Life at the end of the road

July 6, 2012

Job anyone :-)

Filed under: Croft house for sale, Land Rover, life off grid — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:34 pm

Well, it’s actually several really and a great boost for Raasay but I’ll come to that later, for now I’ll just try and clear all of the ‘mince’ outside of my head. What more I’ll try really hard to do it without swearing, probably going to be difficult but I’ll try, two flippin days of my life have past me by with sweet FA achieved and I’ve almost ‘blown a gasket’ so pi55ed off was I with ‘information technology’. OK, I know I’m not the sharpest tool in the box when it come to computers but I’ve spent two full days of my valuable time trying to do something to an inverter that would take anyone savvy with a laptop ten minutes.

The ‘Sunny Boy’ and ‘Windy Boy’ Conundrum

To be honest this next bit is going to be really boring for most folk and I’m only doing it for myself, just so I can look back in the future and see what an idiot I’ve been 🙂 The inverter that I use to feed my hydro turbine into my own little ‘mini grid’ is the ‘dogs danglies’ of German engineering, an SMA ‘Windy Boy’ that converts the high voltage DC from the turbine into AC for the ‘Arnish grid’, which is at the moment my croft, house, chalet and barn. Any power not actually used as it is produced is fed into a battery bank by a Trace SW4548e inverter and can be used later. When the batteries are full the excess is diverted into Radiators by the turbine controller.

It sounds complicated but it’s quite straight forward and a damned sight more reliable than the national grid, I can count the time our lights have gone off unexpectedly in the last seven years on one hand, twice due to mice, once due to an overloaded and burnt cable and once (yesterday) due to a lightning strike 😦 The new Cal Mac hybrid ferry will work on a very similar system of various inputs being stored and used as required with generators running at maximum efficiency as and when needed.

SMA produce a range of inverters in this series badged for different applications, wind, solar, hydro but they are all identical inside and can be altered using a special ‘interface’, laptop and software. Well that’s what they tell you 🙂

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The ‘Windy boy’ is a little cheaper as it does not have a built in ‘DC disconnect’ and at the time I bought it was easier to source as there was a shortage of solar inverters.

Having been assured it was easy to change the mode if you had the tool I wasn’t worried and decided that I’d make this my first job of the ‘rest week’. Being determined to make this a proper ‘rest week’ and take it easy I borrowed the interface lead off my mate.

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Now this really is not a priority job as I’m not using this turbine yet as it’s pending permission from SEPA but I thought it would be a nice ‘wee job’ to get me familiar with the software as I’m planning more SMA equipment at the new house. The beauty of the SMA kit is that it all ‘speaks to each other’ or at least it does if you can get the feckin software and hardware to work 😦 I know, I promised not to swear 🙂

So after arising to a damp and misty morn on Wednesday, the day I’d set aside for this task

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and after feeding the pigs I set off to turn on the turbine to set it up.

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The day may not have looked up to much in the ‘broad horizons’ perspective

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but ‘up close’ there was lots to see, spiders webs in the morning dew

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and wild roses on inaccessible rocks to name but a few.

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Having got the turbine ‘up to speed’ I connected up the ‘interface’ between the laptop and inverter only to be told that I needed a ‘driver’. Pretty obvious really and I should have picked up the CD with the interface tool but I didn’t so it was back home to download one.

I’ll not go into the detail but I spent the whole day messing about with this and got more or less nowhere. Abandoning that after twelve fruitless hours I went to bed early, wineless and Tramadolless hoping for better results on Thursday.

The sheep are back 🙂

Whilst the mist lifted on Wednesday sometime after 11:00am it stayed firmly rooted to the north end of Raasay for the whole day.

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This brief glimpse of blue sky lasting all of five minutes and being the best part of the day that we saw, not that it bothered me for I was once more juggling between the internet and inverter. Four more wasted hours of downloading various drivers from SMA/us and SMA/de getting me absolutely nowhere 😦

Giving up on that I turned my attention to the Land Rover and its impending MOT as the correct installation CD was on its way in the post.

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A new bracket being fabricated for the exhaust tailpipe

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using a Mercedes clamp and a Peugeot rubber 🙂 Both of which have been cluttering up my workshop since the early nineties 🙂

Feeling very pleased with that I went to the opposite end of the ‘Old Girl’ and started on the ‘Adwest 4 bolt power steering box’, the source of many an MOT failure or ‘advisory note’ on a Land Rover ‘ticket’. Normally they normally ‘pish out’ oil from the steering arm at the bottom but mine was leaking from the top. I knew this because I’d meticulously cleaned it and been watching it closely, oil leaks quite often do not come from the obvious place 🙂

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Mine was leaking from the aluminium plate, which, whilst held on by four M10 bolts, I added the stainless ‘socket caps’ will not actually come off without unlocking the adjuster and either spinning the top around or screwing the adjuster in.

