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Rowing in Venice

Vogando di nuovo

Last year I started rowing Venetian style, voga alla veneta, where you stand up in the boat, looking forward, pushing on the oar to move forward. I continued Venetian rowing when I returned to Venice this spring, but then work took over, and I haven’t been rowing for several months now.

Yesterday I finally went rowing again at the Canottieri Diadora. My friend Enzo, who has an orchard neighbouring the camp site where I start my kayaking tours from, had asked me to go rowing Friday morning. When I went to the club, I met Krystyna, an Austrian girl who has been rowing at the Diadora for three years.

Consequently, we went all three of us in a sandalo for three, towards Venice. Enzo, the more experienced rower, a poppa (in the back); Krystyna, the smallest of us, a prua (in the front); and me in the middle.

It took a little while before I quite got the hang of it again, as we crossed the lagoon south of Venice. The waves weren’t much, maybe half a foot, but still enough to make me feel unstable stading up in a rather narrow boat in the middle of nowhere.

Conditions were calmer when we arrived at the Giudecca island, but then we had to cross the Canale Giudecca, one of the busiest and most wavy places in Venice. It was definitely difficult, but we got across safe and sound, passed though one of the smaller canals on the other side, and entered the lower part of the Canal Grande, between the Accademia bridge and the Madonna della Salute church.

The Canal Grande was quite calm and rowing was easy. We got in a bit of a squeeze between some gondolas near the Rialto Bridge, but nothing serious. Its always a busy place, not matter what kind of boat you’re taking there.

We moored illegally on a private mooring near the Rialto Markets and went for a snack. Enzo knew a good little place, and on the way we passed the fish markets. I’ve never really spent any time there in the morning before, always just rushed past on my way to work, so I took some quick photos on the way, without losing sight of the other two, who were clearly a lot more attracted to the prospect of vino and cicchetti.

Rialto Markets - fishRialto Markets - fish and more fishRialto Markets - squid and octopus

The little place Enzo took us to were completely devoid of tourists, which is quite rare in Venice, the only other guests being a handful of elderly men drinking wine and reading newspapers.

Krystyna and Enzo talking boats and rowing

A door in a nearby calle had a forcola for a handle.

Forcola as a door handle

We returned the same way we came. First under the Rialto Bridge, then down the Canale Grande, through the Rio San Trovaso, across the Canale Giudecca, through the Giudecca and across the lagoon to the club at Ca’ Bianca on the Lido.

The trip down the Canale Grande wasn’t that difficult, except for a bit of traffic. There was plenty of space for the oars most of the time. In the smaller canals its more difficult, as we had to be alert and pull in the oar each time we passed a moored boat, a stair, a pole or something else restricting our space. The Canale Giudecca was as difficult on the return journey as on the way out, but we made it across anyway. Crossing there is quite an exercise in balance, and the conditions weren’t even bad, compared to what I’ve seen there while kayaking.

The return across the lagoon was the most challenging part. The wind had picked up a bit, so we had it from the front left, and Enzo moved me to the the back position, a poppa, but as I had to push hard to keep the boat on track, I soon managed to dislodge the oarlock, the forcola. As we were entering a canal near S.Clemente the time was not for shifting positions, and I continued with a still more wobbly forcola until we were safe across the canal. Then Enzo moved back a poppa and we rowed rather slowly back to the Diadora, as the forcola would no longer stay put if put under pressure.

Enzo and Krystyna mooring along the sandoli moored at the Diadora

Back at the club eight very colourful sandoli were moored. They are eight of the ten sandoli the city of Venice has for the official regattas during the summer. When not in use for the regattas, the various rowing clubs of Venice and surroundings can borrow them for training or use in unofficial regattas.

Enzo and Krystyna mooring along the sandoli moored at the DiadoraSandoli moored at the DiadoraSandoli moored at the Diadora

The boats are at the Diadora for the end of season event, which includes a club regatta in sandoli for four.

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