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A traditional, flat-bottomed Venetian rowing boat, the gondola is well suited to the conditions of the Venetian lagoon. The rowing oar, which is not fastened to the hull, is used in a sculling manner, also acting as the rudder. For centuries the gondola was the chief means of transportation and most common watercraft within Venice. It is propelled by a gondolier. In modern times the iconic boats still have a role in public transport in the city, serving as traghetti (ferries) over the Grand Canal. They are also used in special regattas (rowing races) held amongst gondoliers. Their primary role today, however, is to carry tourists on rides at fixed rates.
Although several ordinary gondolas have featured in the James Bond film franchise (see From Russia with Love and Casino Royale) its most notable appearance was made in 1979's Moonraker, where 007 is outfitted by Q Branch with a convertible gondola/hovercraft hybrid vehicle. James Bond is enjoying a leisurely trip along the canals of Venice when one of Hugo Drax's assassins emerges from his coffin on a nearby funeral barge and kills the gondolier with a throwing-knife. Reacting quickly, Bond kills the assassin and opens a hidden control panel, turning the gondola into a speedboat, and roars off down the waterways pursued by a machine-gun-wielding thug in a speedboat. Bond reaches St. Mark's Square and evades his pursuers by inflating the gondola's "skirt", converting the vehicle into a hovercraft (complete with steering wheel). He glides up the steps and drives around the packed square.