The Kiel Canal

Not one of the most interesting canals in the world, the Kiel Canal, otherwise known as the Nord-Ostsee Canal, is nevertheless the way most of us travel to the Baltic in a small boat.

About 58 miles long, with a lock at either end, the canal presents no difficulties or hazards. You can travel only in daylight, there is a speed limit of 8 knots, and you cannot stop on the canal itself. There are three designated stopping places, only one of which (Rendsburg) has facilities, so a bit of planning is helpful. It is actually more important going south, as you need to time your exit to the Elbe to coincide with the outgoing tide.

You share the canal with large ships, so its neccessary to keep over to the starboard bank. There are no height restrictions but there are many ferries darting across the canl which you have to dodge.

You pay the fee for the canal in the control tower at the Kiel (Holtenau) end. There is a fuel barge just outside the locks at the Holtenau end, but they do not take cards.


The canal is so simple that you dont really need a chart. BA 2489 is the one if you really think you need it.


Bunsbuttel Locks

The only facilities outside the canal at Bunsbüttel are a few mooring posts in the river itself, there is no shelter but there is a marina just inside. You can lock in at night providing you are going to the marina. This does rather suffer from wash, so its not the nicest place.

There are two sets of locks (as there are at Holtenau), and yachts normally lock into the smaller, upstream one (the Alte Slussen). Its not uncommon to find yourself in the lock with a moderate size coaster, and in season there is usually a small boat race to get a good position in the lock.

Mooring is to small floating pontoons on the side of the lock. These pontoons literally float at water level, so its a long way down when you get off. Its a good idea to weight the bottom of your fenders with a small length of chain, covered in plastic pipe, as they tend to 'pop out' (they float). The cheeky yotties wait until another yacht has tied up, and then raft alongside. This is easier and ensures a quicker getaway.



At 35 miles from Bunsbüttell, Rendsburg is the perfect place to stop overnight. Set at the head of a small fjiord, (the Obereidersee), a mile of so off the main canal there is a large marina with box moorings. The marina is reasonable value (about €13 a night) and has all usual facilities, including a washing machine (accessible only through the ladies!). The marina resturant, the Riverside, seems to be particularly good.

The pretty town, a short walk away through the trees, is very characteristic of Schleswig-Holstein.



The first impression of Kiel is not inspiring. The Kieler Fiorde, which is what the Canal dumps you into, is quite pretty, but as you head towards the town, all you can see are shipyards. This, it turns out, is unfair, as Kiel makes quite an effort to be accessible.

Kiel itself is at the southern end of the 10 mile long Fiorde, with smaller towns ringing the remaining edges. A regular ferry service joins the towns together. The city also has an extensive set of well-signposted cycle ways, including one along the whole of the harbour front. Rollerbladers abound.

The main shopping center is extensive and pedestrianised. There are good department stores (Karstadt) and a major shopping centre - the Sophienhof (apparently the largest in West Germany) with a covered market selling fresh goodies. Its all done in the best possible taste.

The whole of the Fiorde is ringed with marinas, and the main one for Kiel being Dursternbrook. Frankly, we don't think much of it. Basically a series of four concrete boxes, it can be considered adequate. It clearly gets so busy that there are now moorings outside the marina, which back on the wavebreak wall (there are stpes fixed to the wall for you to get off your boat)