Captain’s Tips

Captain’s Tips

The routes of the Żuławy Loop may be divided into river and canal waterways as well as maritime internal waters. Each pose specific threats to boaters and have their characteristic features. This chapter provides you with a compendium on how to navigate these waters safely.

Boater’s Decalogue

1. Route. Plan the route and decide on berthing places. Inform your loved ones about it.

2. Communication. Have a mobile phone with you, always in a waterproof bag.

3. Weather. Check weather forecasts before setting off; observe the sky and the water during the trip.

4. Safety. Keep life jackets within easy reach. When wind strength is above 4B (7 m/s, 25 km/h), put on a life jacket regardless of your swimming skills. Children and non-swimmers should wear life jackets during the trip as well as in ports.

5. Right of way. All commercial and merchant vessels have the right of way before pleasure vessels.

6. Nets. Observe water surface. Most nets are marked. Do not sail into them and do not move them.

7. Power lines. A threat to vessels with masts. Before the trip, look up the heights of power lines on your route. Caution! The heights given for power lines refer to the figures on the information boards placed on river banks by proper services. The map publisher cannot be held accountable for such information.

8. Capsize. In danger of a capsize, the cabin of the vessel should be closed and the crew should be on deck. Sudden manoeuvres should be avoided. In the event of a capsize, the crew should not move away from the capsized yacht until the arrival of a rescue vessel.

9. Environment. Get strong rubbish bags and dispose of them in designated places. Do not pour away washings with chemicals into the water. Do not allow fuel or motor oils to spill.

10. Respect nature. Do not pull in to the bank forcing your way through riverside vegetation. Do not destroy water or terrestrial vegetation. Navigate along the middle of the river, where there is no vegetation. Light bonfires in designated places only. Leave places in order.

Caution! The Vistula Lagoon is maritime internal waters, suitable for experienced sailors. Crews without sailing experience will feel safer on the waters of the Żuławy Loop. Common sense and humility before water and wind should be exercised on all waters.

What to sail on?

The rivers of the Żuławy Loop
Almost any vessel is fit for navigating them but, owing to weak current, the best are those equipped in motors, e.g. yachts, sailing boats, or houseboats. Due to small depths, check river stages each time, since they fluctuate periodically. Rivers recommended to kayakers are: the Tuga, the Wierzyca, the Liwa, the Pasłęka, and the Motława.

The Vistula Lagoon

A lift keel yacht is definitely the best choice. The older types performwell: Venus, Carina, Nash, Giga, or Chochlik, but there are fewer and fewer yachts of these kinds on water now. Of the newer types, we recommend the larger ones: Solina 800, Tango 30, Antila 26, Tes 32, Janmor 31. Smaller barge yachts will perform worse during high wave, which is frequent on the Lagoon. The draught of the yacht should be 50–80 cm (1.65–2.6 ft). The Vistula Lagoon is a very shallow water body despite the periodic dredging of selected ports. When sailing on a yacht with a greater draught (e.g. Nefryt), you may be unable to enter some ports (e.g. Piaski) or run the risk of scraping the yacht against the bottom.

Where to hire a yacht?

On the trails of the Żuławy Loop and on the entire Vistula Lagoon there are only a few marinas where it is possible to charter a yacht. Shipowners and companies have a total of about 30 sailing yachts available, but the number is growing. The number of people interested in sailing on houseboats (motor barges) is on the increase as well.
An interesting solution is the charter of a yacht in Iława Lake District, in Iława or Ostróda, by two crews. The first crew sets off from Iława and, after sailing through the Elbląg Canal, finishes the trip on the Vistula Lagoon, in a selected harbour on the Żuławy Loop trail or in Gdańsk. The other crew sails the way back. This allows you to avoid covering the same route twice. In Gdańsk you can hire yachts with a draught appropriate for Gdańsk Bay but not necessarily for the Vistula Lagoon.

Crew qualifications

Rzeki Pętli Żuławskiej
Regulations impose no obligation to possess special licences. On the Loop’s rivers there is a possibilityof hiring yachts – houseboats without motorboating or skipper’s licences. So, all aboard!

The Vistula Lagoon

Since 2007, non-commercial seagoing yachts are exempt from the obligation to have Safety Certificates (KB), Movable Equipment Inventories (WWR), or other documents. In principle, it is allowed to sail on the waters of the Vistula Lagoon on any inland sailboat. However, the person in charge of the vessel must be a licensed yacht skipper.

What equipment should a yacht have on the Vistula Lagoon?

