Sailing the Baltic - Kiel Canal to Gota Canal | Distant Shores Sailing Newsletters

Sailing the Baltic - Kiel Canal to Gota Canal

September 9, 2010

Göta Canal

Today I am writing to you from the Swedish town of Motala, the capital of the Gota Canal. which we are transiting from the east coast all the way across the country to the west coast.

In this newsletter I will continue the story of this summer's cruise to countries of the Baltic Sea starting with another canal which we travelled through in June after leaving the Frisian Islands - the Kiel Canal of Germany. In German it called the NORD-OSTSEE-KANAL and according to the official website it is the world's busiest artificial waterway and is the basis for trade between the countries of the Baltic area and the rest of the world. About 43,000 ships pass through the canal annually, not including small craft, so it is a busy place and makes an interesting 2-day trip in a sailboat.

The Kiel Canal runs for almost 100 km (about 61 miles) across the Schleswig-Holstein, the northernmost of the 16 states of Germany which borders Denmark to the north, the North Sea to the west, and the Baltic Sea to the east. It goes from Brunsbüttel to Kiel-Holtenau and links the North Sea with the Baltic. An average of 250 nautical miles will be saved by using the Kiel Canal instead of going around the top of Denmark to the north.

There were lots of sailboats travelling with us flying mostly the German and Dutch flags and we all locked through together in Brunsbüttel, the first lock at the start of the canal, and then 2-days later went through the second lock at the end of the canal in Kiel. There are many marinas and sailing clubs to stop at along the way but we stopped at the sailing club in Rensborg, a pretty town with well preserved medieval buildings where we enjoyed the great Saturday market held in the town square.

When we popped out of the canal in Kiel there was a tall ship festival going on. Bands were playing, parachutists were dropping out of the sky, and there were hundreds (or so it seemed) of classic boats sailing in the harbour. It was quite an entrance to the Baltic Sea!

From Kiel we had a lovely afternoon sail up to a fjord called the Schlei, our last port in Germany. The anchorage was huge but there were only 2 other boats there. Meanwhile the marinas in the fjord were packed solid with boats rafted 2-3 deep! This was a situation we saw repeatedly throughout Scandinavia during the summer. Sailors here do not like to swing at anchor the way we do so we rarely encountered a crowded anchorage even in the high season. Everyone is happy to raft-up in marinas so no matter how crowded they are everyone is welcome and a space is found for you.

From Schlei we explored Denmark's south Funen archipelago first visiting the small rural island of Lyø where we were befriended by one of the families running a traditional dairy farm there. Their son, who runs the beach cafe at the harbour in the summer, was an exchange student in Canada for a year so we had lots to talk about. We also had a delightful visit to the Maritime Museum in Lyø which is run by Susi Hansen a ship's captain's wife who started this interesting collection in her kitchen and tells wonder seafaring stories to all visitors.

Next stop was Faaborg where we stayed at the marina there and learned much about the history of the harbour from enthusiastic marina attendant, Kim Ingerslev, who speaks seven languages and makes every visitor feel so welcome. There is a great 100-year-old smokehouse at the harbour, Faaborg Fiskehuset, where salmon and herring are smoked in the traditional way. We documented the process for one of the 13 new Distant Shores episodes we're filming this summer which will be broadcast in spring 2011.

A real highlight in this region of Denmark is a visit to the island of Æro to the harbours at Æroskobing and Marstel. We stayed at the commercial harbour in Æroskobing and rented a little electric car from the tourist office there and drove down to Marstel at the other end of the island to see the excellent maritime museum there. Æroskobing is an historic and picturesque “fairytale” village and we learned much about it from the wonderful nightwatchman tour given every night a 9 PM during the summer months.

We returned here a week later after picking up our parents at the airport in Copenhagen for a week's visit. We hadn't seen our families since the end of February and it was now July so we had a lot of catching up to do. From Æroskobing we sailed with them along the south and east coasts of Denmark stopping at many small harbours along the way to Copenhagen where we moored in the heart of the city in the Nyhavn canal. From here we could walk to all the city's major attractions and had a couple of culture-filled days visiting museums and palaces before they flew home to Canada. We finished our week in Copenhagen with a visit by long-time friend Charlotte Pedersen and her daughter, Kamma. We met Charlotte in Gibraltar where she had been working in 1990 and have stayed in touch meeting up in various countries over the years.

Next on to Sweden where we sailed along the south and east coasts which are full of delightful islands. I'll write in more detail about after our visit to the Southampton Boat Show this weekend. We'll be at the Southerly Yachts stand, berths 312-319, on Saturday September 11 and Sunday September 12 from 1:00 to 3:00 p.m. Hope to see you there!

Until then,

Sheryl and Paul Shard
Aboard Distant Shores II
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