Locks - Through the Gota Canal | Sailing Blog - Technical Hints and Tips - Sailing Television

Locks - Through the Gota Canal

Recommendations for transiting the Gota Canal in Sweden always state you need at least 3 people on a boat to lock through. One will stay at the helm, one will deal with lines and one will get off to thread lines through the rings used to secure the boat in this old system.

The Gota Canal was built in 1810-20 and most of the locks are original. Maximum dimensions of boats are... Width: 7 m; length: 30 m; depth 2.82 m; height: 22 m. I think if your boat really is 7 meters wide you wouldn’t have room for fenders - possibly not even a thick coat of paint!! Distant Shores II is 4.3 meters wide and we were fine (with our big fenders) but it sure feels snug especially going between the many bridges. I was prepared for the 58 locks to feel snug, but not thinking of bridges. Coming up to a 7 meter wide bridge in a crosswind needs careful lining-up.

On our first day in the locks there were a number of smaller boats, plus the lovely Deodar - 23 meters long and 6 meters beam. They definitely were more than snug edging through the bridges. Here they are maneuvering into a lock and trying to keep the fenders from rolling out. By the end of 3 days they had a few scratches on the hull.

We have 4 very large fenders plus 2 slightly smaller (but still large) fenders and hoped this would be fine. In reality I think we should have bought 2-3 more medium fenders. We also set up a nice long 2by4 board to protect the fenders as they slide up the rough lock walls. 8-10 feet long and drill a hole through the board so the supporting ropes won’t chafe. We find the board saves the fenders which can otherwise get quite torn up.

Note the rig we use to deal with the lines. The bow line is led from the forward cleat all the way aft to the cockpit and put on a winch. I have done the same with the stern line. This way I can control bow and stern tightening both lines as we go up.

Yesterday evening we finished the Gota Canal - 5 days and 58 locks. Lots of fun and lovely scenery! I would recommend a few more fenders - even just temporary ones if you can’t keep them after doing the locks. Good insurance!!

Here is a shot of sailing off across Lake Vattern. One of the big advantages of the Gota Canal is that it allows 22 meters of mast clearance. No low bridges like on the Trent Severn, Erie Canal and most other canal systems. So we don’t have to worry about taking the mast down - plus we can enjoy a nice sail on Sweden’s lakes!

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