Life at the end of the road

August 28, 2012

Meanwhile on the new boat :-)

Filed under: daily doings, New hybrid ferry — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 11:25 pm

Blustery, yup, blustery just about sums up the day, a few showers right enough but none that couldn’t be dodged and, unusually they didn’t coincide with ‘tying up’. Tying up showers are the ones that sneak off the Cuilins  or over North Bay and drown you whilst casting off or lashing the Loch Striven firmly to our pier in the evening. The ‘wee dug’ and I managed to get the hens cleaned out, the pigs fed and all the normal stuff done before trundling down to work in the Old Girl for what would be my last day of this shift. Not only that but my penultimate full shift before the long spell back at school starting in September Sad smile 

It’s been a busy old week really and one that has flown by, indeed they all seem to at this time of life, I swear time speeds up as you get older, where did my life go??? Gosh only last night I was looking at those pictures of the Dude on the good ship (well more of wee boat) MV Conqueror, twelve years I’ve been married, my son’s a teenager and I’ve still got all my hair Smile  I’m going deaf wearing glasses and developing a beer (or is it wine) belly but I’m still here, who’d have thought, gosh it’s funny where life takes you (if you let it). I never liked dogs, children or even took alcohol until I was 36 but it’s amazing what a ‘mid life crisis’ can do for you Smile 

When I first came here 23 years ago I had to drive 11 miles to use the phone and now I’m sat at the kitchen table with two laptops at my fingertips connected to the world and 1500 people a day are reading the carp I put on here Smile  I’ve satellite TV, satellite internet, a mobile phone signal (on the roof Smile ) and 24 hour mains power electricity, who’d have thought that in 1989. Not only that the ferry only ran three times a day during the summer holidays, though we were blessed with five sailings for the rest of the year. The six car ferry rarely missed a sailing and despite the fact that it was basically a nine till five service people managed just fine. Had you said to any of the crew or customers then that fifteen years later they’d have a twelve car ferry sailing virtually on the hour and a Sunday service no one would have believed you.

Despite the day being three hours longer, the ferry twice the size and doing three times as many sailings, it is at times not enough. A twenty three car boat of three times the tonnage may seem a little OTT now but you have to bear in mind that it is designed to last thirty years.

Concept design for the world's first sea going RORO passenger hybrid ferry

The hybrid technology may seem expensive now but oil is never going to go down in price and the modular concept of generators, motors and batteries means that it can be easily modified to suit new technologies or renewable inputs as they arrive. The large and efficient Volvo D13 diesel engines that will provide 80% of the power,



and this is one of them undergoing testing, could be replaced by hydrogen fuel cells. This is something that  Scottish Enterprise  and CMAL are looking into in a joint venture with the US company Logan Energy  and Saint Andrews University.

The consortium, CMAL, Logan Energy, St Andrews University and Scottish Hydrogen Fuel Cell Association (SHFCA), will evaluate a number of projects which will focus on cost efficient, innovative and environmentally-friendly vessels and port infrastructure which will benefit Scotland’s rural and island communities.

The use of hydrogen as a fuel has been long understood but it is actually very ‘energy intensive’ to make it, however with the oil  price set to rise and security of supply uncertain it has become more attractive. Basically all you need is electricity and water and we’ve plenty of both, or at least the potential to make the latter cheaply in these parts. Seriously, if it’s not pouring from the sky in the form of rain, bathing us in sunshine or blowing past our front door it’s rushing past the pier twice a day in the form of tides. We have more than our fair share of free energy here so why the heck are we importing it form unstable countries to the east ???

Learn more about fuel cells here

For now however our new boat which is taking shape at Ferguson’s on the Clyde will be sticking with its 12.78lt Volvo’s, 700Kwh battery pack and an overnight charge Smile



Here’s a small part of the lithium ion phosphate (LiFePO4) battery bank awaiting test at Imtech



This is one of the main switchboards



and this is one of the batteries but I’m afraid it’s not a very good copy of the image. Jari at European Batteries in Finland sent me some pictures but I couldn’t open them without losing some of the clarity. The batteries are made at their new state of the art plant at Varkaus  in eastern Finland. Lithium Ion Phosphate being the safest and most environmentally friendly of the lithium technologies, with a high power density, long cycle life and light weight it makes them ideal for this and for vehicular use.

I know, I know, it’s really boring for the majority of readers but I’m fascinated by this stuff, these batteries are light years ahead of anything else available. A traditional FLA (flooded lead acid) like in a forklift, milk float or my house would weigh four times more and last 10% of the cycles. The battery bank currently powering my house is 950ah and weighs in at  just over a ton. Using LiFePO4 batteries I’d probably get away with 200ah and 200kg.


