How fast can yachts go

With the yacht on the Rhine - tips and hints!

Some are drawn to the river because a yacht has to be fetched from the lake area to the winter camp “inland”, others because the Rhine has to serve as a stage for a transfer (e.g. into the Mediterranean) or because the Rhine and its tributaries are the traditional shipping area and your ship is moored there. We're talking about the most diverse types of boats. From a trailerable motorboat to a full-fledged motor or sailing yacht. Sailing yacht? Yes, right, we also sailed on the Rhine.

In the following, we would like to give some hints and tips to those new to the area in particular. As always, good preparation is the measure of all things!

The Rhine is one of the busiest waterways in the world. Its length is 1,233 km, of which about 900 km are navigable for large ships. You can find extensive information on the Rhine and its tributaries at

Good preparation is the measure of all things!

Driver's licenses & patents

We have to differentiate between pleasure craft and commercial vessels. So type and destination are the distinguishing criteria here.

Note: A patent may also be required for an 8 m long ship if it was classified as a professional ship by the approval.

Read about in the RheinpatentVO.

Fairway depths & levels

For most of those who are on the Rhine for the first time, this is a difficult and sometimes incomprehensible topic. I'm trying to shed light on the darkness without starting with the big bang.

There is the fairway depth, also called the target depth, which is kept in the fairway at an equivalent water level (GLW), which is kept for shipping within the framework of what is possible and reasonable.
They are set for certain sections of the route.

Now there is the so-called GLW (equivalent water level). Fixed for certain reference levels.
Here are some examples:

Let's assume that the current water level of 1.98 m is displayed at the Emmerich gauge.

But where am I driving now?

So far so good. Now you know what depth you can expect in the fairway. But where is the fairway? The Rhine does not have continuous buoys like a shipping route, so there is no buoy line on which you can hang around.

On the Lower Rhine, for example, the fairway is 150m wide. The deep water is always in the middle of the river on a straight section of the river, unless otherwise indicated by fairway buoys. In curves (called river bends) the deep water is in the “slope” (outer curve) and it is shallow in the “place” (inner curve). This is due to the inertia of the water, whatever takes the long way and with the stronger current on the slope naturally carries along segments, stones, gravel and rubble at the bottom. Groynes on the bank try to keep the “current” where the fairway is. Perhaps you will stay behind a loaded professional ship for the time being and get used to it.

Now there are sections of the route where the ascent and descent may show the way. This is done with a so-called Blue chalkboardwhich every ship (except small craft) has on the starboard side. At night it is a flashing white light. The climber always tries to drive on the inside of the curve on these sections of the route, as there is less current there. If he changes the side of the fairway, he sets the blue board and the oncoming valley driver also replies with his blue board as confirmation. Man speaks of meeting starboard to starboard. At the same time, the mountain driver is obliged to leave sufficient space for the descent.

Small vehicles are exempt from this regulation, but should take part in the “change of side”, otherwise it can get very tight. But now there are also sections with a so-called regulated encounter, wherever the port-to-port encounter applies. This applies from km 428.2 to 540.1 and from Duisburg km 769.0 to the Dutch border at km 857.0. A special case is the so-called Mountain range. Between km 556.0 and km 540.20 there is a right-hand drive!

Bridge heights

Almost all Rhine bridges between Strasbourg and Emmerich have a clearance height of at least 9.10 m, based on the high water mark II. In addition, there is the respective difference to the reference level. The lowest known Rhine bridge is the Südbrücke in Düsseldorf with only 8.61m.


Depending on the section of the route and the water level, you can expect a flow speed of 4-6 km / h. In the mountain range (Bingen-St.Goar) 6-10 km / h. On the Upper Rhine 2-4 km / h. Of course, these are only rough estimates. You will find kilometers on both banks. Every full kilometer is named, every half kilometer with a black cross on a white background and every hundred meters with a number 1-9. In this way, you can quickly determine an exact speed over the ground during the first few meters of your journey. The boat trip going down into the valley (with the current) can be pretty fast. Empty commercial ships in particular can reach speeds of up to 30 km / h. So you should turn around every now and then on your trip and watch what comes from behind.

As already described, the Rhine is a very busy waterway. Mutual consideration is therefore essential.

Harmful sauce and waves

Always to be avoided. Larger motor yachts in particular cause a large stern wave that runs on the bank.

