Monday, May 12, 2008

Venice Italy and the Vogalonga

The Vogalonga in and around Venice is the most colorful and exhilarating event I have experienced in a long time! With more the 1,500 boats; gondolas, canoes, rowing sculls, rowing barges and kayaks, there must have been thousands of participants. Giorgio Sartori, Kristin Nelson and Jennifer Kleck, and I launched our Point65 kayaks and paddled past the tall stone buildings and the gondolas through the city to meet up with a few other paddlers near the “Bridge of Sighs”… paddlers from the Netherlands, Croatia, Australia, Serbia and Sicily, Venice, Denmark and Switzerland.

Of course we paused for espresso on the way... here is Giorgio ordering. We tethered the kayaks outside.

Starting near St Marks Square at the end of the Grand Canal, the race loops around the lagoon visiting towns on other islands, including Borano, a lace-making center where all the houses are painted in different colors, and Murano, known for its glassmaking.

We stopped for a snack and espresso at Burano before finishing the route as far as the western entrance to the Grand Canal where we found the way still blocked by boats at the bottleneck created by the first bridge. Paddles and oars tangled and clashed as the current pushed the boats back.

The final part of the route follows the Grand Canal back to St Marks Square, past magnificent frescoes and mosaics, wrought-iron and marble facades. To either side we caught glimpses of narrow canals with steep stone bridges between tall buildings, with dark gondolas creeping along.

I was delighted to see people of all ages in every kind of paddle-powered craft taking part, some in costume and flying huge flags, others simply using whatever craft they could get hold of to use. There was a great sense of community. We dodged around taking photos, and sprinted forward or drifted back to see a particular boat more closely.

We will be in Italy for another week, teaching classes at nearby Bibione at the Capalonga campground, where the First Italian Sea Kayaking symposium will be held this coming weekend, 16-18 May. Come and join us! And then next year? We’ll certainly be coming back! Check on my web-site in a few weeks time for more details of this trip and also to find out what is planned for 2009!