Needing to be up in Tours last Wednesday we decided that, as the day was so lovely, we'd drive a little along the river Cher towards Villandry before cutting across country to head home.
|Traditional boats on the Cher at Savonnières|
we stopped and had a quick look at the church as well as just spending some time watching the river flow over the weir. The level was quite low, certainly much lower than on our previous visit
when we watched a blue heron being displaced from his fishing perch by a white egret. As usual there were a couple of traditional boats moored in the river above the weir. A little bit of research informed us that the most common types of boat to ply the rivers were the gabare and fûtreau.
|New boat passing a traditional boat - probably a gabare|
By now there was a flurry of activity in Savonnières
as cyclists, other visitors and locals hurried to get bread at the boulangerie before it closed for lunch. We let oursevles be tempted into staying on for lunch and in the parking lot of the restaurant we found the boat below:
|Dame Perinelle - a scute de Loire|
The notice pinned to the side said she was the "Dame Perinelle"
and that she was a boat of historical interest as decreed by the 'Fondation du Patrimoine Maritime et Fluvial'. In fact, the "Dame Perinelle
" is an historic reconstruction of a mediaeval river boat used on both the Cher and Loire of a type know as a 'scute fluvial' or 'scute de Loire'; a boat with an extremely shallow draft which allowed them to navigate successfully far up river. She even has a whole paragraph to herself in the French Wikipedia
entry on the two types of 'scute' - coastal and riverine. She has been built using only authentic materials and tools, exactly as would have been the case in the Middle Ages. So, for example, she has no nails, screws or bolts and is caulked with plant matter.
|Another traditional boat: possibly a fûtreau |
We'd heard of the word 'scute' before, but only in connection with the coastal type of boat. In Friesland, The Netherlands, there is a famous sailing competition called "Skûtsjesilen"
where they race skûtsjes
[the coastal version] which were once the workhorses of the waters along the Belgain and Dutch coasts; much as the riverine 'scute' was on the rivers Cher and Loire.
|Scutes sailing up the river Loire at Tours [Pierre-Antoine Demachy, 1787]|
As usual it just goes to show you never know what you're going to stumble on! It was a lovely surprise to find a mediaeval boat in the car park as we went for lunch; which incidentally, was excellent indeed!