It's not just about an angler who gets wet feet, but also about the bank reinforcement.

Oncoming ships that are deeply loaded also have problems with their waves. She runs through the gangway and lands in the living room or engine room.

So: Drive accordingly and check your wave run. If you don't hold on to it, the WSP will visit you at the earliest opportunity, informed by cell phone or radio. The information chain works first class in commercial shipping.

Suction effect, blind spot

Keep your distance! In particular, large, fully unloaded ships going uphill develop an enormous pull, which suddenly attracts smaller yachts. Please also note that some commercial ships have a blind spot in the foresight over their own bow.

Route knowledge, unseen weather, anchor gear ...

Please familiarize yourself with the route before starting your journey. According to the traffic regulations, small vehicles are generally obliged to give way to large vehicles.
In bad weather we haven't lost anything on the river. If possible, find a suitable berth in good time. Commercial shipping can see you on the radar, but that's no good if you can't see where you are going.

If you can no longer reach a port, you have to anchor. This also applies in the event of a machine failure, which you should always expect. Be sure to play this emergency role through with your crew. Flotsam can also lead to inability to maneuver or impede. Quick action is required here. Quickly out of the fairway and throw the anchor. Therefore, your anchor gear should be of sufficient size and always be easy to fall. After you (hopefully) lie down, you can ask the responsible district control center for help. You should also make the rest of the shipping on Canal 10 aware of your predicament if you are not out of the fairway!

Obligation to mark small vehicles on federal waterways

There are different ways to mark your vehicle.
In the inland area, this is regulated by the Inland Waterways Regulations (BSchStrO).

Vehicles that are subject to labeling are all small vehicles (<20m length) with a
Motor power of more than 2.21 kW.

With exception of:

  • Rowing boats, dinghies that are moved with muscle power.
  • Sailboats without a motor up to a length of 5.5m.
  • Motor boats up to 2.21 kW.

The owner of a small vehicle can decide whether to apply for and use an official license plate or an officially recognized license plate.

Official marks include:

  • Identification of the waterways and shipping authorities (WSA).
  • Inland waterway registration in the inland waterway register. *

Officially recognized marks are:

  • International boat license (IBS) from DMYV, DSV or ADAC.
  • other recognized characteristics of the various federal states.

Exceptions to personal watercraft (jet skis): These must always have an official registration number!

The respective license plates must be clearly visible on both bow or stern sides or on the ** transom stern. The letters (Latin) and digits (Arabic) must be at least 10 cm high and permanently in a light color on a dark background or in a dark color on a light background.

* Note: Ships with more than 10 m³ must be entered in the ship register.

** In Holland, only the stern is not sufficient, here the marking must be affixed on both sides.

True vision in the mountain range on the Middle Rhine

By far the most demanding route for people and technology. If you have to drive this section between St. Goar and Bingen, you should prepare especially.

The current speed is correspondingly high here, and the fairway is narrow. The descent literally drifts around the curves and requires space. For this reason, there are so called for the ascent. Reality boards that show whether and what is coming downhill behind the corners. Outside the fairway, rocks lurk everywhere!

You can find a very good explanation and overview in a publication by the WSA.
Here is the link to it:

Trips by SY with the mast down

Please take your time to attach the mast to the deck. A stable support and the best possible lashing is required, as it can be quite “rough” on the Rhine. You should also think about temporary lighting.

Radio on board

Only devices that are ATIS capable may be used in internal radio (UBI). A marine radio system or an inland radio system without ATIS may not be used on the Rhine!

If you have a radio system on board, the skipper must also have a radiotelephone certificate and a corresponding allocation certificate must be carried with him. Also must Inland navigation radio manual be on board. All traffic groups and channels of the district control centers are listed in this manual.

update 10/18:
Changes in the internal radio test as of October 1st, 2018

In addition to some questions in the official questionnaire, the radio procedure also changed on October 1st, 2018.

An international call is now also expected in internal radio.
So no longer ‘all ship radio stations’, but all stations ’and no longer here is’, but this is ’.
In addition, the callsign should always be mentioned.

To do this, I have changed my schedule for preparing for the exam and attached it here.

It is clear to me that in practice it is 'different', but the Examination Regulations are 'merciless'.

The previously issued radio certificates remain unaffected by the change and remain valid.


The water protection police of the individual countries are happy to carry out an inspection of the recreational shipping. This is primarily for your safety.