Stuart M's hybrid hull

Anyway, enough of my waffling here’s some pictures of the real thing, first Stuart McMahon’s excellent snap complete with Russian oligarch’s hoverbarge,


the less said about that the better Smile


and one a little more recently taken by John Newth of the CRSC though I believe progress has leapt ahead since both these pictures were taken. Yours truly having been ‘sat on them’ for quite a while Sad smile

725 unit 17 aluminium

These however are ‘hot off the press’ some shots from Ferguson’s of the aluminium superstructure being fabricated.


725 unit 17 aluminiun2

Almost midnight

OK, I know that most folk won’t find this riveting like me, but this is the worlds first hybrid RoRo sea going ferry and it’s coming here, to Raasay. For a while at least the whole worlds media attention will be focused on Britain, Scotland, and Raasay. Who knows, perhaps I’ll even beat my 2499 hits for the day Smile Anyone can moan, and for heavens sake I should get an Oscar for that that, but this is a unique opportunity that won’t come around again so lets make the most of it Smile

Where was I

Right, it’s after midnight now and well past my bed time so I’ll just stick the pictures on here and let you use your imagination Smile


Dry dock minus Transit van,



just check out that stonework.



not quite the day that was forecast Sad smile



Happy hens


and a secret nest.


Ringo the duck



getting carped on by the chooks Sad smile You have to admire our blind, lame, ancient and infertile drake Ringo for his persistence, despite ‘firing blanks’  he’s been trying to ‘hump’ hens for years. It’s never got him anywhere, every morning they gang up on him and tear chunks out of him  but still he comes back for more Smile



  1. Ah paul, can you not get them to make extra batteries for me and you..

    Comment by The Peoples Republic of Northumbria — August 28, 2012 @ 11:44 pm

    • Ah paul, can you not get them to make extra batteries for me and you..

      I’m working on it 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — August 29, 2012 @ 7:38 am

  2. What size will the battery room in your new house need to be?

    Comment by drgeo — August 28, 2012 @ 11:52 pm

  3. it must be the oatmeal you feed then or the whiskey or the black pudding but the dog and the chickens and even the scrawny old duck just glisten with good health. cheers to all.

    Comment by jeannettesmyth — August 29, 2012 @ 12:28 am

    • Morning Jeannette, that scrawny old duck leads a charmed life, he must be ancient 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — August 29, 2012 @ 7:42 am

  4. Paul,

    Good to meet up on Sunday, sorry it was so brief.

    I guess these new batteries must cost an arm & a leg. not being very tech minded could they be used in your situation storing energy from a wind turbine?

    Good to see this country retains some skills in the ship building industry, that will be some craft. Will you have a job or will robots run the ship?

    The dry dock is testament to the builders, stones look pretty good after having the van pulled back and forth over them. looks like you have a fair bit more fresh/damp weather heading your way this weekend.
    How do you get the weather readings that you put on the blog, is it your own weather station? I could not find a link for the site or info about it.


    Comment by Arthur T Bomber Harris — August 29, 2012 @ 6:03 am

    • Was good indeed Micheal, especially for me with that nice bottle of wine you gave me, I’ll be finishing it off tonight 🙂 The weather station is called a WH1090 and the software I use is called cumulus by Sandysoft. Don’t think you can get the 1090 anymore but the newer one is better anyway and the same price, plenty of them on eBay.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — August 29, 2012 @ 7:45 am

  5. Well done Paul, you are not only keeping everything together by yourself but you have also managed to interest me in batteries! I read the whole post, normally I just look at the pictures when you wax lyrical about engines!!

    Comment by kirstentuggey — August 29, 2012 @ 6:20 am

    • Glad you enjoyed it Jo 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — August 29, 2012 @ 7:53 am

  6. Morning Paul

    I’m not in any sense an engineer, but the account of the batteries and the ship is fascinating. Keep us posted as it develops!

    Had the phone kiosk at Arnish gone by the time you arrived there in 1989? I remember it being there and still talk about ‘parking by the kiosk’ but can’t remember when it left.

    Hope the weather doesn’t get too bad your way – it’s dreadful here today (again).



