Life at the end of the road

August 20, 2010

Slug proof at last?

Filed under: daily doings — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 12:28 pm

A quick look at the forecast yesterday indicated the only dry day for the foreseeable future, so with that in mind I endeavoured to get as much done on the croft as possible. Of course, as with all things in my chaotic life, what I had planned took longer than anticipated and I got distracted along the way. The first and most important job after the school run was to put a new ‘slug proof’ floor in my feed store. I’m not sure weather we are suffering from a slug plague or a duck deficiency  but the long dry early summer followed by the wet and humid July and August coupled with the demise of all our ducks bar Ringo the blank firing blind drake has led to an explosion in the slug population. Which quite apart from the damage they are doing in the garden has manifested itself in hoards of the slimy creatures finding their way into the steel container that we store our feed in. I’m not particularly squeamish but finding these black gooey things and their attendant slime all over the feed bags and buckets, usually with your hands 😦 is not a pleasant experience to start the day with. The store itself is pretty well sealed but the slithery we devils seem to be able to get through the tiniest little crack and there were a few around the edges of the floor, hardly large enough to get a match through but big enough for Mr slug to gain entry.

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A new floor was required and I had just the right piece of exterior quality ply wood to make it, a fine sheet of 8×4 that I’d recycled from Raasay primary schools old shed in the playground. The original marine ply floor was a around an inch too short on both length and breadth and I resolved to remedy this by making the new one fit perfectly. It was whilst trying to fit the new floor that I realized why it was an inch smaller, it was physically impossible to get the correct size in 😦 Undaunted I cut it in two then sprayed all around the base with expanding foam before inserting the new floor sections, screwing to the old floor for good measure then trimming off the excess once it had cured, I was well pleased with my efforts and can report, an as of yet slug free zone, the wife will be pleased 🙂

The day was a pure peach, apart from one heavy shower that came out of nowhere just before I was about to start giving the meadow, sorry lawn a long overdue trim turning what should have been a half hour job into a one and a half hour job. Still, I did get it done, OK it looked like I’d done it with a knife and fork but at least you could now cross it without getting lost 🙂 All to soon it was time to go and collect the boy from school but I took the opportunity to go down to our old berth to take some pictures.

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I lifted that black and white photo of the converted minesweeper Loch Arkaig that served Raasay well for many years off Neil of http://exceptthekylesandwesternisles.blogspot.com/ photostream http://www.flickr.com/photos/24718842@N04/3050693287/ and the one on the right is just to confirm that he was spot on, it is Raasay 🙂

