Can’t Buy Me Love

Nervously waiting to go under Harecastle Hill

Today was Harecastle Tunnel Day. Harecastle is 2,926 yards long. It’s one-way, quite wide, dead straight, pitch black, and gives me the heebie-jeebies. This isn’t anything to do with the skeleton in the alcove about 450 yards from the northern entrance, or that the Kidsgrove Boggart reputedly haunts it – it’s the fans.

The tunnel roof gets lower and lower as you go through, you end up driving in a crouch

There aren’t any ventilation shafts in the tunnel, so when all the boats taking part in a particular passage are safely in and underway they shut the doors behind you and start up the ventilation fans. The closer you are to the southern end, the louder the fans are, it’s like being in front of a jet engine, you can barely hear yourself think. Three things put the wind up me; (no pun intended) tractors, tanks and giant fans.

Tunnel’s end, the Southern entrance. Iron causes the water to look like Heinz Cream of Tomato Soup

We survived the trip, neither of us saw the Boggart and no one was blown away, Martyn gave the tunnel wall a tiny nudge, but honours are even because two years ago, I hit the tunnel as we exited. We are now moored up just a mile from the tunnel on the outskirts of Stoke-on-Trent at Westport Lake. I call it Goosepoo Lake because it’s home to hundreds of Canada Geese (or that’s how it seems to me) and we all know how prolific they are with what they leave behind. There’s a visitor centre and a very nice cafe. I’m working tomorrow and if the torrential rain stops perhaps I’ll send Martyn out to investigate.

We use Thomas Telford’s tunnel, James Brindley’s original one lies unsafe and abandoned

On the way here we stopped at Middlewich to have some work done to the boat. We had new leisure batteries fitted, which we had planned, and a new bow thruster battery, which we hadn’t. That one battery alone cost over £350 which is painful, especially as we don’t even use the bow thruster that much. It doesn’t mean I’m not glad we have it, but we don’t rely on it in most situations. That got me thinking; one of the questions non-boaters wonder about – and a topic all boaters talk about – is how much it costs to run a boat. So here are our figures for last year:

  • Gold CRT licence from 1 July – 31 December – £602 (Gold because we spent a lot of time on the River Thames) plus about £450 from the 2022/23 licence
  • Insurance – £495
  • Mooring fees £1809 (for our marina and other odd nights in marinas and on the River Thames)
  • Diesel – £982 (ouch!)
  • Coal, logs and kindling – £323
  • Electricity – £150
  • Gas – £170 (I cook a lot)
  • A couple of engine services and some repairs – about £1000
  • The approximate basic cost of our epic 930-mile 2023 journey – £6000
That swan decided we needed to be seen off!

But the value of all that fun, friendship, new experiences and travel – priceless.

It’s all about the smiles per mile

8 Replies to “Can’t Buy Me Love”

  1. I watched the Bluebells go through the Harecastle the other day. Blimey – you wouldn’t get me in there!
    Lovely to read your blogs again. I’ve missed them


    1. As tunnels go it really isn’t too bad. It’s the two way ones I don’t like. The Bluebells are lovely, we met them a couple of years ago in Dudley, I think we’ll pass them tomorrow. xx

  2. Enjoyed your blog again. I’m sure I wouldn’t have liked the tunnel either. And I was surprised at just how much the boat costs but love your comment that the people and smiles are worth it. My elder brother and his wife live near Westport lake and we’ve been there. I’ll tell them to look out for you!

  3. Costs do add up, but as we live aboard then they can be spread over the full year. We’ve done the Harcastle a few times, but always South to North, so the fans have been a reducing noise. I quite enjoy it as tunnels go, due to no oncoming bright tunnel lights. It was lovely to spend some time cruising in your company last year, a mega trip for us too, but a good deal shorter than yours. We are off on a more gentle cruise this year, leaving Northampton on the rivers and across the Fens to Cambridge and Bedford in a few weeks. Have a great summer, we shall follow your blog with interest.

    1. Hi Terry, I’m happy you and Margaret are taking off on your travels again this year. You’re off to waters we haven’t explored yet. We were live aboard for a couple of years, now we like to have our cake and eat it too, living in bricks and mortar in the winter. I guess you pays your money and you takes your choice. I hope our paths cross again on the waterways, we enjoyed our all too brief encounters with you both last summer.

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