Life at the end of the road

December 2, 2016

Getting nowhere :-(

Filed under: boats, daily doings, Land Rover, Trucks and plant — Tags: , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 8:09 am

It’s been one of those days today, must be the planets misaligned or the runes aren’t working or something. It’s been one of those days where nothing has gone right for myself or darling wife. Me, I spent all day doing something that should have taken two hours and the ‘post lady’ got the mail late and had a PDA failure. All in all not a great start to the ‘rest period’ Smile

So that’s it, I’ve finished work and a new month is upon us, December already and on Monday we’ll have been in Sonas for a whole year so I’ll have to publish some data.

It had been a pretty busy fortnight aboard the good ship Hallaig and to be honest I wasn’t in my usual hurry to ‘abandon ship’ and pass the reins to my ‘back to back’. Much had been going on and a couple of jobs were still unresolved despite me staying on an extra night. Not out of any sense of duty I may add but cos my ‘back to back’ had relieved me for a few hours whilst I’d gone to recover the ‘Old Girl’ To be honest it gave me time to get the Hallaig a little more ‘ship shape’ than normal,

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it’s always the same after the annual docking. No matter how much you clean up at the time there’s always more to do when you’re back ‘on the route’. Those dockyard workers get everywhere and you’re constantly finding nuts, washers, old gaskets and boodly cable ties in little inaccessible corners of the bilges. Those friggin cable ties are the worst, the long hard nylon ends being just perfect for jamming bilge and overboard discharge valves Sad smile

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This will be filling the emergency generator fuel tank two decks above, you can do it all remotely via that mimic on the left but I like to do it manually and watch the fuel flowing in the ‘sight glass’.

All quiet on the western front

It was pretty quiet on the traffic front last shift and to be honest I bet a quarter of the vehicles shipped and certainly most of the commercials were related to the new distillery.

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It’s really starting to take shape now and is going to be a huge boost to the local economy.


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Hebrides Haulage’s DAF “Island Laird” just being one of the many lorries carrying goods to and from the new project.

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The old iron ore pier, The Moll and some atmospheric weather over Dunan way.

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Testing the drencher system, you really do have to make sure all the doors and hatches are closed before you do this Smile


Unusually I came on Wednesday and did the first run before starting my ‘fortnight off’ and heading up the road around 10:00am.

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I stopped at Cnoch am Uan to examine  where we came off the road last Monday and try and move that rock that saved us. That’s it in the first picture and is right on the edge of the tarmac now and I was unable to move it so need to return with my son and a long iron bar. The smaller ones in picture two presented no problem and I couldn’t help but marvel that I’d actually been able to self extract myself from there with the Warn XP9500 winch.

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Yup, if it hadn’t been for this tree, that rock and my winch things would have turned out very different.

Once home I started work on my Ifor Williams 2t hydraulic tipping trailer, making a new bed for it out of 22mm phenolic ply and 3mm galvanized steel sheet. The ply had arrived via Parcel Force on Saturday, the steel was due on Thursday.

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I also made up and fitted a tow ball to the front bumper as I plan to be making heavy use of this trailer now we have a digger. The front tow hitch makes manoeuvring heavy loads into awkward places far easier, especially in a steamed up vehicle.


Well, this was the day when I pretty much got nowhere!! I rarely use the front winch these days but it has in the past done an awful lot of work and ‘saved my ass’ on numerous occasions. I have however spent quite a lot of money on it over the years, mainly due to water ingress seizing up the brushes. So when it failed last week, fortunately after it had dragged me back on the road, I suspected the usual fault.

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Sure enough, the brushes had stuck, the end cap was full of gunge and one of the brush springs had got so hot that it had lost its temper. Luckily I had an old Land Rover starter motor and after freeing everything off I used that as a replacement.

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A relatively straight forward job you would think, only it isn’t !!!!! I have now had the winch on and off the Land Rover twice and the motor apart four times. I spent the whole friggin day working on the bally thing and it’s still not on the Landy Smile

Ah well, it’s 8:00am now, time to go feed the animals and have another go at that winch, it’s almost daylight now and the chooks will be wanting out.

November 28, 2016

Not yer typical Sunday :-)

I just do love Sundays at work, I guess cos it comes after Saturday, which is my least favourite day. I say ‘least favourite’ rather than the day I dislike cos on the whole they’re all pretty good. Sad as it may seem, I really do like my job, not because my life away from it is so dull, on the contrary, far from it. The work thing is often a good rest from the labours ‘on the croft’ or at least all the madness I get up to at home.

Sunday is the most laid back day of the week, a late start and early finish with a good space in between to catch up on drills plus maintenance.  Hot on the heels of ‘the longest day’, Sunday is always a joy and we’ve always got ‘the big breakfast’ to look forward to.

