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Navigation marking on the Vistula Lagoon

Water sports enthusiast vademecum

How to safely sail on the Vistula Lagoon

How to safely sail on the Zulawska Loop

Water sport enthusiast Decalogue

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How to safely sail on the Zulawska Loop

How to safely flow on the Zulawska Loop?

The water trails of the Zulawska Loop differ substantially from one another. The specificity of our flowing, any inconveniences or even separate provisions depend on which reservoir or on which river we sail. The waterways of the Loop can be divided into several types: a) the marine inland waters (the Vistula Lagoon), b) the channels, c) the rivers, d) the "side" trails (the rivers and the channels, on which it is difficult or even impossible to sail than on other trails). In addition, the waterways can differ with respect to navigation. We can distinguish: water ports, inland waters, standing waters (lagoons, lakes, channels, rivers without current or with minimum current), flowing waters (rivers with strong current).

Crew powers

The provisions do not impose specific powers. On the rivers of the Loop it is possible to hire yachts - houseboats without motor or sailing patents.

Flowing hours

On the inland waters flowing is permitted from the dawn to the dusk. Flowing hours are also subject to opening hours of the sluices and the bridges. Before departure, check what distance will be possible to be flowed within one day and plan break appropriately. Motor units allows covering the average distance of 6-8 km/h, sailing yacht allows covering the average distance of 5-6 km/h.

Basic sailing rules

On the inland waters flowing is permitted from the dawn to the dusk. Flowing hours are also subject to opening hours of the sluices and the bridges. Before departure, check what distance will be possible to be flowed within one day and plan accommodation appropriately. It is important to have fuel reserves - there is still low number of water petrol stations, fuel buying often involves very long walk. As a rule we can flow the whole river width, small sand-bank channels are often "marked" with water vegetation. This rule applies to the lower Vistula River, from 989 km to the Vistula River Przekop. Shallows, apart from water track, are on the Martwa Vistula, at a distance from the sluice of Przegalin to the pontoon bridge in Sobieszewo. 

Availability of waterways

Most major waterways are available for the sword-ballast units and the ballast units of immersion to 1.2 meters (although "nominal" more depth, typically up to 1.6 meters, the units of immersion more than 1.2 meters will not have freedom of navigation). These include, but are not limited to: the Szkarpawa River, the Jagiellonski Channel, the Elblag River, the Nogat River, Druzno Lake, the Elblag Channel. Yachts of immersion not exceeding 1 meters, may flow on the Krolewiecka Vistula River (shallows at the mouth of the Vistula Lagoon), to Pasleka (in 2010 the mounth to the Lagoon was deepened), Tuga, Tinia, Dzierzgon, upper part of the Motlawa River. Limitation of sailing includes low clearance under the bridges and the footbridges or power lines.

Yachts of immersion greater than 1.2 meters can easily sail on the Martwa Vistula River, the Smiala Vistula River and the Motlawa River (on the old town part) and on waters of Gdansk port.

Limitation for sailing on all reservoirs, and especially on the ones that are not the main waterways, are low bridges, footbridges, passes and low or unmarked high voltage power lines and underwater obstacles. Although some waterways look quite promising on the map, are in fact unavailable. The example can be the Cieplicowka River (leading from the Nogat River to the Vistula Lagoon), which is completely covered with vegetation, low bridges and power lines. It is only possible to flow on the river by kayak. Our sailing time is also limited by opening hours of the sluices, the ramps, the drawbridges, the pontoon bridges and the rotating bridges. Their system of operation is improving each year. With the increase in popularity of the waterways of the Zulawska Loop and increasing number of the units sailing here, the situation forces the facilities administrators to implement changes, for the benefit of sailors.

Power lines

Unfortunately there are too much of them. Many of them hang dangerously low for yacht masts. Despite several operations of lines rising, with time, after two to three years, they drop. However, the situation is improving. For several years Energa Operator S.A. has progressively eliminated low power lines over the waterways, improving safety by connecting cables of these lines or increasing height of wires significantly beyond the limits specified in the relevant legislation. This applies e.g. to the Szkarpawa River, the Nogat River, the Pasleka River and the Vistula Lagoon. 10 such reconstructions have been executed so far, and 3 tasks are in progress. Reconstructions are to further improve sailing on routes of the Zulawska Loop. Now dangerous line is on the Martwa Vistula River (between the cable-stayed bridge and Gorki Zachodnie - 13 meters) and on the Szkarpawa River, just at the bridge in Drewnica, over the mooring platform. Low, unmarked lines are on the Pasleka River, the Nogat River, the Krolewiecka Vistula River, and the Tinia River and above the Elblag Channel. Always flow according to the principle "Wires are lower than you think". The power lines height does not impact on trails, which we have to cover with lying mast, due to the fixed bridges - for example on the Nogat River, the Elblag Channel, Tuga or Tinia.

