|Bootsschleppe below Furstenwalde locks|
1.3°C Cold night again. Clear blue skies, sunny, but still a cold SE wind. Reversed out of the Mugglespree weirstream and winded on the main line (which is now the canalised Spree until Kersdorf) to set off heading East at 9.35 am. I got on with chores while Mike steered until we got to Fürstenwalde locks. The lock lights were on red, so we went into the sport boat area on the left in a small basin behind the dolphins that formed a lead-in to the left chamber (which was no longer in use). There was no intercom and so Mike walked up the rail track for the bootsschleppe on to the lockside and went to find the lock keeper. He said to use the right hand chamber after the commercial that was due to arrive shortly came down and cleared the lock. While Mike was turning the boat round to face out of the little basin a loaded Bromberger (with German flag) came down the lock.
|Below Furstenwalde locks|
Into the chamber and lifted 0.9m. With surprise we noted that the elevated rail along the right hand side of the lock was still used, the wheels were bright and shiny on the electrically-operated trolley used for winching pans in and out of the lock. The answer to that was to be found a short distance further upriver where there was a long commercial quay in front of a huge silo complex.
|Rails and trolley for winching pans.|
Phönix (that passed us the day before) and a Polish boat called Agra were both loading grain, while a Berlin tug was having three pans filled with scrap metal by a crane with a peeled onion grab. The driver used the grab to compact the scrap, tamping it down to get more into the pan. As the locks at Fürstenwalde were only 68m long and the one in use was the widest at 9.4m, the tug crew would have to split the convoy to get it through the lock as each pan was 32.5m long.
|Loading grain at Furstenwalde silo|
Wished we’d had time to stop and watch them do this manoeuvre as it’s very interesting to watch, but it would be some time yet before all three pans were filled and the pushtow set off. We pushed on upriver passing some grand houses and gardens around KP81 – 82, just before the A12 autobahn bridge and the access (forbidden to motor boats) into the little Dehmsee lake. There were a few fishermen about in small boats and we also noted evidence of beaver activity where small trees had been chewed off.
|Silos and scrap loading|
For the next 4kms there were lots of small branches off the river that lead nowhere, ancient loops. Where the forest receded there were fields with stands of maize, now brown and crispy-leaved and rolls of bailed hay. Around KP89 the Spree entered the canal on our right and there was an inn called the Forest House opposite, offering camping or accommodation for walkers and cyclists. Under a long wooden footbridge spanning the river and passing the entrance to the Kersdorfersee (again no access for motor boats) then we arrived at Kersdorf locks.
|Below Kersdorf locks|
At last, here was the new lock we’d heard about. The left hand chamber had been extended. No signs of life, nowhere to tie up and wait and no Intercom. Mike risked it and called on VHF, twice, and got no reply. Nothing else for it but to resort to using the horn. A couple of loud toots brought a lock keeper out from the house on the right hand side. He walked across to the new lock (which still had a crane alongside and piles of building material) and pressed the buttons to open the gates for us. The lower end of the chamber was concrete-sided (and still beautifully clean and white) while the upper end was steel-piled, both with recessed bollards.
|New longer lock chamber at Kersdorf|
A pair of gongoozlers (on bikes) stopped on the tail end bridge to watch and shout hello. Then the bottom end gates wouldn’t fully close. The keeper had to open them and close them again, and then they closed properly. He had to walk the length of the chamber (looked like 110m) to the control panel by the top end gates to open the paddles. The lock filled very gently from the front and we rose 2.9m. Between the old and new lock there was a sunken area with a Japanese-style garden at one end, then a big anchor in contrasting coloured grey brick,
|Paving between the lock chambers. Kersdorf|
and finally at the top end of the chamber there were interesting looking barrel-shaped objects. Above the new lock there was a newly built length of mooring for commercials to wait for the lock and an overnight mooring – but nothing for sport boats. It was completely empty. The waiting area to go down for sport boats was a very short pontoon on the far side above the old lock. A long line of WSA boats were moored all along the right hand side. The wind in our faces was cold. I made a cuppa to warm us up as we went back into the forest. Both banks had been edged with stones to minimise the effect of wash.
