Finally On Czech Rivers
(little itinerary about navigation Slapy – Prague – Mělník – Kolín and back to Prague)
Originally we wanted to navigate from Prague to Kolín and back but the fortune placed our ship all the way to Slapy. Thes made our journey longer but on the other hand made us to get to know another part of The Vltava River. And our itinerary is this section of the river richer. We made this journey mainly to find out how „well equiped“ both rivers are or are not for holiday navigation.
Day 1: Sunday in The Slapy Dam
As at the beginning of our each navigation we are taking over a ship. It is Sunday morning. Everything goes easily and after less than an hour we make ourselves at home on the ship deck. Five people and a dog: myself, my wife, our son, two little grandaughters and Ajda The Dog. It is time to introduce our boat: River Boat 26 „Otis“ motor yacht, 8 m long, standartly equiped with everything needed for „permanent confortable stay“, usage of 3l DO per hour in max. speed 11 km/hour. Later we are finding out that the navigational atributes are not bad. Afterwards we finally find time to look around the marina – The Blue Marina (Modrá Loděnice) in Ždáň on The Slapy Dam (Vltava – 95 riv. km). We are about to spend there the Sunday night and I must say that this marina is the best one in both provided equipment and services of the ones we visit during our journey.
In the afternoon we spend few hours paddling accross the dam with all the Sunday mummery iverywhere around us: sail-vessels, scows, pedal-boats, liloes, heads… good slalom training. After getting to know the dam about 15 km against the stream we have not spotted even one useful manmade landing place or marina We findd it rather risky to disembark at the rocky banks or to anchor with another ship. The jetties we passed were all private or meant for holiday water-buses.
Day 2: Embargo On Ships At Prague Entrance
Second day in the morlning we are sailing of to the dam where we get through an interesting maneuvre – transporting the ship accross the embankment. Even though everytheing is arranged ahead by the phone we have to wait and hour and call the „maneuvrists“ once again before a tractor with a trailer finally appears on the slip and the transportation itself can start. After the ship is fastened onto the trailer platform we set out for kilometr long journey accross a village to the lagoon under the weir. Eventhough this happening is a very new experience, everything works smoothly and fast, we even do not have time to get out of the boat.
We have moved from one pool into another one – The Štěchovice Dam Lake. While navigating through a deep rocky and wooded valley I think about the original settlers of these river banks and their sorrow after watter began to flood Saint-John Streams to bury the place forever. If I was them I would be very upset, but without flooding the original river banks I could hardly sail through this place…really unpleasant quandary. The Štechovice dam is deserted, only 7 km long and soon we see a dam crown and a lock. While waiting for getting through we are swiming. Whoa, water temperature is 10 dgrees colder than in The Slapy Dam.
To cope with the height difference of 20 m is easy, the lock is the only one with floating bollards. And it is time to scuddle into Prague! There is a refill station in Štěchovice placed about 100 m far from a jetty on the left bank, but we do not need anything yet. Then we pass „two-coloured water interfernence“ on The Sázava River and The Vltava River confluence in Davle and without waiting with ease go down locks in Vrané nad Vltavou and in Modřany, than we a home dock-yards of our ship in Císařská louka and look forward to a river-transpor mummery in inner Prague. So far we have kept our speed quite high thanks to the river stream what make us think that we will manage to reach today´s destination – Nelahozeves. Ther is also a very good anchor in Císařská Louka Yacht Club in Smíchov Dock Yards.
We are lucky – Smíchov lock is not busy and after calling we have to wait only few minutes. It spits us out under The Charles Bridge into a jostle at all possible boats and other vessels, which only reason is to offer the tourists on the deck as many views at the Mother of Towns as possible in the shortest time possible. This leads into a traffic clutter where the big ships are tottering like whirl abouts between three bridges not considering the smaller ones. I wish we were already in Štvanice chamber.
In Štvanice we receive bad news. The Vltava River is „closed“ under Trója untill tommorrow noon. So we have to „look for accommodation“. We are finding „shelter“ in a dock-yard of SC Libeňský ostrov in a public marina Prague-Libeň. If I was asked about my opinion on a services quality and tidiness of the place I would have to say that „one day it might become a quite okay marina with interesting museum of historical vessels on the bank“. But they serve good beer there and it is 47.6 riv. km.
Day 3: From Vltava To Labe
On Tuesday we set out before 10 A.M. hoping that we might be lucky and a lock in Podbaba might open earlier. But no way – we will be navigated throught exactly at noon. While the rest of the family is shopping or maybe sitting in confectionery I am thinking if it is possible to navigate all the way to Kolín and arrive back to Prague by Saturday morning.
