Life at the end of the road

October 31, 2013

We’re both in shock :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings, harbour, New hybrid ferry — Tags: , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 8:53 pm

Nay posting this last couple of days, quite simply because I’ve been spending some time with the stranger that is my wife. Fourteen months of living out of bags has finally come to an end and on Wednesday morning I set off for work on Raasay for the first time since the middle of September 2012. Twenty two unbroken days of sleeping in my own bed followed by a commute down ‘Calum’s road’, I think we’re both in shock and keep waiting for the phone call that will once more drag me away, well I’m not going Smile

It was such a pleasure to get up on Wednesday morning, don my working clothes and tootle down the road in the ‘Old Girl’ to join the Hallaig. I wouldn’t have cared if I’d been joining a Chinese junk, it was just so good to be returning to some kind of normality.  The weather was fine the wind fresh and it wasn’t even too dark when I arrived at a very busy harbour. As well as the two Raasay ferries shuttling in and out there was much activity from Ferguson Transport’s ex tank landing craft ‘Harvest Anne,


who was on hire to the council.


The busy workhorse was running backwards and forwards constantly with tar lorries for the ‘youth hostel road’ which was getting some 600 tons of new road surface deposited on it.

The good ship Hallaig however was due to carry out anchor trails under the watchful eye of Lloyds and the captain had decided to conduct them just to the north of Sgeir Cnapach off Oscaig.



Choosing a patch of ground that I knew very well, too well in fact for it was here that I suffered a bend whilst clam diving some eighteen years or so ago. An incident that ended up in a helicopter ride, ten hour decompression on oxygen and a night under observation in hospital. It also gave me a new insight into my own mortality and changed forever the way I view life. Today however I’d bee keeping dry whilst the 750kg gave a few scallops a headache as the 499GRT Hallaig dragged its anchor over them in the 45knot wind. The day was in fact turning in to pure minger


luckily south wind is probably the best direction for Sconser, where we went to pick up the BBC. Of course as soon as the press were on board the day really ‘went to 5h1t’ and the total silence of a Hallaig propelled purely on batteries was lost in the force nine gusting ten southerly ‘severe gale’. The planned filming of her arriving on the Raasay slip abandoned in favour of returning to the berth and putting out four stern lines, two head lines and two springs . One of those parting like a gunshot and leaving me with sore hands, not to mention boots full of water. Still it was a great ‘shakedown’ for the new vessel and her crew.




Wi Fi too Smile

Today was probably less windy but colder and with less of the wet stuff, though some of it did fall very noisily as hail. Many of the yard workers departed, as did the ‘passage crew’ leaving us to do some cleaning up, paperwork and recover from an unexpected blackout. For at some point during the early hours both power and internet had gone off on Raasay. Well it had at parts connected to the national grid anyway Smile  we at the north end DO NOT suffer from power cuts, and if we do they’re for minutes only. Our internet is also faster and more reliable too now, the joys of ‘self sufficiency’ in energy Smile

Anyway it proved an interesting exercise in resetting the various trips and rebooting systems on our hi tech hybrid ship Smile 



Doesn’t she look lovely now with all her fresh paint and signage.



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The latest addition to the CalMac fleet has also been having a WiFi network fitted on board  for the customers.


This chap was only supposed to be sorting out the software so turned up without a ladder, luckily I have one on the back of the Land rover Smile



Of course I carried out a ‘risk assessment’ first, obtained a ‘permit to work’ cordoned off the area, wore a safety harness and made the installer sign a disclaimer  Smile Well it was either that or send him away without fitting the stuff Smile

October 29, 2013

I’ve lost a phase :-(

Filed under: animals, boats, daily doings, wind turbine — Tags: , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:00 pm

From what I hear the weather has been pretty awful in the south east, probably not much more than your average west coast gale but then we’re used to it up here. More importantly though, most of the leaves will already be off the trees at this latitude making them safer, from what I gather most of the fatalities can be attributed to fallen trees in full leaf. Dunno if the leaves ‘down sowf’ have stayed put due to the mild autumn, or even if the autumn has been mild down there. One thing for sure it’s been ‘helluva’ mild here, not that we get much frost anyway but I’ve certainly not seen any yet. In fact I doubt if I’ve scraped ice off the Land Rover windscreen  five times in three years. Contrary to most southerners perception of North West Scotland, it’s actually much milder than Lancashire where I used to live.

