You may have been wondering what’s happening with the gabares that sail out of La Roque-Gageac on the Dordogne River, now that tourist season is on the horizon. Okay, probably not.
Nevertheless, it’s interesting, so here goes.
First some background, in case you missed the class on gabares in high school. Today’s gabares are reproductions of the 18th century boats that sailed on the Dordogne, carrying cargo down river towards Bergerac and ultimately Bordeaux.
At La Roque-Gageac, a few kilometres north of Daglan, the company Les Gabares Norbert operates three gabares that provide visitors with rides along the river, down to the bridge at Castelnaud and back, with a commentary on the sights as they go. The boats are quite large, able to hold something like 40 people.
Each fall, the boats are hauled out of the river, and each spring they are dropped back in. In this series of photos — taken on Friday by Radio Free Daglan’s chief staff photographer, my wife Jan — you’ll see how it’s done, featuring the flagship of the three-boat fleet, the Norbert.
The first photo shows you the huge crane that actually lifts the gabares into and out of the Dordogne. In the background of the shot, you can see the village of La Roque-Gageac itself, hard against the cliffs that make this village so stunning.
In this next photo, you’ll see the Norbert perched on its trailer, as the workmen start to put straps under the boat, so it can be lifted by the crane.
Carefully, slowly, the crane starts to lift, and the Norbert rises off its trailer.
After gaining some height from the trailer, the crane operator swings the boat slowly out towards the river bank. Two workmen remain on board throughout the operation.
Now, here is the boat almost in position, just past the river bank and ready to be lowered into the gray waters of the Dordogne.
Finally, we have splashdown — the Norbert is now in the river, and the workmen aboard start to fix the lines to hold the boat in place.
As Jan and I drove away from the scene on Friday, headed for some shopping in St. Cyprien, we passed the other two gabares sitting on land just outside the village of La Roque-Gageac. So the work crew still had some work ahead of them. And then, in a few days, the river rides begin.