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11th September, 2018

Kiel Canal

After leaving Gdynia we had a sea day before our evening arrival into Kiel, ready for our transit of the Kiel Canal on Tuesday 11th September. With the pilot on board at 1600 he was happy to leave the “con” with our 3rd Officer Chris who guided us towards the harbour passing the entrance to the Kiel canal and “avoiding” a number of ships who had finished their canal transit. It was a pleasant early evening arrival as Matt our Staff Captain swung the ship through 180’ and then “drove” our fine lady astern towards the dock. With our gangway rigged and clearance granted at 1800 our Guests were able to proceed ashore. I decided to take a walk ashore with the Doctor and sample some German traditional food. With a miniature beer selection, and some fine bratwurst, sauerkraut and mash potatoes we had all we needed. A good couple of mile walk after meant I was ready for a great night’s rest in anticipation of a busy day in the Kiel Canal.

By 0600 on Tuesday morning when departure was imminent and all required parties were awake, safety briefs were carried out and all stations manned. The inner working of the Sapphire began to teem with activity from watertight doors being shut, breakfast being prepared in galleys to crew going about their morning routines as another day dawned. The Saga Sapphire was indeed ready to depart for the Kiel Canal transit.

A very gentle breeze out of the south west helped us off the quay and we tried to limit the use of the bow thruster to avoid waking our guests. We had 10 miles to run to the Kiel locks and by 0700 we were making our approach.

Once alongside in the Haltenau Lock, 5 Officers including the Hotel Director and Staff Chief Engineer descended the gangway with bicycles in tow to begin the 110km or 68mile cycle to Brunsbuttel lock off the Elbe river. It was to be a race, the Sapphire vs the cyclists. Who would reach the destination first? Would we be left behind?!

Due to her size and draft Saga Sapphire requires a tug to be made first for the entire canal transit. The canal has many passing places called “sidings “where large ships can safely pass, and we had to slow down a few times to wait for a ship transiting in the other direction. This is where the tug is really useful to steady the ship and hold position while waiting. There are many small ferries that cross the canal linking roads on both sides. These ferries are free to use for foot and car passengers with the cost covered by the canal transit charge to ships.

As we entered the Brunsbuttel lock at 1615 we could make out the 5 cyclists in an operations hut – yes they beat us and quite convincingly! This was a great achievement as they had head winds and light rain for the entire journey. As the cyclists walked across the lock gate with their bikes we sounded the ships whistle and the guests cheered from the rails. The cycle rise was all in the name of charity and my favoured one “tackle prostate cancer”. For those that could not take part in the Kiel challenge, 3 bikes were set up on the Verandah open deck and various Officers and Crew took their turn either with a 30 minute or 1-hour pedal. Again, all donations for this sponsored “cycle to the moon” event were for my chosen charity. I’m pleased to report that a total of £5,437.66 was raised which is just outstanding.

We cleared the locks by 1700 and then entered the Elbe river for the 3 hour passage back to the open sea and on towards Dover.

Captain Julian Burgess

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.