Atlantic Circuit,  Northern Europe,  Sailing

Kiel canal transit

September 18-20, 2020

We left Vejrø Friday afternoon, September 18th and did a night sail to Kiel (or we mostly went by engine) so we could transit the canal. It was our first night sail, and a good first night. Calm weather and clear skies. As it was our first night we both where up most of the night, with some shorter naps.

We arrived to the entrance to the canal in the morning (around 9-10) and ate breakfast and drank coffee while drifting around in the waiting area outside the locks together with the other sailboats. We waited for a pretty long time, the reason seemed to be some oil leakage in the lock.

This year, due to the Corona virus, there was no fee for the Kiel canal transit, but otherwise you can pay for the transit fee just outside the locks and in some places in the canal. We had the Kiel canal regulations for recreational craft printed out before we left Sweden, which we found HERE. But you can get a copy by the locks as well. Some of the more important regulations for recreational crafts entering the canal is:

  • Keep to the right so that big ships can pass by
  • Sailing in the canal is forbidden
  • Recreational craft is only allowed to sail during daylight hours (daylight hours is specified in the regulations document we linked to above) and have to plan their sail to reach a berthing before nightfall.

After a pretty long wait the lock gates opened and we where allowed to enter after the professional shipping. In the Kiel-Holtenau locks recreational craft and commercial vessels share the locks, and the commercial vessels are first to enter. When we went through the locks the commercial vessels anchored to the left in the locks and the recreational crafts on the right.

The locks in the Kiel canal was pretty easy to use, as the platforms in the locks are floating you can attach the ropes back onto the boat and then leave it like that until the gates open, which didn’t take very long. When the gates opened the recreational craft left the locks first followed by the commercial vessel.

After leaving the locks it was a lot of things going on, sailboats everywhere and big cargo ships going both out of the locks and into the locks. Just to keep to the right and don’t go in front of the big ships and it all worked out really well. It calmed down quickly and then we just cruised along the canal for a while.

Boats everywhere when leaving the locks at Kiel-Holtenau.
kiel canal transit
Passing a big cargo ship on our Kiel canal transit.

As we entered the canal around mid-day it was no way we would have made it to the locks in Brunsbuttel in one day. We decided to stay in Rendsburg for the night. There are some different places you can stay around Rendsburg, and we chose the marina closest to the town, as we needed to buy some groceries and wanted to eat at a restaurant as we where really tired. We payed 16€ for our stay in Rendsburg.

Wienerschnitzel and beer in Rendsburg.

The following day, Sunday September 20th, we left Rendsburg around 8 in the morning. As we planned to head for Cuxhaven that day we wanted to get as favorable tides as possible when we reached Elbe. We planned to reach Elbe when the current was against us and then it would turn so we could go with it for a while but still avoid entering the marina when the current was at its strongest. Our planning turned out okey, but we did go very slow in the beginning when sailing down Elbe.

More big ships in the Kiel canal.

Our second day on the canal was pretty much similar to the first one and we finally arrived to Brunsbuttel and where ready to enter the North Sea. In Brunsbuttel the recreational craft have their own locks, but these are pretty easy as well with floating platforms.

We entered Elbe and as mentioned above we had the current against us and for the first hour or so we went really slow. We motored a bit first until the current had calmed down a bit and then we set sail for a while. We reached Cuxhaven just before sunset and it was really interesting to enter the marina when you have the current pushing you aside.

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