Life at the end of the road

July 10, 2016

A hundred days off :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings — Tags: , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 1:52 pm

Probably not exactly, but certainly a ‘ball park’ figure and kind appropriate as it’s the title of the CD I’m listening to just now.

Not everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ I’m sure but me I’m a great Underworld fan ever since Ewan Macgregor shoved his head down a toilet in Trainspotting and I saw them at T in the park shortly after.

Anyway, as everyone keeps reminding me, ‘you’ve not posted since March’. Well I’m sorry peeps but it’s been kinda hectic up here at ‘the end of the road’, and much as I’ve wanted to, I’ve kinda been pure wrecked at the end of each day. It’s not like there’s been a lack of any news, for an island of this size there’s been plenty and over the next few nights I hope to enlighten you.

Two weeks on

Well, so much for that measly attempt at posting, two weeks on and I’ve still not managed a line. Better just get on with it hey. So, it’s Sunday midday now and I’m still probably way over the old ‘blood alcohol’ limit, never mind Scotland’s new one. Twas a brillig ‘sesh’ last night at Sonas with a shoulder of Donnie Oliphant’s Dexter beef, a bottle of Glenlivit and a house full of neighbours and friends.

P7090224  P7090223

I guess the main reason for blogging at this time of a perfectly dry and reasonable day is that I’m too wasted to be doing anything else, certainly not operating any machinery or fixing wifey’s Subaru. That and of course the multiple complaints, emails, phone calls and being accosted  in the street for not blogging Smile

Where to start

After such a long time without ‘putting pen to paper’ so to speak it’s hard to know where to start. I don’t even have that many photographs to remind me of what’s happened this last hundred days or so and I never even bothered filling out the proper diary either. Truth is we’ve been so busy here at Sonas that I’ve not had the time, it doesn’t get dark until 23:00 and when I do come in I get distracted by the amazing views from the living room.


An unwelcome American import

Much worse than Halloween, Black Friday, Windows 10 and the odious Donald Trump is the American mink which has been plaguing Raasay, Rona and particularly Arnish.

P4160141 P4160142

Brought over here after the last war and farmed for their fur, a combination of escapes and misguided ‘tree huggers’ releasing them into the wild has introduced a ferocious predator into the Highlands and islands. With no natural enemies these cute little creatures can decimate ground nesting bird populations, rabbits and of course our hens. This wee one killed and injured around eight before I blew its brains out. They have no fear and have started taking the hens during the day, another eight or so over the last couple of days in broad daylight. With an almost constant air of ‘barbecued chicken’ around the house due to cremating the corpses my wife has quite lost heart.

Consequently ‘Arnish Eggs’ will no longer be available in the shop Sad smile Still, you can now buy Donnie Oliphant’s excellent Dexter beef Smile seriously, if you’ve not tried it you’re missing out, it’s the ‘real deal’ with proper fat that leaves the meat all succulent and not dried out like your regular Sunday joint.

Turbine tales

Since ‘Storm Henry’ fried my Kingspan/Proven 3.2/2.5 turbine I’ve been doing quite a lot of most enjoyable tinkering on the turbine front. I think I described the fitting of the new core/stator earlier However, since then I’ve had it down again and done some mods after speaking to the most helpful team at Kingspan.

Due to a series of bizarre coincidences and synchronicity I’ve acquired another Proven/Kingspan turbine, this time a 6kW one.

P3180069 P3180070

A friend who lives out ‘in the sticks’ near my wife’s mum had one lying around with his collection of military vehicles. It was minus blades and the frame had been hacked to bits but the rest of it was fine. A chance meeting with a fire eater led me to a set of the latest carbon fibre blades.


P3160060  P3180071

As I was in the area collecting the turbine and blades from two different locations a hundred miles apart I called in at Kingspan Wind in Stewarton. They had a second hand frame and shaft and gave me a great quote for fitting both and supplying all the required hardware I was missing, covers, blades fixings and new bearings. They also programed a suitable MPPT power curve into a newly acquired Aurora wind inverter.


I left it with them and we collected it a few weeks later,


P4070122 P4070128 P4070129

fully overhauled and guaranteed at a fraction of the cost of a new one.

More welding

It was after dragging the trailer and turbine 200 miles back home that I felt a strange sensation from my rear end, well not mine personally but the ‘Old Girl’s’ Sad smile Upon checking in the rear mirrors I noticed the rear axel moving out to starboard Sad smile This was not good!

