Archive for Vogalonga

May
18

Vogalonga views

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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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Jul
08

The Saga of the Lost Oar

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These are "Cherub"'s oars in happier days.

These are “Cherub”‘s oars in happier days.

I toil for two weeks every May in the registration office of the Vogalonga.  And every year, something interesting occurs.  This year, that “something” was more than usually diverting.  It had to do with the search and rescue of a foreign oar.

Everything started with an e-mail a week before the event, sent to the office from an English rower, Dr. Adrian Hodge; he was planning to come with his Thames skiff, “Cherub,” and a group from his rowing club (Norfolk Skiff Club). As it was the first time they were undertaking this little quadrille, he wanted information on the parking and boat-launching facilities, which I took it upon myself to supply, along with a batch of my usual unsolicited observations and comments, no extra charge.

Technical digression: “Cherub” is 8 meters/26 feet long, is said to date from the 1890s, and was built at Richmond on Thames. Unfortunately all the records of the company which built her were destroyed when the boat yard was sold in the 1960s, so Adrian doesn’t know who was the original owner.

The oars with monogram.

The oars with monogram.

So they came, they rowed the Vogalonga, they pulled “Cherub” out of the water, loaded it on the trailer, drove the 1,700 km (1,056 miles) home to Norfolk, and unloaded the boat.

Following is a highly condensed version of the most pertinent of the numerous e-mails that ensued.

Dear Erla,

The journey back to England was uneventful, apart from the weather, and I have just inspected the skiff to make sure that she had returned unscathed. To my horror I discovered that we have lost a scull (oar). A moment’s thought and I remembered that we had used a scull to position the lifting strops for the crane on Monday. I suppose that someone put it down on the ground and we simply left it behind. It was beside the orange painted fixed crane and Michele was in charge of the crane team. I’m sorry to lose it because it is antique and carries the monogram of a previous owner of the boat, so, if you have the opportunity to put the word around, and if it turns up, keep it somewhere and I hope that it can be repatriated next year. I’m sending you a picture too, so that if you see it decorating a bar, you will know where it came from! Since the photos it has lost its copper end and had some repairs to the tip. 

Although I dislike disasters, I do enjoy a challenge, so I leapt into action.

Dear Adrian:

I have spoken with the organizers of the Vogalonga and they say they know nothing, and have heard nothing, about your oar.

However, they did suggest that you tell me where you took the boat out of the water.  If you would tell me this detail, I will attempt to contact whoever is responsible for that area.

He replied: We lifted the boat out at the quay just before the bridge to Tronchetto.  There were three cranes and we used the centre one which was painted orange and had Scalo Fluviale and a number 2 on it.  Michele was in charge.  He was driving the forklift truck.

I called the Scalo Fluviale, and they knew all about the oar.  “Sure, we have it,” they told me.  Why should there be panic, stress, visions of mayhem? “It’s right here.”

OAR FOUND!!!! I e-mailed Adrian. I love good news, especially when it’s unexpected.

You are incomparable, he replied.  (I liked that bit.) My prayers to St. Anthony of Padua have been answered. My next plan was to get some real Catholics to pray to him too.

On the practical front, the oar is 290cm (9.5 feet) long and weighs 2.0 kg (in fact, a bit less).  Normal parcel post is restricted to 1.5 meters (4.9 feet).  I think that the most practical method will be for me to fly out and collect it, but first I must make sure the airline will carry it and that I can get it to the airport.

That was an interesting aspect of the project.  How was that going to work? Simple: It wasn’t, as Adrian quickly discovered.

The airlines put it in the same category as a vaulting pole and won’t carry it.  (I haven’t found time yet to satisfy my newfound curiosity about how vaulting poles make it from home to the Olympics.)  DHL will carry items up to 300 cm long, so that must be the default method. I can fly to Venice Tuesday morning, collect the item, wrap it, and deliver it to a DHL collection point, then fly back Tuesday evening.

The day before his arrival, I went to the Scalo Fluviale to locate the oar.  There it was, propped against the office wall, looking pensive.

Some phone calls had already revealed that the nearest DHL collection point was at Piazzale Roma, a mere few minutes away.  This was another happy surprise; I had had nightmare visions of some storefront in the heart of darkest Mestre. I went by to check on the details of the consignment.  On the way home and I bought an exaggerated amount of bubblewrap (nightmare visions of coming up two inches short); unfortunately the bubbles were small, but there was no alternative. I wasn’t up to rigging a splint, and figured if we used enough (but not so much as to exceed the length limit), it ought to work.

