The Kiel Canal

The Kiel Canal is probably less well known than the Panama or Suez though it has been operating since the nineteenth century and saves ships a long (and sometimes stormy) journey around the Jutland Peninsula.

It’s an interesting experience moving from the open sea on board a freighter into an inland waterway. A German pilot and helmsman take over and are essentially in charge until the transit is complete. Crews dislike the canal because they have to remain on duty but with nothing to do. This includes routine maintenance work such as painting and welding. The Germans forbid this due to the proximity of houses to the waterway. So the ship moves along being overtaken by cyclists and there’s not much else to do but peep into the windows of the nearby houses. Easy to do when you’re up on the bridge of a ship. There are traffic rules which the pilot has to follow. Smaller ships have to pull over and give way to the big bulk carriers which occasionally appear. Also the canal isn’t as straight as it appears so the presence of a pilot on the bridge makes sense. Finally after many hours of very slow sailing the ship enters a sea lock and the transit from the North Sea to the Baltic is complete.

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