 P4120136 P4130139P4160143

The rear ‘A frame’ cross member was pure infested with the old ‘tin worm’ and I spent a whole week making a new one and welding it onto the chassis. In the process I hurt my back, wrecked my knees and had to got to casualty with rust in my eye!! The sanity of keeping a thirty year old vehicle as my ‘daily driver’ was becoming questionable. However after spending weeks looking for something that would replace it I came to the conclusion that I’d be stupid to, unless  was prepared to pay 10 or 15K. Even then I’d probably not get a winch or locking rear diff, both of which had proved their worth extricating a 9ton machine from a bog recently.

I seriously considered several L200 pickups, Rangers and Isuzu Rodeos, I just love them but these days you cannae fix them, they’ve all got ‘dual mass’ flywheels that cost an ‘arm and a leg’ to replaced and in few years their all rotten. The price of Defenders has gone through the roof since they stopped making them so I decided to keep my own. Though I’m gonna have to replace the bulkhead shortly, mind you I’ve been saying that for ten years Smile

Marine visitors


Portree lifeboat, Stanley Watson Barker


MV Hebridean Princess


MV Spanish John II



MV Emma C and another who’s name escapes me


The Sunday ‘boat drill’


The PS Waverly and MV Hallaig.


Rona light.



That’s it really, well of course it isn’t, but it’s after 14:00 now and I reckon I’m sober enough to go and do some work. Wifey’s Subaru is needing a few finishing touches after the clutch fiasco.

A couple of days away with me mam and our new caravan recently turned into a disaster. We set off for the excellent Sands caravan park just out of Gairloch last week. Plan being to stay a couple of nights there and go and visit me dad in at Aultbea. All went fine until we took my dad out for a run to Gruinard Bay a few miles to the north.

The sandy bay and beautiful views giving no clue as to its sinister past, the site of the first live testing of anthrax bombs in WWII. It was whilst we were there that the clutch on the Subaru failed spectacularly, leaving us with a collapsed release bearing, some expensive noises and no way of disengaging the gearbox from the engine Sad smile Not the best situation to be in 100 miles from home with a caravan, luckily it was still relatively early in the day and I’m well used to driving without one. Having said that I’ve never driven so far on a summers day on single track roads without a clutch. So, after a quick call to the neighbours and the ferry I got the ‘Old Girl’ driven to the south end and put aboard Hallaig for the 14:30 sailing. After a couple of hair raising hours on the road we dropped the Subaru at Sconser and headed back to Aultbea in the Land Rover. A Chinese ‘carry out’ from Hai Yang takeaway

    P7050219 P7050218

and a walk along the beach rounding off the day nicely.

A hundred years on

It seemed fitting that 100 years after the Battle of Jutland that I should finally donate some artefacts from there to the museum in Gairloch. Whilst not from the battle itself the lumps of brass I had been hauling around for forty years had seen action there. I had many years ago dived at the Cove point gun battery at the mouth of Loch Ewe, see below from

And I thought the Crofting Commission were slow

Upon turning in for the night I checked my emails to find one titled Droit No: 430/09 !!! what on earth is that methinks and almost deleted it. Curiosity however got the better of me and I opened it, not having a clue what a droit   was. Turns out it relates to another clear out I was having five years ago, this time from my garden.

Can’t remember exactly how but around five years ago I rekindled my  interest in Loch Ewe, a former convoy marshalling area in WWII. I had spent time in diving there in the early seventies, mainly around the Cove Point gun batteries on on the wreck of the American ‘liberty ship’ the William H Welch.

I think perhaps the boys were doing WWII at primary school so I took the Dude and Lightning up there for the day to see the many concrete structures that remained.

Below are a couple of souvenirs I lifted in 1976 from the 6” MkVII breach loading guns that once saw action on the flagship at Jutland.

These guns were actually the secondary armament from HMS Iron Duke

and were removed for coastal defence purposes at the beginning of the second world war. Some of them being mounted at the entrance to Scapa Flow and at least two finding their way to

The extensive remains of a Second World War emergency coast battery, built in 1941. Surviving structural elements include two gun houses in each of which a 6" Mark 7 (naval) gun would have been mounted, two searchlight emplacements, a battery observation post, engine houses or generating rooms, magazines and two emplacements for (possibly 20mm Oerlikon) anti-aircraft guns.
From January to September 1942 the site was manned by 308 Independent Coast Battery (Royal Artillery) and from September 1942 until April 1944 by 154 Independent Battery, after which date it was placed on a care and maintenance basis. There is no record of the battery ever firing in anger.
Information from Historic Scotland, June 1992.
This coast battery is situated at Rubha nan Sasan, at the end of a track from Cove. The battery observation post, two gun-emplacements, two searchlight emplacements, engine rooms, magazine are all extant. In an area some 100m to the SW are many hut bases which formed the accommodation camp for those serving at the battery. The battery was armed with 2 x 6-inch MkVII guns on Naval mountings from HMS Iron Duke which were installed in July 1941. The battery was placed on care and maintainance in April 1945.
It has been suggested that the gun barrels from the mountings were rolled into the sea, but there is no evidence for them now.

