A gondola glided through Emeryville Marina this week as if on the Grand Canal of Venice, to the delight of E’ville sailors and of diners who waved from the picture window tables at Trader Vic’s and took pictures. Gondola owner and gondolier Scott Davies sang a little Dean Martin in Italian, a little Louis Armstrong with “What a Wonderful World”. It’s a serene experience, listening to Davies’ happy and quiet voice while the oar dips rhythmically and salt water ripples. Davies says it’s hard to sing and row at the same time if the bay’s currents push the gondola toward docked yachts. Nature dictates the rhythm. Meanwhile seagulls fly over in the warm afternoon sun. One just needs a gourmet picnic or wine and cheese and thee.
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Davies carries an acoustic nylon string guitar in the back of the boat. Davies, a tall, clean cut gentleman with a soft and soothing tone, actually plays trombone in a 15 piece swing and jazz orchestra in a restaurant overlooking Lake Merritt. The Chops big band jazz band plays Friday night, February 20 and again in March at the Terrace Room. Davies lives nearby in Oakland. He lived for years on houseboats in Sausalito and learned gondoliering on Lake Merritt . Finally he got a gondola of his own. He just trailered it to Emeryville Marina and docked it alongside the commercial fishing vessels. One of the fishermen’s dogs grabbed a stick and offered it to the new arrival, hoping to swim for it in the cold and salty water.
The scurvy dogs cared not from wence their jaunty new friend came only that he had come. Indeed, Davies ordered the gondola on line from Connecticut. It’s fiberglass over wood whereas the traditional design in Venice is all planking, he said. The design of the boat makes it lean slightly when empty and it straightens when the gondolier steps aboard. One side is actually a little longer than the other. The gondola does sport some bling, gold seahorses mounted at the rails by the cushioned bench. The boat carries blankets for guests. Davies himself wears the traditional red and white stripes and the jazzy straw hat with a red hat ribbon blowing in the sea breeze.
Berkeley’s Waterside Workshop
The boat was made in Connecticut and then worked on in Berkeley at the Waterside Workshop. The non-profit, at 84 Bolivar Drive on the estuary in Berkeley, refurbished it. The non-profit generally teaches children wood working on boats and how to make one’s own small boat. The group also teaches how to repair bicycles. A couple named Elder and Amber own the non-profit. The group runs a little waterside cafe where the children constructed the waterside chairs.
Davies’ gondola comes with the traditional forcula, from the Latin fulcrum. It’s a sensuous wood carving that looks like functional sculpture, holding the oar. Davies rows with a custom oar, hand made by a romare whose first questions were about Davies’ height and weight. The gondola looks shiny, sleek and elegant with a tapestry rug on the floor. The boat seats seven, that’s six passengers and then the gondolier. The gondola seems made for lovers, ideal for wedding photography and wedding proposals. The most commonly asked question says Davies is “Can we have sex on the boat?”. That remains to be seen.
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Davies, who lives in Oakland, serves the San Francisco Bay Area as well as northern and central California, creating personalized cruises and events. He says the right choice of song will make a passenger cry and it’s a different song for different people.
For more information: Bay Gondola or call 510 282-1870.