Life at the end of the road

November 22, 2016

Very lucky indeed :-(

Filed under: daily doings, Land Rover — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 5:42 pm

Well, it’s been a ‘helluva’ day that’s for sure and the week did not get off to a very promising start. Shame really because last week ended very well, Sunday was a ‘pure peach’ of a day and we made the most of it.

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I took the ‘Old Girl’ down the road for a change, it had been a while since I’d used her and I planned on giving her a much needed wash at lunch time. Been using my sons car of late, it’s quite fun to drive, narrow enough to dodge all the pot holes and not quite so heavy on the juice. It’s also 4WD but the 17” low profile tyres mean it’s pretty useless if the road is slippy and with frost  forecast the Land Rover seemed like a better option.

A day for drills

We’d also a good few jobs and drills to catch up on after our trip to deck.

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The anchor cables were still covered in Garvel Clyde’s finest mud from the dry dock bottom so we gave the Aft one a good washing on the way up. The Hallaig has a system for washing the chain as it runs through the hawse pipes. Three jets fed directly from the fire main can be opened to flush any weed or mud off the chain prior to it going into the locker.

It was also time to give Duncan his monthly dunking.

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The ‘rescue boat’ gets launched most weekends but today we were doing an MOB recovery using our newly fitted rescue net. Old Duncan is a dummy filled with around 70lts of water to simulate a casualty. We generally throw him overboard every month and recover him, either via the ramp or rescue boat, but it’s not easy. Or at least it never used to be until now.

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The rescue net is passed under Duncan then he’s just rolled into the boat.


That done I turned my attention to one of the drive cooling pumps that had died. As with most things of importance on a ship there are at least two and pumps like this are usually run ‘week about’. These keep the sealed cooling system for the inverters, chargers and ‘active front end’ cool and one had stopped working.


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A few checks with the meter and the fault was traced to O/L 1 a ‘thermal overload relay’ so that was easily rectified.

It was worse than I thought

My son had been at an outward bound school over in Perthshire for the weekend and arrived on the last Sunday ferry. He’d seen freezing temperatures and much snow over that side of the country. Sure enough, as darkness descended and the stars came out they plummeted here too. We headed north with himself at the helm, the stars sparkling above and the ice twinkling on the tarmac below. It’s gonna be treacherous tomorrow son says I, best set off for work/school early  and proceeded to talk him through ‘ice driving’. Not that you can actually do anything on ice but with over two tons of Land Rover around you there are things that’ll help.

Keep two wheels on the verge for one, not that that will do you much good in anything else, as the axle differentials always drive the wheel of least resistance. However, apart from the standard centre locking diff the ‘Old Girl’ has an ‘ARB’ air actuated locking rear diff. This means that both rear wheels always turn at the same speed and usually gets you out of most situations.

Monday morning arrived and much to my surprise it was very mild, too mild in fact, for it had rained during the night and the roads were treacherous. That didn’t phase my boy right enough and he got us up the first dodgy hill after Brochel nay bother. The ‘Horseshoe Bend’ as I call it or ‘Cnoch an Uan’ (the hill of the lamb) after Screapadale was a different story though, despite doing everything right we ended up in a ditch at 6:30 Sad smile Of course we were now two miles from home with no phone reception so that was the first task as it was pretty obvious the Land Rover was going nowhere.

Half a mile of slipping on foot later we managed to raise the skipper on the phone and he said he’d head north to collect me. Or at least as far north as he dared, the council having not bothered to grit any of the roads on Raasay this winter!!!! He managed  to within a mile or two but intimated that we’d not be driving all the way to the Hallaig. He’d basically slid all the way down the hill after the water treatment plant, so once more it was time to ‘call the cavalry’ and start walking.

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Our shipmates awaited by ‘Faith, Hope and Charity’ the Scottish Water wind turbines as we struggled up the icy untreated road. All in all it was a bit of an epic yet we were only around ten minutes late in sailing.

