Life at the end of the road

April 30, 2011

Almost a success :-(

Filed under: animals, boats, daily doings, hydro, Land Rover, life off grid, the disaster thread — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:51 pm

I never finished last nights effort because it had been a long and exciting day, and judging by the way I feel right now I’ll probably not finish tonight’s 🙂 Still, I’ll have a go at picking up where I left off, which if I remember rightly was just heading down the west side of Raasay aboard the PS Waverley, a short history of which can be found here .


This is a picture off the above website of her being launched at A&J Inglis’s yard on the Clyde in 1946.

With the incoming tide sweeping us southwards we were well ahead of schedule so the captain took time to hug the steep shore of Loch a Sgurr before skirting around the little island west of Fladda called Grian a Sgier (the sunny skerry).


Map picture


Now the home to many birds including terns, gulls, oyster catchers and even the odd goose Grian a Sgier was once used to graze ‘sow mouth’ sheep during the summer. Sow mouth being a condition where the lower jaw protrudes further out than the upper meaning the sheep cannot eat the coarse grass and heather so well.

It is very aptly named, for often when all around is in cloud or rain Grian a Sgier is bathed in sunlight, something I’ve witnessed myself on many occasions.

Our next minor detour was into my ‘home port’ of Loch Arnish for a look at ‘Calum’s road’

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and even Calum’s house,


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though you can only see the roof and chimneys 🙂

Calum's house

We did however get a good view of the western end of ‘Rainey’s wall’ at Tarbert.

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The rugged red gneiss of the north soon gave way to the gentle slopes south of Inver and all too soon we were expertly moored to the Raasay pier.




Back to reality 🙂

After almost two days of none croft related doings I arrived home at my beloved Arnish around 16:00 and wasted no time in getting ‘stuck in’

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stuck into to replacing the duff batteries on my ‘beloved’ that is 🙂

I know, I’m really sad when I get excited about changing batteries on my truck but me and the ‘Old girl’ have been through a lot together and I like to take good care of her. Unable to get another pair of ‘Exide Maxxima’ batteries delivered for a reasonable price I’d opted for a couple of ‘Optima’s’ from Paddock’s . With enough lights to illuminate the north end of Raasay and a 9500lb winch that can draw 200 amps without breaking sweat I need good batteries and these ‘Spiral wound AGM’s’ are the dogs danglies

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Of course with most things in life, and just about everything connected to my Land Rover this simple operation took me several hours 🙂

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Right up to sunset in fact 🙂


Unusually for me I didn’t surface until after 7:00am, even more unusually I was not the first up on what turned out to be the hottest day of the year so far, a full 19.9 degrees in fact at 15:00 🙂 With roof and house still in need of painting I opted to leave that and get on with sorting out a ‘back up’ water supply for my mates ‘Harris turbine’ at . The Harris hydro turbine performs faultlessly for over 95% of the year drawing water from a 600m long pipe from Loch nan Dubhan over 100m above sea level. However during the dry spells it can get a little iffy so over the last few months we’ve been laying an extra supply to the much higher and deeper Loch Airgh na ha-Aon Oidhce (loch of the one night shieling).

This means almost an extra 400m of pipe and 20m of head but should maintain a year round reliable supply to the house.

Most of the UPVC pipe had been laid and glued so it was just a matter of attaching it to the MDPE pipe and teeing into the existing pipe with a couple of valve to isolate each supply. A simple task were it not for the remote and inaccessible location high above Torran.

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First job was to make a filter for the end that would go in the loch,

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then assemble ‘the team’, Charlie, Molly, Ruby and my boys pal.

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It’s a long trek up there, a mile on the quad then a half mile hike but pretty soon we had the new pipes teed up,

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then I coupled up the final joint between the UPVC and MDPE, leaving the glue to set whilst we went home for more couplings and forgotten tools 😦

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Returning after lunch Ruby assisted with inserting the pipe and filter in the loch 🙂

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The four month old Charlie however had to be carried back 🙂

Once all the pipe was connected and the water flowing we shut off the supply tom the turbine and opened the one into Loch nan Dubhan.

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The idea behind this being to bleed the pipe of air as well as ‘back flush’ the intake filter from the lower loch, a plan that worked a treat.

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All would have been well had it not not been for a burst in one of the UPVC pipes about half way up to the higher loch :-(  Further investigation revealed that the pipe had been damaged prior to fitting so we removed the inlet from the loch and called it a day. 

April 29, 2011

A grand day out :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings, harbour, stonework — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 11:17 pm

Probably as a result of ‘the wedding’ I’m a little late in posting tonight, I’ve been trying to upload some ‘real royal’ videos of the PS Waverley’s triple expansion but I’ve had to give up. I suspect that half of London is trying to upload cr4ppy videos of Kate and Wills from their mobile phones 🙂 OK, I realize that my blurred and shaky images of a triple expansion steam engine will probably appeal to far less folk than the wedding of the decade but there’ll be a gazillion miles of that footage in the media for the next month and beyond. On the other hand steam reciprocating engines will attract far less media attention, unless of course one happens to self destruct and take some royalty with it 🙂

Not that I’ve anything against the whole ‘royal thing’, I feel the same way about the Grand national, Wimbledon, World cup, Olympics, Pope’s visit and X factor. I am, in short a miserable old git that feels these events are a diversion from the real world and have much more important things to do than watch them or read about them 🙂


I was kind of distracted yesterday by having to go down to Oban for my biannual ‘ENG1’ medical, something that displeased me greatly on such a fine day. It displeased me greatly because I couldn’t get one in Portree until June, or Inverness and Fort William until May, and it’s not like I didn’t book early enough, I started phoning up almost a month ago 😦

Anyway, as the trip to Oban necessitated an overnight stay we decided to make the best of it and wifey and I left the family and croft behind and decided to make the most of it. So after feeding all the pigs we headed south to the ferry terminal and the 8:55 ferry to catch our first glimpse of the PS Waverley at Raasay pier.

