Friday, May 2, 2008

In Venezia XV

Adventures on the Canal Grande! We planned to hop the #1 at Ca' Rezzonico bound for San Marcuola and the eastern side of the island. I was a bit suspicious when the vaporetto hit the dock with enough energy to stagger a few old folks waiting with us. Now, it's not unusual for the operator (pictured to the left) to dock by the touch method, but this was more like an aircraft carrier landing--a controlled crash. Oh well. On we got. Next stop and it's slam-bam, look out on shore. Back in the canal, the operator seemed to go very slowly and he tooted his horn a lot--a first that we've heard except when we almost ran over a gondola that ventured in front of us the other day. There also seemed to be an observer in the wheelhouse.

By the time we passed under the Rialto bridge (I noticed stalactites--see left) and headed (and I mean headed) for the Rialto-Mercato stop it was clear that even regular riders of the vaporetti were paying attention to what was going on. We hit the Rialto dock with just less than enough kinetic energy turned to heat to weld the #1 to the dock! At each stop the rope man--the person who ropes the mooring cleat--had to throw the hemp further and further. As we approached our stop, a water taxi was at our 2 o'clock and was clearly impairing our skipper's approach angle. He tooted the horn, which prompted a Venitian Stink Eye from the taxi man. If that taxi man knew what we knew, he would have hit the jets before he became part of a vaporetto stop. Instead, our driver started his approach too late, the rope wasn't long enough and he over shot. While backing up he ended up with the nose of the ship about 30 degrees into the canal from the dock. With the mooring rope on the cleat, he gunned the engine to bring us to shore against the tension of the rope and we hit with a resounding clang, staggering everyone on board including the rope man. As I left, I asked Rope Man, "Studente?". "Si," he replied with a smile and a shake of his head...I walked off the dock thinking of the the new bus driver I had recently who made a K-turn on Broadway and about the first time I ever drove in New York City. We all have to learn somewhere.

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