Heading Into The Dark. 8th October

Diggle to …..

The alarm was set and we were up and about having breakfast ready to push off in plenty of time. It seemed like it was going to be a rather nice day, not that we’d notice it in the tunnel!

The gates were already open

We moved up to the west or south portal of the tunnel at 9am, the gates already open and waiting. Time to fill the water tank to help Oleanna sit as low as possible in the water for her trip through. Once she was full we pulled her back from the water point (much better pressure than at the slow tap at Wool Road).

Covers removed

This morning there was one boat heading east to west, they most probably set off at 8:30, so there was still plenty of time to get Oleanna ready for her trip, the first boat at our end wouldn’t set off until 11:30.

All naked again

Yesterday evening the boat that has been following us arrived, this morning they had called Tunnel Control and managed to change their passage booking for Monday morning. The rush to return to their mooring is due to a relative being very poorly, they were hoping that the chaps at the tunnel today would be able to add them to todays passages. However no body was here but us. The volunteers wouldn’t turn up until nearer 10:30, so they headed back for breakfast.

Here comes NB Idleness

Yan and Kim soon joined us on NB Idleness pulling in behind.

The cratch cover was removed and stowed inside. Then the pram cover and frame came off and slotted in behind the dinette table. Tilly’s Escape Pod was zipped together ready should it be required. The gap at the bottom of the bathroom door into the main cabin was taped up with gaffa, meaning we’d be able to contain Tilly to one end of the boat. I hoped this would be enough as on the tunnel guidance it suggests all pets should be restrained inside your boat, if they won’t be able to handle the tunnel someone should take them over the top. Tilly’s Escape Pod is a favourite place for her, until the door gets closed! This would freak her out more, so I hoped we’d done enough.

Not so smiley today!

Brushes and hooks were laid in the gutters on the roof. All but the strawberry plants from the well deck were moved inside into the shower to give us more space at the front. Mick decided to wait to see what the volunteers thought before removing our nav lights, not wanting to break the seal between them and the cabin side, helping to keep rust at bay.

The men in blue arrive

At around 10:30 a C&RT van arrived, the chaps from NB Faggle Three went up to chat with them and explain their situation. They then headed off to get their boat to be measured. If it fitted then the volunteers would accommodate them.

What a high cratch board, we’d be fine

Soon a tunnel light appeared at the portal the west bound boat with a well deck full of people, a volunteer and helms person at the stern. They all looked a tad wet!

How high?!

Out came the official measuring stick, a large aluminium L shape. Oleanna had her vital statistics taken. To the top of the bags of coal she was 5ft 10″, across the cabin top 4ft 11″ and draught 2ft 4″. She passed! Mick asked about the nav lights. It was suggested that it was best he removed them rather than the tunnel! NB Idleness was measured, she passed. By now NB Fraggle Three had pulled up. Her vital statistics measured and passed too.

Fraggle Three coming to the front

Yan, Kim, Mick and I had conferred, if the extra boat fitted then we would let them go first as they were hoping to make it as far as Slaithwaite today, this would give them at least another hour and a half, we would be stopping in Marsden for the night.

Off they go

The chaps rushed to take the pram cover off their boat and pulled up to the water point where their volunteer loaded all the safety equipment on board, handed out high vis and hard hats and they were off, into the tunnel.


Next a discussion as to who would be at the helm of Oleanna for the trip. Last year the volunteers were not working and only one boat could go through the tunnel in each direction a day, helmed by a C&RT employee, all crew on board had to be sat at the bow. This year the volunteers are back, two boats in each direction, three times a week. It is up to the volunteer whether they can socially distance themselves on your boat. 2m distance had been reduced to 1m in September. If there wasn’t the space they drive. For NB Idleness with it’s trad stern there was no question, but Oleanna being a semi trad?

The volunteer said he would drive her through, but he also quite fancied Mick doing it too. Mick had been quite looking forward to being able to sit in the bow and actually see things rather than concentrating all the way and not getting chance to look round.

Extra light at the front

Decision was made Trevor would be at the helm. This however meant that we wouldn’t be able to do the usual stops at the safety adits to call through to tunnel control. John another volunteer would have shadowed NB Fraggle Three through by van in an old railway tunnel, he would wait for us at the last adit to check on us.

Here we go (thank you Yan for the photos)

Tunnel control were consulted and we were given a time to enter the tunnel. Kim and Yan had another cuppa and a bacon butty, they would have to wait for at least 3/4 of an hour after we’d gone in, maybe more as their volunteer had taken the first boat through and needed to returned by van for them.

Trevor at the helm

Our gas was turned off at the bottles. Extra lights were put on the hatch and gas locker. Mick was given a hard hat and high vis just in case he needed to take over at the helm. We popped our life jackets over our waterproof coats, untied and at 12:20 we pushed off into the dark.

Here we go!