Life at the end of the road

June 23, 2013

Almost a ‘grand’ !!!!!

Filed under: Croft house for sale, daily doings, How I, Land Rover, life off grid — Tags: , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:07 pm

Well, it’s been a midge and smidge free day today and that’s for sure, a day more reminiscent of the spring equinox than midsummer. A good blast of north west wind and rain from dawn until dusk, which at this time of year is around twenty hours. Not that that kept me inside the house, not a chance, I just donned my one piece ‘Andy Pandy’ suit and got out there in the vain hope that it would fine up. The forecast having convinced me that it might just brighten up for a wee while during the afternoon as I was optimistically wanting to see my new 940w solar array produce some power. Not that it’s such a great ‘spectator sport’ but watching an ammeter move after erecting a  wind turbine or damming a stream to produce some electricity is immensely satisfying. I kid you not, you peeps who just plug things in and turn on lights whilst the electric meter spins around are missing out on a whole heap of fun Smile

Anyways, after leaving you this morning it was on with the carrier bags and into the suit.



The plastic carrier bag trick being something that I picked up off Emby  ( James Gillies) some years ago and it’s one of those simple little things, like having a shaving mirror away from the sink that makes life so much easier. Gone are the days of fighting with oilskins to get them on or having to resort to removing your boots first. Simply stick your foot in a carrier bag first and the over trousers, suit or whatever will just glide over your wellies, pure genius Smile

Once in the rather bright and loud one piece it was round the herd feeding then over to Torran to turn on the hydro turbine there and check the batteries.

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I’d turned off the ‘Harris turbine’ a couple of weeks ago knowing that the solar panels would cope just fine. However knowing that the electrics would be getting a hammering today I thought it wise to ‘crank it up’ for a few hours. Sure enough I arrived there to find the Studer inverter chucking out some 60amps (around 1.5kw) continuously and the ‘Tristar’ controllers indicating yellow/red. Not a problem but on a cloudy and driech day like today it would be silly not supplement the solar panels with some hydro to prevent the generator starting.

Cleaning a ‘bubble stove’ burner pot

To be honest I had an ulterior motive to visiting my mates at Torran, and that was to steal a shovel of coal. We have not burnt any coal here at home in years, probably ten at least. However the ‘burner pot’ in our oil stove needed cleaning and fifteen or more years of trying everything from chipping to phosphoric acid has taught me that there is only one way to clean the burner pot in a drip feed oil stove. The one and only way to do this and successfully  remove all the carbon deposits is to chuck it on a bonfire, however two days of constant rain put paid to that plan so I decided to put it in the ‘Squirrel’.


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The problem being that when full of wood the firebox isn’t large enough to fit the burner pot in, so I put a nice bed of coal down prior to putting it in the fire. Now I only mention this because I’ve scoured the internet in years gone by for the best way of cleaning a ‘burner pot’ and come up with zilch. It was my good friend ‘Willie Eyre’ that suggested doing this, and once more I’m indebted for his wisdom Smile



An hour later, after glowing ‘cherry red’ and then having the crap power washed out of it, it was as good as new. A word of caution though, some of the fittings are brazed in so no hotter than ‘cherry red’.

A perfect power washing day

The pishing rain and me already in the ‘Andy Pandy’ suit had me spending a good deal of it washing things like the wife’s car and my Land Rover, for only the second time in ten months!!!!


Impending summer guests also had me giving the trusty ‘Thomson Glenelg’ a good wash,


our 1971 little gem is due visitors soon Smile 

The ‘power station’

Hanging about the workshop and house for most of the day also had me dashing in and out of the generator shed to see how all the renewables were doing.


