<% dim page page = request.QueryString("pg") if page="" then page = 1 end if %> Gondola Getaway - Romantic, Entertaining Cruises in the Canals of Naples Is - Long Beach, CA
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Mike O’Toole started the Gondola Getaway in 1981 as a marketing project at U.S.C.. Upon graduation in 1982, Mike obtained an 18-foot replica of a Gondola that at the time was being used as a rose garden for a home on Naples Islands. It was old yellow that was once the old Hearsey Duck Hunting Club. Mike rebuilt it and started operating cruises from Seaport Village behind the Jolly Roger. The business was a one-boat operation with the office being the small telephone like booth out by the now 1000 ft. dock. In the beginning years, the dock was a half sunken 25 ft. piece of wood that would be ankle deep on a good surge, meaning the gondolier would have to be barefooted at all times. From the start cheese, salami, and bread was served on a one-hour cruise through the canals of Naples on board an electric powered Gondola.
Yes, in the beginning electric motors were used to propel the Gondolas for the simple fact that it didn't seem possible to row a boat for up to 8 hours with up to 6 people. Mike really thought he had the Italians beat by being able to just stand back and steer the Gondola while the motor pushed him and his passengers along.

Business had begun to grow and the decision was made to expand the fleet and look for a business partner that would share the same love for the water and boats that Mike did. David Black, who had grown up in Naples with Mike surfing, sailing, and swimming through Alamitos Bay was a prime candidate. Both Mike and Dave had grown up through Naples elementary, Rogers Junior High School and then Wilson High School where they both did some traveling on their own. Then Dave went to Cal State Long Beach and Mike went toUniversity of Southern California.

The partnership began with the building of second Gondola using the skeleton of an old Lifeguard dory, which again was once found on Naples Islands. With only an old picture of a Gondola tacked up on the fence of David's parents house, they reconstructed the bow and stern and installed seats and another electric motor, still sold on American technology over Venetian ingenuity.

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Now with 2 Gondoliers, Mike and Dave and 2 somewhat Gondolas (Toledo, and Savona), they were named after the streets they were found upon, reborn again as Gondolas the business began to gain more and more popularity. Authenticity began to come up in conversations and the decision was made to direct the Gondola Getaways expansion efforts to learning more of this Venetian tradition they were trying to replicate. At the time in 1984 Mike flew to Venetia, Italy to learn more about Gondola and their tradition. He saw the sleek lines of the Venetian Gondolas and worked in some boatyards for a short stint to learn the construction and row the actual Gondolas to truly understand why a passenger bout could be rowed with a great deal of ease.

With a new understanding and a deep sense of commitment to the truly newly learned Venetian traditions, Mike returned with some Gondola plans and together with Dave began the hunt for the proper boatyard to construct the future of the Gondola Getaway. After much searching the finally found the perfect yard right next door in Seal Beach at Hills Marine. Two classic artists named Jim Oberst and Chris Ackman run this tiny boatyard, which produces on the finest wooden boats. They took on this project with great enthusiasm. Mike and Dave supervised and consulted while Jim and Chris did the construction.

Now the Gondola in Venezia are 38 ft. in length and are built asymmetrically so they can be rowed with a single oar and focola Venezian style. The technique is totally unique to Venezia. It is not a pole. They do not push off the bottom. They do not use the J stroke, and the do not use the sculling stroke. The Venetian row style is with a free floating oar in an unlocked or focola on an asymmetrical hull. I am sure that was totally understood, right?

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Because of certain variables, Mike and Dave altered the original design to adapt a boat to the Naples area. The Gondolas were scaled down to 25 ft. and were built symmetrical to enhance the ability to row with two oars instead of only one. The reasons for the alterations in design are as followed. All boatmen in the Venezia are professionals and licensed always knowing what the other guy is going to do at any given time. Well almost all the time. The canals are used for transportation not recreation. A Gondolier through years of training is able to handle the boat with ease even though he is only operating with one oar in the water. Here the bays and canals are used mostly for recreating meaning there are many beginner sailors and powerboats alike. This is where the two oars give us that added insurance of being able to the boat very quickly to avoid any possible danger and for the boats to be navigated through the Naples canals safely and with the greatest of ease with a standard two-week training course.

The interesting thing about the style used here in Naples is its total uniqueness just as the Venetian style is totally unique also. The Gondola Getaway's 'Nepoliton Step' was created out of the necessity to use very long oars through sometimes-heavy winds where by walking up and down the aft deck the gondolier is able to use his or her entire body to push the Gondola.

The Gondolas at the Gondola Getaway are built of oak frames, mahogany plywood, with five ounce fiberglass overlay. They are twenty-five foot long and four feet wide and totally symmetrical. They are black because of the Venetian tradition. We have four of the twenty-five feet Gondolas built in Seal Beach. The sandolo was built in Venezia in 1987 and is twenty-five feet long and five feet wide. It is built of oak, mahogany, and pine, with walnut focolas and spruce oars. In Venezia, the Sandolos are used in a similar fashion as the Gondolas; they only carry passengers for hire. It is thirteen fee small than a Gondola make it much more maneuverable and easier to learn how to row. The rest of the fleet will be explained later.

Upon completion of the four Gondolas and an increase in business Mike and Dave went back to Venezia to learn even more about the tradition of Gondolas. During their stay in Venezia and while watching a very important race called the Regata Storica, Mike and Dave were invited to return in May to participate in another race called the Vogalong, meaning long row. They brought back from Venezia another boat design called a Caorlina. This type of boat was originally used to transport goods from a seaport city called Caroli to the outer Island of Venezia. Now the Caorlinas are mostly used as a six-man race boat.

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We brought back this design to the Hills Marine in Seal Beach and after making it one and one-half feet wider for more stability, we built it and began training for the 1985 Vogalonga. The team of Mike O'Toole, David Black, Jack Ging, Chris Hendrickson, Larry Kunz and Jamie Coulter trained about fifteen miles a day for almost 3 month and went to Venezia and finished first in the Caorlina division. We were the only foreign team to enter the race. In 1986, the team had to cancel the trip because of the heavy terrorism in Europe at the time but did return in 1987 to race in the pupurino division with a team of four. Mike O'Toole, David Black, Chris Hendrickson, and Jim Macloed. Again they finished first in their class.

The Gondola Getaway purchased the Pururino and ordered five Sandola to be built. One Sandolo was for the boys in Long Beach and the other four were for the Hyatt Regency in Scottsdale, Arizona. Mike went back to Venezia twice to order the boats and then load them to the containers to ensure their safety. At last the boats arrived and were for the first time in American waters. The four Sandolas were then shipped to Arizona where Mike spent eight days training the Hyatt employees to be Sandoliers. The Gondola Getaway was the broker and consultant in the deal. It is not part of the Long Beach based business.

So now the Gondola Getaway boast a fleet of four scaled down Gondola built in Seal Beach, California. One of which was the thirty-two foot Caorlina also built in Seal Beach, a twenty-five foot Sondolo built in Venezia in 1987 and a thirty-four foot Pupurino also built in Venezia in 1982.

The main goal at the Gondola Getaway is to maintain a high standard of Authenticity and a high level of respect for both the customers and the local residents of Naples Islands.

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