Yes, I had become “we.”

Tuesday morning I went to Piazzale Roma to meet Adrian and his wife, Lynne, as they got off the bus from Treviso airport (sure, let’s add another hour and ten minutes each way to the day’s schedule…).

This was our peak moment.

This was our peak moment.

I'im holding 500 square meters of bubblewrap, or so it seems, while we examine the patient and plan our attack.

I’m holding 500 square meters of bubblewrap, or so it seems, while we examine the patient and plan our attack.

We walked to the Scalo Fluviale; the oar was brought out, we wrapped it, we distributed bottles of wine dripping with gratitude to all and sundry (for the record, it was Enrico who had found the oar). We carried the oar, like some titanic assegai, back to Piazzale Roma and the DHL office, where we created a moment of consternation.

Paperwork completed, payment made, oar consigned, deep sighs of relief and satisfaction breathed, we went to a nearby trattoria where Adrian and Lynne treated me to a sumptuous and princely lunch.

On our way toward Piazzale Roma, we presented Enrico (center) with a bottle of wine.  Unfortunately not vintage, but I think it was probably amusing nonetheless.  The bubbly oar is still standing at attention.

On our way toward Piazzale Roma, we presented Enrico (center) with a bottle of wine. Unfortunately not vintage, but I think it was probably amusing nonetheless. The bubbly oar is still standing at attention.

But hold the happily-ever-after.  “We must expect reverses, even defeats,” Robert E. Lee remarked, though not to us personally.  “They are sent to teach us wisdom and prudence, to call forth greater energies, and to prevent our falling into greater disasters.” I’ll make a note of it, because…..

The oar arrived at 3:15, Adrian e-mailed me, but the end, complete with monogram, was smashed to pieces. I tried to fit it together like a jigsaw, but the wood was crushed too much….It must have been crushed under something heavy, because the wood is deformed. I can’t save this limb and must amputate. I’ll make a sloping cut straight across where the wood is sound and glue on a new piece of wood. Then I’ll shape a new end. Many oars are made like that from new. Unfortunately the monogram will be lost. I’m debating with myself whether to fake that. In general my policy is one of honest repair rather than renovation, preserving as much of the original as possible, but clearly showing any new material.

Adrian is currently involved in some other, more urgent projects, so I haven’t seen the final version yet.  But as any pulverized oar will tell you, the worst is clearly over.

I guess now you could say we’re at happily-ever-after.  In any case, the adventure has been immortalized in a clip which is on the club’s website  (and on YouTube) — set to the tune of the irrepressible Jimmy Durante singing “The Guy Who Found the Lost Chord.”  For e-mail readers, here’s the link:  http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=Kby8OYXyUtQ

Lynne is holding the oar and the delivery-driver seems at peace with the world. But now that I look closer, the part of the oar that's touching the ground looks a little wrong. As indeed it was.

Lynne is holding the oar and the delivery-driver seems at peace with the world. But now that I look closer, the part of the oar that’s touching the ground looks a little wrong. As indeed it was.

It hurts me too much to say anything.

It hurts me too much to say anything.

And yet, the oar, rising phoenix-like from the woodshavings, will row again.

And yet, the oar, rising phoenix-like from the woodshavings, will row again.

 

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May
22

Merry,the month of May? Sure.

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Our favorite bar at Sant'Elena went all out in festive decorations for the Vogalonga.  The boat, the poster, the flags of many nations.  Nice.

Our favorite bar at Sant’Elena went all out in festive decorations for the Vogalonga. The boat, the poster, the flags of many nations. Nice.

I am now re-establishing radio contact with the rest of the world.  The recent crackling silence was completely predictable, at least to me.  May is a great month if you’re a plant, but if you’re me, it’s an Olympic biathlon involving two of the city’s three biggest boating events: the corteo for the Festa de la Sensa, on Ascension Day (May 12 this year), and the Vogalonga (May 19).

Once again, I dedicated two weeks to working in the registration office for the Vogalonga. Sound simple?  The first week, yes.  The second week, right up to 6:00 PM the day before the event, was a crescendo of desperation — not on my part, but those who came, as one hollow-eyed supplicant put it, “A thousand kilometers over the Alps with our boats,” thinking they could sign up at the last minute and discovering that all the 1,700 bibs, one per boat, had already been booked.

