Rabelo Boat is one of the major symbols of Porto and the Douro. Originally created in the 18th century for the transportation of the Port wine barrels, between the Alto Douro wine-growing lands and the Ribeira do Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. Today, this traditional boat is preserved in the cities memory and constitutes a privileged element of the tourism in the region.
Due to the inexistence of appropriate road and rail routes, Rabelo Boat was the most reliable and exclusive means of transportation for the wine industry. It was generally manned by ten to twelve navigators and, if going towards the current, crews sought to ensure the stability of the most valuable product of the region’s trade over turbulent waters; otherwise, the vessels were taken by towpaths drawn by ropes along the banks of the Douro River.
Without keel, with a flat bottom and with a length of between 19 and 25 meters, it integrates a wooden structure called apégada and a long oar on the stern, the espadela, used to manoeuvre the boat.
The introduction of the Douro railways in the late nineteenth century and the development of roadways during the twentieth century dictated the decline of river traffic provided by Rabelo Boats.
Today, anchored on the banks of Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia, they are used exclusively for its recreational character in the famous Regatta de São João, on June 24 of each year, for the celebrations of popular festivals in the city of Porto.
An updated version of the original vessel was created to transport passengers on tours through the Douro. They are wooden boats, with the traditional appearance, but meet the safety and comfort conditions demanded today.