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Portugese Barco Rabelo by Daryl Hannant - Scale 1:80 - Finshed

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Background History.


The Barco Rabelo (Rabelo boat) is a flat bottom boat first built in the 9th century to navigate the rapids of the Douro River in Portugal, carrying up to 100 barrels of port from the Port Houses to the coast as the river was then the only means of accessing the wineries. It had a crew of 12 men and was noted for its long steering oar which was managed from a raised platform above the port barrels.


In 1887, a railway line was built along the banks of the Duoro and this started the demise of the Rabelo. Eventually roads were also built and the last official trip of a Rabelo is thought to have taken place in 1964.


To celebrate the history of the Rabelo, a race is held annually on St John's day (24th June) where each Port House enters its own Rabelo.


My build.


Thanks to Ryan Opaz from Vrazon, I was fortunate to obtain a copy of plans drawn up for a Rabelo in May 1989 for the A.A.Ferreira, S.A. Port House in Vila Nova de Gaia. The plans were held in the Sogrape Vinhos S.A. archives and I am very grateful to them for providing me with the plans. These are the only official plans of a Rabelo that I have been able to find and they do differ in some areas as to how a Rabelo was originally built.

Edited by Daryl
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Step 1 - making jig.


The first photo is of the plans. When I originally downloaded them they were 50Mb and have since been cut down.


The next photo is the start of the build. It is a jig I have made to shape what would normally be called a keel. As the Rabelo is flat bottomed it does not have a keel. It has a flat bottom which is the shape of a surf board with a point at each end, which was called the "Sagro". The older Rabelos then had an extended stem and stern post (Oucas) attatched to the Sagro. On my plans, the centre plank of the Sagro runs from the tip of the bow to the tip of the stern and then there are two internal "strengtheners" called the "Roda Popa" (Stern brace) and "Roda Proa" (Bow brace) used to help keep the shape.


Tomorrow I am off to Float a Boat to get my strips of wood to commence the build. As this is a 1:80 scale and the overall length (minus the huge steering oar) will only be 250mm, I am thinking of also going to the optometrist to get the eyes checked. :-)



Edited by Daryl
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Hi wefalck


Thank you for the link. I have just had a quick read. I am trying to find as much information as possible on the Barco Rabelo and the Douro so I will add that link to my collection.



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Hi Tadeusz


Thank you for the great photos. The Rabelo is a very interesting boat and I am always very keen to see new photos as I cannot find anything that details exactly how the rigging is installed. I have a good idea but it would be fantastic to know exactly how it is done. I am currently talking to some people from the wineries in Portugal who are looking for me so fingers crossed that by the time I get to the rigging I have all the information I need.



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Step 3 - Installing temporary reference frame.


As the frames are only inserted once the hull planks have been installed, I have decided to install a temporary framework from which I can take measurements whilst installing each plank. This hopefully will ensure I have the planks at equal distance from the center line at each point a frame is to be inserted. Nothing worse than having one side laying out/in more than the other.






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I have now completed building the Sagro.


The following photos show the planks being attached and then the final shaping. On the old Rabelos, before any side planking was done, the Sagro was shaped by placing the two ends on raised posts/planks and then placing weights on the centre. The plan I am using has a straight Sagro.










The next piece of work is to attach a triangular piece of wood to the full length of the bow and stern which will provide additional support for attaching the side planks. This is not normally done but due to the small scale of this boat the additional wood will certainly help.


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  • 1 month later...

Finally got around to doing some more on the Rabelo.


The first step was to install the cross braces on the sagro.



Now came the fun of adding the planking.










And that completes the build of the clinker hull.




The next job will be to install the frames. It will be fun cutting them to size to fit.

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  • 2 weeks later...

This cold weather has kept me inside so lots of small projects being done. The Rabelo is progressing nicely and the following show where it is at now.


The next task was to fit the bottom braces and side frames.



You will notice that the frames extend above the previous planking. This is because they have both internal and external beams attatched to them and then some side trim. The following three photos are of the beams and trim being attached. Don't you just love those little pegs. Very hand for a model that is only 230mm long.








Now it is time to install the front and rear decking and the central walkway.




There is a framework that holds the port barrels. The first pieces are the supports that run along the inside of the hull above the previously installed beams.




At this point, I thought it would be best to start painting the inside before fitting the barrel framework. Some of the Rabelos have intricate paint jobs and I will be attempting to copy the paint work on an original Ferreira Port House Barco Rabelo.






As the paint dries, I am off to continue work on my next Diddley Bow.


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I changed the color of the decking to keep it more in line with the original Rabelo. Also painted the external trim the same color. There is some yellow coming so it should be very colorful when finished. The photo does not look the best and I think my trusty little Canon Ixus 95 IS has just about taken it last photo.



I am sure the original Coqueiro (stern cover) was made from several pieces of timber but due to the size of the model, I decided to carve one out of a piece of huon pine. Pity it has to be eventually painted yellow as the pine looks really nice in its natural state.




Next up is completing the framework that holds the port barrels. The great little pegs sure come in hand to hold the cross pieces in place while the glue sets.




Should have the framework finished tomorrow.

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Things are happening quickly now. I have completed and installed the support infrastructure for the barrels, installed the Coqueiro, installed the Pegada (platform) and given the boat a complete new paint job.  It is starting to look good.










I have now started on the mast and rigging. Getting good information on the exact rigging used has been difficult but I think I have everything I need.



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It has been another good day inside in the warmth.


Went shopping at Float a Boat yesterday and stocked up on some bits and pieces.


I now have the mast stepped and the Forestay and Shrouds installed. After looking at lots of photos and drawings I realised that even though the rigging seemed to be similar on all Rabelos, there were some differences. So, with that in mind, I am installing the basics but with a bit of a difference here and there.


I was unable to find something that showed exactly how the shrouds were connected to the hull so I have taken the view that the shroud had a sheepshank (used for adjustments) that led into an eye and then it was tied off on a cleat.


As these are working boats that have large wine barrels loaded and unloaded on them and travelled down a very dangerous river which subjected them to some damage, I decided to make the model not look perfect but to have a "used" look about it.


As an example, you will note that all the sheepshanks are not exactly the same size and not perfectly in line.


Two of the shrouds are mainly used to keep the platform in place, so maybe they could be called something else.


I hope to finish the rigging (halyard) soon and then I can paint up a sail to go with it.











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The rigging is now completed and if anyone has a very good understanding of exactly how a Barco Rabelo should be rigged, please let me know. The more detail you have the better, especially how it is all connected to the hull.


I have decided to put the sail on hold and will now concentrate on making the Espadela/Scutcher (sweep oar). If I do put the sail on I think it will just be furled on the








One day I will make another Barco Rabelo as I have learnt so much building this one I am sure I can do a better job next time around. That is why I would appreciate receiving any information that would be helpful.

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