The natural beauty of the Douro River makes it one of the icons of Northern Portugal. On its banks we find the typical Rabelos Boats, boats that used to transport Port wine to Gaia, where the most famous Port wine cellars are located.
The Rabelo Boat is considered a masterpiece for that time. Designed to survive the rapid currents of the River Douro, it was a flat-bottomed vessel, square sail, measuring between 19 to 23 meters. It was built with overlapping planks and could carry up to 100 barrels of Port and a crew of up to 12 men. (Boat Rabelos - History & Curiosities. Douro Blog (cruzeiros-douro.pt). Its crews were made up of brave men of great faith. It was customary to baptize the Rabelo boats with religious names.
Many were those who lost their lives on these trips, the most famous of them was Baron de Forrester who lost his life in 1861, in that same accident D. Antónia Adelaide Ferreira – known as Ferreirinha – Portuguese wine businesswoman of the 19th century was miraculously saved ( an entrepreneur of great power in a world dominated by men, and in the case of Port Wine by English families).
With the construction of the first railway in 1887, the Barco Rabelo was no longer the only transport option, yet its activity continued for many decades – the last trip by a Barco Rabelo took place in 1964.
At present these traditional boats continue to beautify the Douro River, but only in the riverside area. A cruise along the shores of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, in replicas of these boats, continues to be exciting.
On St. John's Day, June 24, the “Annual Rabelos Regatta” is one of the most anticipated events of the year. An event that further beautifies the banks of the Douro and helps to keep alive this proudly Portuguese part of history.
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