Just before noon a tow-boat with a cargo tug tears to the lock, the green light turns on and The Vltava River is „open“ again. We follow the tow-boat as our „advance guard“ almost the all day. The river stream leads out ship through a beautiful rocky valley that stretches all the way to Libčice n.v. In the critical parts, where the fairway narrows and the river is faster, we do not have to pay a lot of attention to checking on the nautical depth because dams on Vltava above Prague are drainning off enough water. We pass lock in Roztoky and Dolánky without any waiting due they are ready for our „advance guard“, we even do not have to inform the stuff ahead. Just in front of Kralupy on the left bank we pass Kačuk Kralupy Club Marina (22.4 riv. km.) and a bit furher Lobeček Marina (21 riv.km.) Both sport dockyards provide „accomodation“ for guests.
After reaching Miřejovice lock on time I know that we will make it all the way to The Labe River. Under The Vraňany Weir The Hořín Canal branches off. This canal is 10 km long and so narrow that a nautical sign forbids overtaking and passing ships. If you do not hav a radio station it is recommendable to call the Hořín lock to find out about possible ships in the opposite direction and use the wider passing points on the canal. Our speed stabilizes on 10 km/h so it takes us 50 min to spot a Mělník castle silhouette that means that the canal is coming to its end.
I have always liked a double lock in Hořín mainly for its seeming of historical architecture but I have never had chance to see it from a ship. Nine metres of difference in hight is even nowadays appreciable in Czech circumstances. It is almost 6 p.m. that means our ship together with one sailing-vessel is propably the last round of today.
We se another 800 metres and…vow – The Labe Riv. on the right! We, the Kolín people, are finally on our own river. Two km furher se reach a place we had chosen to stay overnight – a dock-yard and former lock Hladík. Even though there are some old vessels anchored, the workers fixing them welcome us kindly and allow us to anchor onto a giant tow-boat.
Day 4: Kolín Marathon
Olbříství, Lobkovice, Kostelec n.L., Brandýs n.L., Čelákovice – five of thirteen lock on 84 km of waterway we have to tackle todayf if we want to anchor in Sandberg Marina in Kolín tonight. Let´s go for it!
First thing we do today is „booking a term“ in Obříství lock by phone. The Labe Riv. is not busy today so everything proceeds smoothly. Eventhough my phone book contains phone numbers for all the other locks on our way, we actually do not need them… Thanks to the kindness of people working on the locks the greenwave is set up for us and we can decide us wheather we use this or not. We appreciate it and go with the wave.
„Small“ Labe compare to „large“ Vltava is quite an „easy“ river, fully canalized and with help of locks we are climbing „from a pool to another one“. The crew can pay its full attention to looking at the countryside. Labe flows calmly through soother lowlands and the only elements that might spoil the idyll are chemical factories that surround the river in few places. We learnt in german industrial areas that buildings of chemical industry turn their more affable face to the river side and today confirms the experience. We pass Brandýs n.l., Lysá n.L., Nymburk, Poděbrady – all these places have an interesting history and offer interesting sights to visit…
Because we know these places from our onland trips, we whirl through without stopping. Even here the magical hour for getting through the locks without complications is 6 p.m. It seems that we will not make the last one, Kolín lock, today. In Nymburk we almost give up – it is really too late for us to be in Kolín on time – but after phoning the stuff working there today´s shift and explaining the situation, especially after stressing that we are „patriotic Kolíners“, they decide that the lock will stay open untill we pass through. This happens at 6:40 p.m. and at 7 p.m. we anchor in Sandberg Marina by friends. It has been a day full of hard work today!
Day 5: Resting
Our plan: morning in Sandberg – swimming, shopping in Kolín, bringing barrels with fuel, afternoon – to set out for journey back and stay over night wherever we get to. Simply today is a calm day.
Marina in Sandber is miles around the best dock-yard on the middle Labe Riv., actually we could say the only one. Following a river branch on riv. km 86 after navigating through 300 m long canal we get into a lake formed after sand mining, where the marina is seated. There are jetties, drinking water, electricity, refreshment, water skiing avaible, but it is apart from „civilisation“ – more on www.sandberk.wz.cz.