The Proven 2.5kw wind turbine was doing well over 2kw in the gusts,


the solar panels were never less than 1 amp (around 50w) and often at 5 amps (around 250w) for middle of the day. The ‘Powerspout’ is turned off but the ‘Stream Engine’ was also putting out around 250w for the whole day, the net result of which is a very hot house and lots of washing done Smile



Here’s the ‘power station’,

1 = 950ah 48v battery bank

2 = Trace SW4548e inverter

3 = Morningstar TS45 solar controller in ‘diversion mode’

4 = Solar controller, dump load, and array fuses

5 = Cyril the Lister SR2 6kw generator

6 = 3ohm 1.2kw DC dump load

Out of sight are the Proven wind turbine charge controller


the GTI (grid tied inverter) for the ‘Powerspout’


and the transformer for the Stream Engine

A community to be proud of

Once more I’ve been distracted by my obsession of making electricity from wind, water and sun, for the last time I spoke to you I was going to tell you about my visit to the Raasay village hall. It was all a little last minute, and if I’m really honest I only went because it was pishing down, shame on me I know, for it was a fund raiser for cancer care. However, around 13:45 I collected my neighbour and we trundled down to the village hall for the 14:00 ‘coffee day’ for


and I was pure staggered by the turnout.


This is after all a small island with a population of well under 200 and it seemed like everyone was there, not only that but at least £930 was raised on the day!!!!! The hall was ‘mobbed’ with loads of home baking, stalls, raffles and a tombola, tea and coffee cups were kept topped up by hard working volunteers and a jolly good time was had by all. Seriously though you’d struggle to raise almost one thousand pounds in a day in a good sized city, let alone a tiny wee island, I am indeed proud to reside here Smile

All I need now is the sun

Filed under: daily doings, life off grid — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 7:24 am

I know, it’s been a while but I’ve just not had the enthusiasm, not just for blogging, but for anything, a fact not helped by what looks like yet another miserable day ahead. Not that this would normally bother me as from tomorrow onwards looks peachy, but then I’ll be admiring the sun from the Minch and not from Raasay. I’ve just ‘totted up’ my ‘sea time’ and find that I’ve still nine weeks left to do aboard the ‘big boats’ Sad smile That should see ‘normality restored’ around the August bank holiday, almost a whole year after having started this training.

My son is about a foot taller, his voice several octaves lower and my wife, well my wife is looking pure stunning Smile That’s one good thing I suppose, her extra workload and the lack of feeding me have given her the figure of a supermodel, not that she was ever anything else in my eyes. Ah well, nine weeks doesn’t sound so bad if you say it quickly I suppose.

Where was I

Anyway, back to that long spell without writing, probably Tuesday I’m guessing, well the weather was OK, the ferry busy and me splitting my time between the deck and the bridge. An hour or so on the helm to finish off the hours for my ‘steering ticket’ and a spot of painting to remind me of home Smile


Though by Wednesday and the approach of midsummer the weather started to resemble midwinter



and painting came to a halt.



It wasn’t the only thing that ‘came to a halt’, this being £60,000 worth of Lotus Evora that we had to push off the ferry Sad smile Only a flat battery but yet another victim of the motor manufacturers stupidity that makes it impossible to switch off a car alarm these days. The car deck can be a hellish place on passage with all the screaming horns, sirens and flashing lights, which must be terrifying for livestock and pets. Are people so friggin stupid that they cannot be trusted to switch their car alarm on and off or are the manufacturers trying to save a couple of pennies on a switch?? Either way the one hour forty five minute crossing proved too much for the battery on this car and the owner suffered the embarrassment of having us shove his car off the deck.  

Help for heroes

The poor old Lotus was not the only one to suffer from mechanical problems last week. Whilst I was on the ‘Heb’ Simon of took this picture of an unusual customer on the ‘Striven’.



Ex soldier Mark Newton dragged his wee caravan complete with two cats up to the end of ‘Calum’s road’.

In 1991 whilst attached to the United Nations in Cyprus I suffered a life changing injury to my right leg. In 2009 my condition had deteriorated to the point where walking was painfully difficult, it was suggested to me that I contact SSAFA to see if they are able to help, they did all the form filling and ringing around to get me a mobility scooter, 1 The Queens Dragoon Guards (my old Regiment) and The Royal British Legion came up with the money to pay for it. I was then made redundant in August 2010, instead of sitting around and doing nothing I started planning a trip ‘Round Wales’, this took place during May and June of 2011 and covered more than 1450 miles and raised just over £9000 for 1 The Queens Dragoon Guards, Help for Heroes and The Royal British Legion.

