1985 Motonautico Serenella 28-foot Venetian Water Taxi
Perkins 6-Cyl, 165-hp Engine
Bill & Christie Nalle, Austin, TX
2018 Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

Imagine yourself dressed in fine evening clothes, sipping a glass of champagne from a crystal flute, enjoying a balmy, moonlit night, riding in the back of a taxi on your way to a late-night dinner at a five-star restaurant. Now imagine that all this is happening on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy, and that your taxi is actually a Venetian water taxi. To really make this a beautiful dream, imagine that you own such a magnificent Venetian water taxi.

Natté Cabin - Venetian Water Taxi
Natté Cabin
2018 Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

If you are Christie Nalle of Austin, Texas, that would be more than just a dream for you, it would be your reality. For Mother’s Day in 2006, Christie’s apparently very awesome husband Bill, surprised her with a 1985 Motonautico Serenella 28-foot Venetian water taxi, powered by a Perkins 6-cylinder, 165-hp engine.

(Editor’s Note – Lemme tell ya, fellas, that beats buying your wife a new vacuum cleaner for Mother’s Day anytime.)

Cantiere Nautico Serenella - Venetian Water Taxi
Cantiere Nautico Serenella Logo

In 1975, Elio Salvagno, together with two other partners, founded Cantiere Motonautico Serenella and began building splendid mahogany motor boats, one of the symbols of Venice. The first orders came from corporations, tourism companies, and important Venetian hotels. Serenella motor boats were used as ambulances, launches for the military police and local police, and “water limousines” for luxury hotels. More importantly, they were used as Venetian water taxis, the fastest method for getting around Venice and the islands in the lagoon.

In 1977, the owners of the Motonautico International Company in Newport Beach, California, visited the shipyard and acquired the exclusive right to import the boats to the United States. Serenella motor boats were exported to Texas, Minnesota, Hawaii, and Japan. The company then began collaborating with important shipyards and naval design firms around the world that specialize in the production of luxury yachts. Now Cantiere Serenella builds exclusive tenders for these yachts that are customized in every detail. These luxurious boats are now seen in many areas of the world, including France, Germany, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Russia, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, China, Japan, Australia, and French Polynesia.

Natté Bow - Venetian Water Taxi
Natté Bow
2015 Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

The Nalles’ boat was built on the island of Murano outside of Venice. It was one of almost a half-dozen boats ordered by American business magnate Ross Perot for his Mandalay Canal Walk project on Lake Carolyn in Irving, Texas, where she was used for special occasions, such as weddings or taking visiting dignitaries for a ride, reputedly including Margaret Thatcher and Cher. While the other boats were used daily as Venetian water taxis and were very plain on the inside with wooden bench seating, Nallé, on the other hand, was built to be more luxurious on the inside with club seating and upholstered bench seating.

After about 11 years, Perot sold the boat to a gentleman from Dallas who kept the boat at the Lakewood Yacht Club in Seabrook, Texas, site of the Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance. He owned the boat for about 10 years until the Nalles purchased it at the 2006 Keels & Wheels auction.

Natté Cockpit - Venetian Water Taxi
Natté Cockpit
2018 Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

The Nalles repainted the hull to be solid white, re-varnished all the wood inside and out, and replaced the carpeting. They named the Venetian water taxi Natté as a result of a Costa Rican travel agent inadvertently misspelling their last name.

Natté Starboard Bow - Venetian Water Taxi
Natté Starboard Bow
2015 Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

On August 18, 2007, the Nalles used Natté to transport their son and his bride to their wedding reception at the Nalles’ home on Lake Austin.

Dawn Treader - Custom Cruiser
Dawn Treader
1993 Custom-Built 37-Foot Custom Cruiser
Twin OMC 4-Cylinder, 120-hp (Each) Engines
Bill & Christie Nalle, Austin, Texas
2015 Austin/HIll Country Boat Show
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

Hoping someday to have grandchildren, Christie selected “Natté” to be her “grandmother name.” Christie reports that there are now two grandchildren. The proud grandparents have told their granddaughter, who will be eight in August 2018, that Natté will be her boat one day. They have also told their grandson, who turned six in May 2018, that their other boat, Dawn Treader, will be his boat one day.

(Editor’s Note – I wonder if the Nalles would be interested in adopting a certain senior citizen as a grandchild when they get their next boat.)

Natté Open Cabin - Venetian Water Taxi
Natté Open Cabin
2015 Keels & Wheels Concours d’Elegance
Photo by Stephen D. Griffitts

Natté has won “Best in Class” at Keels & Wheels and has been featured on the cover of Rudder, the magazine of the Antique and Classic Boat Society.

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