Fixed Mast route (Staande Mast Route)

As the North Sea promised pretty strong winds the upcoming days we decided to go on the inland water ways of Netherlands, the Fixed mast route (Staande Mast Route) instead. So after our visit in Norderney we headed towards the Fixed Mast Route entrance in Delfzijl. We first thought about taking the route over the Wadden Sea, where you can go if you time the tide. You could also get stuck if you calculate wrong. We decided to take the longer way around Borkum as this was a bit safer, we thought. If you want to see our way through the canals you can go to Our Route, and zoom in over Netherlands.

We decided to go around the islands and not go over the Wadden sea.
Day 0 – Arriving at the ENtrance (23 September)

We arrived in Delfzijl in the evening and anchored in the harbor, and shortly after anchoring we talked to a Swedish guy who just passed through the fixed mast route and he told us that there was an issue with one of the bridges before Groningen and that it hadn’t been able to open in a couple of days. He had taken a long detour to be able to get out of the canals (a route that wouldn’t have been possible for us as our boat has a deeper drought). It was late and no one we could call that day so we had to wait for morning to learn more about how this would affect us.

Costs: Harbor fee Delfzijl: 17€

Day 1 – Entering the canal (24 September)

The following morning we called a number we found and learned that they would operate the bridge between 10-12 every day from now on, so that was our window to pass the bridge. As we wouldn’t have made it to the bridge the day after our arrival in Delfzijl, we spent the morning doing some last minute planning for the canals and went on a walk to find some thing we needed, and we actually manage to find most of them. For the planning of going through the Fixed Mast Route we found this blog post very helpful: HERE.

After lunch we took company with a German sailboat and passed through the first lock into the canal. The first leg of the canal is shared with the professional shipping and except for the cool canal boats this part is pretty boring. We passed under a lot of bridges, most opened straight away when we arrived, some took a bit longer.

First leg of the Fixed mast route (staande mast route) was pretty boring except for the cool canal boats.

We finally arrived to the bridge that was under repair and we had to stop. We anchored at one of the waiting places for pleasure boats together with the German sailboat. It was a pretty boring place to spend the night as it was a lot of big boats passing close by and not possible to go ashore, but at least we would be ready to pass the bridge at 10 the following morning. We had a beer and a nice chat with our neighbors for the night before we ate dinner and fell asleep.

Costs: 0€ 

Day 2 – Groningen – Dokkum (25 September)

The following morning we woke up and ate breakfast and at 10 the bridge opened and we could pass through it and into Groningen. We wouldn’t stop in Groningen as we wanted to get further, but when passing through it looked like a really nice town. We took the route past the old town with a lot of small bridges, but that didn’t take long as they just opened the bridges when we passed through.

Passing through Groningen.
Just passed through one of the bridges, followed by a cool old sail ship.
Just about to pass through another bridge. The red and green light means “stand-by” and when only the green light shows you are allowed to pass through, according to the book at least. We noticed that some bridge operators waved to us to go through the bridge as soon as it was open enough for us to get under. Guess they want us to pass by fast so that they can open for traffic again.

Many cool “house-boats on the canals.

After Groningen we continued up north through the canals, most of the time through the countryside with a lot of sheep and cows. During this day we passed through 3 locks, and in one of them we had a big ship poking our mizzen mast with their bowsprit because there was so little room in the lock.

We also had one “almost-got-stuck-in-the-mud”-moment. We drifted a bit off course from the buoys and suddenly it was hard to steer the boat. We added some extra gas and got loose from the mud. Our drought is 1.7 meters and the rest of the canal was not an issue, we kept in the middle of the canal as much as we could.

Passing by a cool village. 

We had hoped that we would have reached the village Dokkum that evening but the bridges before Dokkum closed at 18, and we arrived at the last bridge shortly after, so instead we anchored at one of the anchor spots next to the canal. This was really cosy and free!

Our anchorage for the night on the countryside.

Costs: 0€ 

Day 3 – Dokkum-LEMMER (26 September)

The next morning we got up and passed under the bridge as soon as it opened. We passed through many cosy villages this day and this part of the canal was the most scenic one. In Leauwaarden we stopped for lunch (as the bridges closed for lunch 12-13) and walked a bit and had a really amazing poke bowl. By 13 we where back at the boat and passed through Leauwaarden. After Leauwaarden we sailed at an aqueduct over the highway, pretty cool!

Waiting for a bridge opening.
Funny looking bridge.

Shortly after Leauwaarden the Fixed Mast Route re-joined with the professional shipping route. We arrived in Lemmer shortly after dark and found a berth there. It was very windy that night and we didn’t get a very good sleep because of all the sound that comes with strong winds.

Costs: 8,5€ (for bridge openings) 

Day 4 – LEMMER-Amsterdam (27 September)

We left our berth in Lemmer early and departed for the locks towards IJesselmeer. Once we got into the lake we set sails and sailed towards the locks between IJesselmeer and Markenmeer.

Once we had passed the locks once more we set sails again and headed towards Amsterdam. Before reaching the marina in Amsterdam we had to pass one more lock, and then we found a spot in a marina close to the city centre. We took a well-needed shower and took one of the ferries to the city centre. We walked around in the town and ate dinner before heading back to the boat. We would have liked to stay longer and explore Amsterdam more but as we had a good weather window the following day to start our sail to France we only spent one evening in Amsterdam.

A short visit in Amsterdam.

We departed early from Amsterdam and followed the canal to Ijmuiden, where we would pass the last lock before entering the sea once more.

Costs: 20€ (Amsterdam marina) 

Kiel canal transit

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.