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The Britpart ‘shitpart’ sorry for swearing kit is quite comprehensive but I only fitted the largest O ring and sealed the top with Hylomar, courtesy of Sean 🙂

The lights went out 😦

It was whilst in the middle of this, outside with everything open to the elements that the ‘heavens opened’ with rain like I’ve not seen in years. Fortunately it coincided with dinnertime so I left it and got changed. Returning only an hour or so later when it had eased to finish off and feed the pigs. All of whom had given up waiting and gone to bed.

During dinner however a bolt of lightning struck the ground nearby and put out the lights. Panic ensued when I saw red flashing lights on the inverter and error codes suggesting that it had been fired 😦 It wouldn’t reset and after disconnecting the batteries gave a huge blue flash as I tried to reconnect them, however a little perseverance had it up and running sweetly after a few more sparks 🙂 Not only had we lost power but the breaker had tripped in the nearby chalet too but all was well after resetting that too 🙂

English !!!!!

Having got my installation CD via the postie I though that I’d have another go with the SMA inverter so carefully followed the instructions in the supplied book and inserted the CD in my puter.

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Now correct me if I’m stupid but what does that say????

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It says feckin ENGLISH so why the feck do all the dialogue boxes speak feckin German, I know, I promised not to swear but I tried every frigging language on the CD and they all came up German, I tried another effin computer and that came up German. I even typed it all out on an online translator exactly as written and it came up with Gibberish so it might as well have been ‘kin German 😦 I pressed every combination of boxes, installed, uninstalled and did just about everything other than put the thing in the freezer but it still didn’t work 😦

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I’m sure it’s me but does that CD not suggest to you that it’s aimed at an English speaking market, no, it’s not a pirate or some dodgy eBay deal, it’s the genuine one that came with the service kit. I know it says 2007 but that’s the same age as my laptop so you think they’d talk to each other in the same language 🙂


I gave up and that and was so sick of staring at computer screens that all blogging was cancelled until today. A busy day and a peach of a day that I’ll have to tell you about later as it’s well past bed time, so I’ll just leave you with this.

Motorman (2 posts)

Employing Company:
CalMac Ferries Limited

Motorman (2 posts)

Sconser/Raasay (Small Ferry Division)


Date Posted:
2 July 2012

Applications are invited for the position of Motorman to sail on the Sconser/Raasay Route within the Small Ferry Division.

Responsible to the Skipper for a number of duties crucial to the operation of the vessel, including complying with the requirements of the Company Management System (including ISM code), reporting any technical problems or breakdown affecting its operation, to the Engineer in Charge.  In addition, you will also ensure the safety of all working areas and that main and auxiliary machinery maintenance is kept up to date.

Ideally, you will be fully qualified to STCW 95 III/1 Officer of the Watch (Class 4 Motor) no power limit restrictions ands unlimited area or be in possession of MEOL qualification

You must be customer focused, have a clear understanding of the customer interface and have a proactive approach to customer care.

A shift pattern will apply and this will normally consist of one week on/one week off.

Ideally the successful candidate should live within daily commuting distance of the Raasay Ferry Terminal as accommodation is not provided.

from here

That’s six jobs in total, a welcome and valuable boost to the islands economy 🙂 And if you need a house 🙂


  1. So the lightning bolt missed you, eh? Either that’s a good sign, or Thor needs glasses.

    Comment by drgeo — July 7, 2012 @ 12:50 am

    • It was close enough DrG, too close for comfort in fact 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 7, 2012 @ 5:34 am

  2. Vielleicht solltest du dein Haus auf einen Deutsch-Lautsprecher verkaufen
    (wer will schon eine Karriere in der Schiffstechnik)!

    Comment by ecobodger — July 7, 2012 @ 5:18 am

    • Vor sprung der technic to you too 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 7, 2012 @ 5:28 am

  3. I’ve got a class 2 motor and I am bloody tempted

    Don’t know how the wife would feel

    Comment by — July 7, 2012 @ 5:30 am

    • Hi Thinforth, ‘go for it’ unless wifey has inherited the ‘shopping gene’ she’ll love it (or hate it) 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 7, 2012 @ 10:19 pm

  4. did you sort your driver out

    Comment by rob sherman — July 7, 2012 @ 8:36 am

  5. Is that a new variety of union flag ? The bolt strike must have scared the animals.

    Comment by SOTW — July 7, 2012 @ 9:05 am

    • Hi She, didn’t you know that’s Tony Blair’s 51st state flag, specially commissioned by GW Bush himself 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 7, 2012 @ 10:23 pm

  6. Hi Paul,

    Loved the SMA stories 🙂 . My SMA software talks Dutch when instructed to 😉 .
    German is really easy to understand imho .
    SMA is very responsive to e-mail you send them BTW.

