Life at the end of the road

December 31, 2014

The ‘Office party’ :-)

Filed under: New hybrid ferry — Tags: , , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:54 pm

Well it’s Hogmanay and by the time most of you read this I guess it’ll be 2015. It’s 20:00 here in ‘number 3’ and I’m already onto the second glass of Bells that I’ve ruined with Coke, I know it’s sacrilege to put that sugary muck in the  uisce beatha but I’m trying to dilute the ‘water of life’ so I don’t get wrecked this side of next year Smile

Battery issues

I know I’ve been a little lax this year, only 116 measly posts but it’s been a rather chaotic couple of years here at the ‘end of the road’ and it’s about to get worse. Hopefully though, a little sanity will return in early 2015 and I can resume my normal opinionated, ranting and obnoxious witterings. Then with the aid of a virtually indestructible camera given me by mum for Christmas, I can show you all the pictures of our new house Smile

So, where was I when I last posted? ‘Loosing pressure’ on the 28th apparently, well I failed to sort that unfortunately and have burdened my ‘back to back’ with a slight leak from the aft ‘converter cooler’.  Luckily he’s an understanding chap and knows that I wouldn’t have done it intentionally. However, I had a wee snag with our LiFePO4 batteries to deal with and that somewhat distracted me.

The worlds first hybrid sea going ferry, our very own MV Hallaig has on board 216 lithium iron batteries that supply 20% of her energy needs throughout the day. In effect it is actually much more than that, for were she (or any other vessel) sailing on internal combustion engines only, she would need to have at least two (if diesel electric) or more likely three (like a regular ferry with main engines and generators) diesels running all day. The Hallaig only needs to have one generator running during a normal working day, any shortfall or instantaneous power requirement being met by her ‘static generator’, the 600kWh battery bank.

The total battery capacity is split fore and aft in two dedicated battery rooms that are air conditioned, locked and only entered after strict procedures are observed. There is enough energy in these two rooms to send an average sized cat to the moon, instantly. Well, probably not but it is a lot of energy and it could be delivered at the speed of light to a miss placed spanner or carelessly placed wedding ring.

Now, I’m no stranger to batteries, having lived ‘off grid’ for thirty years and having used all manner of them to power my house. Consequently I have great respect for them and have spent a good portion of my winter evenings researching them on the internet. Batteries come in all shapes and forms, lead acid being the most common in it’s many forms, NiCad, NiFe having been around for almost as long, and all manner of modern technologies in their infancy, from Vanadium Redox to molten metal. It is however the Lithium Iron with all its various chemistries that power everything from mobile phones to locomotives and busses these days.

With a high energy density, fantastic efficiency and light weight the lithium batteries are the ‘weapon of choice’ these days. They do however require careful charging and a complex ‘battery management system’ to function at their best. It is this BMS that caused a minor hiccup on our ferry over the last couple of days. Nothing that would be noticed by the casual observer but a certain unevenness in the charging values  had been detected during routine monitoring.



Here you see the first four cells of module number 2 on Aft bank 1 reading 3.777v, a touch too high.


Consequently one of the modules had to be removed and the connections on the BMS cards checked. Though not before the observance of strict protocols and  isolation f the 750v bank.

009 010 012

With all metallic objects removed from my person, wearing insulated gloves and using insulated tools I removed one of the modules.

025 021

This gave me access to the three BMS cards that bridge and control the 24 cells (six in parallel and four in series)  that make up the EB 6P4S 12v module. The cards just required removing  the connections squeezing together

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and a little ‘contact paste’ adding to make sure of a good connection. Of course without the aid of a computer you could be weeks looking for the affected module.

The first time in thirty years!!!

That was what took up a great deal of my last day ‘on shift’,



a fine enough day it was too.

However, the best was yet to come, for a little ‘windfall’ had left the Hallaig’s two crews with enough cash to spend on s ‘works do’ and I haven’t been on one of those in thirty years!! Seriously, the ‘office party’ is something that has been regrettably missing in my life since 1984 Smile Having said that, the first one I ever went to in 1972 had me so drunk that I never touched another drop of alcohol for 18 years. Hence I have much catching up to do in that department Smile

Anyway, it was the spectacular setting of the newly refurbished Raasay House  that we booked for both crews and their WAG’s. Foolishly I put on extra clothes, being as I was used to freezing there in times past, and ended up ‘stripping off’ as soon as I arrived in the bar at 20:15. A short while later we were led through to what was once the ‘Wooden Lounge’ the scene of many a great session in times past. The most memorable, for me at least, was my wedding there in 2001.


The service from Rosy and Alexis was first class and Linda’s meals and sweets were enjoyed by all.

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Luckily wifey was working so ‘your truly’ got wrecked and got chauffeured home by the postie Smile Sadly this left me with a sore head, dry mouth and extreme lethargy that had me stuck in bed until after 9:00 this morning.

Eventually however I did manage to get up and do some wood cutting with my son.