|Going down Neuhaus lock|
Around KP94 a medium-sized, black-hulled cruiser, called Cassiopeia, was tied up at a loading area where a ten metre wide piled bit stuck out a short way into the canal (usually this type of construction is used to load boats from tipper-lorries, but this hadn’t yet been used by the look of it). At KP96 we turned right into the Spieskanal-Neuhaus. Narrower and still in the forest, it was sheltered from the wind and very quiet. We noted more signs of beaver activity and took photos of some of the trees they’d started work on, then we spotted that all the trees along both edges of the canal had wire mesh cages around the lower 2m to keep them safe from being felled into the canal by the rodents.
|Keeper at his controls. Neuhaus|
We’d started to wind just as the first boat we’d seen moving all day came round the tight bend from the lock. We’d started, so we had to finish – we were blocking the canal. The cruiser was full of fishing rods and booze – as soon as it turned the next bend it was up on the plane and wall-to-wall water. What 8kph limit? Tried to find a mooring by the reeds but the WSA had put rocks all along both edges since we were last here so we decided to try the mooring we used (when Bill was with us) below the lock. Winded again and tied on the waiting area, (a floating pontoon about 16m long) and Mike went to find the keeper. About ten minutes, he said, there was another boat coming. Cassiopeia arrived, with a crew who spoke a little English, and tied alongside to wait for the lock – he’d phoned ahead to get the lock ready. The keeper, a young man, lowered the barriers for the Llangollen style wooden liftbridge that carries the road into Neubrück, lifted the bridge by pressing buttons, and then we followed the cruiser into the lock.
|Lock chamber Neuhaus|
The lock had a wide chamber and offset gates (much like the Dutch ones used to be on the Suid Willemsvaart) First boat in goes to the right so it is facing the exit gates, then the next boat comes in on the other side (in this case left) and moves over once the lock is empty and the other boat has left the chamber. This method was used so working boats kept the same order - first one in, first one out. Nowadays the lock only used for pleasure boats. The guy on the cruiser had got a small motorboat hanging on davits and said they were going to explore the Drahendorfer Spree with it the next day to see the wildlife.
|Going back up Neuhaus lock|
They went to anchor in the Wergensee, a lovely little round lake below the lock. We turned right into the Spree, intending to moor by the tiny Wergensee lock (12m x 3m) where there used to be a wooden staging (for tying to, to work the self-operated lock) and a row of stumps in the river bed extending beyond it to accommodate a queue. To our dismay the stumps had gone, a new ramp had been built just before the landing stage and the fire brigade were just in the act of launching an inflatable boat down it. Someone had also installed a private pontoon (looked like it was for fishing) alongside the bank before that, so that scuppered our plans completely.
|Moored next to the reeds above Neuhaus lock|
We did try to lie alongside the reed beds but the distance to the bank was too far. Back to the lock. My turn to find the keeper. I explained that the mooring had gone and we’d have to find somewhere above his lock to moor for the weekend (Mike had already arranged to leave our car next to his). He said we could moor on the other side below his lock where there was a short pontoon then a piled section. Great. Mike said no, it was too short and we wouldn’t be able to tie up to it well enough – the bank beyond it wouldn’t take stakes for the stern either and we couldn’t tie to the wire mesh fencing. OK, nice try. Another cruiser (more fishermen) was waiting for the lock too so we came up together.
|View of the boat from Neuhaus lock|
Gave the keeper a couple of bottles of beer and apologised that it was only Radler (shandy). No other method would work other than to moor next to the reeds and rocks– bring out the quant poles! It’s been a few years since we used them. It was 5.15 pm. There was a small gap in the reeds that we used to put a plank out (roughly amidships so we could get the bike off next day), Mike threw the ropes out, ran down the plank before the boat could move out and banged the stakes in, we then put the poles out fore and aft and I tightened up the ropes to keep the boat far enough out from the bank to keep from banging and scraping on the cobble-sized rocks that were under the bottom. Very little traffic passed us and it turned out to be a very quiet, peaceful mooring.