    Regards, Leonard (SB1200 & SB2000HF)

    Comment by Leonard Fintelman, Utrecht — July 7, 2012 @ 9:42 am

    • Cheers, Leonard, if I don’t get sorted I’ll just email them the link 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 7, 2012 @ 10:24 pm

      • Hi Paul,

        If it ever starts talking to you in German (or Dutch 😉 ) I’ll be happy to translate it for you. The interesting thing is the Germans have made up their own Computer terms in German (such as Rechner for Computer/cpu) , where the Dutch have simply taken over the English ICT words. Funny thing is that Germans refer to their “Handy ” when talking about their Mobile Phone (which the Dutch call “Mobieltje”).
        So even the Germans and Dutch lack consistency every now and again 😉 .


        Comment by Leonard — July 9, 2012 @ 12:08 pm

      • Cheers Leonard, I may be in touch 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 10, 2012 @ 4:37 pm

  7. Well that’s me ruled out of the job because I don’t even know what a “customer interface” is never mind have a clear understanding of it!

    Comment by neilking — July 7, 2012 @ 12:49 pm

    • I’m right with you there on the “customer interface” carp Neil, your profession may write more gobbledegook than any other on the planet but at least they’ve been using the same format for three or four hundred years 🙂 🙂 this years “customer interface” is next years “point of contact dialogue” or some such “consultantspeak cr4p”

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 7, 2012 @ 10:30 pm

  8. OK, the installer’s in German whichever language you pick but maybe it installs the right version of the software. “Sunny Data_E.exe“ looks encouraging; do the other languages put up names like “Sunny Data_D.exe”, “Sunny Data_F.exe” or whatever?

    Google translate says “zielverzeichnis” is “target directory” so that shouldn’t be too difficult to fill in though it’s not obvious why they have two with option buttons. The Fehlet (error) dialog box is asking you to fill in a target directory. At least it says “please”.

    Comment by Ed — July 7, 2012 @ 1:40 pm

    • Cheers Ed, Dave, I think I’ve sorted the driver for the ‘interface’ at least, I just entered a file name by copying the one in the ‘view’ box and pasting it in “zielverzeichnis” and it has at least opened the wizard and told me that the driver is installed now. Couldn’t have done it without you and help from Navitron 🙂 Will try again tomorrow with the ‘Sunny data’ and see what happens.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 7, 2012 @ 10:36 pm

  9. Fehler just means fault and I think you will find that it is asking you very politely to make a primary file on your harddisk on which to store the files from the CD.

    Comment by Yorkshire Miner — July 7, 2012 @ 1:51 pm

  10. Our Defender is leaking, too. Diesel. It wasn’t leaking when we went out after lunch, but it was leaking when we came back. Unfortunately, it was raining and the underside of the truck was soaked so I don’t know if the leak is before the wheel arch diesel filter (it’s a TD5), after the filter, or from the top of the filter itself. I couldn’t find it even with the engine running and diesel being pumped through. Ah well, another job for tomorrow.

    Comment by Stonehead — July 7, 2012 @ 10:31 pm

    • The diesel filter mount was cracked. I rang around a few places trying to find a new one. No one sells them. They only come as part of a kit: a kit that includes the mount, pipes, couplings, electronic sender, fuel filter, etc etc. Instead of paying the expected £20 or so for a mount, I spent £156, including delivery because we’re supposedly in the Highlands. Grrr.

      Interestingly, as soon as I started to describe the part, everyone knew what I was talking about. It’s a common point of failure on older TD5s as the casting doesn’t hold up for more than 8-10 years. Someone is making a killing out of producing and flogging entire kits when all that’s needed is a new mount.

      Comment by Stonehead — July 9, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

      • Aye Stoney, a ‘rip off’ indeed, seems to be the way of the world these days. Not quite so bad if you’ve a warm dry place to work though 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 10, 2012 @ 5:10 pm

  11. Hello

    I am for argentina and I working whit a windyboy
    I dont know if are possible fhash the firmware to convert in sunnyboy but I can chage their operation points of the function power vs in voltage curve

    Whit the same interface and the same cd , the software that can doing this is “Sunny Data Control” changing to intallator mode rights

    If you want ask any more, write me to

    Comment by Ing. Marcelo Iván Molina — November 2, 2012 @ 7:34 pm

    • Hi Marcello and thank you, I’m away from home at the moment but will be in touch.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 3, 2012 @ 3:33 pm

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