I heard stories about people needing a number for their dying best friend.  I didn’t hear any pleas based on expiring grandmothers or promises to small children, but the accumulated emotional tension began to take a toll on me.  It wasn’t just the exclamations of doomed desire that were so tiring (“But why?” “But why?” “I have the money right here” “Can’t you find just one number for me?” “But I didn’t know” “I didn’t read the website” “I don’t have internet” “We’ve come all this way” “”Noooooooooooo, it can’t be truuuuuuuue”), it was my irritation at situations which could easily have been prevented if even one of their group had had a functioning medulla oblongata.  Or whatever part of the brain governs logic and rationality. If there is such a part.

While everybody who already  had their numbers were working themselves into a froth over the unpleasant weather forecast, I and my colleagues were struggling to resolve many silly and time-consuming and avoidable problems. Reservations made but not paid for; payments that didn’t correspond to the booking; adding people to boats; subtracting people from boats; doing long division of people from boats: the single reservation for 20 rowers who were assumed by us to all occupy the same boat, but which it turned out were each rowing by themselves, hence requiring 19 more numbers. That was fun. “You need 19 numbers? Sure, I’ll just make them right here for you, like Subway sandwiches. You want pickles?”

Compared to all that, rowing the event is almost always easier, and more enjoyable, and more, well, rational.

You might have heard that it rained; you might have heard that the rain was something epic! That some boats capsized! Frankly, it was all much better than I’d feared. The rain came down in hurled handfuls of big hard round drops, then shifted, like a shower-head, to fine, thin and steady, then heavy and steady, then lots of little drizzly drops, then another downpour, then a pause, then another downpour.  After Mazzorbo, the sun came out and we all dried off. As for overturned boats, if you ride a horse, what can happen to you? You fall off.  If you’re in a boat, what can happen?  You fall in.  Lino’s fallen in countless times. I’ve fallen in, in January, no less.  Get a grip, people.

That said, however, falling in isn’t equal for everyone.  We heard later from a friend who had been rowing in a big Venetian boat that at Mazzorbo a rower in a single kayak decided to cross their bow at the last moment, got dinged, and over he went.  But he couldn’t manage to come up because he had lashed all sorts of accoutrements, luggage, supplies, and even himself, to his kayak, which meant he couldn’t manage to right it and he couldn’t get out of it either. Think about it. Think medulla oblongata. Happily, the Venetian rowers managed to haul him back over and up into the air, but it was a very close call.

They also saw another boat capsize (the reasons for this aren’t clear — we weren’t in a hurricane) — it was a kayak again, this time for two rowers which, as our friend explained, also contained two very small children, one of whom was about three months old. The only glimmer of intelligence in that scenario was that the presumed parents had fitted their kids with lifejackets. People like this shouldn’t be allowed out of the house, much less into a boat.

There was the by-now traditional logjam in the Canale di Cannaregio, caused by the by-now traditionally inept, vision-impaired, brain-dead coxswains on the long rowing shells who seem not to understand that their boat needs to keep going straight forward and that their job is to see that it gets done.  Big long boats slewing around slaunchwise and getting stuck are like big expensive beaver dams forcing all the arriving boats to jam up.  It’s not just that they create problems — they don’t know what to do to fix them. As we see in the video by a certain Bas Schols; here’s the link for those who don’t see the clip:   http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRyEnCKno3o .

A close second for the prize for Best Way to Create Problems goes to the people who just stop rowing and sit there in their boat, usually in narrowish spaces or at blind corners.  You can hardly ever discover a reason for this.  Of course they’re tired; we’re all tired.  But when they’re driving in the center lane of the highway back home, do they just stop when they feel like it and sit there?  I feel doubtful.

After the Vogalonga (and the rain), it was time for lunch at the club.  The long table laden with food is concealed by Roberto Busetto, who isn't really trying to strangle Ivo Bratovich. After all, Ivo's smiling.

After the Vogalonga (and the rain), it was time for lunch at the club. The long table laden with food is concealed by Roberto Busetto, who isn’t really trying to strangle Ivo Bratovich. After all, Ivo’s smiling.

The Sunday before all this, May 12, was the Festa de la Sensa, and we participated in the commemoration of the “Wedding of the Sea.”  We row out toward the Lido, following the big fancy ceremonial boat called the “Serenissima,” past the Morosini Naval School where the cadets are lined up along the embankment, as sharp as creases in starched organdy, shouting “Urrah!” when commanded to do so by the bosun’s whistle. That is absolutely the coolest thing about the entire event, though of course tossing the wreath into the water to commemorate the dead sailors is important too. And a ring-like object with ribbons tied onto it also gets blessed and tossed.  Another chance to be crushed together in a boat-scrum, but at least here we all know each other and actually know how to move our boats around. That’s it for boats.