The largest problem, however, are high voltage power lines on the route Gdansk-Elblag (the Martwa Vistula River, the Skarpawa River, the Krolewiecka Vistula), which can be covered with standing mast by yachts. The more that after commissioning of the bascule bridge on Przegalina sluice there is possibility to flow by large ballast yachts with standing masts on the trail Gdansk/the Bay of Gdansk - the Vistula Lagoon/Elblag, omitting the Vistula Hole. The inland yachts are larger and larger each year, and their masts are higher and higher. When we add antennas located on the top, it appears that the average height of a mast of a large inland yacht is now from 12 to 14 meters. Once we add continuous water level fluctuations and the "margin of safety", it appears that the power lines height should not be less than 16-17 meters.

Water vegetation, i.e. green carpets

It is unbelievable amount of floating water fern - salvinia. It creates true "green carpets" on the water, especially in August and September. The "floating island" as well - compacted grass clumps, plants, branches flowing with current. All of this slows down significantly speed of our unit and causes obstruction of the cooling system in engines. The slower current on the river, the more greenery there is.


On most rivers of the Zulawska Loop, current is minimum or it is not there at all. This makes it possible to organize canoeing rallies "in both directions" and flowing on yachts. The Vistula River is an exception, its current is strong. There is also noticeable current on the Liwia River and on the Pasleka River, weaker current is on the Motlawa River and the Elblag river. Some rivers can periodically... change the direction of current. These include e.g. the Elblag River (Elblazka) and the Martwa Vistula. Change of the direction of current (also called "backwater") is caused by high inland winds which push away water masses of the Vistula Lagoon or the Bay of Gdansk in mauth of the riverbeds. On the Vistual River, on its mouth part, from Gdanska Glowa Sluice to the Vistula Rover Hole, current attrition with masses of water pushed from the Bay cause very high waves, dangerous for the smaller units.

Drawbridges, rotating bridges, pontoon bridges

There are many of them in the whole trail of the Zulawska Loop. Together with sluices, weirs, pumping stations, flood gates are interesting, attractive, but troublesome places on the trail for water sports enthusiasts.. They are troublesome due to frequency and schedule of opening leaves much to be desired. In addition, management of these facilities by a number of different institutions causes the fact that they do not exist in a coherent system. A list of the hydrotechnical facilities, together with a description, contact details and opening hours is on our web side - here


There are 6 sluices on the Zulawska Loop, allowing covering the different levels of the rivers. Sluicing process requires concentration and good organization. It is the best to agree flowing into sluice for approximately half an hour before the operation of the facility. Phone numbers are provided in the Information chapter. Flowing to the closed sluice we should moor our unit in the outer port and wait for gates opening. Sluice operators usually open one gate, which means approximately 4.5 m width to manoeuvre of entrance and exit. Before flowing into the sluice, prepare ropes to moor the unit to bitts, mooring ear or ladder inside the sluice. In view of the changes in water level inside the sluice, always moor at running gear. Flow into the sluice gently, but keep the engine power, which will make it possible to manoeuvre the unit. Sluicing process requires two people, one for helm, and the other for mooring. More experienced water sports enthusiasts can do it on their own.

Movement of ships

On the whole route, be careful of ship traffic; in the vicinity of Gdansk: marine, towing boats, pushers with barges and other units of professional sailing. Because of the contact of inland waterways with marine waters, in most trail navigation marking is compatible with sea marking.

When turning on the rivers (apart from the Vistula River), passing with longer units or sets (two barges + pusher) can be difficult or impossible and these units can cover the entire trail width.

In the season, on the route from Gdansk to Elblag (through the Szkarpawa River) and on the Vistula Lagoon tourist ship with German flag flows - Johannes Brahms (formerly Frederic Chopin and Polonaise). Because of its length (approximately 100 meters), the unit has a limited manoeuvrability, and its large displacement causes that it pushes water in front of causing water levels difference between bow and stern. At sides strong current appears, and behind the stern water level decreases for some time, which can have considerable impact on yachts of more immersion. Be careful when passing with such ships.

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October 2018

Czy twoim zdaniem do pływania po Pętli Żuławskiej przydałaby się nowa aplikacja z nawigacją na telefon?

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