The Harecastle Tunnel opens at 8.00 so we were up and ready to go in good time. The tunnel keeper had started the tunnel fans at 7.45. He came along to talk to us and said that the first convoy was from the Kidsgrove end and that we would go through at 8.45. He was a little concerned about whether our top box would be too high to pass through the lowest part of the tunnel. We agreed to defer any decision to take the box off until we could check against the chains hanging at the tunnel entrance. In the event we decided that there would be ample room and so it proved.
The tunnel keeper was a great raconteur and in between his duties seeing the boats through he kept us entertained. He had a great story about convincing an American woman on a hire boat that the tunnel keepers at each end kept each other informed on which boats were going through using carrier pigeons, and that if they used up all the pigeons at one end they sent a note with the penultimate pigeon asking for some to be returned by the next boat from the other end. He said that there had been discussions about using a team of twenty four volunteers to man the tunnel. Apparently each tunnel keeper has to be highly trained to rescue any boats that break down, or if the boater is taken ill in the tunnel, so they have to be able to operate any type of boat. The volunteers would also have to be strong enough to open the very heavy gates.
It took us around thirty minutes to get through the tunnel, which seemed pretty tame after the Standedge. The roof was low for a short while in the centre but there is always good width. After travelling down the first three locks we moored just past the Red Bull service block for an afternoon of necessary chores. There was a fair amount of mopping out to be done in the back bilges so I did that and then Alan refilled the stern gland which was obviously needed. Then he fitted the new stern fender extension that we had bought from NB Alton when we were last in Kidsgrove in July! There was a fair amount of fiddling round as he replaced the old fender on top making sure that there was clearance for the rudder. Just as we finished NB Alton came past so our blushes were spared.
Today we did 2.78 Miles, 3 Locks and 1 Tunnel
Statistics so far:-
2399.61 Miles, 1426 Locks, 128 Swing Bridges, 89 Lift Bridges, 43 Tunnels