Monday, August 3, 2009

Venetian Boats

I hope you aren't tired of Venetian boat photos. Here in Doryland we can't get enough!
I've longed for years to visit Portugal and see first hand the beautiful fishing vessels made by hand in that lively culture and now I add to this fantasy a trip to Venice to experience the ancient waterways, run my hand along the shear of a Sandolo or Mascareta, and sail a Sanpierotta!

I offer some photos sent by my friend Giacomo who is as excited to share his interest in traditional craft from his home as I am to present them here. For now, the story is in the pictures, and hopefully, soon we'll have more details. Giacomo spent a day recently taking these photos with his cell phone. Thank you very much, my friend!

I invite anyone familiar with these boats to please share comments and information.
(click on photos to enlarge)

Two boys rowing a puparìn in Malamocca.

The Mascareta, in addition to the Sàndolo, was once a common means of family transportation. This boat is lightweight, easy to maneuver, and above all, inexpensive. It weighs as little as 120 kilos and is approximately 6.5 meters in length. It is one of the simplest of the traditional boats, and thus popular among modern amateur boat builders.

The Bragozzetto is demonstratively a hard working, stout boat with an inboard motor and heavy scantlings.

Whether for work or pleasure all these boats have exquisite detail and are obviously a point of pride for their owners.

A Moto-Topo.

The Topo Veneziano. Note how far aft the mast step is. This boat has no keel or centerboard and depends solely on a shallow skeg and it's leeward chine for lateral resistance. (All of these boats are flat bottomed and shallow draft for the slim waters of the lagoon.)

And lastly, this very fine one hundred year old caorlina.

Does it get any better than this?


N. Zane said...

Ok, it seems I'm the first to post a comment. There are some mistaks: the red boat (photos two and three) is a "puparìn". The red / black boat (photo nine) is a "moto-topo" not a bragozzo / bragozzetto. The boat in the last photo seems to be a "batela" or "batela a coa de gambaro" not a peata. To see the last peata please visit
"". The peata is the big red/white boat currently rowed by twelwe oarmen.

doryman said...

N. Zane,
Thank you for your comments. My (on-line) friend Giacomo sends me photos from time to time of traditional boats he sees in his home town. This set came in a quick note one day and I remember having trouble sorting out his somewhat cryptic notes about what the boats were.
I'll make the corrections you mention (historical facts are important!).
There seem to be so very many different designs from Venice - which, I suppose is not surprising considering their long history.
Thank you for visiting, and I look forward to hearing from you again.
michael b.

doryman said...

While editing according to some of your comments, I found this (incomplete) reference to the batela
I appears from the photo that the batela is a light boat, with a fine entry, like the sandolo, not the heavy cargo boat in my picture. So now I am confused. Which is correct?


Capitano Veneto said...

Try Pictures, descriptions and drawings. Gilberto Penzo is the leading expert on Venetian Boats.

Nereo Zane said...

Hi Michael,
after further investigation (even visiting Gilberto's website), I'm quite sure that the boat shown on the last photo is a caorlina.
The "batele" were used, like the caorline, to transport various kind of goods inside the city where bigger cargo boats couldn't go. In the recent past there were in Venice several rent services with batele, sandoli and other small boats.
Please note that in our area different boats can have the same name.

doryman said...

Welcome back - I too have been looking very closely at the documentation of these vessels. In addition to the cultural distance, I have the unfortunate handicap of language. It seems that the primary difference in two boats may be size, then add to that all the myriad details incorporated in a builder's or designer's fancy. A person could spend a lifetime sorting through the history of these lovely craft.
I doubt that I would be able to tell the difference between a batelon and a caorlina if I were to chance on either on a stroll through Venice, but I long for the opportunity.
Unless further evidence proves otherwise, the last boat, which I have labeled a peata, we will now label a caorlina.
Thank you!

Nereo Zane said...

Hi, glad to have the opportunity to help (if I can). This is the description that Gilberto Penzo ( ) gives of a batelón: "The batelón is a lagoon boat for transport with oars and sail, similar to the caorlina, but larger and with a slightly raised stern." You're right about the variety of venetian boats though. They are the result of centuries of life on the water. There were hundred of boat builders in the past and each of them used to build his own model of boat (sandoli, mascarete, batele, topi and so on. There is another thing to tell: those baots were built without the help of drawings. The builders used only a set of shapes (called "sesti") and his experience. More or less the same shapes used by a tailor sewing a suit. The result is that there aren't two suits or boats absolutely identical.

doryman said...

Yes! I understand... in fact I've read the quote you made several times. And I know Gilberto is making a comparison between the two boats when he says the batelón has a slightly higher stern than the caorlina, but looking at pictures of the two, it's difficult to notice those differences. Likewise, if one is bigger than the other, where does the difference start, when no two boats are the same size, even within a specific type? It's no wonder to me that the average (non-boating) tourist believes there are only gondolas in Venice! And apparently Venetians like to argue the differences, too.