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A tight squeeze - Saimaa Canal, Finland

Written on: Thursday July 3rd, 2008

A journal entry from: Exploring the Baltic Sea by Yacht

In order to reach Saimaa Lake in Finland, we had to squeeze our giant yacht through a series of 8 locks in a 49 km canal. We began in Vyborg, which belongs to Russia, and travled for 9 hours through the locks, up 75 meters above sea level, to the Saimaa Lake.

The lock is 13 meters wide, and our boat is 12.2 meters wide, so you can probably imagine the kind of day we had.

We had everyone out on deck, starting at 8 am. Armed with every fender we could find on the boat, we slowly approached the first lock. The captain squeezed us in perfectly, but as the lock closed and the water from the river began rushing in from the other side, we began to move around. Everyone was frantically trying to protect the boat with fenders, but on our first lock we ended up taking a small chunk out of the starboard side bow when the current crunched us into the side of the lock. We made it out fairly easily, minus one fender, and motored to the next lock. We had a few miles in between each lock to grab some food, or sit outside and enjoy the scenery.

The next 7 locks were pretty similar: frantic fendering to protect the boat on the way in and up, and then fairly easily exiting the yacht. I was on the "port side team" and we remained unscathed until I was taken from my comfortable spot protecting the mid ship region, and suddenly was put on bow duty. The four of us were celebrating our victory over the starboard team, who had encurred two major scratches (which, we believed, was due to some sub par fendering on their part). And of course, as luck would have it, the current was ESPECIALLY bad that lock, so despite my efforts, a girl with a tiny fender didn't really stand much chance against the momentum of a multi-thousand tonne ship, and we hit the side. We were still up on the starboard team though :)

At the end of the day, we were all absolutely exhuasted, and the boat looked a little worse for wear. We anchored in Lake Saimaa, near Savonlinna, and awaited the next batch of guests. Because tomorrow, we get to do it all again. We get to go back through the 8 locks, while the guests are SLEEPING, because they want the ability to say that they have been through the locks. Some people are ubelievabe.