Life at the end of the road

August 5, 2013

Murderer !!!

My body clock is severely confused, it’s so long since I’ve spent a Monday at home that I keep thinking it’s Saturday!!! A very fine one at that, with a lovely gentle breeze, no rain and much achieved to boot. I never got near the computer yesterday to post, despite having great enthusiasm to do so, it had been lovely day with much to write about. However it culminated in a visit ‘next door’ for dinner with the neighbours so to speak and turned into a late one.

Kentucky fried frog

Sunday started with me clearing out the drain that divides the two crofts, a job that both wifey and I attack quite regularly. The tiny burn soon gets overgrown and blocked, in no small part due to the pigs rooting close by and drinking from it. Keeping it flowing is essential, firstly to drain the land but equally importantly to keep the ‘Stream Engine’ working. The little hydro turbine produces next to nothing at this time of year but if the drain is kept clear we can at least take advantage of the odd summer downpour and squeeze a couple of kwh out of it.

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So the ‘wee dug’ and I set off across the croft and over the wee stone bridge that spans the drain with a shovel and claw to clear the worst of the growth and sods pushed in by the pigs. It was a perfect day for it with a good breeze of wind to keep the cleggs and midge away and cool my sweating body right up until lunchtime when I ‘called it a day’. There was still much to do but I didn’t want to go OTT and end up with a sore back again, I’d also managed to clear the worst of it and lower the level by around a foot in some places dammed by pigs and growth.

News from Alison MacLeod in Applecross about an extension to their current wireless broadband network got me greatly excited.

Applecross Community Company has been working with Community Broadband Scotland to assist the people of the Applecross peninsula on the remote north west coast of the Highlands to deliver a broadband solution to their community. The main access road to the community is a single track road over the Bealach na Ba, one of the highest roads in the UK at 2053 feet Current broadband speeds do not reach 0.5Mbps, with some having no access to broadband at all, and mobile coverage is almost non-existent.

There will be an estimated 200 subscribers to the project which will assist local businesses greatly. The local economy is heavily dependent on tourism and it is hoped that access to a fast, reliable broadband service will enable new businesses to start, thus broadening the economy, as well as strengthening existing businesses. The aim is to make it possible for some young people to remain in their home community, or return after education or training and make a reasonable living using their skills. The provision of fast broadband is also essential to help ensure the continuation of good medical services from a resident doctor.

The group implemented a successful pilot project in September 2012 and on the strength of that secured funding from the Big Lottery Village SOS Fund towards a community broadband project for the whole peninsula.  A part-time broadband development officer is now in post and work is underway confirming the business and project plan for phase one roll-out to cover lower end of the peninsula, which is more densely populated. Phase two will see the expansion of the scheme to the sparsely populated north coast, with masts on off shore islands to carry the signal backwards and forwards over the sea. The aim is to have it all up and running by the autumn of 2013. The community will continue to manage and support the local solution which they wish to ensure is as reliable and robust as possible.

The current network using Broadford Village Hall as the ‘backhaul’ and relaying the signal to parts of the Applecross peninsula has been a great success, providing better speeds and a more dependable service than the only other option. Whilst satellite internet, I hesitate to use the word ‘broadband’ has its place in areas were no other means is possible it suffers from latency (the time it takes the signal to get to the satellite and back) and a lack of capacity that can only get worse as more people are signed up for it. It’s a satellite link that we use thanks to the Scottish Broadband Reach program of 2008 and our current provider . It works well enough for me and the 15gb monthly allowance would be adequate for a middle aged crofter, however the teenager of the house generally has alarm bells ringing by the 20th Smile

For the Applecross system to be extended to other parts of the peninsula they need a powered antenna on Raasay, which is where I come in Smile The deal being that I maintain and power it up 24/7 in return for ‘real broadband’ Smile With this in mind the Dude and I went wandering the hills, pointlessly as it turned out for the ‘phase two’ will be using the Aros Centre   in Portree as the ‘backhaul’ so we were looking in the wrong place Sad smile 


Still, it was a magnificent day up there with the dogs and we came across a couple of new things.

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A very recent rock fall for one, this boulder wasn’t here last week



and this tiny wee lochan for another. Twenty four years I’ve lived here and wandered the hills but I’ve never spotted this before.



