Life at the end of the road

January 30, 2012

Yard number 725 :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings, New hybrid ferry — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:56 pm

The mood is starting to lift at the north end, the days are lengthening, the forecast good and things are ‘afoot’. An early night last night got me off to a good start this morning, well it did until I realized the clock was fifteen minutes slow 🙂 and the forecast for the week ahead is amazing. Of course it could be wrong but it would be good to get the ground dried out a little and make a start on the footings for the barn. Not that I’ll be digging them of course, I know a man with a digger who’ll be doing that 🙂


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Still not fully light as we sail to Skye but improving by the day 🙂

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The Moll in the foreground and the island of Scalpay in the distance will be far brighter by the next shift which will be, for me at least, in February, where has the winter gone ??? OK, it’s not over yet by a long shot but the extra daylight certainly helps.

I kind of look forward to the winter after an active spring, summer and autumn but by the New Year I’ve had enough and crave the extra daylight. February always seems to be a bit of a turning point and can produce some fine spells of weather. In my younger days we’d often holiday on Skye during the half term, diving the wrecks of north and west Skye. Of course we had some poor days but on the whole they were great, lifting propellers, finding bombs and generally cutting up scrap 🙂

New York to Stornoway

A good hash of south east wind left it quite chilly on deck and apart from a few routine duties in the engine room cleaning sea water filters and doing paperwork I continued with my painting. Only surfacing once every twenty minutes or so for air. I was on to the gloss coat now and the fumes are, well, interesting 🙂 On one of my trips to the surface I spotted a green bag, that further investigation revealed a box and flag.


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I’ve probably been told about this and either forgot or didn’t hear correctly

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but for a small (or large) donation you can have your name on this flag that will be rowed across the Atlantic by


Niall Iain MacDonald for the charity SAMH Scottish association for mental health. Something that I think is little understood, greatly underfunded and far more common than we’d like to admit.

My name is Niall Iain Macdonald, I am 37 years old and I live and work in Stornoway, on the Isle of Lewis, in the Western Isles of Scotland. Although I was brought up on the mainland, in Inverness, I have very strong island connections as my father is from Skye and my mother was from Barra and South Uist. I have been based here in the islands for the past 10 years working in Gaelic radio and television, the majority of the time for the BBC but I now work on a Freelance basis.

A few years ago I reached a very low point in my life but, with the help and support of family, friends and various health services, I managed to overcome my problems. This caused me to re-evaluate what is important to me and recognise just how precious our time in this world really is. Since then I have tried to use my own experience to get people to talk more openly about mental health and show them that there is help and that they are not alone. In addition, I feel strongly about highlighting the families and friends of those who suffer as they also have a lot to deal with and are often a forgotten voice. I have also been inspired to challenge myself in ways that I would never previously have considered.

Copied from Niall’s website and even if you can’t get your name onto the flag you can donate here 

Good luck Niall

The ‘First Cut’

I’ve never been involved in ‘building ships’ most of my experience is with pulling bits off them on the bottom of the sea. Something, that thirty years ago I used to get quite excited about. Modern ships were of little interest to me as they contained little in the way of non ferrous metals compared to a steamer from the early twentieth century 🙂

However there is one particular little ship that is really getting me excited, and its yard number 725 at Fergusons Shipbuilders on the Clyde . The ship in question is our new hybrid ferry that had it’s first steel plates cut toady . The contract is for two vessels, the second one going to Gigha.

The 900-tonne ships are said to be the world’s first sea-going roll-on roll-off diesel-electric hybrid ferries.

They will be owned by Caledonian Maritime Assets (CMAL) and operated by CalMac Ferries, which runs Clyde and Hebrides Ferry Services.

The first vessel is expected to enter service next year.

The ferries will be built to accommodate 150 passengers and 23 cars and are designed for short routes, including the link between Skye and Raasay.

The £22m contract will involve installing new green technology, including battery banks supplying a minimum of 20% of the energy consumed on board.

They will also have diesel generators on board, to top up the charge.

The ferries’ batteries will be charged overnight while they are moored on the islands they will serve.

It is hoped in the future energy from local wind, wave or solar systems will be used to charge the batteries.

Funding support

Ferguson will be working alongside Glasgow-based ship design specialists Seatec and electrical specialists Tec-Source to deliver the project, which is supported by a Scottish government loan and additional funding of £450,000 from the European Regional Development Fund.

CMAL chief executive Guy Platten said: "The cutting of the first steel marks an exciting new stage of the project, as the build begins on the world’s first sea-going ro-ro passenger hybrid ferries.

"The project demonstrates CMAL’s commitment to leading the way in innovative ferry design and we look forward to seeing the project reach fruition when the first of the vessels goes into service in early 2013."

Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said: "The detailed design and the construction of the world’s first battery-operated sea-going vehicle ferry, both being carried out by local companies, highlights Glasgow and the Clyde as a major player in a modern world.

"It is absolutely fantastic that a new generation of ship-building is starting on the Clyde, a river which has a rich and proud ship-building history."

More on the story here 

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and a picture of CMAL’s chairman Grenville Johnson and his wife Mary Lynne who is just about to start the ball rolling


Thanks to John Salton of for the first picture and ‘Inverclyde now’ for the second.