Of course my Sunday starts as soon as I get home on Saturday night after the late ferry, it’s usually after 22:00 and there’ll normally be a glass of wine waiting for me Smile My treat of the ‘working week’ is usually a fine glass or two of red that I’ve been dreaming of for almost a week. Well this Saturday night I had a surprise in store, not my usual ‘tipple’ but a beer specially brewed  for the Raasay Distillery and finished off in oak red wine casks.

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Raasay Brewing Co. Whisky Oak-Aged Beer

During the cake competition, some of our R&B team headed off to do a little exciting preparation work for the evening event. Raasay Brewing Company worked with Plockton Brewery to oak-age beer in a Raasay While We Wait red wine finishing cask – and newly bottled they needed labelling! 200 odd bottles later of ‘Groundwork’ we just had time for a quick drive up to Brochel Castle to take in the swiftly-changing view (hidden by magical mist one moment and sunny blue skies the next) before heading to the Isle of Raasay Distillery site for the ‘fire’ element of Whisky, Fire & Song.

R&B Chris Hoban labelling Raasay Brewing Co. & Plockton Brewery collaboration beer for Whisky, Fire & Song  Groundwork Beer by Raasay Brewing Co & Plockton Brewery for Whisky, Fire & Song 2016


Another thing I love about Sunday at this time of year is seeing a little daylight on the commute into work.

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True to the forecast it was a fine day.

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We had however a pretty full schedule of work over and above the usual drills. Checking inside the forepeak for one, even though it was just a ‘visual’ from above the space needed thoroughly ventilating first and checking for noxious gasses and of course oxygen.

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Then, after the boat and anchor drills it was the serious business of doing some work on Hallaig’s battery banks. A minor discrepancy had been picked up on the annual ‘health check’ which is when each of the 216 LiFePO4 modules is individually monitored for performance by the company that installed them, formally IMTECH but now called RH Marine Three of the batteries, modules as they call them were showing some minor discrepancies in their BMS (battery management system) cards. Whilst this was very simple to fix in theory, just a matter of removing the affected cards squeezing the terminals together and then applying some ‘contact paste’, it’s not so easy in practice.

Each battery needs to be removed, the card taken out repaired and then replaced. However, we are talking a nominal voltage here of 750VDC so isolation procedures, insulated tools, PPE and training are mandatory. As of course is careful planning and a risk assessment. So, after the ‘BIG BREAKFAST’ we had our ‘toolbox talk’ filled in the ‘permit to work’ and got on with it.


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The red gauntlet thing is a special tool for removing that big fuse, it’s an old picture with the black glove and long hair Smile  The latest ones are in the first picture, these have to be replaced every 6 months in case they degrade or crack.

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One of the three that had to come out was an end one and they’re a little tricky but once out it’s just a matter of carefully removing the cards one at a time and making the connections good again.


With that all done it was time to check the spare batteries we carry on board, first the meter is put on and the voltage noted, 13.34 so all good.

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Then just to make sure it’s not a spurious reading a headlamp bulb is put in circuit for 30 seconds and the meter observed. The voltage inevitably falls slightly but shouldn’t ‘collapse’ then when the load is removed it should rise again to very near the original reading. This it did, to 13.33 but I bet if I check it again tomorrow it’ll be back up to 13.34. These LiFePO4 spare batteries have never been charged in 3 years!!! That is an incredibly slow rate of ‘self discharge’, any other battery chemistry would be flat after 3 years ‘on the shelf’.


Well, once more my son got me to work on an untreated road without mishap, no thanks to ‘Highland Region’ though. He went off to school for the week and I started my last couple of days at work this shift. First job was to chop down a whole load of stainless steel M20 screws from 80mm to 40mm, methinks someone cocked up on the ordering Smile

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Trick is to put a nut on, set it to the right height then cut them with a 1mm thick cutting disc using the nut as a guide. Next debur with a file and clean with a wire brush. I was very proud of my ‘ten little soldiers’ but forgot to take a picture Smile

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The clam diving boat Auk was once more ‘picking away’ in the narrows, methinks it’s an Aquastar 40’ with an extended wheelhouse. A fine choice for a group of divers, stable, fast and comfy Smile

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This morning had us sampling some fine homemade black pudding from one of our customers. This will be from Cuddy and we were much impressed, there seems to be some fine black pudding makers here on Raasay. Calum Don, Andrew Palmer and Jessie Nicolson’s  are some of the few I’ve sampled but I’m certainly not going to start a war by passing verdict on here Smile Suffice to say they were all first class Smile

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Another of today’s jobs was replacing a thermal trip relay for a drive cooling pump. A simple enough job once it had been isolated and photographed so I could get the wires in the right place Smile

That’s it really, only one more day and I’ll be starting my ‘rest period’ as CalMac call it, aye right Smile

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