Sister's Journal

Date: 5.June.1999
Location: Lake Vanern, Sweden
Position: 58 degrees 41 minutes North, 12 degrees 59 minutes East
Across the Middle of Sweden on a Boat
Sorry about the long delay between updates. We've been separate from the internet since Stockholm ... some 10 days now. During that time we've motored and sailed back down the Swedish coast to the entrance to the Gota canal and transited the canal. At this time of year it takes four days to complete the trip through the canal and you must go through the canal as part of a convoy of boats. Convoys start Monday and Thursday so if you arrive at an entrance early you have to wait ... normally. We arrived at the east entrance on a Saturday. There was a lock keeper on duty to let a convoy coming the other way exit the canal. I groveled a bit and the lock keeper let us into the canal and through the first three locks. This was important because Andy's cousin lives in Soderkoping which is a town at the third lock. We spent Sunday lunching and visiting with her cousin Gunvar and her husband Gunnar.
Monday morning it was up and onward through the canal and the rest of its some 55 locks.
A convoy transit through the canal from the east goes like this:
Monday, 12 locks, up 27 meters and transit 29 nautical miles including crossing lake Roxen. This is pretty cool. Locking through is pretty easy after you figure out the technique (took us three locks to figure it out).
Tuesday, 22 locks, up 55 meters and transit 40 nautical miles including crossing lake Vattern ... 13 hours, man that was a long day. A lot of locks and a long ride across the lake.
Wednesday, 1 lock, up 3 meters and transit 16 nautical miles. An easy day. Jack and Peggy Heady joined us this evening.
Thursday, 20 locks, down 48 meters, transit 19 nautical miles. An easy day because of the extra hands and going down is much easier than going up. Enough locks already!
Here's how we lock on the way up. Andy has the end of a long line. The other end runs through a forward cleat and back to a winch in the cockpit. When the lock gate opens I get the boat in the vicinity of the shore and she leaps taking the end of the line with her. She usually makes the leap successfully then runs up the side of the lock as I bring the boat into the lock trying not to bounce off the walls too hard. Andy sets the end of the line around a ring and runs back to take the stern line from Bob. I move the boat so that Bob's stern line is more or less vertical then I winch the forward line (Andy's line) tight. The gate closes and as the boat rises I continue to winch in the forward line pulling the boat forward somewhat and keeping the stern line tight. In the end the stern line is nearly horizontal. As the boat rises Andy BSes with the lady doing the same task for the boat just in front of or behind us. If it's a single lock then Andy takes her line off the ring and scrambles back aboard. Bob lets go the aft line and off we go. If it's a series of locks then Andy and Bob let go and Andy walks her line forward to another ring in the next lock. There were up to 6 locks in succession in places. Going up can be pretty wild. As the water rushes into the lock it can tend to make the bow of your boat bounce back and forth crazily. As the boat jumped about I alternately watched the bow line stretch tight, trying to remember how strong it was, the bow as it threatened first to crash into the lock wall then to crush the small sailboat beside us and the stern as it threatened the lock wall as well. It was tense.
Here's how we locked down. Andy made her leap, and took the bow line as before. I moved the boat into the lock and Andy and Bob hook their lines to appropriate rings. Same procedure as going up. The difference was that letting the water out of the lock causing little to no disturbance. The boat hardly moved at all. It was a very low key process compared to going up. Having Jack and Peggy to help made it even easier.
Seeing the Swedish countryside from the canal is unique. Generally the canal is somewhat higher than the surrounding countryside so one's view is unimpeded. The countryside is beautiful and absolutely impeccably maintained. We passed under a bridge which was about a meter higher that the top of the mast. The perspective is such that you are absolutely certain that you're going to hit the bridge. We also passed over a couple of roadways. It's pretty weird to watch cars pass under the boat.
We're now in Lake Vanern, the largest lake in Sweden and the third largest lake in Europe (what are the two largest lakes?). We spent the night at Lacko castle and now we're motoring southwest toward the Trollhatten canal which will take us back to sea level and the west coast of Sweden. It's cool to have a couple of extra hands on board.
Chuck, Andy, Bob, Jack and Peggy aboard Sister in Lake Vanern, Sweden.

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