We arrived to Mem from Nynäshamn at the dusk of the Thursday evening. The Göta canal is like mother for Swedish industry and it’s 190 kilometres long and starts in Mem on the Baltic Sea side.
There were already a few boats in the waiting dock while we made Suwena’s lines fast. One more boat arrived during the night to join us. This year the Göta canal opens officially on 4th of June. However it is possible to agree with a three day’s notice time about lockage outside the peak season. So four boats were ready and eager to enter the canal on Friday morning.
Before arriving we were little keyed up about lockage on the Göta canal. After the arrval on Thursday evening we went to explore the first lock. On Friday we prepared Suwena by putting out four fenders on both sides and a fender board outside of them. Also the crew of other boats started to swarm around the decks making preparations. All we first timers were clearly excited about the upcoming lockage.
It was amusing when the lock keeper came to check the canal fee payment and measured boat’s overall length. The Swedish clearly cannot decide Suwena’s length because in Visby she was a meter longer and here a meter shorter compared to the registration papers. The missing meter did not matter because we stayed in the same price range.
The other three boats went first and our turn was in a second lockage. Therefore we had a plenty of time to follow the other boats and prepare ourselves. To our surprise the locks were much smaller than we expected. Also the lock keeper is always at most twenty metres far, well within a shouting distance.
We set the lines in a way that the stern line was passing through the snatch block fixed to the aft cleat into the main mast winch located on the rooftop of the pilothouse. The bow line was running from the genoa winch through another snatch block fixed to amidships cleat to the fore cleat and finally to the mooring ring on the lock. We had previously purchased longer mooring lines especially considering that during the canal passage the lines can be easily handled with winches. Now Andrus can control both lines from the cockpit.
I disembarked into the waiting dock before the lock and climbed up aside of the lock waiting for Andrus and Suwena. In practice we noticed that it is better to make fast the stern line first and then the bow line. In the first lock I used a pair of clove hitches to fix the lines to the mooring ring. From the second lock on I however followed a suggestion from the lock keeper. It is much easier just to make a bowline and pass the loop over the ring’s pin. The mooring rings seem to be bolted the same way in all the locks and the pin is tall enough to hold the loop in a line.
We also learned that it is better to untie the lines in opposite order, first the bow line and then the stern line. Finally it is my turn to hop aboard and make preparations for the next lock.
On Friday we passed three first locks on the Göta canal and arrived in a rain and well soaked into Söderköping. We did well and I did not even fall into the canal. Despite of this the next leg on Monday with 12 locks worries still us a little.
Söderköping is the cozy Swedish city in East Gothland (Östergötland) with 7000 inhabitants. We did not see the city at its best because the weather was cold and windy throughout all the weekend. I can anyhow imagine that in the middle of the warm summer day the city is full of happy smiling people.
Despite of chill we had to visit in one of the major tourist attractions, the Smultronstället ice cream bar with a huge terrace. The ice cream menu was enormous; over 60 different ice cream portions so everybody finds something for sure. We eat our part from theirs annual 75000 ice cream litre supply.
On Sunday the wind was less and there was even a little sunshine now and then. We went to climb up the Ramunderberget hill that is towering 70 metres above Söderköping. The steep stairs to the natural reserve began from the Göta canal’s shore. We heard that there are 287 steps but we missed the count on our way up. The park has many charming paths and seemed popular as we met quite a few joggers there.
In Söderköping we saw for the first time cruise ships on the Göta canal. On Saturday ship Diana moored next to Suwena and let passengers ashore for visiting the city. She was built on 1931 and now she is sailing between Stockholm and Gothenburg.
A few days cruise on the Göta canal is surely a nice alternative to the cruise from Turku to Stockholm. What could be better than to glide at a slow five know speed in the afternoon sunshine along the Göta canal sipping your favour beverage and enjoying the scenery.
The weekend passed quickly and then was already time to prepare for the upcoming Monday, 12 locks and six bridges.