Rabelo Boats or Viking boats? The difference of the portuguese vessel

The long Viking-inspired boat known as Rabelo Boat is a Portuguese vessel, typical of the Douro River, which traditionally transported the Port Wine barrels from the Upper Douro region, where the wines are located, to Vila Nova de Gaia - Porto, where the wine was stored and marketed.

The Rabelo Boats are docked along the Gaia quay. This traditional vessel was used until the Mid-twentieth century to transport Port wine from the Upper Douro Valley producers to Gaia wine lodges.

As a mountain riverboat, the Rabelo has no keel, it is flat-bottomed and measures between 19 and 23 meters long. From the way it is built, using superimposed crunched planks, specialists concluded it was inspired by Nordic models, contrasting with Mediterranean vessels.

With the conclusion of the Douro railroad, in 1887, the development of the road communications during the 20th century and the construction of the Douro dams in the mid-twenties, the river traffic until then secured by the Rabelo boats declined. Nevertheless but for many years these vessels were the only transportation used for the wine casks for many years.

The Rabelo was usually handled by six or seven men and boasted a square sail. As for the masts, the first vessels only used one whereas the second generation used a mast from the bow. It uses a long oar to the stern - the tiller - for governance. Whenever necessary, the boats were towed by men or by oxen yoke.

Fortunately, the long Viking-inspired boats known as Rabelo boats can still be found in Porto. Nowadays the Rabelo boats are still used as a touristic attraction, sometimes with a playful character, for crossing the river from Porto to Vila Nova de Gaia, for cruises along the river and at the annual regatta during S. João’s festivities also.

A2Z guided trips in Porto include the amazing experience of cruising in a Rabelo Boat, the perfect opportunity to become more acquainted with its story.