The daily winter commute to Route One Ford usually involved five minutes de-icing and a pair of ‘long johns’ worn from November until Easter. Not the same pair of course but I was on the Damart mailing list for woolly underwear that’s for sure. I’ve also not worn a pair of thermals since 1985, even when I was clam diving for a living, sure I wore one of these.

   Woolly Bear

The old ‘woolly bear’ was like a second skin when I was diving for a living Smile but that would be all year round.

The ‘storm’ just manifested itself here as a bit of a gale with torrential rain that made life generally unpleasant but little else.


Having said that the Chinese wind turbine seems to have ‘lost a phase’ Sad smile and whilst it is a bit of far eastern carp I blame myself  for it’s rather quick demise. I knew it was going to be windy, I knew that the 200w Yangzhou Shenzhou was pretty flimsy yet I did nothing about it until it was too late. These Chinese wind turbines are just not man enough for the west coast, they’re great at squeezing power from light winds with their huge blades but not well made enough to withstand the rigours of a Scottish autumn.

Consequently the gale that arrived on Sunday night seems to have taken its toll Sad smile Sunday evening was a lovely affair with a pot roast piece of pork, my ‘back to back’ up for dinner and a couple of bottles of wine. However all the while we were dining on ‘the pig with no name’ the wind was freshening and through the open kitchen window I could actually here the ‘wee baby’ some 160m away at the new house site!! The reason being that she was obviously ‘over speeding’ Sad smile

First light on Monday I went up to check, and much to my surprise the ‘wee baby’ was intact and still turning, however she was not generating any electricity, or at least nothing meaningful. As with most small domestic wind turnips the Chinese jobby generates ‘three phase AC’ that is then rectified to DC. Measuring the voltage between any two of the phases should give a similar reading but alas no, I appeared to have lost one. This is not good for, apart from anything else it induces even more imbalance to the otherwise dubious piece of Chinese engineering.

Unfortunately there was not a lot that I could do about it, the wind was still quite fresh and I didnae fancy getting a haircut with those 6’ blades so I turned my attention to getting more wood ready for the 4kw hen shed.



This huge pile of 12’ lengths of 6” x 2” timber from Raasay House is disappearing fast and one thing I’ve noticed is that where they’re nailed together (especially if there is a membrane between them) mould is starting to appear. This means that the ‘to do’ list has just been extended to include splitting them all and storing them in the barn, so I brought a few inside prior to setting off for John the Caley’s funeral.

It seemed like half of Portree was at John the Caley’s funeral despite the pishing rain and wind, the church must have had in excess of 300 people in it with many standing and some outside. I’d known John for nigh on a quarter of a century yet never realized just how many community based things he was involved in. I’ve been to many funerals this last while but never to one where the minister has had such an intimate connection and knowledge of the deceased. It was a very moving service with former Runrig member Blair Douglas playing the tune that he’d composed especially for John in 2009. When ‘John (the Caley) Nicolson was awarded the ‘Freedom of Skye, Raasay and Lochalsh’ in 2009 Blair composed a tune for the event, it was called ‘John’s walk to freedom’ and thinking about it now brings tears to my eyes, for John walked everywhere. I’m not religious but I guess that John really was ‘walking to freedom’ yesterday, freedom from suffering, pain and not being able to walk again.

john the caley


After bidding John goodbye I returned home, shared a bottle of red with the wife and went to bed early, my body clock having been well and truly scuppered with the clock movement. Tuesday had me up early and off to visit my parents

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though I nearly missed the ferry due to the traffic!!!!! The council at last having decided to repair some of our crumbling infrastructure. Rumour has it that they managed to screw some money out of Scottish Water for repairing the road, sure SW fecked the road up but if the road had been in serviceable condition in the first place then it wouldn’t have got wrecked. Not that SW are short of money, the amount they charge in ‘water rates’ but having just returned from the outer isles I’m ashamed at the state of HRCs roads. Had Scottish Water chosen to upgrade a water treatment plant anywhere on Harris or Lewis you can be sure the roads would have been just as good after several thousand tons of  concrete had been carried over them as before Sad smile The ‘Highland Region’ should be ashamed of their roads, I left Harris and Lewis last week wanting to return, as it was a pleasure to drive (and I guess cycle) on the ‘Western Isles Council’ roads. I sit here on my laptop dreading the journey into work tomorrow, sure ‘times are hard’ but how come Comhairle nan Eilean Siar can maintain their roads and HRC cannot????



The road to Ballachuirn with its tell tale grooves and puddles Sad smile



A rainbow over the Arduish Smile


Tar lorries bound for Raasay Smile

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Sweeping the chimney at my parents Smile


A visitor in the garden.

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