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The Kiel Canal


Date: Sunday 1st June to Tuesday 3rd June

Distance : 84 miles.

Weather : Fair, Wind up to F5, but latterly Thunderstorms

A day off in Cuxhaven, and then to catch the tide up the Elbe to Bunsbuttel and the Kiel Canal (properly the Nord-Ostsee Canal). What wind there was, obviously, was on the nose, and the tides conspired to be more difficult than planned. They seem to turn in the Elbe about 90 minutes after High-tide at Cuxhaven, which itself is 90 mins after Helgoland, and run at about 2 knots.

Traffic on the ElbeThe Elbe is a bit like the M25 in shipping terms, as it's the main river up to Hamburg. Getting across it is a bit like playing chicken.

In the event,we arrived at Bunsbuttel around 12:30 and were kept waiting for about half an hour. By this time, around 15 yachts were bouncing around the waiting area (which, basically, is just the Elbe), before the inevitable free-for-all rush for the lock. In true Dutch style we played along and managed to carve up a few yachts but got beaten by a couple of motor boats, who cheated by going faster. We tied up, almost at the front of the lock. It was then that the strategy was revealed to be flawed. First, another yacht rafted up to us, which was not only easier for them (see below) but also gave them an advantage as it meant they would leave before us. In the game of getting out the lock first, this was a win for them. Secondly, he insisted on using his bow-thruster to push us into the pontoon - exactly what we didn't want.

Bunsbuttel LocksThe Kiel Canal locks have floating pontoons attached to the lock wall that Yachts can tie up to. Unfortunately, they float just about at water level, and the plastic fenders we use just 'pop out'. Some people recommend weighting the fenders with chain, but we simply dropped them until the whole fender floated on the water. Traffic passing on the Kiel canal

There are very few places you are allowed to stop on the Canal. The first primary one, after leaving the locks, is Rendsburg, 40 miles away. This has limited moorings and after the last few days of mayhem, and 15 boats leaving the lock, we wanted to get at the head of the convoy to make sure we got a mooring, which, following the rush to get out of the locks, we did.  There is a speed limit of around 7 knots on the canal for pleasure craft.

The IncidentThe canal is pretty, but a long boring motor. We did pass one incident with both Police and Firemen clustered round a small yacht by the shore. Whether it had sunk or been holed we werent sure, but it seemed a lot of emergency people for one yacht.

About 8pm we arrived at Rendsburg - first. Guess what - loads of moorings. And only about 3 of the following yachts (all Hallberg-Rassys!) followed us. Rendsburg turned out to be the opposite of the last few days - empty and sleepy.

Locks at HoltenauFollowing a days lay over, we left Rensburg for the last 20 miles of the Canal to Kiel.

On arrival at Kiel, we got some Diesel from the fuel barge just outside the canal. Predictably, it cleaned out all our Euros, (including rifling through the boat for small change) and had to also give them some (English) funny money to make up the difference. Diesel was €0.80 a litre


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