Our Spring 2016 catalog featured Richard Honan, boatbuilder and signmaker and – as it turns out – rower extraordinaire. Richard has been building boats for years and we have blogged about his amazing accomplishments many times in this space. Richard has a serious following of jealous friends and he often sends them all email updates when he does something cool or builds something he is proud of (most everything he touches is worthy).
So when Richard told us he was heading to the Small Reach Regatta in Herrick Bay (home of Wooden Boat in Brooklin), we were thrilled to hear his newly fashioned oars were yet another TotalBoat project of his. These gorgeous oars were no afterthought and as Richard told us, he coated them with “TotalBoat Lust Varnish, my new favorite varnish.” Read on as Richard explains how he repurposed some old oars he had on hand for the Melonseed skiff he built and was planning to use for this fun regatta. Continue reading →
Rowing is an art and a passion for many. And the thought of using only one oar – on one side of the boat – in a narrow, winding waterway seems more challenging than expected. But the gondoliers of Venice have it down. And many even take the time to craft their own oars and the special oarlock used on board, as is seen in this great video.
Wikipedia gives a bit more insight into this very cool trade, sport and method of transport on the canals of Venice:
The oar or rèmo is held in an oar lock known as a fórcola. The forcola is of a complicated shape, allowing several positions of the oar for slow forward rowing, powerful forward rowing, turning, slowing down, rowing backwards, and stopping. The ornament on the front of the boat is called the fèrro (meaning iron) and can be made from brass, stainless steel, or aluminum. It serves as decoration and as counterweight for the gondolier standing near the stern.
Gondolas are handmade using 8 different types of wood (fir, oak, cherry, walnut, elm, mahogany, larch and lime) and are composed of 280 pieces. The oars are made of beech wood. The port side of the gondola is made longer than the starboard side. This asymmetry causes the gondola to resist the tendency to turn towards the left at the forward stroke. It is a common misconception that the gondola is a paddled vessel when the correct term is rowed, as in “I rowed my gondola to work.”
The profession of gondolier is controlled by a guild, which issues a limited number of licenses (425) granted after periods of training and apprenticeship, and a major comprehensive exam which tests knowledge of Venetian history and landmarks, foreign language skills, and practical skills in handling the gondola typically necessary in the tight spaces of Venetian canals.
Meet me in Venice and we can do more research. The city is sinking! We have to hurry!