Logbook: The Danube – Kelheim to Linz

August / September 2017

The Danube River runs from Germany to the Black Sea through 10 countries. As we cruise downriver, the “mighty river” changes it’s name from Donau, Duna, Dunaj or Dunarea.

The German Town of Kelheim at km 2411 is our entry point. We have 2411km and 19 locks to go before we reach the Black Sea!

We had planned to stop before reaching the River, but as we arrived close to the end of the Rhine-Main-Donau Canal the only moorings available are for big cruise boats, making it impossible for us to stop, even if for only a couple of hours to look at the charts and prepare ourselves. We see on Google maps that there is a marina in town, but to reach it we need to get to the big river and head upriver for a few kilometers. We did try, but we couldn’t make it. The river was running too fast and as we tried to get to the sides where the current is slower we found out it was too shallow as well and we ended up turning back. Downriver it is!

The mighty river is big, fast and absolutely gorgeous. We can’t see any side arms, as on the Rhine, where we could anchor, and mooring along the sides is absolutely impossible. It’s getting late and we do need to stop. We moore on an unused lock sportsboat landing before Regensburg, for the night.

We get to Regensburg, one of the towns mentioned on the book we read before starting this journey “Sailing Across Europe”. Here, Flame, the Dutch barge that travelled from Holland to the Black Sea in the 1920’s is caught in whirlpools and almost hits a bridge. We head to town as we need to stock-up with food, pass a series of small marinas and boat clubs but none of them seems to have any guest mooring places. As we reach the bridge, a cruise boat is heading upriver, we stop to let him pass as we think cruise boats have right-of-way, but then he stops as well. A moment of hesitation, he decides to pass. In no time the river accelerates as it gets closer to the bridge and we are fastly dragged way too close to the stone pillars. Hamish makes a hard turn and max power, just a few meters away from the bridge. If we had hit the bridge we could have sunk. We look at the “Mighty River” with much more respect from now on.

We cruise the German Danube for a few days mooring in lock landings, a marina and anchor behind an island where the current is slower and almost without noticing we get to the next country: Austria.

Passau is the last of the German towns, but again, all mooring places are reserved for the big cruise ships and we end up spending the first Austrian night moored alongside a big rusty barge that was anchored off the navigation channel.

It’s now late August, the river is running fast due to heavy rains upriver, the only boats we pass are either huge cargo boats or cruise ships and they both bounce us about everytime they pass. We are offered a mooring place on a little port and told to “keep right when you get in” which we did, but then there were rocks and we may have made a more centered entrance, so we got stuck in the mud. We’ve asked a passing wooden boat to help us out which they did manage to do after a couple of tries.

Our host tells us to stop a few km downriver on a small inlet pontoon from a guesthouse/restaurant in Obermuhl where we end up staying for a week, as the water levels start to change dramatically everyday and we are advised to wait for it to stabilise. After a week, and with the water levels almost reaching the maximum allowed for small boats to navigate, we decide to set off or we would get stuck there for at least another week. We fastly reach Linz! Our boat is doing 18km/h, the river is fast and full of whirlpools and driftwood.

We safely moore by Eleonore a arty boat that hosts artists residencies and surprisingly meet a enthusiastic boating community. The second we find since leaving London. The regulations in Austria are though very strict making it almost impossible to live-a-board, but that doesn’t stop this group of people from taking advantage of the Danube as much as they can.

The plan this year was to get to Serbia, but it’s getting late in the year, we’re getting tired and stressed and our new friends find us just the perfect place to leave the boat for winter. The only problem is that the boatclub is about 20km upriver and there is no way we can make it with our boat with such a strong current. No problem, we get pushed by Markus’s bike ferry.

The first year on the Danube reaches an end. We will be back next year.