Navigating the Boven Zeeschelde and the Rupel

The BovenZeeschelde is a very tidal river connecting Gent and Antwerp. The Rupel (& Dijle)  connect Antwerp to Mechelen and Lier.  Because of the strong tidal flow and rise/fall, both need careful planning, particularly for a trip down one and up the other.  These notes are from a member living in Antwerp and well used to the journey.  

Antwerpen -> Gent

- Leave (assuming you’re on the Scheldt) 1,5h after low tide.  Then the trip to Gent is 6 to 7 hours at around 10km/h. You should have the current with you all the way. 

Antwerpen -> Mechelen/Lier

To go up Rupel from Antwerpen leave about 2h after low tide (1,5h the absolute earliest), thus ensuring the water is high enough on Rupel.

Gent -> Antwerpen

Leave Merelbeke locks max 1h before high tide. The tide goes out a lot faster than it comes in so it will catch up.   It is almost inevitable to have the tide turn against you around Wintam/Rupelmonde, so a stopover is recommended for this journey

Gent -> Mechelen/Lier

If you want to turn onto the Rupel, coming from Ghent, strongly suggest staying overnight in Wintam (through Lock),  Branst (pontoon on the Scheldt) or Boom (pontoon  2km into the Rupel)

Do not go into the Rupel before tide has been coming in for 1,5-2hours or it may be too shallow / narrow.

Mind the Klein-Willebroek lock, it’s not easy when current is running on the Rupel as there are two steel posts in the river right outside the lock. Even experienced local skippers have hit these!  If you  wait at Wintam, it is best to re-enter the Scheldt, then the Ruplel.

Journey Times

Typical times for the various journeys are 

  •  Antwerp (Royersluis)-Merelbeke  80km@12-13kph = 6-7 hr
  • Gent-Wintam: about 5hr
  • Gent-Antwerp (Royersluis): 7hr
  • Royersluis<->Willemdok: depends on time of arrival - unpredictable
  • Gent-Dendermonde: about 3 hr
  • Dendermonde-Wintam: about 3 hr
  • Dendermonde- Royersluis: about 4 hr
  • Gent-Branst: about 4 hr
  • Branst-Wintam: about 1 hr
  • Branst- Royersluis: about 3 hr

-> times from Dendermonde/Branst/Wintam are based on having the current with you all the way as this is doable if you split the journey.

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