Well, there is in my garden and five years ago I tried to rectify this by donating them to the local museum ‘tried’ being the operative word.

Feeling somewhat guilty, OK I know it’s a little late, I phoned up the museum last week to see if they wanted them as I could drop them off on the way past. After all these bits of brass had fired several rounds at the battle of Jutland when they were firmly bolted to the then flagship of Admiral sir John Jellicoe. I spoke to the curator and was told in no uncertain terms that they could not accept donations without filling in reams of paperwork which would take weeks! I could barely contain myself, the world has gone mad! “what’s all that about”, asks I in disbelief “Oh it’s in case somebody tries to claim title to them” more likely in case some plonker drops it on his foot and tries to sue the museum thinks I. For heavens sake it’s a lump of brass not an ‘old master’, needless to say this 100 year old bit of history that was present at the largest engagement ever of capital ships in World War I and sat watching over thousands of sailors as they passed in and out of Loch Ewe in World War II is still in my garden collecting dust, well dead leaves actually!


So I contacted the ‘Receiver of Wreck’ in September 2009 to make sure nobody had ‘title’ then I could give them to the museum, and five years later they replied!! The wheels of bureaucracy turn very slowly indeed Smile Anyway the news is good, HMG no longer require 6” naval gun spares in this time of defence cuts so the museum can have them 102 years after the keel of HMS Iron Duke was laid. Though, in the unlikely event that you are interested it actually takes far longer to make one gun barrel than an entire battleship.

So, almost eight years since I initially offered the parts from the 6” guns and William H Welch the award winning museum finally had them.


  1. Really glad your back Paul, hope all is well

    Comment by alexmcgarvie — July 10, 2016 @ 1:55 pm

    • All is peachy Alex, just need to get back underneath the Subaru, wonder if there’s any cider in the barn 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 10, 2016 @ 1:57 pm

  2. Thanks for your comments on the Dexter Beef Paul. It’s certainly in demand. Sausages and beef burgers this time for the BBQ season are going down a treat!! Great to have you back!!!

    Comment by Ann Oliphant — July 10, 2016 @ 2:04 pm

    • Hi Anne, pure delicious, went down a treat last night, will be getting more from the shop for sure. It’s really hard to get anything these days with a decent bit of fat on it, that joint was pot roasted to perfection with only two tiny scraps left for the wee dug!

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 10, 2016 @ 2:08 pm

  3. Your online presence has been missed! Great to hear from you again, Paul. Kirsty

    Comment by KJH — July 10, 2016 @ 2:17 pm

  4. Nice to see you back Paul.
    We are now in Sweden!
    I have a piece of HMS Iron Duke in the form of a wooden letter opener.
    Small world eh.
    Good to resume reading of your doings

    Comment by Andrew Richards — July 10, 2016 @ 2:26 pm

  5. Glad to reading your blog again. What with no Raasay visit this year and your (understandable) absence I’ve had withdrawal symptoms. Have had Dexter beef and it’s as good as said. Maybe try Donnie’s next year.

    Comment by Sue — July 10, 2016 @ 2:26 pm

  6. Great to have your ‘daily doings’ back Paul. Long may they continue; absolutely no pressure, of course!

    Comment by Carrie — July 10, 2016 @ 2:29 pm

  7. so good to see you again, Paul, really missed you

    what’s this about a new caravan, what’s happened to the Thompson

    Comment by cazinatutu — July 10, 2016 @ 2:35 pm

  8. It was worth the wait… just don’t forget folk enjoy what you have to say and hopefully you’ll feel the sudden urge to write more often ;o)

    Comment by madmort — July 10, 2016 @ 2:41 pm

  9. very excited to receive today’s email! Interesting as ever. Thanks.

    Comment by may cruickshank — July 10, 2016 @ 2:42 pm

  10. Nice to see you the other week Paul. I was actually up on the north end of the Cuillin when that picture of the Waverley was taken, I must zoom in for a look!

    Comment by Simon — July 10, 2016 @ 3:07 pm

  11. Glad to hear from you again

    Comment by Nigel Macleod — July 10, 2016 @ 4:13 pm

  12. Lovely to have you back online Paul. Have missed your news 🙂

    Comment by Callum Mackintosh — July 10, 2016 @ 5:44 pm

  13. Great to hear from you again Paul, I’ve certainly missed your blogs. Hope all is well with you and your family.

    Comment by Stan — July 10, 2016 @ 6:34 pm

  14. Nice to see that you are back online. I feared the worst. Your blog is a goldmine for someone interested in Listers, Land Rovers and Wind turbines!

