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The Loire sailor, the Master of the river

Updated: Jan 27, 2023

More than a job, a passion full of pitfalls and challenges !

Along a walk on the banks of the Loire, take the opportunity to immerse yourself in the history of this beautiful profession which was once indispensable!

Indeed, in the past, there were only two bridges to cross, the one in Blois and the one in Amboise, about 40 km away.

It is said that real family dynasties existed in our small Loire villages.

They all knew each other and shared the territory.

It is also said that one man's life is enough to see a small island formed and another disappear! This landscape that we contemplate, transforms under our eyes.

With its changing sandbanks and capricious current, our ancestors feared

the Loire and were wary of it.

To be a perfect sailor, only time and experience are needed!

In the past, children started their first steps at the age of 12, often passed down from father to son. They were initiated to the art of the boatmen and the navigation generally continued until their death. They spent their whole life on this river which, unfortunately, was often short.


In 1642, when the Briare canal linked the Loire to the Seine, the river became the longest and most important in the kingdom.

In the XVII century, river transport developed.

The Loire, under its calm appearance, is very unstable and even dangerous

with its islands of sand. Its appearance has hardly changed since the XVII century.

This is why there are many boats

such as the barge, the toue, the sapine, the futreau, the allèges,....

These boats have a precise role. Depending on the type of merchandise to be transported and the navigation of the day,

the sailor knew which boat was the most suitable.

Once the boat was chosen, the tradition remained the same: they had a priest come to bless the boat by putting it under the protection of a patron saint, most often

Saint Nicholas.

Most of the sailors were very religious and superstitious. Their daily life being difficult and dangerous, they did not hesitate to follow the signs they received to the letter.

What was the most sought after quality for a Loire sailor ?

You need a "good natural judgment" as the ancients used to say,

to know how to discern its depth by eye.

Today, it is not uncommon in summer to see canoes stranded

in the middle of a sandy bottom unable to leave.

The Loire is thus an irregular and uncertain waterway. According to historians,

although the Loire was used for a long time for navigation,

it was never really navigable.

So, be careful!

If you wish to venture out, opt for a safe boat ride and choose those that will also tell you the history of this long local tradition.

We also recommend a visit to the Maison de Loire in Saint-Dyé-sur-Loire

which retraces the life of this former port of Chambord during the Renaissance:

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