After lunch we follow the river stream down to Poděbrady to find out if there are any other possibilities to anchor than just to berth to the river bank. While passing Kolín lock we once again thank for yesterday and carry on along for Kolíners so well known river banks and head out of the town. All the way to Poděbrady we know the river as our own backyard and eventhough we are trying really hard we can not spot any anchorage. Only on riv. km. 75 at the confluence with Cidlina riv. anchorage is possible if you are carefull, but it is nothing that great. And what about Poděbrady, famous spa resort, very attractive for turists, is there anywhere to stop? The landing place next to a castle is meant only for a steam boat Král Jiří (King George) that provides tours for tourists.
There is a big chance for holiday „canal boating“ in Nymburk – a total reconstruction of a harbour right under the town fortification walls is finnishing. It should not be a problem to adapt a part of it for an ideal sport harbour. Let´s wait if someone realises this idea. On riv.km. 55.5 (Drahelice) you can stay over night anchored onto a high mole of „an abandoned industrial areal“ but actually without a chance to get out of the ship.
Other opportune anchorages that are marked on nautical maps are hardly to be used – for instance the one on riv.km. 51 and others. If we wanted to visit very interesting „Botanicus“ in Ostrá or a castle in Lysá nad Labem, we would not find a place to wharf. The next anchorage is in Brandýs n. L. just befor a lock. The mooring is good and very long , but of course without any equipment and next to a public road. We stay there over night. In morning we passing a club marina under the lock. We do not ask if there is chance to anchor for non-clubers, but the marina does not seem like one that welcomes tourists.
Day 6: By friends in Nelahozeves
Early in morning, after the lock operators come to work, we are heading down…with navigation all the way to Nelahozeves on Vltava River ahead.
Also this part of Labe River does not offer pleanty of chances to anchor. It would be good if the marina in an old gravel pit lake „borek“ allowed was open aldo for public, not only vessels of one particular sport club. And after observing an entrance into an old harbour of a sugar factory in Kostelec nad Labem we can not help ourselves to stop thinking how easily the old „retired“ harbour could be converted into a place offering its servises for a sport navigation.
This time we pass a confluence with Vltava riv. without dissembling and enjoy our Labe cruise admiring view at beautiful Mělník panorama. And soon after we are again on Vltava riv., actually on the Hořín lateral canal. There are some opportunities to cop, the best one on riv.km. 5 in the Chramostek dock – but again without any equipment.
Sailing into Vltava river predicts troubles. The news that the dams above Prague will release bigger quantity of water are confirmed. The river stream is considerably stronger and the level of water highr than on our way to Kolín. Our spead sharply decreases and tomorrow it will be worse.
But we are leaving the Miřejovice lock and finally can see the Nelahozeves castle with a construction of a new sport areal with a marina beeing built on the river bank under the historical sight. On a jetty our friend Petr Kožený is catchingour sheet cable. He is the person that is „creating“ the all project. So a part of today´s anchorage is a detailed guided tour through the already built part of marina and then long chat on a ship board over a bottle of wine, mainly about other plans and navigations.If you want to know more, look at www.pristavnelahozeves.cz.
Day 7: Fighting against the stream and a good ending
This day navigation is going to be tough. The river stream seems too strong for the strenghs of our vessel. Pass the Miřejovice weir it starts to be really strong. Pillars of closed bridge above Kralupy n.L. are beginning of a notorious Chvatěruby river gut. This test will decide if we manage to clamber all the way up to Prague.
The increasing river speed makes me feel like the ship was standing still, eventhough the engine is working on its maximum. The river banks on sides are moving very slowly. I recorded comments of the crew: !…we are standing on a spot…“,“…vow, we have moved a bit…“, „…I will have to turn back…“, „…do not give up…“, „…we are reversing…“„…it seems we are gaining speed…“, „we might tackle this…“. This one kilometr of the river took us almost fourty minutes. But it is over.
Finally we are swinging over the Dolánky lock and have chance to „take a rest“. Next two locks we are passing in „high speed“ of 3 km/hour and a calm river above a Podbaba chamber gives us forget all the troubles. Once again we have chance to enjoy cruising through Prague. I have navigated through many towns and citiesb but I can say that Prague viewed from „frog ´s-eye view“ is unique.
Navigation through a Smíchov lock is a very special experience. In a line there are four vessels waiting: three tourist ship, a paddle steamer Šumava and we. From the opposite direction few ships and a huge ship Vyšehrad. At the end we take place in the lock right next to Šumava expecting the moment when the steamer smashes us against the lock walls…But if it was not fot this kind of stories, wouldthere be anything to write about?
We return the ship in Cind on The Císařská Louka (The Emperror Meadow) and….next time we will follow Vltava all the way down to Týn.