    Comment by Magnus — July 10, 2016 @ 8:05 pm

  15. So how long does it take to make a gun barrel then?

    Comment by Lloyd — July 10, 2016 @ 8:06 pm

    • Hi Lloyd,
      So how long does it take to make a gun barrel then?

      To make a ‘wire wound’ barrel it takes years Lloyd. The barrel gets it’s extreme transverse strength by having thousands of miles of high tensile steel wire wrapped around a steel cylinder. One of the stages of production is burying it in charcoal for months on end to fuse the wire together. That’s why the largest, fastest and last battleship ever made (HMS Vanguard) had only 15″ guns and not 16″ (well that and the fact that the British 16″ gun was crap) Vanguard’s guns were built ten years previously and earmarked for the ill fated Lion class that never saw service. The American’s on the other hand had perfected the art of making barrels from single forgings sweated onto each other. Dunno how long they took to make right enough but they could make them longer. US guns tended to be 50 calibers long where as British guns were only 42 or 45. I think was because the wire wound gun was prone to bending as it lacked longitudinal strength.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 11, 2016 @ 6:57 am

      • That is really interesting form an engineering viewpoint – thanks Paul. Needless, to say the rets of your info is always a good read and thanks for resuming,

        Comment by David — July 11, 2016 @ 7:13 am

  16. Did you stash any of the wine?☺️

    Comment by Polite Scouser — July 10, 2016 @ 9:15 pm

    • Hi Walter,

      wine long gone thank you very much, hopefully catch up with you this time if I’m in Birkenhead this year.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 11, 2016 @ 6:59 am

      • Just give us a call 07590434861, glad your back with your quill to paper. Rita & me missed your daily muttering on your life trials and tribulations. 👍👍

        Comment by Polite Scouser — July 12, 2016 @ 1:41 pm

  17. Glad you’re back, Paul. I’ve missed the blog.

    Comment by Frank McVey — July 11, 2016 @ 12:02 am

  18. Paul, you have no duty or obligation to post your blog, but I wish you could experience some of the joy I, and without doubt many, many more, experienced when my email told me you had a new post. I hope that your blog will give you the pleasure and satisfaction in a job beautifully achieved which you richly deserve, and which may lead you to add to the treasure house.

    Comment by Rab Dickson — July 11, 2016 @ 9:23 am

  19. Glad to see you back, missed the blog, btw if you batter the L200s ect with waxol they can last ( though i doubt 30 years ) and you can get a single mass flywheel conversion for most cars now. Cheers RG.

    Comment by v8mbo — July 11, 2016 @ 9:57 am

  20. So glad the blog is back. Long may you keep posting x

    Comment by SOTW — July 11, 2016 @ 10:00 am

  21. Hello Again Paul, great to see you back. It makes my breakfast reading!
    We are now installed in Sweden.
    An aside I have a letter opener from wood from the Iron Duke.
    Small world.
    All the best

    Comment by Andrew — July 11, 2016 @ 4:16 pm

    • Hi Andrew,
      gotta take my hat off to ya, just ‘upping sticks’ from Finisterre and heading to Sweden, good luck with that, perhaps we’ll pop over 🙂 That old ‘Iron Duke’, he gets everywhere hey 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — July 11, 2016 @ 9:43 pm

  22. Glad to hear news from your corner of the world! Good to know your folks, Maggie, The Dude, The Hen Wife, and Lightning are all well (not necessarily in that order). Am surprised the roving mink are a problem, what with all that ingenuity and two boys out of school. I expect there will be a mink coat in B’s future, or at least a fur hat.

    Comment by drgeo — July 11, 2016 @ 6:25 pm

  23. Great to see your back down here in far away Cornwall

    Comment by mike smith — July 14, 2016 @ 7:52 pm

  24. Welcome back.

    Have to agree with you about Underworld,even my kids rate them following 2012.

    At a recent outing I was talking to an old mate about Underworld since he lives in the singer’s home town.Turned out he knew Karl pretty well being best mates with Karl’s dad and said he had also supplied some kit for one of their early gigs.

    Any likelyhood of a whisky main around Raasay in years to come?

    Comment by Andy — July 17, 2016 @ 11:10 am

  25. Glad that you are back.Missed you.

    Comment by Eileen — July 30, 2016 @ 5:42 pm

  26. Having a weeks holiday from the 10th Sept to 17th inclusive at Bonawe Cottages Taynuilt mite get a chance for a day run to your neck of the woods may see you then. Keep the blog going like it immensely.

    Comment by Polite Scouser — August 26, 2016 @ 4:20 am

    • I’ll keep an eye out Walter, cheap on the ferry now with the RET 🙂

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — August 28, 2016 @ 7:33 pm

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