When we decided to undertake the crossing from the North to Black Sea we didn’t realise that we were actually undertaking a route whose preparation would be like no other we had undertaken. Our research and the findings it produced are definitely a product of the era when we undertook that research – specifically an era when Google Translate features were readily available (and even starting to be incorporated into websites to facilitate readers from other languages). There is no doubt that the route we were planning was heavily travelled but the demographics were different from other routes we had set out on: different types of boats (predominantly commercial rather than pleasure), different languages (mainly German followed by the other languages of the Danube) and different patterns of travel (large numbers of pleasure boats that do not leave their local area). These differences meant a number of things:
- no easily accessible and up to date pilots or guides in the English language;
- all planning, research, navigation and administration to be done in languages other than English.
As mentioned above, Google Translate helped immensely, we were able to use Google in languages other than English (e.g. http://www.google.de), search in that language and then translate the findings back into English. Over the multi-year planning phase we saw Google Translate go through subsequent improvements (some of which were actually delivered through the Chrome browser) that allowed us to move forward with a much reduced sense of handicap. In the research of previous routes we had searched in English, found pages that we then copied into a translate facility which produced output which was sometimes pidgin in form. Immediately prior to our departure Google Chrome automatically translated the pages into our target language (i.e. English) and the translations were constantly more natural sounding. Concurrent with the researching in what was a second language to us, we also found that what we judged to be the most authoritative information was website based. There were “vanity press” hardcopy publications but they seemed to focus on the desires and needs of the author rather than the reader (hence the name “vanity press” I suppose). In parallel we dealt with digital charts for the first time. We had always used paper charts for navigation. We had had digital charts but had never used them for much more than route planning. Now admittedly navigating down a canal (or river) with 2 firm banks is not the same as crossing waters out of sight of land but we had to adapt to the digital age. The reason we went down the digital chart path is simply that of cost effectiveness. We needed to cross a region where we only needed the charts once (i.e. we would not be reversing our route and “sailing” back in the other direction) and were not sure of a readily available market to sell them on into. Hence we bought the digital charts which were as little as half the price of the printed carts. We decided to evaluate them on the German waterways and then make the decision if we felt secure enough with them to traverse the Danube or whether we would think we needed some paper assistance. It was with this background we collected the following links in our research for the crossing from the North to Black Sea, much of it is non-English and additionally also non-printed in format. But that is how we found the information, so get familiar with Google Translate (or alternative translation facilities) and enjoy…
These were English language books we read as background to the Danube waterways – its history, social impact and influence on trade.
- The Danube by Rod Heikell
A 1991 publication based on an overland trip of the portion of the Danube above the commercial waterway in 1985 and a second trip in 1987 by small boat from Regensburg to the Black Sea. Written in Heikell’s usual style, the historical background is still useful and the simple river charts are of some use although parts are immensely out of date (Yugoslavia still existed when the book was written).
- The Danube: A Cultural History by Andrew Beattie
An excellent 2010 publication covering the social and historical aspects of the area crossed by the Danube River. This book along with the Heikell book above became our main guides: we read them both prior to starting the trip and then consulted them as we were underway. There is a lot to see on the Danube and it is easy to drift past something unless you have prepared in advance. We made a list by kilometre number that combined the sites and locations mentioned in both books. Each day we had a list of what we should expect to see as we slowly moved down the river.
- Danube by Claudio Magris
An academic tome with many references but not very much of interest to piloting a boat down the river.
- Blue River, Black Sea by Andrew Eames
A British journalist made the journey down the Danube in 2008 for the purposes of writing about it. Provides some background history but not much else of use to sailing the river (which he only follows from the headwaters to Budapest anyway).
- Up the Rhine and Down the Danube by Derek R. Brown
A travelogue from 2001/2002 with little information for planning, one overview map, a list of yacht harbours visited and a list daily mileages.
Most of these books we bought off of internet book sellers as they are rather specialty items.
Charts and Pilots
All the pilotage publications we bought were in the German language, and all were published by Edition Maritim which seems to be an imprint of Delius Klassing publishers. The subject matter is limited in vocabulary and so with some dictionaries we were able to translate what was being said about the waterways. Our Navionics charts used German hydrological data so they were also in German where there were descriptions on the charts although the software operated in your choice of languages. There was a rather old (1996) English language publication on the waterways of Germany but we chose not to buy it as the information would have been over 15 years old, we thought it better to do battle with our English-German dictionaries and work from much more recent publications.
- Navionics Charts ”Europe West Gold – CF/46 XG” We were able to buy carts for all of the inland waterways of Europe, at this time “CF/46 XG” included all the inland waterways including the Danube. From what we have seen some years Navionics includes the Danube on “46 XG” and other years it doesn’t. The sale person at Navionics suggested buying a road atlas to accompany the digital charts as they only list features of the waterways, no cities, regions, geographical features are displayed. We bought a copy of the Michelin road atlas and it complemented the digital charts well.
Our printed publications we bought through Nautische Buchhandlung in Berlin. Walter who manages the store was very knowledgeable and able to show us the most cost effective way as well as which volumes were preferable. The fact that he spoke perfect English made our selection process very painless.