Recommended essential equipment:

– a storm jib
– an orange smoke buoy
– red signal flares
– a VHF radio
– a GPS device
– safety harness
– a life buoy with a heaving line

Other essential items are:
– binoculars
– a foghorn
– a torch with spare batteries
– life preservers or automatic life jackets
– a chemical toilet
– a second anchor
– a bilge pump

Useful: spare lines, a second stay, a topping lift.
Caution! It is good to have a well-equipped boatswain’s toolbox with you. In the Żuławy Loop, sailors will only find shopping possibilities in Gdańsk and (modest) in Elbląg.

The technical condition of the yacht
The technical condition of the vessel should be thoroughly examined before every trip: running and
standing rigging, sails, as well as fuel and water supply. When planning to enter the Vistula Lagoon,
you should also inspect the yacht’s ballast. Remember that, on the water, your vessel may be the only one around, with no one to ask for help.

At what times to navigate?

For safety reasons, navigate the rivers of the Żuławy Loop from dawn to dusk only. The sailing hours will also depend on lock opening times. Before setting off, check what stretch it will be possible to cover during one day and plan appropriate stops. A motor vessel covers an average of 6 to 8 km per hour. On the Vistula Lagoon also sailing by night is allowed. After dark, the yacht must have proper documents and equipment: navigation lights, properly fitted safety equipment (e.g. safety harness with lights attached). Caution! When navigating by night, you may easily get entangled in unmarked fishing nets.

How to lock?

On the Żuławy Loop there are 6 locks enabling passage between different levels. Locking requires concentration and good organisation. Optimally, entering a lock should be arranged half an hour in advance with the facility staff. Telephone numbers are given in the Information section.
Approaching a closed lock, moor the vessel in the outer port and wait for the gate to open. The lock staff usually open one gate, which gives you c. 4.5 m (14.7 ft) width for performing the entrance and exit manoeuvres.
Before entering the lock, prepare the mooring lines in order to moor the vessel to bollards, to a mooring ring, or to a ladder inside the lock. Due to the changes in water level, always be ready to slip the moorings while inside the lock. Enter the lock slowly, but maintain sufficient gear to be able to manoeuvre. Two people are enough for locking: one at the helm and the other to handle the mooring. Experienced boaters will manage on their own. Caution! During high water stages on the Vistula, the locks connecting it with the Nogat (Biała Góra), the Szkarpawa (Gdańska Głowa), and the Martwa Wisła (Przegalina) are closed since the Vistula was regulated. This should be checked before the trip!

How to pass bridges and drawbridges?

Every bridge has a specified span clearance at high water (HWL) and at medium water (MWL). The place for safe passage under the bridge is indicated with a yellow tooth mark on the span.
The drawbridges on the Żuławy Loop are opened at specified hours. Look them up before setting out on a trip at www.petla‑ Do not proceed until the bridge span has been raised.

How to read the aids to navigation on the Vistula’s banks?

Green rhombuses and yellow X signs stand on the left bank; red squares and yellow crosses are placed on the right bank. The signs always come in pairs, but in different orders. Sometimes, additionally, green or red beacons are anchored on water, marking the left and right edges of the fairway. River bank marking is particularly important at low water stages. Considerable amounts of sand are then deposited, forming sandbars that obstruct navigationand sometimes block the mainstream; depths below 1 m (3.3 ft) are not unusual. The width of the water surface is c.
500 m, which makes it important to have binoculars with you, enabling you to read the signs placed on the opposite bank clearly. This is often a challenge. It happens that signs are destroyed or covered by vegetation.

How to gain time for reading the river on the Vistula?

If you wish to gain time for finding the signs or for more precise reading of the river, we advise you to turn the yacht bow against the current and maintain it in proper gear. For this reason, it is worthwhile fitting your yacht with a spare motor or at least with an effective anchor, which will facilitate braking the vessel and prevent dangerous collisions with stone wing dams in the event of propulsion failure.

What surprises inland sailors on the Vistula Lagoon?

– Very quickly changing weather. Sudden emergence of short and high waves, which may cause trouble even to seasoned seamen. Combined with high wind, this makes it necessary to reduce sail and weather. Using outboard motors is often a problem: the screw leaps out of water. Due to a break in the weather, you may be stranded in the port even for 2 or 3 days.

- A change of wind direction while sailing, when the wind turns back. Differences in wave height and wind strength depending on wind direction. This has an important influence on the planning of trip route.

- The necessity of receiving weather forecasts every day. If you have no radio, you can always phone the Harbour Master’s Office in Elbląg (Tel. (55) 234 77 11 – a 24-hour line), the Harbour Authority in Tolkmicko (Tel. (55) 231 66 14, 07:00–15:00) or in Frombork (Tel. (55) 243 72 19, 07:00–15:00).

