Stuck in a tunnel - for nearly a day

April 2017 - A 20-hour nightmare jammed in a low tunnel was the start of the cruising season for a boat leaving Hawne Basin on the Birmingham Canal Navigations, as Peter Underwood reports.

While making their way towards Netherton, and just after entering Gosty Tunnel the boaters found their boat, suddenly and without warning, stopped dead when it became jammed solid by a large log against the tunnel wall.

Although only 500 yards long Gosty Tunnel is notoriously narrow, and shallow with a very low roof in places and travel through it is painfully slow at the best of times.

The boaters tried to release the boat, but they were unable to get themselves free. Due to the problem of fumes in the constricted tunnel they were unable to light a fire to keep warm or run the engine for any length of time, which meant they spent about 20 hours stuck inside the tunnel. ​

The arrival of another boat some 20 hours later was when the alarm was eventually raised and a rescue boat was dispatched from Hawne basin and together they managed to haul the other boat clear of the obstruction.

The eventual rescue came with the arrival of Tim Buckett and Chris Maynard on The Stoker.

He said: “We moored at Withy Island as we were due to take the Stoker into Hawne basin. Set off this morning for the basin. On arriving at the Northern portal of Gosty tunnel I could see that there was something in the tunnel.

“Then I could see led lights waving about. My first thoughts were that it might be canoes or someone in a dingy. I held the boat at the narrows and waited. Then a tunnel light shone in the tunnel and appeared to flash.

“First thoughts were that someone was standing on the front deck obscuring the light. At this point I reversed the boat back and tied the boat to the bollards and waited.

“After a while I walked down to the portal and looked down the tunnel, there were more led lights moving about and then the sound of a horn giving three blasts at a time.

“Bloody kids I thought an walked back towards the boat. Curiosity got the better of me fortunately and grabbed a torch and went back to the tunnel. I shone the torch into the darkness and shouted 'are you broken down in there?'.

“A voice came back saying 'We are stuck and we have been here since yesterday and can you phone for help?'.

“I walked back thinking is someone having a joke but I phoned Hawne Basin to raise the alarm. They sent help and managed to pull the boat free.

“Once they were clear of the tunnel we entered and proceeded cautiously. We reached the half way point and the engine stopped abruptly.

“After checking the weed hatch and finding nothing I decided it best to pole the boat the remainder of the tunnel. Once out of the tunnel we restarted the engine and completed our journey to the basin.

“The couple that spent nearly 24hrs stuck in the tunnel were pretty shaken by their experience.”

A couple of weeks previously, another boater had to enter into the canal and swim out of the tunnel to raise the alarm when they also became stuck.

It seems that Canal & River Trust (C&RT) cvontractors have been cutting back some trees, along this section of the Dudley number two Canal and that the logs which had been left on the towpath were thrown into the water by someone. A large number of logs have since been removed from the canal by C&RT.

That scenario has been confirmed by Ian Lane, West Midlands Waterway Manager, who told The Floater: “You are correct in that the logs were left on the bank and we have spent considerable time helping customers because of it. We’re also very sorry for the inconvenience that was caused.

“As part of the vegetation works, our contractors do often leave logs on site for several reasons. There is the reduced cost in the removal of them, the fact that boaters can take them for firewood and also the environmental benefits they can bring.

“However, as this instance has shown us, not every location is suitable to do this. Therefore we have raised this with the contracts team and asked to be more involved in the local planning of contracts so that we can ensure that such a situation – albeit well-intentioned - doesn’t happen again.”

Photos: (1st) The entrance to Gosty Tunnel from the west, (2nd) Inside the tunnel is very low in places.

User login