Life at the end of the road

November 28, 2016

Not yer typical Sunday :-)

I just do love Sundays at work, I guess cos it comes after Saturday, which is my least favourite day. I say ‘least favourite’ rather than the day I dislike cos on the whole they’re all pretty good. Sad as it may seem, I really do like my job, not because my life away from it is so dull, on the contrary, far from it. The work thing is often a good rest from the labours ‘on the croft’ or at least all the madness I get up to at home.

Sunday is the most laid back day of the week, a late start and early finish with a good space in between to catch up on drills plus maintenance.  Hot on the heels of ‘the longest day’, Sunday is always a joy and we’ve always got ‘the big breakfast’ to look forward to.

Of course my Sunday starts as soon as I get home on Saturday night after the late ferry, it’s usually after 22:00 and there’ll normally be a glass of wine waiting for me Smile My treat of the ‘working week’ is usually a fine glass or two of red that I’ve been dreaming of for almost a week. Well this Saturday night I had a surprise in store, not my usual ‘tipple’ but a beer specially brewed  for the Raasay Distillery and finished off in oak red wine casks.

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Raasay Brewing Co. Whisky Oak-Aged Beer

During the cake competition, some of our R&B team headed off to do a little exciting preparation work for the evening event. Raasay Brewing Company worked with Plockton Brewery to oak-age beer in a Raasay While We Wait red wine finishing cask – and newly bottled they needed labelling! 200 odd bottles later of ‘Groundwork’ we just had time for a quick drive up to Brochel Castle to take in the swiftly-changing view (hidden by magical mist one moment and sunny blue skies the next) before heading to the Isle of Raasay Distillery site for the ‘fire’ element of Whisky, Fire & Song.

R&B Chris Hoban labelling Raasay Brewing Co. & Plockton Brewery collaboration beer for Whisky, Fire & Song  Groundwork Beer by Raasay Brewing Co & Plockton Brewery for Whisky, Fire & Song 2016


Another thing I love about Sunday at this time of year is seeing a little daylight on the commute into work.

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True to the forecast it was a fine day.

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We had however a pretty full schedule of work over and above the usual drills. Checking inside the forepeak for one, even though it was just a ‘visual’ from above the space needed thoroughly ventilating first and checking for noxious gasses and of course oxygen.

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Then, after the boat and anchor drills it was the serious business of doing some work on Hallaig’s battery banks. A minor discrepancy had been picked up on the annual ‘health check’ which is when each of the 216 LiFePO4 modules is individually monitored for performance by the company that installed them, formally IMTECH but now called RH Marine Three of the batteries, modules as they call them were showing some minor discrepancies in their BMS (battery management system) cards. Whilst this was very simple to fix in theory, just a matter of removing the affected cards squeezing the terminals together and then applying some ‘contact paste’, it’s not so easy in practice.

Each battery needs to be removed, the card taken out repaired and then replaced. However, we are talking a nominal voltage here of 750VDC so isolation procedures, insulated tools, PPE and training are mandatory. As of course is careful planning and a risk assessment. So, after the ‘BIG BREAKFAST’ we had our ‘toolbox talk’ filled in the ‘permit to work’ and got on with it.


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The red gauntlet thing is a special tool for removing that big fuse, it’s an old picture with the black glove and long hair Smile  The latest ones are in the first picture, these have to be replaced every 6 months in case they degrade or crack.

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One of the three that had to come out was an end one and they’re a little tricky but once out it’s just a matter of carefully removing the cards one at a time and making the connections good again.


With that all done it was time to check the spare batteries we carry on board, first the meter is put on and the voltage noted, 13.34 so all good.

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Then just to make sure it’s not a spurious reading a headlamp bulb is put in circuit for 30 seconds and the meter observed. The voltage inevitably falls slightly but shouldn’t ‘collapse’ then when the load is removed it should rise again to very near the original reading. This it did, to 13.33 but I bet if I check it again tomorrow it’ll be back up to 13.34. These LiFePO4 spare batteries have never been charged in 3 years!!! That is an incredibly slow rate of ‘self discharge’, any other battery chemistry would be flat after 3 years ‘on the shelf’.


Well, once more my son got me to work on an untreated road without mishap, no thanks to ‘Highland Region’ though. He went off to school for the week and I started my last couple of days at work this shift. First job was to chop down a whole load of stainless steel M20 screws from 80mm to 40mm, methinks someone cocked up on the ordering Smile

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Trick is to put a nut on, set it to the right height then cut them with a 1mm thick cutting disc using the nut as a guide. Next debur with a file and clean with a wire brush. I was very proud of my ‘ten little soldiers’ but forgot to take a picture Smile

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The clam diving boat Auk was once more ‘picking away’ in the narrows, methinks it’s an Aquastar 40’ with an extended wheelhouse. A fine choice for a group of divers, stable, fast and comfy Smile

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This morning had us sampling some fine homemade black pudding from one of our customers. This will be from Cuddy and we were much impressed, there seems to be some fine black pudding makers here on Raasay. Calum Don, Andrew Palmer and Jessie Nicolson’s  are some of the few I’ve sampled but I’m certainly not going to start a war by passing verdict on here Smile Suffice to say they were all first class Smile

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Another of today’s jobs was replacing a thermal trip relay for a drive cooling pump. A simple enough job once it had been isolated and photographed so I could get the wires in the right place Smile

That’s it really, only one more day and I’ll be starting my ‘rest period’ as CalMac call it, aye right Smile


  1. It’s bloody hard to get good black pudding in the midlands. If anyone knows different I’m all ears!

    Comment by Matt — November 29, 2016 @ 10:01 am

  2. Liked the details of the battery service. The new battery technology astounds me, and it’s going to be very important, particularly for distributed power. I’ve been working with my students on a Honda hybrid we have in the college shop, experimenting with using an infra-red camera to identify weak cells under charge, and using a digital charge/discharge controller to identify rates of self-discharge for isolated cells. I have a feeling one day we’ll need to know batteries as well as we used to know pistons and cylinders.

    Comment by Mick — November 29, 2016 @ 10:59 am

    • Yup Mick,
      used the infra red camera myself to identify dodgy cells.

      Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — November 29, 2016 @ 5:04 pm

  3. Complained to Highland council about the Raasay potholes. Not even a computer generated reply, I guess HC is like NHS and is abandoning Raasay. Who will listen to Raasay people..seems not the council or the health authorities ?? Maybe a reader of your blog can shed light on it. Don’t care about meetings and meetings about meetings, even meetings to discuss these meetings. ACTION needed. Even heard they are holding secret (public excluded) meetings in Portree !!

    Comment by SOTW — November 30, 2016 @ 10:13 am

    • Took until today for a computer reply from Alness. – They hope to have my complaint resolved by 15/12/2016. !!

      Comment by SOTW — December 1, 2016 @ 12:13 pm

      • They hope to have my complaint resolved by 15/12/2016. !!

        Aye right 🙂

        Comment by lifeattheendoftheroad — December 2, 2016 @ 8:25 am

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