    Comment by Sue — August 29, 2012 @ 7:41 am

    • Aye Sue, think the phone box went to the village in 1969, though I could be wrong on that, perhaps SOTW remembers. Yup, the car park is still referred to as ‘the kiosk’

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — August 29, 2012 @ 7:52 am

  7. I look forward to your page every day as your life sounds so interesting but hectic. Keep up the good work.

    Comment by Brenda Menzies — August 29, 2012 @ 11:06 am

    • Sorry you never got one last night Brenda, was in my bed at 21:30 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — August 30, 2012 @ 7:36 am

  8. Lovely stuff on the new ferry and the batteries, something i have grown to enjoy reading about via your blog, and it is good to have these things explained in such a way that we can understand them!
    Stonework is indeed amazing and such a great testament to those who built it, it is a shame a lot of these skills are dying out but always great to see where they are still intact and doing the job well!
    Yes the chooks, and duck all look in great health, obviously the weather and peaceful existence helping there as well as the expert care of the family.
    Great blog as always Paul, always a pleasure to read and pass on!


    Comment by Thomson Caravans — August 29, 2012 @ 3:55 pm

  9. sorry, this is nothing to do with the post, am a bit strapped for time and have been saving them up but need to ask you something! We are about to tackle our fence again and are planning to buy high tensile steel as you did but my son was wondering if it isn;t difficult to work with – any handy hints on handling? Planning to use radisseurs to tighten, any alternative advice? Will get back on track soon but need to ask this now!!

    Comment by may cruickshank — August 29, 2012 @ 5:55 pm

  10. Dear Paul
    as you well know I follow your blogg very closely, like you I am a bit of a nerd, when you get too the technical stuff my eyes light up. Like you I worked in the Shipbuilding industry here in Holland for many years and loved it. I also have an electrical background having done an electrical apprenticeship in the pits and got my HNC Hopefully I can see through any bullshit that is thrown my way and I see a lot of it in this new ferry of yours. I know you are enthusiastic. I think I would be in your position, if it was my bread and butter. May I without trying to offend you throw a few figures you way , that I am certain you will find interesting a gallon of diesel or petrol contains approximately 33-35 Kilowatt hours of energy. Now the cost of the battery in the new Tesla motor car is about 500 quid for a kilowatt hour. That would mean that the batteries banks on you new ferry are going too cost somewhere in the region of 350,000 quid for the 700 kilowatt hours. 350,000 quid for storing the energy equivalent of 20 gallons of diesel seems to me a little over the top. when you could do the same with 4 second hand jerry cans. Its a little more complicated than that, as I am comparing apples and pears, but I am certain that you get my drift. certainly it is a good question to ask when you start school in Geordie land.

    I also had a good chuckle at the pictures of the switch gear. I once had a job building bespoke switchgear for a firm in London many years ago. I am glad that they have got the doors shut I once build some switch gear it took quiet a few weeks and when I added up the length of cable I had used it was over one mile. I installed some switch gear in the Ministry of Defence in Whitehall. By God those lifts go down a hell of a long way and I am used to working underground and when you have a soldier following you with a loaded rifle when you want too go for a piss it was not a pleasant experience. Anyway enough of my drivel.

    Deep Regards


    Comment by Yorkshire Miner — August 29, 2012 @ 5:58 pm

    • Hi Dave,

      350,000 quid for storing the energy equivalent of 20 gallons of diesel seems to me a little over the top. when you could do the same with 4 second hand jerry cans. Its a little more complicated than that, as I am comparing apples and pears, but I am certain that you get my drift.

      🙂 🙂 Aye Dave, I do get your drift, and yes it is a little more complicated than that and the batteries are much cheaper. But yes you are right, at this moment in time the boat is expensive, halfway through its lifespan perhaps not. Anything that reduces our reliance on imported oil has to be a good thing in my book and they’re predicting a 20% reduction in emissions which may not save the planet but it will save a lot fines when the EU start taxing people on them. Of course there’s much guff and ‘greenwash’ attached to it but I’ve been running a similar system up here for seven years now and it beats the carp out of the national grid 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — August 29, 2012 @ 7:29 pm

