May
18

Vogalonga views

By

I hadn’t thought of writing about the Vogalonga (my 20th, undertaken on Sunday, May 15); after all, the pictures tell the story just as well, or even better — what? — than I could.

For the record, there were almost 2,000 boats registered and something around 8,000 rowers.  What was unusual this year was the acute increase in single (or double, but mainly single) kayaks.  Not judging, just saying.  If this continues, before long we will be the eccentric guests at the Kayaklonga.

Our trusty crew awaits the 9:00 AM start aboard our equally trusty six-oar caorlina. Except that there are nine of us, which means the rowers were rowing an extra 400 pounds or so around the lagoon. Yikes.

Our trusty crew awaits the 9:00 AM start aboard our equally trusty six-oar caorlina. Except that there are nine of us, which means the rowers were transporting an extra 400 pounds or so around the lagoon. They’re smiling here because they don’t realize that yet.  From the front, our little floating United Nations is composed of Marianna Ciarlante (from Abruzzo), Axel and Sandra (Braunschweig), Pietro and Chiara (Rome), Camilla De Maulo and Marta Compagnini (Milan).  Invisible me from the USA on the bow, and seated astern, the ineffable Lino (good grief! a genuine Venetian!!)

Looking at the boats assembling is always entertaining, and the "disdotona," or 18-oar gondola of the Querini rowing club is always spectacular.

Looking at the boats assembling is always entertaining, and the “disdotona,” or 18-oar gondola, of the Querini rowing club is always spectacular.

There is the most wonderful energy and enthusiasm at the start. The cannon fires, all the bells start to ring, all the boats get going -- there is the sound of water rushing rushing past a world of boats.

There is the most wonderful energy and enthusiasm to the start. The cannon fires, all the bells start to ring, all the boats get going, and there is the amazing sound of water rushing past a world of boats.

We had our extra people, but this Sicilian tartana carried a piano and player. Reports were that she played during the whole event, but even though we were pretty close, I never heard a note. Was the playing "As Time Goes By"? "Nearer, My God, to Thee"?

So we were carrying our extra people, but this Sicilian tartana carried a piano and player. Reports were that he played during the whole event, but even though we were pretty close, I never heard a note. Was he playing “As Time Goes By”? “Nearer, My God, to Thee”?

IMG_1888.JPG vogalonga 2016 piano

IMG_1897.JPG Vogalonga 2016

Not long after the endless serpent of boats began to coast along the island of Sant' Erasmo, there seems to have been a mass decision -- lemmings with oars? -- to strike out in a straight line across the shallows instead of staying in the channel that curves its way along the edge of the island.

Not long after the endless serpent of boats began to coast along the island of Sant’ Erasmo, there seems to have been a mass decision — lemmings with oars? — to strike out in a straight line across the shallows instead of staying in the channel that curves its way along the edge of the island. Perhaps you can make them out, on the line separating water from sky.  We stayed in the channel, all by our peaceful, unhassled little selves.  First of all, our boat would have probably  been too heavy to make it across the shallows without ridiculous effort.  Second of all, at the farthest point of Sant’Erasmo. the boats came back into the channel almost exactly in the position they held when they broke free.  We certainly welcomed back a number of boats which had been beside us 35 minutes earlier.

The few pilings marking the channel at the northeast end of Sant'Erasmo are crowned by duck decoys. Evidently they mark a rest stop.

The few pilings marking the channel at the northeast end of Sant’Erasmo are crowned by duck decoys. Evidently they mark a rest stop.

Still rowing, still happy, almost at Burano.

Still rowing, still happy, almost at Burano, the halfway point.

Friends of ours from Cremona.

Friends of ours from Pavia.

A crew of hardy Dutch ladies who I thought, ignorantly, had escaped from the Daughteres of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. But closer reflection makes it obvious that they have ingeniously modified their traditional headgear to be boatworthy.

A crew of hardy Dutch ladies who I thought, ignorantly, had escaped from the Daughters of Charity of St. Vincent de Paul. But closer study makes it obvious that they have ingeniously modified their traditional headgear to be boatworthy.

"Burano" is Vogalongaspeak for "bananas and bottles of water or tea or other rehydrating agents thrown deftly from a barge into your boat." I think slightly more than a ton of bananas sacrifice themselves to keep us rowing. Not all in our boat, of course. I'll put a picture of the Great Banana Throw next year -- I was too busy catching them to photograph them.

“Burano” is Vogalongaspeak for “bananas and bottles of water or tea or other rehydrating agents thrown deftly from a barge into your boat.” I think slightly more than a ton of bananas sacrifice themselves to keep us rowing. Not all in our boat, of course. I’ll try to take a picture of the Great Banana Throw next year — I was too busy catching them to photograph them.

At Burano we finally got a glimpse of the amazing Mike O'Toole (astern) and Gary TK of "Gondola Getaway" in Long Beach, California. Not that they rowed from California, though I have no doubt that they could have/

At Burano we finally got a glimpse of the amazing Mike O’Toole (astern) and Gary Serbeniuk of “Gondola Getaway” in Long Beach, California. Not that they rowed from California, though I have no doubt that they could have.