The ‘Inner Sound’, northern end of the Applecross peninsula, the entrance to Loch Torridon and the mountains around Gairloch in the distance I guess.



The Storr, Loch Arnish, Aird point at Torran with Brothers Point and Staffin in the distance.


The croft, and if you’re really sharp you can see five wee piglets at the first fence after the green wind break.


We’ve been keeping pigs for many years but these five ‘wee boys’ from Rocky and Ellie are pure crackers and the friendliest bunch we’ve ever had. i wonder how the two that went to Applecross are Smile

By the time we got back from our wandering over the hills it was a case of feed the flock, feed the herd, have a bath and walk over to Torran for dinner.




Now we usually take the quad, get pished and let the Dude drive us back, but tonight we had an extra guest in the form of wifey’s mum and four people on a quad is a little OTT. Not only that but the ‘designated driver’ is now old enough to share the odd tipple so probably not wise to take the Honda. Before the feast of Arnish pork and Loch Arnish lobster however we just had to check out the ‘Arnish fried frog’.



OK, I know, it’s a toad but this poor chap must have been fried when he hopped across the ammeter of my mates hydro turbine.


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I’m thinking that he had his chin on the positive terminal of the ammeter and his leg on that stainless Allen screw, hence the blue chin and big black hole in his leg Sad smile This renewable energy lark is not as environmental as you think Smile Seriously though, what are the chances of that? and it’s only 24V.

As if the murdered toad wasn’t bad enough, today I killed a slow worm Sad smile I’ve only ever seen two on Raasay, they were dead and it was me that killed them both Sad smile


I cut one in two last year with the strimmer and squashed this one with the quad, I was mortified, especially when I told my son who then informed me that he’d also cut one in two with the strimmer too Sad smile


Anyway, with the locally caught lobster and Arnish reared pork inside us we all hobbled home after an excellent evening of ‘talking rubbish’ and ‘putting the world to rights’.

Mercury 90HP starter motor

Monday morning arrived on time, not early due to over enthusiasm or late due to alcohol but bang on time and ‘yours truly’ set about the days work around 7:00am. The pigs came first, followed by a trip up the hill behind the new house to fit some pipework to the water tank. After that, cutting the lawn, filling the oil tank and loading up some electrical equipment I headed down to ‘Port Arnish’. Plucked out from that wine induced fog on Sunday was the vague recollection that my mates RIB had a flat battery. A large and very expensive craft of many meters and horsepower it had failed to start due to him leaving something switched on, or so he thought.

When we turned up and put the meters on it, we being the two dogs and I, it became apparent that it wasn’t charging.



The 90HP Mercury 3cylinder outboard was started using the emergency cord, once the plastic flywheels cover’s 3x8mm nuts had been removed but steadfastly refused to put any juice into the two 100+ah batteries.


This will be the two batteries that were ‘professionally fitted’ at a boat centre on Skye!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Anyway, we managed to get the boat ashore, and with a generator, 100m of extension cables and a proper charger we got some juice into the flat batteries. The charging issue turned out to be bad connections on the rectifier which is buried behind two relays and the starter solenoid but the engine still refused to turn over fast enough to start.



A DC ‘clampmeter’ revealed that the starter was trying to draw 250 amps and its removal seemed wise. The 12v starter motor is quite straight  forward to take off, just four mounting bolts and a couple of wires, but it became quickly apparent that Mercury starters suffer a fatal flaw, they don’t have an oil seal on the shaft and let water in Sad smile


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Quite apart from the gummed up brushes and wrecked commutator

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just check out the nick of the casing bolts eaten though with corrosion and the melted brass terminal.


I have no idea how, but delving deep into my cupboards I found a similar set of brushes, cleaned everything up, rebuilt it and had my mate sorted for 18:00 Smile

John, where are you???

In between all this was an enquiry from about our ‘wee hoose’ from John but it would appear that he left the wrong email address Sad smile 

MV Hallaig sea trials

Whilst I was tinkering about with 90HP of two stroke Mercury outboard motor close on 1000Hp of diesel generators, electric motors and LiFePO4 battery banks were undergoing sea trials in the Clyde Smile


Some great pictures of her here thanks to ‘Buff Funnels Forever’ John  on the Ships of CalMac forum.

And a great video here

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