We've moved from Baltimore, Maryland USA to Venice, Italy in pursuit of living our dream!

Friday, June 24, 2016

Two old broads and a boat

Ciao, tutti!

We're officially into summer, and while everyone in Venice is making fast exit plans to head for either the mountains or the beaches for the next 2 months, I'm staying here. Besides my Italian lessons, writing courses, my English student and the usual "stuff" of life, I've picked up a new project. 

 Since even my rowing group The Lionesses will be away, I have been looking for some other opportunities to row for the next few months. My wishes were granted, with one  little, teensy tiny  caveat. The boat offered to me has to be finished being built before it can get in the water. 

So instead of heading off to the beach, I head to the old salt warehouses to go to work. (Think salt mines). Currently we are sanding.

 The salt warehouses are cavernous old storehouses where Venice kept its inventory of salt beginning as far back as the 1400's. Venice was a trading center in those days, and had built up a considerable spice trade selling salt.

 I'm working at the very back of warehouse #5, where it's nice and dark. We turn work lights on so we can see what we're up to back there. Walking into the warehouses is a bit of an eery feeling, but despite the spookiness, I love being in there. Makes me wonder about what went on in there all those years ago. Oh if only these walls could talk!!

I had hoped to try my hand at rowing a canottaggio, what in English we would refer to as crew or skull rowing  The boat we're working on, a whitehall ( caiccio in Italian), has seats for two rowers very similar to the skull boats but is bigger.  According to wikipedia, the whitehall is "considered one of the most refined rowboats of the 19th century". The whitehall, first built in New York City at the foot of Whitehall Street, was used to ferry goods and sailors on and off boats in the New York harbor.  

 Our whitehall,  constructed mostly of mahogany, was built by Marco, an elderly member of the Bucintoro rowing club which is housed in several of the salt warehouses. Isn't she a beauty?

My partner in crime on this project  is Paula, originally a Canadian who spent 30 some years working in Rome and has now transplanted to Venice. She rows Voga Veneto style (standing up just like the gondoliers do) and sails. When she asked if I would like to row the whitehall with her, I didn't think twice. My hand was up in a second. Yes, even if there was some work involved.

I've sanded two afternoons this week. I also rowed one day. My shoulders are currently killing me.  We thought we'd be on to the varnishing by now, however, Sebastiano, the guy who maintains all of Bucintoro's boats, has declared that he wants more sanding done. Sebastiano can be very, hmm, what's the word....demanding?   And so we sand. By hand. With little bits of fine sandpaper. I now have some pretty nicked up knuckles!

In the meantime, Paula and I are making grand plans (in our heads) for early evening rows over to Lido and Malamocco. With some luck, and perhaps a few bribes to Sebastiano so we can speed up and get to the varnishing,  it won't be too long before I will be able to write "two old broads IN a boat".

Oh, to actually be in that boat on the water. Dreaming!!

Photos will be forthcoming as the work progresses. Stay tuned.

(P.S. It's not all work and no play this summer. I'm still sneaking off to the beach for a bit a few mornings each week. )


Michelle said...

What a wonderful thing to get to do. Yes, hard work but think of what you will have accomplished!

karen said...

Thanks, Michelle! Probably a once in a lifetime opportunity I couldn't pass up. The old man who built the boat has promised to give us lessons so we'll know how to steer it properly. In the dragon boat I never worry about that, we have the timoniere (helmsman) on the back doing all that work for us. This will be a bit different. Can't wait.

Andrew H said...

You never cease to amaze me Karen. You always seem to have a project on the go. Hope the weather cools down enough for you to enjoy the rowing. xx

karen said...

Andrew- look who is talking!! You conjure up those incredulous Carnevale costumes every year. I'm envious of your projects!
Hugs to you and Cheryl from hot, humid Venice