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9th August, 2018

Kiel Canal

What a peaceful morning this morning was after a long night in the Kiel Canal. Yesterday evening we embarked our Elbe River Pilot at 1600. The Brunsbuttel locks, the west end of the Canal, is a three hour navigation up the Elbe, so we take an Elbe Pilot for that navigation. It was a blustery evening last night and when I was advised we would need to wait up to an hour before entering the Brunsbuttel locks, I ordered two tugs. The river was on full ebb and at low water, and the wind was strong from astern; the two tugs was for the holding. Where I was due to wait we had just over one meter of water under the keel.

As we approached the holding station, the Pilots exchanged, there is a dedicated Pilot for entry into the lock - although the Captain [me] does the entry and driving; it’s good to have the local knowledge and language available first hand. After a delay, we entered the Brunsbuttel lock at 20.00. In-Lock time was about 45 minutes, the time it takes to lift the ship from River low water height to the Kiel Canal Height, about two meters lift.

Just before 2100, we were on our way east bound toward the Baltic via the Canal. With sunset approaching, the wind eased away to leave a pleasant evening; I have attached one of my ‘sunset’ pictures!

The Canal transit was forecasted to be around 10 to 11 hours and so I rotated duty with my Staff Captain, Safety Officer and Chief Officer, all of whom hold Master licenses; without this support I could not keep the ship going; we all need sleep! I was up and about at 0400 this morning and gave Franko, Staff Captain, a break. The canal waters were so peaceful, like glass as the ship cut through, and with the sun breaking over the eastern horizon at 0540, a beautiful morning materialised.

For Saga Sapphire to transit the Canal, we have to lower are forward mainmast - otherwise we would hit the bridges that cross the Canal; too much paperwork! I have attached a picture of the ship siding under the first bridge yesterday evening, western end, and another just after sunrise with the last bridge before the Holteneau locks, at the east end. It depicts the serenity of the morning.

Entering the Holteneau lock at just before 0800, we were a little behind schedule. A marvel of the Kiel end of the canal, the canal level is, more or less, the same height as the Baltic waters; so we were only there for 15 minutes, unlike the two meters at the Elbe river end. Once clear of the locks, we set a NNE’ly course up to the Kiel Pilot station where we debarked the Pilot at 0912 and set about making our way to Visby, not Karlskrona - as scheduled. Why?

Karlskrona was an anchor port requiring the use of ships tenders. For a successful day we need very good conditions. The forecast was for a SW’ly force seven and with over a one metre swell, this makes the port quite untenable. Thus, re-planning overnight we secured a berth in Visby. Visby is on the island of Gotland, an Swedish port of call and a UNESCO world heritage site. I gave a pre-warning that there was a ‘question’ over Karlskrona being achievable on the 8th, the day before Kiel Canal and then firmed up our plans this morning with a broadcast at 0900.

Pre-panning early enough allowed Nat, Explore Ashore Manager, to arrange some worthwhile experiences. Good job Nat!

I’m going to put my head down for two hours now, busy again from noon. Night Night!

Captain Stuart Horne

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.