Across Sweden on The Göta Canal
Another country that we had the chance to visit due our hunger for canal cruising, was Sweden. From all the options we had The Göta Canal was chosen. The canal represents a pure classics among European canals, the wonderful canal cruise itself is framed with a splended countryside and a rich technical history of inland navigation.
Sunday, June 3
It was Sunday morning when we saw the Göta Canal for the first time. Exactly put down it was its beginning or its eastern end, if you want. Long sea bay, first lock with a harbour above and then only a narrow ribbon of a water stream disappearing into a forest. But this all we watched from a car on our way to Söderköping where we were about to embark.
„Our“ boat was touched at a jetty. It carried a stately name „Regina von Platen“ given to it after a wife of Baltazar von Platen. At 3 P.M. Stefan Sahlén arrived and without unnecessary explanations gave the ship into our custody for a week. I have no idea what Ms. Platen was like, but our Regina was a kind of „a real tanker“: fully metallic construction, size 10,8 x 3,3 x 0,9 m and a diesel engine 75 hp. Its maneuverability was great due its rotary propeller and a hydraulic propulsion. Especially reversing was pleasing and easy. The ship was equipped for 8 people staying in – „like meant“ for our two-men plus fox-hound Aida crew. We made ourselves at home and went for a test navigation in the evening, waiting for the very start on Monday morning.
Monday, June 4
Monday morning finds us in Söderköping waiting for a ship convoy from Mem. It should arrive around 10 A.M. but you know convoys … And why to wait for them? The full season on the canal hasn´t started yet and locks and bridges function only according to a limited timetable. They let through only the boats that set sail together from Mem on Monday and sail for Sjötorp on Sunday and the ships navigating the opposite direction. I do not think anyone minded this „organized sail“ as the daily laps are scheduled suitably – both the number of locks per one day and an overnight stays in some of the comfortable harbours along the way are well chosen.
Finally just before the noon we are puting forth accompanied by 8 other ships – most of them are sailing vessels – heading for nine one-step and two double-step locks and few swing-bridges and flying-bridges. This does not make our pace any faster, while the usual speed on a clear canal is about 10-12 km/hour. After doing some „hard shipman´s drudgery“ in the locks we are enjoying cruising the first lake – a reeden Asplängen.
In Norsholm – a beginning of The Roxen Lake – we arrive at 7 P.M., having more than two hours of navigation against the setting Sun on a long lake sheet ahead. Thanks to almost white Swedish nights it feels like noon when we are arriving at Berg a while after 10 P.M. We have made 50 km on the canal and straight above us there is … but this is a tomorrow story.
Tuesday, June 5
Last night we were falling asleep and today we are waking up looking at an unique seven-steps lock stairs in Berg (Carl Johan slussar). The view is imposing esp. when streams of an affluent water are swarming through all the lock gates. We get into the bottom chamber at 11 A.M. as today´s third round. Sailing through the stairs are quite demanding. Filling the chambers with water through the bottom of the upper gate causes a strong stream and keeping the ship calm requires a lot of attention and work with ropes.
And the result of all of this? Two hour later we are 160m farther and 18.5m higher up … And there are still four double-step locks ahead – one every 300m.. But first of all we have to wait for a big holiday motor boat Juno to cope with this cascade. Boats of this size always have the right of way.Than we navigate few kilometers to a harbour in Borenshult, we anchor at 6 P.M. But not even this part of our journey is flowing smoothly. We have to wait for few bridges to open. One of them are out of order for one hour! Over here the locks operators are the masters of our time. But why to rush?
Wednesday, June 6
Today´s plan is not difficult – except for another „lock delicacy“. At 10 A.M. we should bi under the Borentshult five-steps lock stairs. That means latest at half past eight we have to sally for 13 km long crossing The Boren Lake.
Upheaving up the lock stairs became almost routine, but this time the waterfalls from the upper gate are mightier and we take a front place in the chamber. One and half hours later all the ships are 15.3m higher. 4 km long navigation with few bridges follows. The last three ones are 3,5m high what allows us to pass without lifting. Our fellow sail-vessels cannot do that. At the end we are not any faster, because just before the harbour there is one more lock and we have to wait for our sail-companions. This lock is worth mentioning: it is built to equalize an occasional raise of The Vätern Lake against the water level in the canal – at the we are passing it the difference is 10 cm.
And early in the afternoon we anchor in Motala harbour and as every day of our trip we enjoy the luxury of a well equipped bathroom a few steps from the boat.
