Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Rowing in Venice

Our friend Giacomo de Stefano sent me a video link today of a mid-winter row in Venice and on the Lagoon, to Sant'Erasmo Island and back.

The boat we're watching is a Mascareta. 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 Venetian boats, and thus popular among modern amateur boat builders.

Note the rowing style. The oar never leaves the water and the feathering is very subtle. Stefano's wrists hardly seem to move. The oarlock is called a forcola and has a long history going back to the 1300's. The craftsman's guild (called remèri) who made forcole then are still making oars and forcola today. I highly recommend following the link above to learn more about these lovely, functional works of art.

Thank you once again, Giacomo. You inspire us.


Walter said...

Great video - an unusual technique, obviously developed from a long period of trial and error. Wonder how it works in rougher conditions.

doryman said...

Giacomo would tell you that in the height of tourist season the waters of Venice are very turbulent indeed and not from the weather.


The open lagoon is a potentially very windy place, yet these boats still ply those waters. Two rowers can really make a Mascareta fly.

Giacomo has generously offered to teach me this rowing method if I ever make it to Venice.

giacomo said...

Well said Michael, and thank you for posting this video.
The Mascareta is built for flat water due to her very low free bord and flat bottom but, in good hands can really fly, and with a sail even more.

Of course it wouldn't be a joy to row her in a choppy sea, like we often have during the north east wind called Bora.

And the touristic traffic can build a very nasty sea too!!
Difficult to keep the balance. The oar is free on the forcola, the row lock, so it can easily get out. Even the Gondolieri, sometimes, fall in the water. Especcially considering their love for good wine..

A hug

bonnie said...

One of my dream vacations would be to get to Venezia for the Vogalonga. A blogging friend runs a kayak company there and that event looks absolutely splendid.

Ah, but that is not what I came by for. DoryMan, if you've got a moment today, please visit Frogma - I think you will love my guest blogger!

doryman said...

I have yet to visit, myself - but soon...
My friends tell me the working city is far more interesting than the tourist events. They send me pictures of these magnificent boats in back "alleys" that would be such a great find if one were to stumble on one unaware.

Ah, the old catboat story! That is one of the truly great things about a well built wood boat. It's life will span generations, as an archeological thread.

bonnie said...

I've only been there once & that was in the dead of winter. Quiet, reflective, snow on the gondolas - I have to say that I rather liked seeing it like that.