Life at the end of the road

September 4, 2013

A very fine ship indeed :-)

Well after 21:00 now and I’m just showered, plonked in a comfy chair and sipping an ice cold Cobra That’ll be a beer and not a frozen snake, don’t think I’d buy it out of choice right enough but my mate did say ‘help yourself to beers in the fridge’ Smile Anyway, I’ve something to celebrate, my first day at sea on the worlds first Ro Ro sea going ferry that is . Only as an observer, amongst the crowd of technicians, contractors, shipyard workers, owners and surveyors but on board nonetheless.

I left home yesterday morning with the Dude at just after 7:00am to get him to school to enable me to be on board the Hallaig at 8:00am today. Of course I needn’t have set off so early but it gave me chance to go and see my parents on the way, sample my mums wild mushroom risotto

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and go for a walk with my dad. Despite being a mainly miserable Monday, we managed to dodge the showers and have a nice romp through the woods,

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finding some lovely mushrooms along the way.

I had planned to leave straight after lunch but was so stuffed that I never actually stirred out of the chair until 14:00, and that was reluctantly, the day was miserable and the thought of a five hour drive didn’t really appeal. Any normal person would manage the 180 miles or so in four hours comfortably but my driving is pish and 50mph about my limit these days. Still my mum gave me a 5 CD audio book to listen to, the road was deserted and the views quite stunning when you consider the drabness of the day.

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I dunno why but this little stretch of road down the side of Loch Duich with its dry stone wall always reminds of the English Lake district, at least it does until you turn the corner and see the tide has gone out and exposed the yellow bladder wrack. You won’t find much tide or seaweed on lake Windermere Smile

You are going to love this ferry

Arriving in civilization just about the ‘rush hour’ I managed to negotiate roundabouts and traffic lights with only one near miss and arrived safely in Gourock just after 18:30. The nondescript Nissan Almera that wifey lent me for the journey may be more economical than the Land Rover but people just don’t seem to notice it. Two tons of 26 year old brilliant white iron and aluminium almost 2’ off the tarmac has the effect of clearing traffic brilliantly, all the Nissan does is attract people with horns Smile Anyway, I arrived at my mates flat in the middle of a bit of a ceilidh so never got to bed until late and arose this morning somewhat the worse for wear. Not through any overindulgence but quite simply wrecked from a long day at the wheel, I really am rubbish at this commuting business.

Excitement at the prospect of actually getting to sea on our new boat soon had me wide awake, showered and at Ferguson’s shipyard far sooner than any sane person. It immediately became clear that much progress had been made during the last six days and after a quick tour I retired to the mess room with my compatriots from Raasay to ‘compare notes’.  I dunno when we actually cast off and set sail for this new vessel is so quiet and smooth that we were off the pier and underway before I’d even realized that any of the generators had started.


No, our skipper from Raasay isn’t grumpy, he too cannot believe that we’re actually underway, this ship is staggeringly smooth and quiet. I actually thought that we may have been running on batteries but a quick check on the exhaust pipe temperatures revealed that number 3 generator was indeed solely responsible for propelling the MV Hallaig at around 8 knots!!!

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I’d always said that the thing I was really looking forward to on our new hybrid vessel was being able to use the phone without running up to the wheelhouse and closing the door. However I never dreamed that she’d be this quiet and smooth, even the ventilation fans are barely audible on deck !! The passengers are going to love this ferry, in fact they’re probably going to be reluctant to get off it Smile Seriously the ‘fitting out’ by Newark Joiners a subsidiary of Ferguson’s is exemplary and the ‘acres’ of insulation done by Ticon,ticon-insulation-ltd first class, providing excellent sound as well as fire protection.


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After steaming past Ocean Terminal Greenock where MV Trans Dania with her distinctive ‘ice breaker’ bow and MV Ice Runner with her ‘bulbous bow’ ???? were berthed we tested the anchor windlasses.

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The MCA and Lloyds both being in attendance for the lowering and recovery of the two 765kg anchors that reside at each end of the vessel.


My ‘OCD’ just loves the anchor chain washing facility in the hawse pipes of the Hallaig. Three powerful jets of water supplied by the bilge/fire pumps wash the anchor and its chain as it is stowed, no more mud and seaweed in the ‘chain locker’ Smile



After that we headed further south into the more open waters west of Largs as the MV Bute and Argyle plied between Wemyss Bay and Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.


We dodged all the showers


and I saw the ‘sleeping warrior’ for the first time.


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Much got done, with the technicians from and working tirelessly on the electronics whilst the yard continued painting and Ticon insulating.



