The Loire By Boat

Discover the Loire by boat
Boat2At La Butte de Launay we propose various river trips which will be the highlight of your holiday in the Loire Valley. Take a trip on one of the traditional Loire boats to discover the magnificent river in all its glory from water level; you will have a unique view of the river banks, the surrounding countryside and the birds (don’t forget your binoculars!)
An exceptional photo opportunity!
Individual formulas are available on request.

Traditional boats – a potted history
Chaland of theLoire / Gabare (or Gabarre) of the Loire
The main boat used for transport from the Middle Ages until the end of the XIXth century. Navigation downriver was by the current with aid of a rudder and upriver by a square sail driven by the predominant north-westerly or westerly winds. The boats were pulled by horses or men on the towpaths when there was not enough wind, or from Orléans where the Loire changes course. The ‘chalands’ formed chains of four, five or even up to seven boats for the journey upriver.
It was the largest of the Loire river boats, transporting merchandise from Roanne or Briare to Nantes on the west coast. It measured between 15 and 30 metres long by 3 to 5 metres wide, often weighing over 20 tonnes, and could carry up to 80 tonnes. The merchandise consisted of salt, slate, tuffeau stone, spices, fruit, lime, coal, earthenware from Nevers, and wine of course.
The ‘chaland’ disappeared at the end of the XIXth century to be replaced by boats better adapted to canal navigation.
The Gabare made its appearance from the end of the XVIIIth century.

Dish: Earthenware from Nevers at the Chateau-Museum, Saumur ‘The Loire at Nevers’ 1787.   The scene depicts a chain of boats in front of the bridge at Nevers

Toue Cabanée
A transport and fishing boat similar to the ‘chaland’ but smaller. Navigation was by sail, and today by in- or outboard motor. It measured between 10 and 15 metres long by 3 metres wide and weighed around 3 tonnes. The cabin provided shelter for the fishermen..

Fûtreau (or fustereau)
A smaller boat used for local transport, fishing and hunting. Sail driven, and today powered by outboard motor it measures between 6 and 10 metres long by 2 metres wide. It has a similar construction to the ‘chaland’.

All the boats on the Loire were wooden built until the XIXth century, when we see the beginnings of steel construction and steam power which made the journey upriver easier. Firstly used by travellers, the transport of merchandise soon followed.  Commercial traffic on the Loire soon disappeared because of the strong competition from the railways; a more profitable option than navigation on the river.


All traditional Loire boats have in common a flat bottom and a low draught; the Loire is not deep with numerous sand banks – particularly visible in summer when the water level is low. Navigation today is mostly by motor, but in the right conditions we can hoist the sail!  A splendid sight to see these boats on the Loire with their wind-filled sails!

A quick word about the ‘Guirouets’
girouetteThis is the boat’s weathervane at the top of the mast and is traditionally carved out of wood. It is a very personal object; showing the identity or origins of the boat and its owner.  A colourful flag flies in the breeze. This is an essential tool for navigation by sail; showing wind speed and direction.

Contact us in advance for all information on the river trips: duration, booking, prices …
Why not consider booking several days of relaxation with a river theme: Bed and Breakfast with boat trips combined?
Advanced booking required


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