tourist season, but still. While the commercial traffic is momentarily light (I could have stood there all morning making pictures, but time was short).  What's useful about this image is the number of vaporettos visible in the space between the Rialto stop on the left and San Silvestro on the right.

A view from the Rialto Bridge. I took this on a morning in April, 2009 — nowhere near the height of the tourist season, but this gives you a rough picture of the space available and the dimensions of the daily vehicles.  At this instant the commercial traffic was momentarily light (I could have stood there all morning making pictures, but time was short). What’s useful about this image is the number of vaporettos visible in the space between the Rialto stop on the left and San Silvestro on the right, a distance of 409 feet (125 meters) between the two closest docks, and 669 feet (204 meters) between the furthest.  The distance between the starboard side of the vaporetto on the left and the stern of the gondolas on the right is 67 feet (20 meters).  This picture doesn’t show all the additional vaporettos which are out there now:  The #2, the “Vaporetto dell’Arte,” and the Alilaguna airport bus.  There are usually at least two of each arriving or leaving, going up- or downstream.  There can be as few as three minutes between dockings of one vehicle or another, the paper reported.  My personal experience is that there can be a boat ready to tie up to the dock as soon as the previous boat has left enough space.  If anyone is interested, a vaporetto on the average is 69 feet (21 meters) long, and 13 feet (4 meters) wide. I don’t think you have to be Archimedes or Euclid to appreciate the problems of this geometry.

I will correct my earlier post, but as the details begin to come into sharper focus, I want to report that the gondola with the German family did not capsize, so I can’t interpret early reports on the gondoliers diving into the Canal.  Of course they did what they could to help, but the boat remained upright, if damaged.

I know that the gondoliers recovered some small floating objects belonging to the littlest girl, and placed them on the fatal dock with a bouquet of flowers: one small rubber duck, and one very small pink shoe.

The gondoliers have carried their proposals to City Hall: To start with, a ban on any vehicle overtaking any other vehicle.  Vaporettos in line, taxis in line, gondolas in line.  (I don’t know about barges.) As anyone who has seen the Grand Canal knows, this procedure has not been the case so far.  I have no opinion on the feasibility of the idea but presume that men who spend all day in the area know something about how things work.

They are also proposing revisions of the vaporetto schedules, to prevent backups such as the one which contributed to the disaster (three vaporettos were idling in sequence, awaiting their turn to use their respective ACTV docks).  That would seem to be a no-brainer.

Hence another correction to my report: The fatal vaporetto was not moving slowly; it wasn’t moving at all, until it was time to engage the gears to move forward, which involved backing up first, which was the point at which the gondola was struck.

Two other vaporetto drivers have also become involved in the legal situation. I don’t know what the formal accusations are.  I could know, but I am not following every single sentence being written about the case.  The important thing isn’t what’s being said today, but what is done tomorrow.  Or next year.  Or whenever or if anything is actually done.

If something meaningful occurs, I’ll try to let you know.

 

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Comments

  1. Cynthia Tyler says:

    It is the city I love best, in spite of the insanity of it all. I am so glad to read your posts, to be able to feel a connection. I may never be able to return….

  2. Erla…thanx so much for your update. I’m trying my hardest to learn Italian but it’s a struggle translating the posts on Facebook.
    You are a wonderful writer it’s a pleasure reading your posts!!
    Linda Bailey Zimmerman recently posted..~ Henry James….Venezia ~

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