It was well after 18:00 before we started to accompany  the incoming tide back up the Clyde



and 20:00 before the sun set astern of us over Greenock.


However, with almost 13knots clocked up as we approached Ferguson’s berth, it’s nearly midnight now and I have to sleep.


So here is the mass exodus of workers as we all departed for home and I’ll ‘fill you in’ tomorrow Smile

Post script

Almost midnight!!! it was after 1:30am when I awoke in the chair with a sore neck, it’s 7:00am now and I’m off once more to Ferguson’s for another day out on the Clyde. This will be for the Dutch technicians from Imtech to do more work on setting up and optimising their ICMAS ‘integrated control, management and alarm system’ is what I think it stands for and it’s the complex Windows based ‘nervous system’  that senses and operates all the systems on the ship. Apparently Steve Job of Apple even had it fitted in his own super yacht. Don’t think he was too chuffed at having all those Bill Gates servers on board right enough Smile


  1. That’s really exciting, Paul. That wheelhouse is enormous compared with the one on the Loch Striven. Just hope that C MacB don’t put the fares up too much for the Raasay crossing.


    Comment by Sue — September 4, 2013 @ 6:36 am

    • Hi Sue, the fares are ‘set in stone’ and have no relationship whatsoever to what vessel is on the route.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 4, 2013 @ 7:33 pm

  2. The attention to detail,noise reduction and safety systems of the new ship is excellent.Just hope with all the high tech the need for a digital decoke does not increase 🙂

    Comment by Andy — September 4, 2013 @ 8:14 am

    • I’m needing a ‘digital decoke’ right now Andy 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 4, 2013 @ 7:34 pm

  3. Windows based control system. Uh! Oh! How long will it be before you have to do a CTRL+ALT+DELETE reset?

    Comment by Phil Cook — September 4, 2013 @ 2:51 pm

    • It’s Windoze 98 or something equally archaic and not connected to the internet so should be fine Phil, or so I’m told by those who know.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 4, 2013 @ 7:37 pm

  4. Oh no, not windows! 🙂 If its based on 98 it should be reasonably ok, however having spent too many years fixing broken pc’s I don’t think really I’d trust anything based on windows. I suppose there’s always the escape pod – or the rescue boat to jump on if you get a blue screen of death and need to make a quick exit!

    Comment by gareth — September 5, 2013 @ 8:23 am

  5. If Windows leaves your ship high and dry, try unplugging the ship and then plugging it back in! I could never understand why Macintosh wasnt the only computer allowed in Scotland. Sent from my iPad.

    Comment by Drgeo — September 5, 2013 @ 6:01 pm

    • Hi DrG,

      hopefully plugging it in every night and unplugging it every morning will keep it sweet 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 6, 2013 @ 6:46 pm

  6. Paul

    Was looking out for the Hallaig whilst on the Western Ferries this afternoon and caught a glimpse of her heading back to Fergusons. It’s a fair bit bigger than I was expecting and doesn’t half shift – you were almost on the berth by the time I caught up. If you can PM me via email, I’ll send you some pictures passing the buoys at the yard.


    Comment by Alan MacDonald — September 5, 2013 @ 7:02 pm

    • Thanks Alan, you can see our two Raasay skippers in one shot 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 6, 2013 @ 6:44 pm

  7. Hi I posted a video Hallaig moving up the Clyde…on YouTube.5/9/2013…Alec beaton

    Comment by alec beaton — September 6, 2013 @ 4:42 pm

    • Hi Alec and welcome, I think I was watching them yesterday and looking for myself 🙂 and

      I had planned to feature them in tonights blog but am getting rather friendly with a bottle of cider right now 🙂

      Cheers, Paul

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 6, 2013 @ 6:33 pm

      • Comment by alec beaton — September 6, 2013 @ 7:19 pm

      • A fine piece of work Alec,

        There’s a few familiar faces on there 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 6, 2013 @ 7:39 pm

    • great video, Alec, thanks … no wonder Paul is so proud of her

      Comment by cazinatutu — September 6, 2013 @ 7:45 pm

  8. Comment by alec beaton — September 6, 2013 @ 8:57 pm

  9. Comment by alec beaton — September 6, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

  10. Hi Paul,

    I work for the CMAL’s PR team and we were wondering if we could feature some of your fantastic pictures on CMAL’s website? We’d also love to link back to your blog.


    Comment by Alix Laidlaw — September 10, 2013 @ 4:00 pm

    • No problem Alix, I’m on the case.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — September 11, 2013 @ 4:50 pm

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