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It wasn’t such a nice day as Wednesday so I didn’t feel quite so bad about leaving my unpainted roof, in fact I believe there was a little light rain during the day.

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Now that is a very wide boat 🙂

The drive to Oban was pleasant enough and we arrived an hour ahead of my 14:40 appointment in time to do a little shopping before going to the Lorn Medical Centre for my appointment. Unfortunately they were running late and I was in there for over two hours which put our ‘plan’ all to pot. We had intended to return via Mallaig but the last ferry departs there at 18:00 and we would have missed it, or at least had to drive like maniacs to catch it. Rather than risking frayed tempers and an accident we opted for the leisurely option of a meal in Fort William and a night at my parents 60 miles north. This would give us the chance of an early start to join the Waverley on Raasay for the voyage around the island.

A ‘right royal’ day out

To say that there was a buzz of excitement around the place on our arrival at 10:50 would be a bit of an understatement, the sun was out and the ferry terminal packed. OK it wasn’t packed by central London standards but I’ve not seen such a crowd there since the harbour opened in August of last year.

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When she arrived shortly before 11:00 there was already a couple of hundred on board who’d joined her at Kyle and Broadford.

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They were soon accompanied by 140 more from Raasay and in a matter of minutes we were off on an immaculate ship anticlockwise trip around the Island.

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With her turn of speed of around 14knts we were passing the old pier at Suisnish in no time,


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its rotting timbers, rusting sheep piling and aging concrete no match for our new terminal.

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Rounding Rubh na Cloich and passing Eyre light we came to Raasay’s second most isolated outpost that still gets mail, Fearns and then Rubh na Leac

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Then we passed Sorley MacLean’s Hallaig with its still visible fields, one hundred and sixty years after they were abandoned in favour of sheep.

Hallaig (translated) by Sorley Maclean

Time, the deer, is in Hallaig Wood

There’s a board nailed across the window
I looked through to see the west
And my love is a birch forever
By Hallaig Stream, at her tryst

Between Inver and Milk Hollow,
somewhere around Baile-chuirn,
A flickering birch, a hazel,
A trim, straight sapling rowan.

In Screapadal, where my people
Hail from, the seed and breed
Of Hector Mor and Norman
By the banks of the stream are a wood.

To-night the pine-cocks crowing
On Cnoc an Ra, there above,
And the trees standing tall in moonlight –
They are not the wood I love.

I will wait for the birches to move,
The wood to come up past the cairn
Until it has veiled the mountain
Down from Beinn na Lice in shade.

If it doesn’t, I’ll go to Hallaig,
To the sabbath of the dead,
Down to where each departed
Generation has gathered.

Hallaig is where they survive,
All the MacLeans and MacLeads
Who were there in the time of Mac Gille Chaluim:
The dead have been seen alive,

The men at their length on the grass
At the gable of every house,
The girls a wood of birch trees
Standing tall, with their heads bowed.

Between The Leac and Fearns
The road is plush with moss
And the girls in a noiseless procession
Going to Clachan as always

And coming boack from Clachan
And Suisnish, their land of the living,
Still lightsome and unheartbroken,
Their stories only beginning.

From Fearns Burn to the raised beach
Showing clear in the shrouded hills
There are only girls congregating,
Endlessly walking along

Back through the gloaming to Hallaig
Through the vivid speechless air,
Pouring down the steep slopes,
Their laughter misting my ear

And their beauty a glaze on my heart.
Then as the kyles go dim
And the sun sets behind Dun Cana
Love’s loaded gun will take aim.

It will bring down the lightheaded deer
As he sniffs the grass round the wallsteads
And his eye will freeze: while I live,
His blood won’t be traced in the woods.

This east side of Raasay is seldom visited but is its most rugged and beautiful and best appreciated by sea. I spent many years clam diving around here and it never failed to impress, both ashore and underwater.

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Raasay’s highest peak, the ancient volcanic plug of Dun Caan is at its most majestic viewed from here.

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And it never fails to amaze me how these walls were built so ‘square’ in days gone by.

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This huge lump of rock that detached itself from the cliff millennia ago is known as ‘Church rock’, actually it’s known as something I can’t remember in Gaelic but that’s about the gist of it 🙂

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Whatever it’s called this huge piece of white sandstone is pretty impressive and so is the underwater scenery below it.

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A little further north we came to Brochel castle,

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where the geology changes from the ancient pre Cambrian sandstones to the really ancient Lewisian gneiss of the ‘north end’. That unfertile bit of Raasay where the population were driven by the infamous George Rainey, one of Raasay’s more brutal landlords.

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This being the eastern end of the hated wall that he built to keep the people off ‘his land’ which is now on the ‘common grazing’ that I share with my neighbour.

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A little further north we came across a Vanguard class SSBN they were probably on the surface so they could get a TV signal to watch the wedding 🙂

Being ahead of schedule our captain took us around the island of Rona as well,

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another place where they were exceptionally good at building walls 🙂

Reluctantly but forced by pains of hunger I went below for something to eat,


but got distracted 🙂


and being a fan of both machinery and Ritchie Hawtin you can see why 🙂


Mind you I’d not be seen dead with a hairdo like that 🙂



That’s not the end of it by a long way but it’s after midnight and time for bed so I’ll just leave you with some shots of the bridge.

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One good turn deserves another as they say and a few years ago my good wife gave the purser of the Waverley a lift in the car 🙂

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