Thursday, June 7
We could call this day „relaxing and distributary“. „Relaxing“ because we will move only from Motala to Vadsena – it is about 12 km cruise across The Vättern Lake. „Distributary“ because Vadstena is not situated on Göta canal, but on the lake bank to the south from Motala.
The weather is still beautiful: Clear sky, air temperature at 9 A.M. is 20°C, the water temperature is 12°C, wind 1 m/s, the wind direction NNE, high pressure area staying in the place (information from the W.S. in the Motala hatbour). We arrive in Vadstena at 11 A.M. and we gaze at the marina – it is situated in a real moat under a forcible fortification of a large renaissance castle.. We sail in through a short canal straight from the lake. We have never seen more curious and more romantic harbour. This castle and other monuments of Vadstena are the reason why we decided to deflect from the canal.
Even though our ship did not mind the water temperature at all, our bodies found it very, but very cold when we decided to go for an afternoon swimming … But how many times in life you get the chance to swim in The Vättern Lake?
Friday, June 8
We leave the „renaissance marina“ before nine a.m. and set out to put over the lake – it will be 32 km long cruise. Even though the orientation in the terrain is easy, I recommend to insert 3 or 4 way points into GPS. This way you easily pass the underwater rocks in the middle of the lake, that are marked only with a few tame cardinal signes. Only problem is that Aida is a bit worried when the boat swings more than usually…
We arrive in Karsborg before lunchtime and a lowered road bridge is standing in way. It will open for us in the evening. But never mind, the Karlsborg fort (Karlsborgsfästning) tour takes almost whole afternoon and is definitely worth visiting.
Just pass the bridge there is a refueling station. We would like to refill the tank, but it excepts payment cards only and seems out of order…we do not have enough courage to insert our card…so we carry on. An hour later afer crossing a small lake The Botten, we anchor near a lock in Forsvik. And we feel the touch of the canal history. It was here where the idea of the canal existence was born, here the first Göta lock was built, here you can find the oldest flying-bridge in Sweden,…
Saturday, June 9
Saturday morning: hop and we are up. The „hop“ is the last lock elevation in Forsvik and the „up“ means that we are in the highest part of the channel, one the level of The Viken Lake, 91.8 above the sea level. Before we get to the lake we navigate for one kilometer through narrow rocky runway with one way traffic and through straits enclosed with stoney embankments in the lake bay.
The Vikem Lake is 23 km long part of the canal. Beauty of its scenery will make happy even the ones, that have seen a lot on the waterways and the sea. The lake rim is not wide, horse-shoe shaped and very jagged. Narrow canals among tens of small islands and rocks are marked with buoys. The banks are deserted and rimmed with coniferous forests. The sunny weather and calm make an incomparable feeling of a total relaxation, disturbed only by the engine crooning.
Another part of the canal stirs out of the lake in Tätorp, where we have to tackle one pitoresque „sluss“ this time all the way down. It is one of two locks on the canal that kept in manual operation and release of 20 cm. We end the day in Töreboda after two hours of navigating, of which a lot of time was taken by „drifting“ at closed bridges.
Sunday, June 10
We are going for fast ride today, we will navigate „downhill“: the 19 km distance and the height difference of 48 m will be tackled by 17 locks – single ones or the ones compounded into double or tripple steps. We will go all the way to The Vätnern Lake.
It is still warm weather, actually the warm weather is reaching its peak. Long delay while waiting for opening a rail-bridge is not annoying, but it is an opportunity to go for a pleasing swim in the canal. Water in this western descending part is quite clean thanks to a sufficient water supply from The Viken Lake.
As we are geting closer to Sjötorpe, our week long navigation is coming to its end. At 3 P.M. we say good bye the other ships in our convoy and turn into an upper harbour of Sjötorpe…glückliche Schifffahrt…happy navigation…dobrou plavbu.
Stefan Sahlén is already waiting in the harbour, we exchange his ship for our car, which he brought to us from the start of our journey…se you next time.
The Swedish Göta Canal wa perfect. I know, the weather was very kind to us, actually unbelievable considering the fact that it was Scandinavian late spring. But even if the weather was worse it would have been worth going there: wonderful countryside, pleasant harbours. „active sweat“ at the locks, long cruising the lakes, comfortable ship…
With goo weather forecast we left to wander around Sweden…but this is a topic for inland travelers.