Trollhätte Canal

The canal starts at Gothenburg about 100m up river of the marina we had stayed in.


It slowly winds through the industrial outskirts of the city. The first real obstacle is a relatively low swing railway bridge a few miles from the city.

I’d heard rumours that in order to reduce the time a bridge was open, impatient bridge operators would wait until vessels were almost under the bridge before commencing the opening sequence. So for our first bridge I nudged Hal extremely close to the ‘traffic lights’. Eventually the lights changed and the bells started ringing. The opening was imminent! Then, ever so slowly, the bridge started to swing towards us. I had visions of a bridge operator cursing at our presence so I started to nudge Hal to port sneak into the gap between the bridge swinging towards us and the canal wall.

Its really hard to judge distances when viewing from below and astern….. At the exact moment I thought there was going to be contact between our shrouds and the bridge, the bridge stopped swinging! Hal was travelling at a couple of knots by this point so was committed to the gap and somehow snuck through unscathed.

I apologise unreservedly to that bridge and ALL bridge operators. Needless to say, all future bridges were approached with a little more caution.

For the remainder of the day we motored against an increasingly strong current flowing down the canal. It improved manoeuvring as we approach each lock and bridge however it significantly slowed our progress.

Our first lock was at Lilla Edet, some 30nm from Gothenburg. A bridge spanned the canal just before the lock so we approached the bridge as close as we dared to ensure we’d been picked up on the video camera. This was a tight spot so rather than hover, we backed out. We did this four times without success. The traffic lights did not acknowledge our presence. I was expecting the police to arrive any minute and question me regarding the incident at the first bridge.

Eventually the bridge started to open and we entered a small holding area to wait for the lock gates to open. After a game of Rock, Paper, Scissors with a small motorboat to determine who went first, we gingerly entered out first lock.


The Trollhätte Canal is used by ships up to 89m in length and a beam of up to 13m. This gives large commercial vessels access to lake Vänern and some industrial areas of central Sweden. This first lock had a rise of 6.4m. With only two crew, it requires the aft person to thread a line through the ladder embedded in the lock wall while the forward person uses a boat hook to thread a line over the bollards embedded in the walls. As the water level rises each person moves their line as they can. The aft person having the easier job.

We spent the night tied up under the trees at the base of the Trollhätten locks, an imposing flight of 4 locks rising…


And walked around the old locks

There are two old flights of locks that are no longer used. The first set opened in 1800 and work started immediately upon a second set with larger capacity. The current set have double bottoms which is supposed to reduce the turbulence when filling the locks.

The Saab museum is just next to the canal and so deserved a visit. Probably the most interesting thing we discovered that day was that Trollhätte was the centre for producing trains which were then shipped all over the world. These trains were put on boats and then taken back down the canal.

We missed the next bridge opening by minutes so spent an hour motoring in circles waiting as there was no room to moor. This was the first bridge that didn’t open on demand. Apparently due to some roadworks next to the bridge.

Our aim for the night was to reach Vänersborg at the end of the Trollhätte canal and on the shores of Lake Vänern. After on final lock we arrived in a sleepy town at about 1930 and headed straight for dinner.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s