Crossing the Elbe – a lesson in physics.

Waiting for a ferry on the Elbe (Germany).

Waiting for a ferry on the Elbe (Germany).

The Elbe river starts as a spring in Northern Czech Rebulic, just on the border with Poland.  The Elbe courses south east towards Prague and then takes a sharp western turn into Germany.  It heads North West and 1094 km later drains into the North Sea at Cuxhavel 100 km or so west of Hamburg.

We have followed the Elbe in a reverse direction, heading towards the Czech Republic.  The Elbe is a placid river with an obvious strong current – but no rapids that we have seen so far.  A fun part of our cycle trip down the Elbe has been the multiple crossings of the wide waterway.  The crossings are completed on bridges or by ferries – and one time by a water bridge. Yep, that’s right- there is a bridge that carries the Havel Canal over the Elbe.  How cool is that! So cool that it deserves its own post!

The ferries have generally been of two kinds- a small flat vessel with an engine that runs every 15 minutes or so crossing the Elbe.  The captain of the one engine based ferry that we took was quite unpleasant, generally not a happy man. Perhaps he was grumpy because his Ferry wasn’t as cool as the reaction Ferries- that’s where the physics comes in.

Reaction Ferry Anchor

Reaction Ferry Anchor

The reaction ferries are anchored up river by a long cable. Some have two additional cables that run to either side of the boat, a few have a simple ruder and one has an overhead set of cables.  The captain manually tightens the cable on one side (or manipulates the ruder) which allows the boat to move into the current.  The Ferry then “pendulums” to the other side. The Captain then makes a quick adjustment to the other cable and boom, the ferry lands perfectly and you are on your way.  The captains of the reaction ferries have all been jolly –probably because their ferries are the coolest and apply simple laws of physics for movement.

On the Ferry from Tangermunde

On the Ferry from Tangermunde

Wall mural of the Elbe

Wall mural of the Elbe

The placid Elbe.

The placid Elbe.

Reaction ferry anchor

Reaction ferry anchor

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