A task that will no longer be required once we move into the new house Smile


However, if you are a regular wood cutter you could do much worse than to purchase one of these from Simon of


The ‘Loggit’ will hold just about any piece of timber that you can cut with a chainsaw.


Whether it’s 12’ long or 12” thick the Loggit will hold it firmly and not leave you with an aching back.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who read and commented, over a third of a million by all accounts.

December 28, 2014

Loosing pressure

Filed under: New hybrid ferry — Tags: — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:03 pm

Well that’s life slowly returning to normal on the work front, of course there will be Hogmanay but that will be the other shift’s problem and not mine. Only one more full day to work prior to my ‘two weeks off’ and boy have I got a busy schedule, fortunately much of it will be indoors or in the new shed so not so weather dependant. However, this fortnight we have to really ‘blitz’ the house moving carry on, for we’ll be out in few weeks.

Much of my last fortnight was spent clearing my old workshop, so that’s it pretty much done and what’s more, for the first time in 25 years I actually know what I have and where it is. The next big challenge will be under the eaves in the Dude’s room, the dumping ground for everything from my college notes to framed pictures of many of the wrecks I’ve dived on. Some hard choices will have to made there and I can see my books from Sandy Lane Technical College in Accrington ending up in the same place as my first wedding photographs and hundreds of pictures of Land Rovers.

The perfect vehicle

Anyway, this morning it was off to work in Phoebe for a change, it was definitely a 4WD drive day as the council seem to have stopped gritting the roads. So if some days the ferry doesn’t run or the post arrive because wifey and I can’t get to work blame HRC and not CalMac or Royal Mail.

Cars, like boats are always a compromise, especially living somewhere like here and finding the right one for darling wife has ALWAYS been a problem. The Fiat Uno was great but ended up in a ditch, the Clio diesel was too small, ate front tyres and pished in water through the sun roof. Car number three the Audi 80 diesel estate was too big for her to see over the bonnet  also demolished tyres and pished in water through the sun roof. Number four Daisy the Daihatsu YRV she loved but it was too small and kept breaking down. The Nissan that my parents gave me was just too sensible, cost a fortune in tyres and is hopeless in snow, it also had a sunroof but we were afraid to open it because it didn’t leak Smile

So, when the full time job on the post arrived a 4WD wee car was needed and after much deliberation she settled on a Daihatsu Terrios. Personally I’d have preferred a Suzuki Jimny  as they’re a little more ‘mainstream’ and much better supported by dealers, forums, websites and anoraks. However wifey tends to pick cars on their colour rather than practicality and the Jimny really is pretty small. The Terrios isn’t any wider but it is just that bit longer and a lot more civilized, so when one with only 63k and a full service history popped up in Glasgow we bought it. There was a good bit of trust involved and faith in other people but, without even seeing it we parted with a wedge of cash and crossed our fingers.

The wee silver jeep arrived with the mother in law a few days later and we were not disappointed. Two months on and the newly christened Phoebe is proving her worth on the icy roads of Raasay. A nippy and economical Toyota 1.3 petrol engine pushes adequate horsepower through a perfectly geared five speed box to all four wheels. The narrow track and short wheelbase make it nimble, easy to guide around pot holes and great fun to drive. Sure the ride is a bit harsh and the gearing too low for mainland roads but here on Raasay she’s perfect. 


So much so that I took her up to feed the hens this morning


but do not tell the Post Lady Smile


The wee speck above Fladda is the light on a fishing boat, when I first moved here fishing on Sunday was unheard of. Today there were at least three boats out fishing prawns.


That will be the Storr on the ‘arty farty’ setting on the new camera that me mum gave me for Christmas.

Olympus Stylus Tough TG-850 Digital Camera - Silver

An Olympus Stylus TG850 that’s waterproof to 10m and can be dropped onto a hard surface from 2.1m, so with a little luck, even I won’t be able to break it Smile

The day turned into a ‘pure peach’

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but did not go as smoothly as I’d have liked for a leisurely Sunday twixt Christmas and New Year.


A small coolant leak on the ‘drive cabinet’ turned into a bit of an epic.


The ‘drive cabinet’ makes this complex item sound more like a bookcase for Jeremy Clarkson DVD’s than the complex bit of kit that it is. For it is in this water cooled bank of steel enclosures that all the bits that make Hallaig’s 375kW permanent magnet motors turn are contained.



In here lie the ‘Active Front End’ and Inverter that make up the ‘Variable Frequency Drive’ that control the motors speed. Also within the confines of this ‘box of tricks’ lie the 800v DC bus, battery charger and ‘Brake Chopper Unit’ and they are all water cooled!!! Yup that will be 800VDC and 400VAC bits with water keeping them nice and cool. OK, I know it sounds scary but contrary to popular belief water doesn’t actually conduct electricity or at least not distilled or deionised water, which is what is in here.


The wee leak was eventually sorted and the system then re pressurised to just over 2 bar.

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That was about it really,


by the time I’d sorted that out it was almost time to sail.

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