During the last three years of cruising in France we have been through a number of tunnels - short ones, long ones, well lit ones, fairly dark ones, straight ones and bendy ones and even one where we had to be pulled through in convoy by a chain tug as it was over 5kms long and there was no exhaust/ventilation so we couldn't have our engine running. But we didn't stress out about them, didn't do heaps of homework, didn't ask anyone we came across on the canal whether they had a problem - until now!!
The Pouilly Tunnel's reputation precedes it. Stories abound about how horrific it is, how people have damaged their wheelhouse, or hit the sides of the tunnel because they couldn't keep their boat straight. That there are stalactites hanging down that push the boat off course, hardly any of the lights work, that there are electric cables in the ceiling that reduce head height. That the only safe way to get through the tunnel in a straight line is to slash logs to the side of your boat so that if you stray off the centre line it will push you back.
The problem arises due to the profile/shape of the tunnel - it is semi circular in the ceiling so a wider boat will have problems the higher it is. For the first time, Kevin actually superimposed the profile of our boat on the profile of the tunnel to try and work out if we could fit without having to become a convertible i.e. dismantle the wheelhouse which would take about an hour.
Even after doing this Kevin was convinced that we could hit the sides of the roof with the wheelhouse, so we were resigned to the fact that we would need to dismantle the wheelhouse. However, we ran it past the VNF (French company that run the waterways) and they assured us that we would fit without any problems. And to make it even easier they had dropped the water depth from 2.6m to 2.2m.
There are 8 locks up to the entrance of the tunnel and at the last one the VNF check to make sure all crew have life jackets, that you have a spotlight on your boat, a waterproof torch and they then give you a VHF radio so that you can radio them when you enter the tunnel, halfway through and when you successfully leave the tunnel. You then sign a document to say you are approved to enter and given a time slot to enter.
So after all the homework and preparation, it turned out to be relatively easy. It just meant Kevin had to maintain concentration for a little over an hour to ensure that we kept a straight path down the centre of the tunnel. And the photos show that we had about 60-70cms from the corner of the wheelhouse to the wall/ceiling.
The fact that we were the only boat in the tunnel probably was a plus. We had heard stories of boats being followed by a large hotel barge where the skipper was getting impatient at the slow speed of the boat and almost tailgating them. Maybe the fact that we chose a Sunday to go through was a positive as well. We've done it now so can cross that one of the bucket list!