Well of course we did. I was convinced we wouldn’t until we exited Flint Mill lock, under the profile guide, giving Eric even more ammunition to tease me about my cautious approach to cruising.
The last 100m or so before the tunnel, opens into a small non discript mooring area with winding for a 65′ boat. However the tunnel entrance itself is hidden around a 90 degree angle to the channel which only adds to the anxiety. (Similar to the north portal of the Harecastle tunnel, only smaller) We opted to bow haul the boat around the final bend to give Eric the best chance of threading this particular needle.
I positioned myself on the bow ready to fend off either side as necessary as Eric somehow managed to steer and take photos at the same time.
Once inside he had to crouch down to steer and we could see that the biggest risk to Firecrest was to the paintwork on our hand rails.
A lot of anecdotes we heard suggested that switching off the power and legging it through was a favoured method of transit. However one big advantage of our electric motor is that we can turn our revs right down which allowed us to creep through yet still retain power and the ability to steer. Fortunately unlike a lot of the Caldon, the tunnel is nice and straight on the inside. And it’s only 70m long.
Once out the other side, I hopped off onto the Towpath because again the tunnel exit was angled against the channel.
This isn’t a tunnel for the faint hearted. Take heed of the profile, and the water levels, maximise your ballast, and take it extremely slowly.
I hauled us around the bend and we looked back with a huge sigh of relief and an even bigger sense of achievement.
It’s only a few minutes cruise to the final hurdle. The lock (again at a right angle to the canal) that descends into a small piece of heaven. The Froghall basin.
We found ourselves in a secluded little basin, with 8 pontoons but only one other boat for company, surrounded by trees and wild flowers, the water being clear enough to watch the fishes. And there were some bigguns as well.
But perhaps best of all was Hetty’s tea room right next door. And they serve Icecream and Staffordshire Oat Cakes not on the same plate though.