My next problem was how and when to extract the ‘Old Girl’, she was not best parked for getting by her. Luckily my ‘back to back’ agreed to come in and cover for me for a few ours. This not only allowed me to recover the ‘Old Girl’ but it enabled me to attend Callum’s funeral at midday in the Raasay village hall. Sure, I was the only one of the very many there in a boiler suit but I’m sure Callum wouldn’t have minded. He had a beautiful ‘send off’ in the autumn sunshine.

After returning from the cemetery my good mate Peter gave me a run up the road

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it was much, much worse than I thought!

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We were saved from rolling over by 1 large rock and a small birch tree, we were very lucky!!

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That’s my boy Smile The Warn XP9500 winch had us out in a jiffy, the hardest part was actually turning the Land Rover around from this position to point up the hill. Sure the front door, sill and roof rack ladder are bent, the chassis has a dent in it and I think I’ve burnt out the winch, but ‘hey ho’, it was an experience Smile

I managed to get back to work for the 14:30 sailing to let my mate away and was treated to an afternoon of common dolphins ‘buzzing’ the ship.

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I know, I know, the picture is carp, you just had to be there!

November 19, 2016

Wind takes over :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings, life off grid, New hybrid ferry — Tags: , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 7:22 pm

Change in the old weather here that’s for sure, had to scrape ice off the car twice this week!!!! Now most people are under the impression that it’s cold in the winter in Scotland, which may well be true for the east and south. Not so the West Coast that’s washed by the Gulf Stream, sure I have seen –10 degrees here for days on end but that was 20 years ago and the exception rather than the rule. During the last five winters I’ve only had to de ice the windscreen a handful of times at home and never during the evening at work. Well that changed on Thursday night when the Hallaig’s crew all had to scrape ice off their cars on the pier.

It’s certainly colder up at Sonas than ever it was a couple of hundred yards away at ‘Number 3’ I guess the surrounding trees kept the air still and retained a little heat. Here we have a small burn quite close to the house and the frost seems to follow it down the hill. Not that we feel it in the house, the house is so well insulated that we get little sensation of what’s going on outside. I did however turn the heating on a few days ago and leave it on, only in the bathroom and living room right enough. They are the only two rooms we ever heat with the thermostat set to 18 degrees in the living room and 21 degrees in the bathroom. The MVHR system and the 20mm gaps under the doors making a fine job of keeping all the bedrooms at a comfortable 15 plus I guess. 

There’s been five days in total this month that we’ve actually run the generator, a total of 12 hours in total. More than I’d like as we’re aiming for total freedom from oil but to be honest I’m sure we could have managed without it had we been more careful. You have to bear in mind that the house is totally electric bar the cooker and it looks like there was a cold, windless and sunless spell around the beginning of the month. Had the hydro turbine (PS Hydro 800W) been running at the time we’d not have needed it for sure.

Wind takes over

The blue rows are totals, top one for last month and bottom for November so far, the last column being battery SOC at around 20:00 each day. The large numbers are the meter readings and all figures bar the generator in kWh. What is instantly clear is the sudden fall in solar output compared to last month and the increase in wind output. September saw wind beat solar for the first time since January, having said that, the wind turbine was out of action due to Henry for two months but we managed just fine on hydro and solar. It does however reinforce the need for a good balance between the various renewable inputs to make a good ‘off grid’ system work properly 

Yet another sad loss

The first enthusiastic day back at work was marred by the news that a good friend and ‘pillar of the community’, Calum Smith had passed away. Calum moved here long before I with his wife Sandra who was, when I arrived the school teacher and he was a man of many talents. An ex fisherman, ‘fish gutting machine engineer’ and RN sailor Calum could turn his hand to anything, including building a house right next to the school. A true home that he was always ‘improving’, few indeed were the days when he’d not be ‘pottering’, concreting, planting or even welding about the house or garden. The times he wasn’t doing that he’d be working on his wooden yacht ‘Kate’ or later ketch ‘Suilaire’ and if not that he’d probably be doing unpaid work on, in or around the school. Affectionately known as the ‘Harbourmaster’ by many due to the amount of time he spent down at Clachan working on his boats, he did ‘not suffer fools gladly’ Smile Woe betide anyone who would tie a boat up stupidly or leave ‘gash’ on the pier, the genial Calum would then become ‘Mr Angry’ Smile

Calum will be sorely missed by family and friends alike, he was one of the great characters that helped make Raasay a unique place to live.


