We visited with Henniker Directional Drilling up in Rye, N.H.

The customer was in a rather desperate position; Henniker was there to answer the call. Mother Nature threw a geologic curveball; Henniker nonchalantly brushed aside that wannabe challenge. Speaking with Henniker’s Jeff Martin, you sense a quiet, yet positive and matter-of-fact unfazedness. It instills a confidence that there’s nothing you can throw at him that his firm can’t handle.

Martin is president of Henniker Directional Drilling LLC, the sister company of Contoocook Artesian Well Co., a third-generation family business currently under the leadership of Rick Patenaude. “Contoocook actually holds New Hampshire license No. 1 for well drilling,” Martin reveals. The partnership began in early 2000; both firms are headquartered in Henniker, N.H. Martin had been managing drilling rig maintenance teams for Ingersoll-Rand the previous 13 years before hooking up with Patenaude and starting Henniker Directional Drilling.

On this particular drilling job, the client was Robinson Construction, a general contractor. I asked Martin whether the project was bid or negotiated and learned that it was possibly a combination of the two or really none of either, depending how you looked at it. Explains Martin: “It was a last-minute-type thing – the client needed the job done quickly before the winter weather hit. It really came down to who could get on the job soonest. We were able to be there in three days.”

Robinson required directional drilling services for two aspects of a new condominium development project in Rye, N.H.:

• Installing water and sewer connections be-tween the two buildings of a new condominium development. Those lines traversed beneath a salt marsh. “The sewer was private; they had a leaching field there,” Martin explains. “A municipal water line already was in place at one of the buildings so we did the line from the that building to the other.”

• Setting up power, phone and cable lines that had to travel below an adjacent, buillt-up road.

“It took us two days each to complete the 6-inch lines that we installed under the water,” Martin says. “The other phase of the job – going across the road with three 4-inch lines – those lines had to be separated; they couldn’t be in the same trench – took two days total.” So it was a nine-day turnaround from contract to completion. But the job actually took longer than originally planned. “We anticipated being there a total of three days, but the project took six days to complete. We ran into quite a bit of rock that we had to get through. Other than that it was a pretty typical project.

“Going under the water, our maximum depth was 15 feet,” he recalls. “The first four feet was fill, the next four feet to six feet was soft, brown marsh clay and then it went right into hard pan and then into ledge. On each of those water crossings, about 40 feet to 50 feet of the actual drilling distance was in ledge. And coming back out of the other side 130 feet away, it was the same thing in the opposite order: from ledge to hard pan to the real soft clay and up into fill again. The rock was unexpected; we thought it would be kind of soft, so we had to do a little scrambling to get some tooling to get through the rock. Around here, conditions can vary quickly. Typically, it’s either all sand and clay as deep as you can get, or it’s rock right from start to finish.”

When it came to going under the road with the power, phone and cable lines, Martin tells us, “the top five feet was all bony cobble fill, so we ended up going deeper – about seven or eight feet – where we got down into the soft clay. We stayed in that and shot right across. The road was elevated and dropped off on the other side, so when we came out on the other side 110 feet later, we ended up being just three feet down.”

Henniker Directional Drilling employs a pair of HDD rigs to handle a wide variety of horizontal drilling projects – the 2000 Tulsa Rig Iron model TR-40 used on this project and a more compact TR-14 for jobs better suited to conditions calling for a mini rig.

Describing his company’s market, Martin says, “About 90 percent of the work we do is for general contractors. The other 10 percent probably is split between municipalities and property owners.” Asked about the ratio of residential vs. commercial/industrial work his firm performs, Martin offers, “I would say probably 90 percent of it is residential. And we do very little bid work. We tend to stay away from it; it’s not much fun.”

Besides Martin, Henniker Directional Drilling employs four other people. Charlie Hunt works the rig. Kurt Boutwell is the tracker, and Danielle Martin is the office manager (“office manager” being a thinly veiled euphamism describing the person who takes care of all the things no one else wants to deal with). Tom Fischer is a sesonal employee, and if needed, Martin can look to his sister company, Contoocook, for reinforcements. “We do tap into the well company’s labor force when we need the help,” he says.

Upon completion of this project for Robinson, the Henniker crew packed up and headed off to Merrimack, N.H., to take care of another customer’s needs involving 860 feet of 2-inch conduit. It’s extremely doubtful they encountered anything they couldn’t handle.