Kiel Canal Chaos

by Adrian on August 16, 2012

You wouldn’t have thought the Germans could be disorganised, but it was chaotic getting into the lock for the Kiel canal today.

The problem was that only one of the four locks was working, so all large commercial and small pleasure traffic had to be funnelled into the same lock.

Large container vessels and tankers have priority, so despite getting up at 6am to get into the canal early, we were still motoring around in the waiting area 3 hours later. Some boats had been hanging about since 3.30am, so it could have been worse. In all there were about 50 yachts pirouetting around in a fashion worthy of an Olympic sailing race start line.

Eventually they cleared the backlog of all but the last 3 large ships, so after loading them they called forward the ‘pleasure’ boats. It wasn’t a race, but a rush in slow motion into the lock with all 50 yachts just feet from each other all funnelling en mass into the lock basin.

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The current dragged us inexorably forward deeper into the lock like tetris blocks stacking up in rows and rows. Some found themselves having to moor awkwardly to the water level pontoons, most grabbed another boat and rafted up alongside.

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It was all quite chaotic, but it worked and eventfully everyone was squeezed in like a motorway traffic jam. You literally could walk across boats from one side of the lock to the other. We didn’t witness any bumps or major issues – luckily everyone seemed quite competent.

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On the plus side, the lock didn’t charge us for the canal transit due to the chaos and waiting time. That was nice, and something UK rail companies could learn from – if the service is substandard or not working, don’t charge your customers!

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