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19 August 2023

Over Neptune's staircase and through Caledonia

Shortly after passing Fort William, the clouds reveal the summit of Ben Nevis, Scotland's highest mountain.

However, it is still a little further to our destination, the port of Corpach. Because from there we want to enter the Caledonian Canal, which crosses Scotland from the west to the east coast and connects several natural lakes. For this purpose, the Scottish engineer Thomas Telford constructed an extensive lock system to overcome the difference in altitude between the coast and the inland: Neptune's Staircase consists of a total of eight locks, one close behind the other, which carry us up a good 20 meters. In the individual lock chambers, the entire crew is challenged. Close together, the Dagmar Aaen waits next to other ships for the ascent in the lock, whereby the lines must always be monitored and tightened. Between the chambers, one could almost get the impression that the ship was being led on a leash as the shore crew carries the fore and aft lines to the mooring lines of the next chamber. Eight times, Dagmar is warped and eight times she slowly but steadily climbs higher until she enters the first section of the channel. In total, there are 29 locks to pass through and numerous swing bridges to pass through when traversing the Caledonian Canal. On the large lochs, the busy traffic on this waterway is equalized and we can once again anchor in wind-protected bays away from the shipping channel. Dagmar and we also feel comfortable in fresh water: in Loch Oich we take the opportunity for an extensive swim and in the legendary Loch Ness we fire up the barbecue.

The excursion into the Scottish interior lasts a good two and a half days before the last part of the descent to sea level begins. In the meantime, we are experienced in lock operations, even if the lines do not have to be tightened so much as unfurled. One last lock lies between the canal and the sea at Inverness. It is the gate to the North Sea and for the Dagmar Aaen also the starting point of her journey home.

Position: 57.147822, -4.671593


(Lonely bays and ruins of monasteries)
(Across the North Sea)