Before even finishing that I had already started planning this trip in my mind. I added SSAFA to the list after I embarrassingly forgot them on my first trip! I added the Royal National Lifeboat Institution so that I had goals other than the end of each day, they are also in my eyes unsung heroes just as the forces are! This is still to come

I fund my trips with the little money I have left from my War Pension and the generosity of the British people and Businesses

I got my scooter on the 23 December 2009 after a lot of help from the Royal British Legion, 1st The Queens Dragoon Guards and the Army Benevolent fund. The Soldiers, Sailors Airmen and Families Association (SSAFA) Forces Help did all the leg work and form filling for me. I have covered nearly 10000 miles in that time, quite possibly the most used mobility scooter in Britain.

I never set a target amount as I’m grateful for every penny and I’m pretty sure the charities are, I have two reasons:

1. If I don’t reach the target I’ll be upset.
2. If I reach the target people may think they don’t need to donate

He then suffered mechanical problems on the way back and was rescued by wifey and John William Gillies, though I think he managed to fix the scooter and spent the night at Raasay House . I think he then headed off to plockton with it and I’m sure you’ll be able to read all about his adventures when he updates his blog though you can also catch him on

940 watts on the roof


Hard to believe it from this picture as we sailed into Uig on Friday morning, but the longest day itself actually turned out OK, or am I seeing that through the ‘rose tinted specs’ of it being my last day Smile Either way, on our second visit to Uig I ‘jumped ship’ for the weekend and headed home, well rather indirectly that is.

My four 235w solar panels had arrived at my parents house from Navitron last week, so after loading the old girl up with half a ton of feed in Portree I went to collect them. The delivery charge being extremely reasonable to my parents address rather than ‘off shore’ Skye, though having said that three gallons of diesel in the Land Rover must be £20. Still it did give me a chance to see my mum, if only briefly, too briefly in fact because they were larger than I expected and wouldn’t fit in the back. Consequently I had to rush around like a ‘blue ar53 fly’ lashing them to the roof then driving slowly home for fear of them blowing off Smile 



The chaos at Sconser that I’d envisaged lessening is in fact a little worse Sad smile There is in fact even less space for the ferry queue than before and if they don’t sort it out soon there is going to be an accident. The roads now being full of frustrated drivers stuck behind campervans who may see the straight section through Sconser as an opportunity to overtake.

Marie Curie coffee day

The evening with family saw a little early party for our sons birthday, and helping him pack his bag, as he’ll be on his way to China when he turns fourteen. China!!!!! my school trip was to Blackpool!!!!  Anyway, his bag was well short of the 23kg so I suggested he call in at Tesco and fill it with baby milk to boost his spending money Smile

Retailers in the UK are rationing sales of powdered baby milk because of a surge in demand in China.

Danone, the manufacturer of Aptamil and Cow and Gate baby milk powder, said most supermarkets were introducing a restriction of two cans per customer.

It said the limit was to prevent some individuals from bulk-buying baby milk for "unofficial exports".

Retailers were also capping sales of Nestle’s SMA milk, despite the company saying there were no stock shortages.

Danone said in a statement: "We understand that the increased demand is being fuelled by unofficial exports to China to satisfy the needs of parents who want Western brands for their babies."

So after bidding our son goodbye on Saturday morning I headed up on the roof

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as soon as I’d finished making some mounting brackets for the four Kinve panels. These were simply galvanized steel straps that came with my Internorm windows and were surplus to requirements, chopped down and riveted onto the aluminium frame the made an excellent attachment point for the stainless wood screws that would hold them to the roof battens.

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I just managed to get all four secured and had started wiring the junction box up when the dry dullness turned into the pishing rain the the south of Raasay had had all day. It is quite often the case that we miss rain at the north end but at 13:20 it arrived with vengeance and I came off the roof soaking.


The panels were however connected, even if the wiring wasn’t fully tidied up and I decided to call it a day and head down to the village hall and a fundraiser for Marie Curie cancer care.

However I’ll have to tell you all about that later, it’s almost 8:30, I need to get my oilskins on and go and feed the pigs and shoot some pigeons.

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