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.

 the bears


st stevenson

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.


  1. I am entranced by the idea of this – “lifting propellers, finding bombs and generally cutting up scrap” – being just a usual sort of a holiday🙂

    Comment by Kingdomcat — January 30, 2012 @ 11:27 pm

    • Morning KC,

      oh and I forgot to add mercury, possibly the strangest thing I’ve ever lifted of the sea bed 🙂 It is very strange to be suspended in a liquid (water) and have to suck up another liquid (mercury) and deposit it in a clear jar 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 2, 2012 @ 6:53 am

  2. Paul

    What makes you think that the 2nd hybrid ferry is bound for Gigha? If it is, nobody in Argyll & Bute (both the Council or Calmac) are expecting it.


    Comment by Alan — January 31, 2012 @ 8:29 am

    • Morning Alan,

      “What makes you think that the 2nd hybrid ferry is bound for Gigha? If it is, nobody in Argyll & Bute (both the Council or Calmac) are expecting it.”

      I thought you told me 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 2, 2012 @ 6:54 am

  3. Morning Paul

    That’s really exciting – the new ferry on its way to being built, and, in particular, a recognition of Raasay by putting it on the route from Sconser. It has good capacity – maybe it will mean that you won’t have to leave cars behind, especially when there’s a big truck on board, and do another sailing to catch up. That and the power system – well!! Will you have to ‘go on a course’ about running and maintaining the diesel-electric system????



    Comment by Sue — January 31, 2012 @ 9:14 am

    • Morning Sue,

      don’t mention the ‘C’ word, wifey does not like me going away, once a year at dry dock is enough for her 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 2, 2012 @ 6:56 am

  4. Morning Paul
    Glad that the longer days are putting a spring in your step. I fully agree with your comments on the state of mental health funding etc. I’m in the business myself and see it from the inside.
    Love the photo of Skye from the boat. Roll on summer!!
    all the best

    Comment by steve hawkesworth — January 31, 2012 @ 9:22 am

    • Good to see you have a worthwhile job Steve, keep up the good work.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 2, 2012 @ 6:57 am

  5. Building ships is one of the most enjoyable things I have ever done, having worked in the industry here in Holland for many years. it is still part art (skill ) part science, and the satisfaction you get when you have done a big job and done it well. The shipyard I worked at was a small family firm on the Maas river and the jobs we took on were from the small too the very large. from small steel built motor boats too 3,000 ton barges. Most of the time our bread and butter work was installing bow pushers of our own design into large barges. I was the only electrical fitter and was in charge of all the electrical installations, and always had to go out when the ship sailed to test the equipment under real conditions, to see a 3,000 ton ship turn in its own length knowing you had built and installed all the control systems was a great feeling almost as good as getting the skippers signature signing it off and dropping the papers off on the Bosses desk knowing that there would be money in the bank too pay your wages. We even built our own floating dock out of an old barge so that we could lift the stem or the stern out of the water. We got so good we could put in a bow pusher in three days from start to finish. How I miss those times now I am retired, the organised chaos and the friendly banter.

    Comment by Yorkshire Miner — January 31, 2012 @ 12:05 pm

    • Aye Dave that must be a great feeling, I did it with a wee fishing boat I salvaged, pride indeed to see it launched again 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — February 2, 2012 @ 6:59 am

  6. Apart from your posting being most interesting and covering such a lot (as usual), the first sunrise photo is AMAZING (so must have been the real life version!!)

    Comment by may cruickshank — January 31, 2012 @ 12:30 pm

  7. But you’ll miss the old Loch Striv, won’t you?

    Comment by Neil King — January 31, 2012 @ 2:34 pm

  8. The total number of £millions that have been spent on Raasay over the past few years is quite something! I wonder what Dr. No (Green) would have made of it? Pity a few thousand can’t be spent on the roads though 🙂

    Comment by Derek — January 31, 2012 @ 4:35 pm

  9. 725 – sounds like a good number! It really is pretty exciting that a ferry of a new concept and design is being built in a Scottish yard for a Scottish route! It really makes you feel proud! I can fully understand why you’d want to get your hands on it and I can’t wait to ride on her! I wonder what they’ll name her? Sounds like something for a sweepstake!

    All the best Paul and hope your getting your hydro turbine woes sorted!


    Comment by Mark james — January 31, 2012 @ 9:35 pm

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