The rest of the month is a rapid unraveling of assorted appointments and events.  For example, I sat most of the afternoon waiting for the long-expected boiler repairman to come replace the replacement washer from a few weeks ago.  He was supposed to come in the morning, but only by calling up did we learn that he’d been moved to the afternoon.  Dazzling efficiency! We could be in Sweden!  Wait — it’s gets better.  He phoned at 3:30 to say he couldn’t come because they hadn’t given him the part he needed to install. They thought they had, police said. (I am adhering to the practice recommended by the old city editor to the cub reporter, my former boss, who told him, “You can write anything you want to, as long as you add ‘comma police said.””)

At 6:00 it was off to the Generali Insurance Company’s boathouse for the presentation of the restored 8-oar gondolone. We needed to swell the ranks, it seemed, so we were there.  We try to be good sports on land as well as sea. I was hoping they’d have cookies, but they got in a caterer and had hors d’oeuvres and asparagus risotto. I like being wrong like that.

Tomorrow afternoon Lino will be at Malamocco for hours, as one of the judges overseeing the eliminations for the next official rowing race (Sant’ Erasmo, June 2). That evening, dinner at the Non-Commissioned Naval Officers Club, a cholesterol-laden thank-you from a group of young French students because not only did we pick up the dropped/lost wallet of one of their members (containing 70 euros and also an address) but thanks to Skype and the fact that little Pauline’s father was home when I called, we managed to return it to her the next day.  And a big shout-out to Mrs. Rideout and Mrs. Gordon, whose draconian French courses in high school are still paying off, if only in fractured form.

Friday evening, the annual corteo to transport the statue of Our Lady of Succor (“Maria Ausiliatrice”) from the church of San Pietro di Castello to the church of San Giuseppe. This year we’re going to be carrying as many people as we can, hoping to transfer into Venetian boats many of those who usually follow us on foot along the fondamente.

Saturday, a batch of us are off to Burano to collect four of our tornado-devastated boats from the boatyard where they have been repaired.  We’re either towing or rowing them back; it doesn’t seem clear yet which one.  I’m for rowing, myself, not that anyone consults me. The forecast isn’t too pretty.

Some shards of frico, which I discovered in Gemona, deep in the heart of Friuli. I know cheese contains protein, but this can't possibly be good for you.

Some shards of frico, which I discovered in Gemona, deep in the heart of Friuli. I know cheese contains protein, but this can’t possibly be good for you.

Sunday, we’re going with a big group in a bus to Trieste to the annual reunion of the veterans of the Automobile Corps.  Lino did his compulsory 18-month military service in Rome with this arm of the armed forces, repairing and maintaining Jeeps, trucks, and assorted ministerial vehicles.  He recently joined the nearest chapter of the motorized veterans, and the big outing sounds like it’s going to be fun, except for the promised thunderstorms and drenching rain.

We’ll get to march around the Piazza dell’Unita’ d’Italia for a while, then go off to some countryside establishment to gorge on Friulian specialties (think San Daniele prosciutto and frico, or fried cheese) — possibly the true purpose of the expedition.  Then to visit some famous nearby monastery blanketed by rose gardens. We’ll have to get up before 5:00 to get the train to Treviso, the starting point, but I’d walk to Treviso for a shot at a plate of frico.

Next week’s calendar is ominously empty.  I say “ominous,” because you know how Nature feels about a vacuum.

One great thing about going to work every morning is that  I got to see the city waking up.

One great thing about going to work every morning is that I got to see the city waking up.

IMG_0610 blog may

At 7:45 the schoolbus pulls up at the Arsenale vaporetto stop.  The bus is the #1 and all the kids are just as happy to be going to class as they are anywhere in the world.

At 7:45 the schoolbus pulls up at the Arsenale vaporetto stop. The bus is the #1 and all the kids are just as happy to be going to class as they are anywhere in the world.

Sunrise makes some of the best shadows -- in this case, from the roof of the Doge's palace.

Sunrise makes some of the best shadows — in this case, from the roof of the Doge’s palace.

A historic moment.  On the morning of May 8, the boy with his froggie were still there.........

A historic moment. On the morning of May 8, the boy with his froggie were still there………

...and that evening, they were gone.  I never thought I'd live to see it.  Or not see it, whichever.