Down the Grand Canal., and the end is in sight. After five hours of rowing, that's a phrase you could sing to "Country rooooooad, take me hooooooome..."...

Down the Grand Canal., and the end is in sight. After five hours of rowing, that’s a phrase you could sing to “Take me hooooooome, country rooooooad…”.

We made it through the usually-clogjammed Canale di Cannaregio with no problem and now it's down the Grand Canal to the finish line. Earlier boats are now heading upstream toward us, back to wherever "home base" might be.

We made it through the usually-clogjammed Canale di Cannaregio with no problem and now it’s on to the finish line.

The two best moments of the Vogalonga -- if one had to choose -- are the beginning and the end. Mike and Gary have made it back to the club, conquering heroes. If that sounds like an exaggeration, you must notice that the blue skies of the morning have turned grey and (you can't see it) very windy and cold. They're smiling also because they know that pasta with mussels awaits them. Well, many they didn't actually KNOW that, but they knew there was going to be wine!

The two best moments of the Vogalonga — if one had to choose — are the beginning and the end. Mike and Gary, conquering heroes, have made it back to the club, and they look like everybody feels when they’ve finally done it.  If that sounds like an exaggeration, you may notice that the blue skies of the morning have turned grey and (you can’t see it) very windy and cold. They’re smiling also because they know that pasta with mussels awaits them. Well, maybe they didn’t actually KNOW that, but they knew there was wine somewhere very nearby.  Because, you know, Italy.

 

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Categories : Boatworld

Comments

  1. Well done on your twentieth vogalonga!! That’s quite a feat and you should be rightly proud!!! :o)

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      Thanks! Each one different, each one memorable. Of course, Lino and a few others have done all of them (42 this year). So I take my place in the middle of the bleachers.

  2. Zina says:

    What a pleasure to watch, almost as if in reality)) I feel the sun and the wind in my face! Thank you for the spirit, Erla!

  3. Don Mathias says:

    Lots of fun on the water, by the look of things, and a rowdy bunch at the Giardini ramp kept us amused. By the way, do you know why there is almost no singing or music on the gondolas now? A little goes a long way, but silence seems an extreme reaction. Has there been a new law (and if so, would that be relevant)?

    Always enjoy your updates on Venetian concerns. We saw a notice stuck on a rubbish bin and as it was a detailed message in English we read it, only to find it was anti the very thing we were doing: renting high-priced property that was therefore not available for real Venetians. Felt a bit sad about that, but perhaps Venetians sell at good prices and then want to have their cake too so to speak?

    • Erla Zwingle says:

      I’m not sure I understand what you mean about singing on the gondolas. Are you referring to the organized “serenades,” with a hired singer and musician entertaining the group as they drift along? As far as I can tell, everything is normal there. Perhaps it’s early in the season, perhaps you have just missed one. I don’t know. Repeat, nothing seems different to me.

      About the recent vitriolic sign about rentals: I thought about writing a post about it, but almost every subject seems to come back to just a few basic points. I don’t know who wrote it, or why, but it is clearly someone who knows nothing, by which I mean it’s useless to simplify matters to that extent. Venetians are renting their apartments because there’s a market for them. Nobody has come with a musket at midnight and forced them to do it. I know a Venetian who lives in one apartment and rents another — no depopulation there. In any case, the depopulation of Venice is extremely complex and began several decades ago before renting apartments was even dreamed of. Venetians do what they want with their property. Get over it. (I say that, not to you, but to the ranter.)

      • Don Mathias says:

        Thanks Erla, great to hear we don’t have to feel wretched. Still, I sympathise with the vitriolic sign writer in really wanting “money for nothing”. That would be wonderful. Back on this planet, yesterday at mid day Rio di San Severo was packed with gondolas and one excellent trained singer, a capella, and the effect was spoilt only by a gondolier at the back of the line who broke the spell by yelling something incomprehensible to all but a few. Brute. Some of the passengers looked a bit bewildered, if I read their faces correctly.

  4. Mary Ann DeVlieg says:

    Oh Erla, so glad you posted on this; I was hoping you would! And congrats on your feat (and feet, and arms and shoulders and everything else that must ache afterwards). We were watching from our favourite spot on Sant’Erasmo, near Punta Vela where one of our fellow islanders always mounts a huge disco sound system to cheer everyone on. I just love to see the rowers’ reactions – especially the Italians who know the words to all the Italian songs… but many rowers are cheered on, start dancing or rowing to the beat, and it is really funny. So, fie! to those who avoid our blessed isle because they not only miss being counted by the official counters there but they also miss out on a few sound waves of love, respect and solidarity mixed with a dash of good humour. (no bananas, however, maybe some artichokes?)

  5. Rob C says:

    Congrats, it looked like an amazing day.

  6. This is the third blog post I’ve read about the day and by far my favorite. Congrats to you and Lino for doing them all (even if you’ve only done part). I love your blog.

  7. A.Jonsson says:

    Thanks, Erla, for another wonderful post.
    I hope that I, one day, can learn to row as well and maybe participate in the Vogalonga. Maybe when I retire… 🙂
    Your posts are always interesting and fun. A glimpse of Venice can cheer up any day at the office…