Back ‘on service’

The first day back at work started, as usual with the 100 mile drive to see my dad at Aultbea. The official start is Wednesday morning but my ‘back to back’ and I have a great and flexible arrangement where we ‘change over’ on Tuesday late afternoon. This gives us a good ‘face to face’ handover, gets him home a night early and gives us both a shorter day on Tuesday Smile

Having not left the croft much the last fortnight it was good to see great progress on the distillery as I headed for the 7:55 ferry.

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A couple of days later it was even better

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as of course was the weather.

We may not have seen much of the ‘super moon’ whilst it was full but a couple of days later it was looking just as large and even brighter than a regular one.

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That’s it ‘the weekend has landed’, Saturday now, ‘the longest day’ and that’s me catching up on the old blogging front. Even though we finish 15 minutes earlier during the week now we’re on the winter timetable I’m still pretty wrecked when I get home and often in bed before 21:00. That’s me body clock still on BST until Christmas at least, I really do hate all this messing about with clocks!

So, it’s been a busy old week on the ferry but I’ve an hour or so now to the late sailing to catch up. The return from dock and into service with the Hallaig has brought with it quite few catching up jobs. Some remedial work on the hydraulics for a start,

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our ramps now taking a full 3 minutes to lift since they were ‘fixed’ by a company who shall remain nameless. Not Gary’s (the man in the picture) I hasten to add. All three Volvo D13 generators were also in need of a major service after round trip to the Clyde. In ‘Hybrid’ mode we only run 1 so they don’t clock up so many hours. Sailing in ‘DG’ mode means at least 2 and more often 3 if in a hurry, that extra knot or so of speed consumes a lot more fuel than the regular service speed of 8.5knots.

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Dunno who put this fuel filter on number 1 DG but I broke one filter wrench trying to remove it, crushed the filter with the second wrench I tried then had to resort to a pair of 36” stilsons!!! Could well have been me right enough, even putting them on ‘hand tight’, which I always do can sometimes be too much. Dunno if the rubber seal swells with age or what, but they can be a right PITA to remove at times.

An ‘earth fault’ on two of the wheelhouse floodlights turned out to be the junction box of one full of water.


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All six of them had some in so I sucked out the water with ‘Henry’ the hoover then dried them out with the hot air gun on low heat and high speed before resealing them with silicon and putting them back together.


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The heavy weather of late had taken its toll on a couple of the spring ropes so new ones had to made up, and of course the ends sealed with the heat gun Smile

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There was quite a bit of activity on the fish farm front too with ‘Emma C’ working at Sconser and the much larger Fame heading through the Raasay Narrows yesterday.

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Also removed and cleaned out the ‘sight glasses’ from the generator header tanks, the glass have become too discoloured to actually see the coolant easily.

Once that was all done I put my washing back on the dryer Smile


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I dunno what shape people are in Bangladesh where these were made but they must be very long and thin. To get these anywhere near the 31” inside leg they’re supposed to be I’d to wash them twice at 90 degrees and still they’re around 4” too long. They are also so tight that I can’t actually wear any trousers underneath them!! Not that that’s a problem cos they’re such thick cotton that they’re plenty warm enough. The next size up put the crotch around my knees and so I can’t actually bend down without hitching them up around my waist!!

An interesting article about our great wee village shop in the ‘Broadford Beano’ this week

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Our excellent shop has been nominated as one of the best community owned shops in Scotland, and quite rightly so, we’d be lost without it.

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