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No stranger to opening things for Raasay is Stewart Stephenson, Scottish Minister for Environment and climate control. It was himself that opened our very own harbour in 2010 🙂



And if the new ferry is as good as our harbour it will be an asset indeed, larger, quieter, cleaner and greener, I can’t wait 🙂

Much ‘guff’ is talked (and joked) about the ‘battery powered boat’ and this new vessel is certainly not the ‘Prius (pious) of the sea’. It is in fact a diesel electric vessel with battery storage, this enables the ships generators to be run at their most efficient load and the vessels lithium ion batteries to be topped up at night. A lot of carp is made of the fact that using ‘grid power’ to charge a battery is less efficient and more expensive than just burning diesel. Personally I disagree but you have to remember that this ferry will have a thirty year lifespan, oil is NOT EVER going down in price and there’s a helluva a lot of wind and tide rushes past the end of that pier 🙂 Both of which can be used to charge the batteries.

Me, I think of it a bit like our wee ‘off grid’ house that has run perfectly for five years, we have a big battery bank that supplies the power to the house, it’s topped up by a wind turbine, and hydro turbine. If the wind does not blow or the water don’t flow the generator starts up and charges the batteries. It’s not rocket science, it reduced our diesel consumption from 100lts a week to 200 a year and we have far less power failures than people connected to the grid 🙂

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Personally I can’t wait to get my hands on it 🙂

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These are quite old drawings by the way and the below deck layout is now completely different.

January 29, 2012

Almost daylight :-)

Filed under: daily doings, Land Rover, pigs — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:09 pm

Bit of a panic on this morning when I turned on the bedroom light and saw that it was 6:58, normally I’m around the Beallach Ruadh by then and not still in my bed. The Beallach Ruadh being around three miles south of here on the way to work, I was out of my bed in a shot and already scrabbling around in the bedside cabinet for my ‘lucky underpants’ before it dawned on me that it was Sunday.

The red wine of last night had been the ‘sleeping draught’ and the shot of adrenalin when I saw the clock my coffee so I just got up and got on with it 🙂 No sooner had I sorted myself out than the patter of tiny feet came down stairs to see what was going on. My boys palls were staying the weekend (just for a change 🙂 ) and the first one was up and ready for action. The feet are hardly tiny at size 10 and he’s much taller than me but he’s always keen so off we went.

Into the workshop first with the Panasonic and a great big pair of pliers to try and remove the SD card, much to my surprise it almost fell out!! I’d had several unsuccessful attempts at removing it yesterday before the ‘memory card locked’ message came up.

Anyway this morning the card came out easily but minus the little grey switch for locking it so I’m thinking that that is what jammed it in the first place and now it’s floating around in my camera body somewhere. I can’t see it and no amount of shaking or sucking with an industrial vacuum cleaner revealed it 😦

Still the camera seemed OK so we just got on with the feeding after I’d admired all the hard work the boys had done yesterday moving rocks and gravel. This they’d done without being asked and a fine bit of work it was too. OK the Honda had a broken foot rest and we’d no petrol left, but hey, ‘you can’t make an omelette without breaking eggs’ 🙂

Bracken was the first to get fed as she was in the barn next to the workshop heavily ‘in pig’, still a week to go but it’s a good place to feed her up and keep an eye on her. Bracken, our most handsome Tamworth always has a real time of it when farrowing so we like to keep her nearby. In the barn there’s electric light, more room, plenty of bedding and you can get there from the house without wearing wellies and oilskins 🙂

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Then it was into the ‘net shed field’ to feed Jamie Lea and her six piglets

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before going out onto the hill to feed Bramble and Toots.

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That wee Toots is a noisy little pig and a right little character, the only one of Brambles litter that we kept to fatten we were a little unsure what to do with her. Normally we’d keep two or three as pigs are gregarious creatures but poor Toots got left on her own when all her siblings got sold. She was so distraught that we put her out on the hill with the big pigs and she settled in just fine.

We were a little worried that Bramble would start feeding her again but she didn’t. We thought she’d get bullied at feeding but she stood her ground, I suspect that Rocky could be a problem when she gets larger but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it 🙂

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After that it was into the generator shed to don my face mask and top up the 24 x 2v cells that make up my 1000ah 48v battery bank. I know that shed is a riot but I’m dealing with it, honest, you have no idea how much cr4p I’ve accumulated over the last thirty years. That wooden slatted bench above my head was from a police SPG Transit van I used to have when I first moved here. It’s days of ferrying riot police superseded to moving goats, sheep and other crofting essentials 🙂 I really must put some of this stuff on eBay, Volvo wing mirrors circa 1970, spark plugs from Morris Minors, points from Vauxhall Viva’s, Datsun oil filters, Ford Cortina service kits, the list goes on and on 😦

All too soon it was time to head to work for my ‘favourite day’ 🙂 Only two sailings, a fried breakfast, some cleaning, maintenance, paperwork and drills.

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Launch the rescue boat

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and most importantly clean the Old Girl

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and go for a wander

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up to Raasay House 🙂

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After all that and the final run at 16:00 we tied up the Loch Striven in daylight, well almost, the lights were on the pier but by my next Sunday in two weeks time they should be off and I’ll be driving home without lights 🙂

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