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Trollhattan Canal

The Canal
The Trollhattan Locks from the South Inside Sluss 5 at Trollhattan The William Tham on the lower reaches of the Gota Alv

The one thing that people remember about the Trolhattan Canal is the size of the locks. The enormous 9 metre drop seems to swallow the yacht whole, but in practice, due to the locks double bottom, turbulence is non existent and the whole process serene.

Unlike the Gota, the canal is a commercial affair, set up for large ships. The waterway is wide and deep. There are only 6 locks in the 47 miles, and 4 of those are in a staircase at Trollhattan.

Everything is operated remotely, supervised by TV cameras, and controlled by lights. These are a bit confusing at first, as there are separate lights for the locks/bridges and the canal, but you soon get the hang of it. Payment (660 SEK for us - £50) was taken at the canal offices at Trollhattan top lock.

The locks do need a rather different technique. There are bollards set into the wall at about 5 foot vertical intervals, and you must get a rope onto these. As you rise or fall, you put a second rope on the next bollard up or down, releasing the previous rope. The drop is too big to leave ropes in place. There is also the odd ladder, where you can use the rungs. The best thing on entering the lock is to aim for a ladder, and put the stern rope on a rung and the bow rope on a bollard.

Bollards are fairly well spaced out and are mostly on the Eastern wall. The west sides of the locks are hewn out of bare rock and best avoided if possible.

There are few places to stop once below Trollhattan. The only real options are Lilla Edit by the southernmost lock, which has a small Marina, and Kungälv, where there is a pretty castle, but limited depths. We did the whole canal from Trollhattan to Gothenburg in a day. The lower reaches of the canal are actually the Gota Alv river, and though pretty, are frankly, rather boring.

A couple of bridges, notably at Vänersborg and Gothenburg, have 18 meters or less of height when unopened. You must be sure of your height or talk to the controllers on VHF.


About 10 miles south of the Gota exit at Sjötorp lies the town of Mariestad. Reaching it entails going under an 18 meter fixed bridge (know your mast height) and a winding, bouyed channel. The result however is worth it.

Mariestad is an ideal crew change location as it is a short bus ride from the main line at Skövde, which has direct trains to Stockholm or Gothenburg and then via Ryanair to the UK. (You can get a regional ticket for about £20 which will get you all the way to Gothenburg City airport).

Mariestad town centre, which has a market on weekdays, is another 60s Swedish concrete jungle, but the tree lined roads leading up to the centre soften it considerably, and the old town, with its cathedral, is enchanting. Twice a day, the Cathedral clock chimes 'Abide with Me'

The guest marina is at the extreme head of the harbour (stern bouys), close to the helpful tourist office, and is perfectly sheltered. There is alongside mooring for really big boats.

There are a few reasonable resturants. The Thai resturant opposite the Bus Station is very good, and the harbour cafe next to the Tourist Bureau is not bad.

Crowds watching the falls from Oscars Bridge The Falls in action

Trollhattan, about 10 miles and 1 lock south of the Lake Vänern, is a major visitor centre, partly for the pretty parkland surrounding the locks, and partly for the spectacular falls, which are operated for brief periods on Wednesdays and Weekends during the summer. If you want to view the spectacle, stand on the Oscars bridge just before 3pm.

The town itself has quite extensive shops for its size, with more than the average number of resturants and pubs, although some get quite busy. There's also a Saab museum and a cable car. In July they celebrate Falls Day, and in August, the Dragon Boat festival. Info on all this is in English on a good local Website.

There are two marinas. One, Spikön, is near the town and falls, and mooring is to stern bouys in a little bay off the canal. Facilities are a bit limited (1 shower) but the nearby resturant does good food. The other marina is right by the top lock (Sluss No 2), which is some 2km south of the town. Its small, but a good stopping place if you want to see the old locks.

The canal at Trollhattan has three generations of locks, and all are still in situ, albeit mostly dewatered. The original narrow 1800 staircase is right by the cafe, and the second 1844 staircase nearby. All can be traversed by footpaths, including the current flight of 4 huge locks, built in 1916. The whole area is parkland and is popular with visitors. Buses run between the locks and the town for tourists. Its well worth a look.

Useful resources

North Sea Passage Pilot by Brian Navin The essential

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