[Note: the preceding link is dead as of 2018 – “www.reimernautik.de”]
- Karte de Wasserstrassen Deutschland und Beneluxländer by Edition Maritim
This took us from the mouth of the Oder river at Swinoujscie Poland through to Berlin, Potsdam and as far as Magdeburg where the Mittelland Kanal starts at which point we went onto more detailed pilot books.
- Vom Rhein zur Nord- und Ostsee by Manfred Fenzl
This covers the major waterways of the Elbe, the Wesser and the Emms rivers; the Kiel (Nord-Ostsee) canal; and the Mittelland Kanal from Magdeburg (on the Elbe) west to Duisberg on the Rhine.
- Der Rhein by Manfred Fenzl
Covers the Rhine river from Heidelburg to the mouth in Rotterdam Nertherlands.
- Die Mosel by Manfred Fenzl
Covers the Mosel, Saarm, Saar canal and Rhine-Marne canal
- Gewässerkarte Main / Main-Donau-Kanal: Vom Rhein zur Donau by Andreas Saal This volume was a lucky find, although published by Edition Maritim (AKA Delius Klassing) we could not find it on their website and so list the amazon.de listing for it here. This covers the Main river and the Main-Donau Kanal, thereby covering the route to the beginning of the Danube proper.
- Die Donau by Melanie Haselhorst and Kenneth Dittmann
We have a more detailed review of this book here.
We saw an inland waterways chart “Wasserstraßenkarte Europa” which was more extensive than what we had already bought, but we did not purchase it. Were we to do it again we would have bought it instead.
We also bought but didn’t use “Gewässerkarte Deutschland by Jürgen Strassburger” as the “Karte de Wasserstrassen Deutschland und Beneluxländer by Edition Maritim” was much better, although the ”Wasserstraßenkarte Europa” was even better.
Note: Something that should be pointed out is that the charts by Verberght & Co BVBA (see link below) are hand drawn, updated and re-printed each year and there are about 10 volumes to cover the river. These seem to be the best charts available. Our digital charts were fine until we got below the Iron Gates where the lack of depth information became an immense liability – in fact they became useless for navigation purposes. Had we had the volumes 7 to 10 we would have had a lot less problems. Were we to do the Danube again we would purchase the chart books for the lower Danube. We would suggest to anyone considering the lower Danube that they seriously consider purchasing these volumes. They are available directly from the publishers or through various marine book sellers.
In preparing to cross Europe we accumulated many links then when we were on the waterways we accumulated more. Sites are listed in order of occurrence when going down the Danube, or by date of publication.
Links updated 2020-02
Nautische Buchhandlung [Note: the preceding link is dead as of 2018 – “www.reimernautik.de”]
Verberght & Co BVBA charts
Imray Nautical Charts
Noorder Soft & PC-Navigo
Inland Waters Resources – last updated 2011, has some information on European inland waterway charts
Donau Schifffahrt (Danube Shipping)– a collection of information, publications and some maps, all pertaining to the shipping on the Danube and all free of charge.
Cruising Tips – North Sea to Black Sea Passage
Cruising Tips – Interactive Map of European Inland Waterways
Flags of the World
Danube River Ports | eWaterways
Danube Tourist Guide | eWaterways
Marne-Rhine Canal | Aboard in France
WSV – German Waterways (German)
Pegel Online – page with clickable map that displays water levels at Pegels (German)
Voies Navigables de France – home page for French waterways (French)
Voies Navigables de France, Direction territoriale Nord-Est – home page for northeast section of French waterways (including Mosel and Marne-Rhine canal) (French)
Vigicrues : Information sur la vigilance “crues” – page with clickable map that leads to water level displays by station (French)
Romanian River Information Services
River Administration of the Lower Danube (English & Romanian)
Romanian Naval Authority (English & Romanian)
Romanian Navigable Canals Administration (English & Romanian)
Administratia Porturilor Dunarii Fluviale (Romanian)
Agency for Maintenance of the Danube River (Bulgarian)
Romanian National Institute of Hydrology (Romanian)
Bulgarian River Information Services (English & Bulgarian)
Serbian Directorate of Inland Waterways (English & Serbian)
Electronic Waterway Information Service (German)
German waterways (only)
2002 s/y New Chance [dead link]
2004 s/y Alegria (Dutch)
2007 s/y Naomi – Nürnberg to Istanbul (German)
2008 m/y Rumbalotte (German)
2009 s/y EMI (Polish)
2009 s/y Nikoline – Sweden-Black Sea (Swedish)
interactive dots (and books) on the Danube (German)
2011 s/y Orca (AKA Red Sky at Night)
2011 m.y la Reve
2011 Sahula going up the Danube
2011 s/y Fleetwood – a bit hard to find the Danube postings
Danube Travel – Discover the Danube
Plains of Passage Donau map – for readers of the “Earth Children” series of books by Jean Auel)
Roman cultural origins along the Danube
The Danube by Boat | Viator Travel Blog
Bayern (Bavarian) canals (German)
Liegeplatz – berthing database (German)
Yahoo Euro Canals Group – must join the group on Yahoo to read, then in 2019 Yahoo discontinued Groups, has a book for sale
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