Marais Bacôve Boat Builders 2019 Clairmarais (3)Bacôve trip in the Audomarois marshes with the "Faiseurs de Bateaux
©Bacôve trip in the Audomarois marshes with the "Faiseurs de Bateaux|P.Hudelle - Tourisme en Pays de Saint-Omer
Tour of the Audomarois marshlands

With Les Faiseurs de Bateaux

Would you like to visit the Audomarois marshes with a group of enthusiasts? In the heart of the suburbs of Saint-Omer, Les Faiseurs de Bateaux are the last remaining builders of traditional wooden boats. With this Entreprise du Patrimoine Vivant (Living Heritage Company), unique in the Hauts-de-France region, you’ll embark on a journey to the heart of authentic, unforgettable know-how dating back thousands of years!

The soul of the Marais Audomarois

In the past, all market gardeners had their escute and bâcove, traditional flat-bottomed boats, to navigate the aquatic labyrinths of the marsh. After the war, the modernization of techniques led to the disappearance from the landscape of these oak boats, which were nevertheless so solid, elegant and practical.

In 1997, Gérard Colin, the last manufacturer, retired. 10 years later, his little nephew Rémy revived the shipbuilding tradition and inherited its construction secrets. With his father Vincent, he embarked on this crazy adventure! Les Faiseurs de Bateaux return to populate the canals of the Audomarois marsh with boats as authentic and aesthetic as they are ecological.

Unique know-how

No instructions, no school, just tailor-made, time, respect for nature and patience. Building a escute takes over a month.For a bacôve, it’s double that.

In sun-dried oak from the forests of Clairmarais, these boats require ancient, rare, forgotten techniques: flame-bending oak planks and caulking with linen oakum. In the workshop we visit, dozens of jigs, hammers, planes, saws speak of a craft saved from oblivion.

Enthralling, the smell of charred pine resin surrounds us. It will coat each of the boats’ wood fibers to protect them for as long as possible.

A living heritage company

How many have they built in the last 15 years? Maybe 70, 80, but it’s not the quantity that counts. Recognized as a “Living Heritage Company”, a label that distinguishes traditional and innovative companies with excellent know-how, the “Colin & Cie family” company builds boats for individuals and companies in the Audomarois marshlands, the Château de Versailles,the ramparts of Gravelines, the canals of Saint-Quentin or the hortillonnages of Amiens. But today, what they’re most proud of is reviving in their own way, without departing from their values, this gentle, nature-friendly mode of travel, perfect for showing visitors around the marsh.

Rémy, the last boat builder, takes you through time
Rémy, the last boat builder, takes you through time
Rémy, dernier faiseur de bateaux, vous fait traverser le temps

Different boarding

With Benoît the carpenter, Loïc, Lucie or Aurore, the organic market gardeners, or Jérémie, the storyteller, we embark on inspired, different walks, where each tells “his” marsh. Wildlife, festivals, traditions, local history: the Little Venice of the North is revealed in all its diversity. A walk from which we emerge happy, serene and inspired.