“LOCH ARKAIG was one of of those wooden-hulled, inadequate second-hand retreads MacBraynes acquired rather too often between 1945 and full nationalisation in 1969. By the Seventies the tired and ageing vessel had outstayed her welcome and only shabby politics on one of her services and the grossly uneconomic, very exposed nature of the other prolonged her career till the edge of the Eighties.
Built as long ago as 1941 for the Admiralty – she was a little minesweeper, so lowly as not to merit a name over a number, and wooden-hulled expressly to tackle magnetic mines – MS1246 was acquired by David MacBrayne Ltd in May 1959 when they were under considerable pressure to find a craft suitable for the rapidly declining Portree mail service.
MacBraynes were eager to delete the run entirely; the Skye public, in 1959, would not tolerate it, and in any event the Portree vessel was also the sole lifeline to little Raasay – indeed, it was RAASAY the Company first intended to call their latest acquisition, but the name would appear then to have been unavailable.
LOCH ARKAIG, as she was eventually commissioned, could not serve anywhere until a refit so massive it was practically a rebuild. She was stripped of her original superstructure and virtually all her original fittings, including her engines. The work was carried out by Jas. Lamont & Co. Ltd of Greenock, who fitted new lightweight aluminium superstructure, internal steel bulkheads and new, reasonably powerful Bergius engines. Fitting for passenger use was completed by Timbacraft Ltd., Shandon – whose expertise in small craft is employed by the Company to this day – and on 14th April 1960 LOCH ARKAIG was formally recommissioned as a member of the MacBrayne fleet by Mrs Cameron of Lochiel.
The ship shortly took up the Portree-Raasay-Mallaig-Kyle run in succession to the 1908 veteran LOCHINVAR, which had assumed the service in 1959 and whose sojourn at Portree had been little short of a disaster. The LOCH ARKAIG, it transpired, coud do little to stem the remorseless flow of traffic to road and the Kyleakin ferry and, in 1964, she was replaced at Portree by the still smaller LOCH EYNORT.
Nothing daunted, that year the Company modified LOCH ARKAIG for sturdier service – a Samson post and derrick for’ard, for cargo; a disembarkation door in her bulwark and, in May, a ferry-door in the deck lounge on the starboard side – and placed her on the Mallaig-Small Isles service in succession to the 1930 veteran LOCHMOR, who had doughtily served Eigg, Rum, Muck and Canna as part of her twice-weekly odyssey round Skye to the Outer Isles and back.
It was a long, exposed run – over three hours on passage – and only Canna actually boasted a pier, but LOCH ARKAIG did her less than popular best and found time, twice a week, to cruise to Loch Scavaig. In the 1965 season the Portree and Small Isles rosters were combined – though LOCH ARKAIG had to be supplemented, on Saturdays, by Mr Bruce Watt’s vessel WESTERN ISLES, on charter for the Small Isles leg. For a spell or two in the 1970s – 1971-73; and from 1977 – LOCH ARKAIG also revived her little excursion from Portree. The first two seasons of such even trips – usually to Raasay – were promoted by the Isle of Skye Tourist Association. In October 1972 LOCH ARKAIG relieved at Lismore and her own relief was actually a chartered car ferry, the stern-loading SOUND OF ISLAY (1968) from Western Ferries.
A dedicated Raasay-Sconser car ferry could have been laid on by the Company as late as 1972; it was stymied by the dreadful proprietor of Raasay House, Dr John Green, who refused to sell the tiny bit of land desired for a slipway. The row dragged on and it was 1975 before even the most rudimentary car ferry service could be provided; 1976 before it was officially rostered and, to this day, from a much less suitable point on the Raasay coast.
This stushie – and the very exposed, hopelessly uneconomic character of the Small Isles run – prolonged LOCH ARKAIG’s career. In 1973 she added an Armadale call to her Kyle/Portree winter roster as LOCH SEAFORTH had been withdrawn. Portree cruising was abandoned for 1974 and LOCH ARKAIG left Portree as mail steamer, for the last time, on 17th March 1975. The rest of her career was devoted to the Small Isles, Mallaig-Armadale-Kyle (the winter service to Kyle did not long survive her passing) and, from 1977, the reinstatement of little trips to Portree, Loch Duich etc.
Her successor, the determinedly low-budget LOCHMOR, was almost complete at Troon when, on 28th March 1979, LOCH ARKAIG sank at her berth in Mallaig Harbour. Divers found a hole in her timber hull “the size of a football” and it seemed she had been breached by some projecting part of the underwater quayside. She was duly patched, pumped out and raised and on 6th April a tug arrived to tow LOCH ARKAIG to Port Glasgow
Shortly LOCH ARKAIG was declared to be a constructive total loss and was offered for sale “as is, as lies.” Her purchase by Ship & Yacht Consultants Ltd., London, was reported in October 1979; apparently for conversion to a private yacht. In 1980, it was reported she had been further sold, to Arab interests. She was briefly “arrested” at Milford Haven, for non-payment of harbour dues, but in July was removed to Dubai. She seems not to have been in service again and was reported to have sunk on trials, off Cadiz, in October 1985.”

copied from an article by John Macleod http://www.shipsofcalmac.co.uk/h_loch_arkaig.asp

No trip to the end of the iron ore pier would be complete without looking at one of natures marvels,

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this tiny stunted spruce tree that bravely clings to life in spoonful of soil between two planks. With the sea just feet below and clearly visible through the gaps, lashed by salt laden winter gales and parched by the droughts of spring it refuses to die. It’s been there for eighteen years at least yet is only two feet tall, a tenacious little tree indeed 🙂

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Here’s a picture of the crumbling ruin that was our old berth and people would still ask me ‘what’s wrong with the old pier’ before telling me that it was such a shame to build the new one at Clachan and spoil the view,

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aye, well spoiled 🙂 Thanks again to George Rankine for that excellent shot.

A responsible adult

Being wifeless for a few days I was about to resort to warming up some sausage rolls and soup for dinner when we got invited out, in fact I’d just put the sausage rolls on top of stove but the chance of a proper home cooked meal and a glass or two of wine seemed like a much better idea. Not only that but it was a beautiful evening and the venue was the nicest place on Raasay http://www.uniquescotland.com/raasayschool/index.html a place with the finest views and its own micro climate. Indeed its south west aspect with huge rocky storage heaters behind it had enabled Calum himself of the road fame to grow tobacco here when he stayed there for a spell. Of course I’d be drinking so had to find a designated driver for me and the wee dug 🙂

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Of course the eleven year old in the house volunteered to be chauffer so we bumped   the half mile or so along the track on my trusty Honda TRX 350 and after an excellent beef stew the boy drove his inebriated father home and put him to bed 🙂 Well not quite:-)

The anticipated spectacular sunset never arrived,

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but it wasn’t bad 🙂

Today I’m confined to the house after being driven in by the torrential rain, it did get off to a promising start and after taking the boy to school I did manage to get a few jobs done outside but the planned trip to Rona got cancelled after  midge report from Bill Cowie up there http://www.isleofrona.com/ and the light drizzle turning into a deluge.

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Having said that the calm and downpour of ten minutes ago above has just turned into the wind and sunshine of below,

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so I’m off, not to Rona because it’s far too late in the day but at least out of the house 🙂

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