- A large number of fishing nets, frequently placed just beside the fairway. They are improperly marked or not marked at all.

- No possibilities of spending the night “in the wild” near the bank, as between you and the bank there is a broad strip of shoals and reeds. Spending a night at anchor may be hazardous when the wind suddenly becomes stronger or changes direction. There are exceptions to this rule. You can safely spend the night “in the wild” in the estuaries of rivers (the Szkarpawa, the Nogat, the Wisła Królewiecka, or the Pasłęka) and in Elbląg Bay.

- The necessity of keeping to approach fairways when sailing into ports, due to shoals. There are exceptions to this rule as well, mainly in the case of lift keel yachts.

- Entering and leaving ports with the motor running. Krynica Morska and Kąty Rybackie are the only harbours you can enter safely and easily under sail.

- Numerous navigational marks (daytime and night-time) – beacons, buoys, lights, and even a lighthouse – which help you keep track of your position.

- The possibility of being controlled by Border Guards, especially near Piaski or Nowa Pasłęka.

Have a safe holiday on the waters of the Żuławy Loop!



Part One. Discovering the Żuławy Loop


Tales of the Loop: A Page from History


Harmony: The Key to Reading the Landscapes of Żuławy


Architecture: The Land of Arcaded Houses and Hydrotechnical Monuments


Part Two. The Sailing Routes of the Żuławy Loop: Sailing and Sightseeing


The Vistula


The Martwa Wisła, the Śmiała Wisła, the Motława Gdańska


The Szkarpawa


The Wisła Królewiecka


The Elbląg River and the Jagielloński Canal


The Nogat


The Wielka Święta–Tuga


The Vistula Lagoon


Pasłęka River and the Canal of Pasłęka


The Kaliningrad Lagoon


Part III. The ABC of Sailing: Before You Sail on the Żuławy Loop


Proposed Trip Routes


II. The Little Loop of Żuławy


III. To the Capital of the Vistula Żuławy


IV. From Gdańsk to the Vistula Lagoon


V. Down the Vistula to Gdańsk


VI. Around the Vistula Lagoon




Captain’s Tips


signs shipping


signs shipping


Część IV. Nautical Base of the Żuławy Loop. Ports and marinas.


Mooring Platforms in Tczew


The passenger and yacht harbour in Tczew


The fishing port in Świbno


The fishing harbour in Mikoszewo


Marina in Błotnik


Harbour „Tęcza”


River side hostel in Wiślinka


Maritime Yacht Club “Neptun”


Marina Delphia Yachts - Górki Zachodnie


Gdańsk Shipyard Yacht Club


Joseph Conrad Yacht Club


Academic Maritime Club in Gdańsk


AZS Cosa - Academic Sports Association in Gdańsk


The National Sailing Centre of the University School of Physical Education and Sport


Gdańsk Maritime Club Yachting Harbour


Marina on „Tamka” Street


Yachting Harbour “Stewa”


Northern Yacht Club Harbour


WOPR Gdańsk Harbour


Marina Gdańsk


Kayak and Motorboat Harbour “Żabi Kruk”


Marina Sienna Grobla II


Polish Maritime Club Harbour (Wisłoujście)


Mooring piers in Drewnica


Harbour in Żuławki


Mooring piers in Rybina


Yacht harbor in Rybina


Yacht harbor in Osłonka


Houseboat Harbour in Rybina


Marina Baltica in Sztutowo


Yacht harbor in Sztutowo


Yacht Wharf by the Zygmunt August Boulevard in Elbląg


Yacht harbor Fala


The marina of Scout Water Centre “Bryza”


Yacht Club Elbląg


Yacht harbor in Biała Góra


The harbour of the Sports and Leisure Centre in Malbork.


Castle Harbour in Malbork


“Park Północny” harbour in Malbork


The harbour in Kamienica Elbląska


The harbour in Nadbrzeże


The harbour in Suchacz


The harbour in Kadyny


The harbour in Tolkmicko


The port in Frombork


The port in Piaski


The yacht port in Krynica Morska


The fishing port in Krynica Morska


The port of Kąty Rybackie


Yacht harbor in Kąty Rybackie


Sailing harbour “Neptun” in Kąty Rybackie


The port of Nowa Pasłęka


“Dom Rybaka” harbour in Stara Pasłęka


Stara Pasłęka harbour


Yacht harbor in Braniewo


Explanation of the symbols of services available on harbours and their surroundings (1.5 km).


Water nodes of the Żuławy Loop.


Gdańsk Water Tram