Here is a check list of the WSP, which gives you an overview of what is queried and checked.


We also have these on the Rhine (Upper Rhine).

How do I get in and out safely without sweat and wounds on the ship?

The functioning of a lock has been described in detail so many times. A request to Aunt Google will quickly lead to a satisfactory explanation.

Lock trip

We actually want to write something about the lock trip itself, because in some conversations and reports in internet forums it comes out that some recreational skippers are very reluctant to deal with the topic of locks and, similar to mooring maneuvers, are happy when it's over. Lock passage as a necessary evil, so to speak.

Registration via radio

In the approach to the lock there is a sign on the bank about the radio channel of the lock. At best, this working channel has already been written out beforehand (e.g. from the inland shipping radio manual)

If I am in sight of the lock, I will call you on the radio. For example:

"Iffezheim lock, Iffezheim lock for the motor yacht Balu please come"

Answer: "Lock hears"

“Motoryacht Balu 11m length in the ascent (or in the underwater) would like to lock.
Please come"

Answer e.g .: “We're preparing the port chamber, you can go to the motor ship
Drive in Gisela. "
or similar

One recognizes that sooner or later in the conversation the position and lock (travel) direction must become clear. So you should know whether you are in the ascent or descent, or whether you are in the upper or lower water of the lock.

You should also remember not to send with 25 W, but only with 1 W.

In practice, we also give ourselves three calls to the radio station. In the close range, 1 is sufficient max. 2 times. But we always tell you what type of ship we are and what length we are. The lock master does not need to ask and can see immediately whether we can still fit in the chamber or not.

It is clear that you are only allowed to radio with an approved radio device (inside with ATIS identification) and that you have to be in possession of the required radio license.

Ship clear to lock? Starboard and port fenders out and lines clear. Briefly inform and brief the crew on deck again. Boat hooks are welcome to be ready. That's what he's there for.

Commercial shipping always has priority, is allowed and will enter before us. In absolutely exceptional cases, it could be different if instructed, which I have never experienced before !!

Where and how? If the lock master doesn't say anything, we can tie up on the right or left. When it comes to the question of how, it gets exciting. There is probably no magic bullet. I actually only use the middle cleat to lock in, even if I have enough staff on board! An attempt to explain: There are still locks where the bollards are so far apart that you cannot moor in front and back with a pleasure craft. One bollard is sufficient for the middle cleat version. At best it is a so-called Floating bollard that is embedded in the lock wall. The newer locks have this luxury.

But do not use the line even with a floating bollard, because the floating bollard has a time delay, especially at the beginning of the lock down into the valley, and only swims after approx. 0.5 - 1m !!! If I don't have a floating bollard, I just have to move it, depending on the height of lift / fall.

Practical implementation: If a large ship arrives in front of you, keep your distance as the screw water of the man in front will throw you back and forth. The helmsman is in demand here.

Basically and depending on the volume of traffic, you drive as far forward as possible to allow subsequent ships to enter. If there is no other yacht behind you, keep a little distance from the professional ship in front of you, because you will also have to deal with its propeller water on the exit. Stop the ship at the height of the middle cleat, guide the line over the bollard and lay the line on the middle cleat. Close up nicely. Finished! Please do not hit the cleat with your head, just pull the leash out of your hand. If you have not caught a floating bollard, the line must be repositioned depending on the height of lift / fall.

What I also like to do, looks very casual, but is actually not allowed and I know that the lock has little lift: I drive from the outside control station into the lock and only have the stern line on my rear cleat ready. Stop briefly at a passing bollard and put the line over the bollard, lead it onto the stern cleat and fasten it. Engage the machine again in advance. Finished! The ship now wants to go forward, we hold back and automatically lie down against the lock wall. Not permitted because the machine must actually be off during the lock process.

Everything has actually been said about the upcoming exit. If there is a professional ship ahead of you, leave the line occupied and wait a little, because its propeller water hits you. Where else should it go in the lock? He's not doing it to annoy us!
Stay focused at the helm during the entire trip, as the water is correspondingly choppy.

Note on entrances and exits: Please drive in and out as quickly as possible. Do not "drömeln", because everything is waiting for you. You see it again and again. One of them drömeln / creeps into the lock, all others behind have to stop and get problems to stay on course.

We wish you a safe and eventful journey on an exciting and scenic river that will fascinate and inspire you. Promised!