First task of the day was to prepare Waiouru for our trip through Standedge Tunnel. Pram and cratch covers were removed along with the sat-dome and folding ladder. I then removed the navigation lights before taping the front corners of the cabin roof with a combination of masking tape,cardboard and duct tape.
She hasn’t been this naked in years!
I only did this to ensure it wasn’t necessary
Meanwhile a second boater booked to go through the tunnel today was struggling to get through the top lock. The top gate wouldn’t fully open and he couldn’t get out of the lock. Eventually he called CRT for assistance and a worker arrived with a keb (long handled rake with tines on the end)
The handle of the keb and the tines were both too short. Eventually he was joined by two further colleagues with a larger keb. By this time the first of the boats who had come through the tunnel from the opposite end had arrived.
Eventually they were able to extract a large oval rock from behind the gate returning the lock into service.
We then moved off to the tunnel portal to ensure we made our booking time. Waiouru was gauged by the three CRT volunteers. My only concern was our draft (29 inches) but the volunteers informed me the water depth in the tunnel is 3 metres.
We were joined for the trip by Paul Balmer (nb Waterway Routes). He had previously taken his boat through the tunnel and today he was a passenger with the intention of getting a better view of the experience. Being at the tiller does mean you are so focussed on controlling the boat you don’t get much time to look at the surroundings. There were five on board. Paul and our son in the cratch, Jan inside and me with the CRT volunteer at the stern.
A chaperon (competent CRT volunteer) is required when going through Standedge Tunnel. You are also required to wear a hard safety hat, hi-viz vest and life jacket. The chaperon also carried a large box of safety equipment and a fire extinguisher.
I find the transition from daylight to darkness difficult; particularly if you don’t know the direction the tunnel is going to take; so I entered very slowly. All the photos were taken by our son. I found myself too busy to even consider taking photos.
You can see far more from the bow than the stern. Back at the stern I couldn’t see which direction the tunnel was taking. This is a unique canal tunnel. It twists and turns. There’s a mixture of jagged rock, concrete skin and brickwork. In places there isn’t much headroom and I must have banged my safety hat on the tunnel roof at least six times.
Apparently the first section is a subsequent extension built by the railways when they bored the two rail tunnels above.
Without any clearly defined shape to the tunnel absolute concentration is required if you are to avoid hitting the walls.
It really twists and leaks like a sieve in places. Every so often we would be hit by a blast of cold air as a train passed in the adjacent tunnel.
One of the volunteers informed us that the tunnel builders discovered the geology was a mixture of shale and granite. The latter being much harder to cut. Consequentially, wherever possible they followed the shale seams.
Down at the blunt end I was straining my eye trying to see the direction the tunnel was taking and position the boat accordingly. In some sections I was only doing tick-over and the maximum speed I achieved was 1000rpm.
Eventually I could see a small dot of light in the distance which appeared and then disappeared as I went around the numerous twists. Around this point we reached the 4th checkpoint. At each checkpoint the boat has to be stopped and the CRT chaperon calls the control room to report our progress and obtain permission to proceed. We had to wait at the 4th checkpoint for 20 minutes as the trip boat had entered the opposite end of the tunnel. The trip boats only go in approximately 200 metres before reversing out.
Our chaperon Trevor and me.
After 1¾ hours we emerged into the sunlight where I promptly removed the safety hat. It had been slipping over my eyes for the entire time which just compounded my steering.
I can report we didn’t lose any paint (good job I taped up the front). Those boaters who have previously made the same transit will know you need to retain situational awareness and concentrate. One small lapse could result in a scrape, and we saw numerous collision marks on the tunnel walls. Lack of a clearly defined tunnel profile (eg, arch shape) and the multiple number of bends made it the most difficult of the tunnels we’ve gone through. But I enjoyed it!