      • Paul, I wouldn’t worry too much about the EU it is dead in the water but it doesn’t know it yet. well it does know it but it wont admit it especially when you are dependent on the ridiculous salaries that they pay themselves. The whole affair is modelled on the Soviet Union. We are ruled by a commission of 27 unelected members who are beyond the law, when I say beyond the law I mean beyond the law if they commit murder they get away with it exactly the same as the 18 Politburo members in Russia. The EU parliament is there to rubber stamp there decisions exactly like the Duma did in Russia.
        Then there is this Mega bureaucracy trying to fine tune things such as how much bend you can have in a banana but is so big it doesn’t know its anal orifice from its elbow. You cannot have a real political federation without a unified monetary system and that is not going to happen. They have been experimenting with the Euro for the last 10 years and where has that got them it has enriched the North and impoverished the South. There are 27 members who are getting pissed off with the directives from Brussels telling them how bendy there bananas can be. and having too pay more and more into this bureaucratic black hole. To have and maintain a multicultural empire which is what these clown here are seeking you need a strong centre. they have been trying for the last few year since the Lisbon treaty and we have been seeing more and more political decisions. taken over by Brussels this is irritating people because it is short circuiting the Democratic process and people are feeling more and more disfranchise. What brought Russia down was that its political system was ossified it couldn’t adapt quick enough to changing economic conditions and the same is happening right now in the EU. The leaders of Greece and Italy have been undemocratically kick out and leaders that were acceptable to the EU were put in place
        mainly too ensure that they paid off there debts to the banksters. Paying off the debt too the banksters literally means impoverishing the population of Greece. This has lead to massive unemployment and an unbelievable no of suicide. There will come a point when the Greeks say enough is enough and the Greeks tell them to go and play with themselves and went that happens possible due to a revolution then the rest of the PIIgs countries Portugal Spain Ireland and Italy will do the the same and when that happens the EU is dead. I could go into it a lot more we have an election here in Holland in a couple of weeks and one of the main planks of the PVV party is the excessive amount the Dutch pay into the common EU fund. The party is leading in the polls I will be using this as a measure of how well the EU is perceived in Holland. Don’t expect the EU to be around in Five years time and certainly not in ten years



        Comment by Yorkshire Miner — August 29, 2012 @ 10:11 pm

  11. Drove past Ferguson’s the other day and could see they had something on the slip, but couldn’t see what it was. Thanks for enlightening me!

    Comment by heartlandroad — August 29, 2012 @ 7:40 pm

  12. Armco barrier and a ton of warning signs on the way for the dry dock yet? Know of one or two construction company van drivers who would have driven out of there having taken that route as a short cut in the first place 🙂 White knuckle journeys in company Sherpa mini buses equipped with on/off accelerators were the norm for many of us pre-nanny state H&S.”Greenwash” sums a lot up.

    Comment by Andy — August 29, 2012 @ 8:10 pm

  13. “Of course there’s much guff and ‘greenwash’ attached to it but I’ve been running a similar system up here for seven years now and it beats the carp out of the national grid ”

    That is a very significant statement, it is people like you who are “doing it,” that is one in the eye for the harbingers of doom who predict nothing but failure for renewable energy. The stuff works you have shown it, and it can be scaled up. All the mathermatics in the world will not change the fact that it is possible to live of the grid without being plugged in to posionous nuclear plants, that leaves nothing but problems for out children. Well done and more power to your batteries. Sandy Macauley on Unst had shown the same thing, untill he mysrteriously vanished. The Hydrogen centre in Fife is carrying on his leagacy. If people just sit back and huff and puff, “it will never work,” then it will surely never work. By building these ferries and actually using the technology, it is pioneering the way ahead, the technology will follow, it just takes the will. Just look up to Mars to see the evidence.

    Comment by Duncan — August 30, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    • Cheers Duncan and welcome, think Dave was just winding me up 🙂 I never usually read his long rants anyway, I’ve not got the attention span 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — August 31, 2012 @ 7:09 am

  14. sorry for messing up your blog!
    1 posted a comment 2 put ‘andrew’ in the name by mistake 3 posted a second to say not andrew 4 first comment disappeared 5 so here it is again!

    since you usually reply to questions, am wondering if post above about fencing has slipped the net? We used galvanised fence wire last time and are going to use high tensile this time, following information from you. My so n wondered if the handling would be more difficult and I thought you might have advice about it. Also radisseurs are theoretically ok to tighten it off, but useful if you know of anything better. Also whether you think it necessary/essential to have some sort of wrench? We are getting the wire from Brundle in Edinburgh, who may be able to answer queries but your first hand experience makes you a source of useful dos and donts learned the hard way!

    Comment by may cruickshank — September 1, 2012 @ 6:22 pm

    • Howdy May, sorry, it got put on the ‘to do’ list and I forgot. Yes the high tensile wire is a little more awkward to work with but not especially so, just a little springier and harder to cut. The radisseurs cope with it just fine though. The secret with working with fence wire is to pull it off a specially made drum like you saw in my posts. However if you have not got one then hold the coil at right angles to the strainer post and pull three coils off, then turn the roll around and pull three coils off the other way and so on.

      Good luck, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 1, 2012 @ 6:38 pm

      • thanks, don’t suppose you remember the post with the drum? Starting tomorrow I believe (weather permitting!)

        Comment by may cruickshank — September 1, 2012 @ 7:37 pm

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