National Geographic : 1964 Aug
They would take a boat any other route across France just to avoid that tunnel. It sounded bad. To prepare for it, Irving took down some of the stainless-steel stan chions that held our lifelines; we didn't want to rip them off and tear up the deck too. Then he cut a sapling about four inches in diameter and rigged two six-foot pieces of it-with leaves and bark still on-projecting out slightly beyond our low teak rail where the ship narrows toward the bow. These were to take the shock first if we hit. Dreaded Tunnel Passage Begins We filled our water tanks, which hold five tons, to put Yankee as low in the water as possible. Next morning the Bridges and High ways official tape-measured our greatest height-10 feet, 11 inches-where a bolt sticks up a bit above the folded-down masts. "You must move very slowly when you ap proach some overhead wires near the tunnel," he warned us. If we had any trouble getting underneath, he would lower the water level for a second try. Irving put on dark glasses to adapt his eyes to the tunnel's darkness. At last, apprehensively, we cast off. We cleared the low-hanging wires with three or four inches to spare. At the entrance the offi cial asked us to wait, because a barge which had preceded us by more than an hour was not yet out. Finally officials waved us into the long, dark vault, our navigation lights casting a dull, ghostly glow before us. Irving had two miles of the most exacting steering ahead. Our flashlight and inch-calling system soon made it apparent that he had a leeway of 32 KODACHROMES(C) N.G.S.