…and that evening, they were gone. I never thought I’d live to see it. Or not see it, whichever.

I was surprised to see the commemorative wreath lying peacefully in the entryway of Ca' Farsetti, the city hall, on the evening before it was to be offered to the waves in memory of fallen sailors at the "Sposalizio del Mare."

I was surprised to see the commemorative wreath lying peacefully in the entryway of Ca’ Farsetti, the city hall, on the evening before it was to be offered to the waves in memory of fallen sailors at the “Sposalizio del Mare.” It’s not that I expected candles to be burning beside it, but it did seem so sort of ordinary there. “Yes, we always put a monster laurel wreath in front of the cash machine.  Why do you ask?”

A four-oar sandolo from the Morosini Naval School, rowed by four cadets taught by Lino, who are unfortunately, as you see, facing eastward.  As we all were.  That's just one humble detail in this excellent ceremony -- we're all staring into the sun.

A four-oar sandolo from the Morosini Naval School, rowed by four cadets taught by Lino, who are unfortunately, as you see, facing eastward. As we all were. That’s just one humble detail in this excellent ceremony — we’re all staring into the sun.

Another boat with Morosini cadets -- a six-oar caorlina rowed by five girls, steered by Gabriele De Mattia and overseen by Lino, seated astern, surveying everything.

Another boat with Morosini cadets — a six-oar caorlina rowed by five girls, steered by Gabriele De Mattia and overseen by Lino, seated astern, surveying everything.

Aboard the "Serenissima," the priest is reading the blessing of the wreath, as the admiral awaits his cue.

Aboard the “Serenissima,” the priest is reading the blessing of the wreath, as the admiral awaits his cue.

The priest is evidently not a seaman; he is steadying himself atop the waves with superb delicacy.

The priest is evidently not a seaman; as he intones, he is steadying himself atop the waves with superb delicacy.

The wreath is ready for its big moment.

The wreath is ready for its big moment.

The wreath afloat, with the fireboats jetting celebratory water into the sky.  You don't want to be near them if there's a breeze, I can tell you.

The wreath afloat, with the fireboats jetting celebratory water into the sky. You don’t want to be near them if there’s a breeze, I can tell you.

Everyone stood at what amounted to attention as the music of the "Hymn of San Marco" was played.

Everyone stood at what amounted to attention as the music of the “Hymn of San Marco” was played.  I wish I could tell you the sacrality of the moment was respected by everyone, but I can’t.  I saw two men on a little mascareta rowing away with the wreath on the stern of their boat.

And just think: At tonight's party, we saw the commemorative wreath ever-so-attractively hung on the boathouse whose name I will not pronounce. But it's pretty obvious.

And just think: At tonight’s party, we saw the commemorative wreath ever-so-attractively hung on the boathouse whose name I will not pronounce. But it’s pretty obvious. I’m sorry, I just can’t think of it as a decor accessory. But they do.

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Jun
21

Vogalonga photo op

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In my last post on the Vogalonga (though I suppose it would be more accurate to say that this is my last) I acknowledged the lack of any photographic evidence of our excellent — and rapid — circuit of the northern lagoon.

As I had hoped, a kind soul did in fact take some pictures of us, and that kind soul knew some friends of ours, who sent them along. Perhaps there are more such souls out there, but I don’t know them or their friends.  So here’s a big shout-out to the club Voga Fortuna Berlin, and Sandra, who chose to work the camera rather than the oar.

Here we are returning to the club to get our numbered bib. If you ask where are all the hordes of rowers waiting for the starting cannon to fire, I can tell you they're behind us. Where most of them stayed all morning. The crew this year was a sort of mixed fishfry. (L to r): Sandro Graffi, his 12-year-old son Davide, 14-year-old Filippo Novello, Antonio Borgo, me, and Mike O'Toole, a/k/a/ "Otolini," master and commander of Gondola Getaway in Long Beach, California. Lino is sitting on his starboard side, as navigator and co-pilot, though he rarely intervened.

And our return, down the incredibly spacious Cannaregio Canal. Somewhere around Murano we reshuffled the squad: Antonio is now in the bow and Sandro is at #4. Lino has moved from the stern to sit in the bow, which was undoubtedly more comfortable but which reversed his view of the proceedings. What you can't hear, unfortunately, is all of us saying some variation on "Holy Sacrament, I can't believe how few people are here. I'm never going back to the old way."

 

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