Life at the end of the road

April 20, 2013

A change of direction

Filed under: boats, daily doings, harbour, wind turbine — Tags: , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:01 pm

Right, that’s it, the rain was very welcome but could someone please now switch it off. The lochs are full, the ground slaked, the water tanks replenished and the pigs suitably muddied but we’ve had enough now thanks. It was very kind of the good Lord, jet stream, El Ninio  or whoever is responsible to hold off with the deluge until after Easter but you can stop now. It wouldn’t be so bad if the weather forecasters could at least get it right and stop building up our hopes of ‘a fine day tomorrow’ that never seems to arrive. Having said that this black cloud does seem to be spending an extraordinarily long time over Raasay when other areas are in sun, Wednesday and Thursday being typical. Whilst I was plying a fairly dry Minch on the good ship MV Hebrides it seemed to be pishing down every time I spoke to the good lady wife and today I was plagued with showers whilst my parents had sun.

It seemed quite promising yesterday in Harris and North Uist as I finished of my second week on the ‘Heb’,



a day split between fo’c’sle that’ll be the ‘sharp end’, car deck,



and bridge. That great big piece of metalwork is the ‘bow visor’ a kind of pointy waterproof bit at the sharp end that protects the ramp and collision bulkhead whilst at sea. I dunno how much it weighs but it’s lifted by two huge hydraulic rams on the fo’c’sle then locked into place by several smaller ones and once closed you can barely see the join. Quite a piece of engineering to get it so snuggly and securely sealed I’m sure.

Two trips across the Minch and two more hours towards my ‘steering ticket’ later I jumped ship at Uig and headed straight home



via Sconser, how else Smile



I seem to have spent more time at Sconser building site than at home recently, but it does seem to get nearer completion every time I arrive. The slates are on our store and the roof trusses now on the waiting room. By 16:00 I was home at last and wasted no time in getting on with some of the chores,


the first one being to remove the roof and sides from my trailer and fill it with empty barrels. My mates place along the track  is needing heating oil and the only way to get it there is one barrel at a time in the quad trailer, I’ve tried two but that usually ends in tears Sad smile I dunno what it is about people, but they seem to make it their mission in life to use as much oil, coal and wood as possible when they stay there. No kidding I’ve seen two guys burn 90lts of heating oil and two bags of coal in a week, during the summer!!!!!!! Personally I think he should give them a 20lt container and leave the tank at the end of the half mile track, if they had to carry the coal and oil in they wouldn’t burn so much Smile

‘For my next trick’

I hate new cars, sure they’re comfy and don’t breakdown but they’re far too complex for their own good and these days even a battery change can mean a trip to the garage to get some gadget reset or even get the car started. Now the wife’s Nissan Almera with its immobiliser, satnav, air bags and heaven knows what may well not be one of these, but I was taking no chances, at the very least a new battery would probably require the radio resetting and clock altering. To get around the ‘black out’ (that’ll be ship talk Smile ) whilst the battery was removed I came up with a cunning plan.

006  007

I took the 12v battery out of my cordless drill, got an old cigar lighter plug, soldered two crocodile clips on and plugged it into the cigar lighter socket. This would ensure an uninterrupted 12v supply to the computer and all whilst I changed the battery. Two things to take note of though, one is to make sure you get the wires the right way around (the centre is usually +) and the other is to make sure that the cigar lighter socket is actually live when you do it as some cars need the ignition on, some need it in the ACC position and some work all the time. The Nissan had to be in the ACC position and it worked a treat, I was dead chuffed Smile

Next job, if you can call it that was a trip to Brochel to have a look how the loch was doing after the drought and rain.


Well overflowing was the answer, a good foot since last week I’d say,


it’s hard to tell, as the picture (taken last Saturday) is from a different place but the loch has risen right up to the heather now!





Yesterday I’d seen an advert in the WHFP by a company called Motive Wind Power who were having an ‘open day’ in the Portree Community Hall.


Motive Power, an Aberdeen based company now being agents for Kingspan wind the people that took over the ill fated Proven Energy, the company that built my very own 2.5kw wind turbine. Much has been written on the net, in the press and even by myself about the demise of Proven and their abysmal after sales service but their 2.5kW and later 6kW turbines were absolutely ‘bomb proof’. Gordon Proven, with I’m sure more than a little help from Hugh Piggott of was responsible for building the first affordable and reliable commercially available domestic wind turbine capable of withstanding the Scottish weather.

Sadly Gordon suffered from motor neuron disease during the latter years of his life and passed away last year not long after the company he formed went into liquidation. However from what I saw today it would seem that his legacy is in safe hands, for with more than a little reluctance we went to the open day.

I say reluctance because the weather forecast was good and I’ve precious little time on the croft these days with all this friggin training. However the ‘Investment Free Wind Turbine’ caught my eye and we are still a few kWh short of power at the new house site.


shortfall 1

The red is our total projected power requirement for heating, power, and DHW and the blue line the power that we could produce from our current hydro, 2.5kW Proven and the addition 2kw of solar panels.

shortfall 3

These figures are based on two years data from my weather station so are ‘worst case scenario’ as we’ve had exceptionally light winds, dry summers and my anemometer is not a true reflection of the turbine output as it’s behind our house near trees. However it does give us a very good idea of what we could expect and as you can see we’re a little short of power in February and March. I know that the graph shows a few kWh shortfall in April too but extra solar PV will bridge that, it’s the darker winter months that are the problem. Of course we could easily make it up with the log fired boiler in the shed but I’m aiming for a retirement that does not include a chainsaw Smile The Perge boiler is the ‘back up’ for frozen hydro and lack of wind.

So, after the morning chores we headed into town so to speak

010  011

and passed Sconser once more. After a few errands and picking up hen feed we went to the hall and were lucky enough to meet a representative from Kingspan itself and not Motive Wind. Not only was Gavin the sales director but he was a ‘hands on’ ex Proven engineer and not a salesman, a man with a passion for his product and a recognition of the previous company’s shortcomings.

We had a good chat, coffee and discussed various options without the usual ‘sales pitch’, I was most impressed with Kingspan’s change of direction. Gone are the dozens of ‘fly by night’ resellers who stock no parts and have even less capital, they’re now replaced by a core of well vetted and trained dealers with good back up from the parent company. Not just sales patter, for the wife phoned them recently to enquire about springs and was given a price including postage and guaranteed fast delivery, something that the old company would never do.

 The ‘smoking mums cafe’

All the ‘turbine talk’ was hungry work so we wandered along the street to what my good friend Willie Eyre once described as ‘the smoking mums cafe’, the former greasy spoon on Wentworth street in Portree. Well that was decades ago and whilst it may have been an apt description in the eighties it certainly isn’t now. The ‘Cafe’ below the Caley


serves up some of the best grub in town with proper sized portions for working people.

012 013

Salmon and scallop spaghetti for the wife and potato wedges for me, washed down with a pot of fresh tea and less than £20, most impressed Smile

It was 16:00 before we got home but I’ll have to tell you all about that tomorrow as I’m flagging, it’s almost 23:00 now and I’m off to bed.

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