Life at the end of the road

November 17, 2017

More Leaks :-(

Filed under: daily doings, New hybrid ferry, Trucks and plant — Tags: — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 8:19 pm

Well, that’s it, the month’s holiday is over and it’s ‘back to the grind’ with me ‘tied to the mast’ an all that. Mind you, things could be much, much worse, I could have a ‘proper job’ where you work 5 or 6 days a week for four weeks holiday a year. Sure, I still pinch myself sometimes to make sure I’m not dreaming. I really don’t think I could hold down a regular ‘nine while five’ and I’m waaaay too old to go back doing serious clam diving. Having said that, in the fifteen or so years I’ve worked for CalMac, I have missed my previous job at least half a dozen times. Usually in the summer on a calm sunny day when I’m unblocking the ladies toilet, why is it always the ladies!!!

Sure, it’s actually good to get back in some respects, for one I don’t have to plan what to do for the day or put three pairs of socks on to keep my feet warm. It’s always good to work with the other ‘deckies’ too, at least for a short while Smile Only kidding, the way our holidays are set out we always come back to work with the two opposite shift seamen until they take their holidays. A ‘change is as good as a rest’ as they say and Ali’s home baked bread is always most welcome, As is Emby’s soup or chowder.

The more you have, the more you have to fix Sad smile

Before returning to work however, and after my last effort in posting it was the usual manic ‘pre work clear up’, visit to my mum’s, trip to Sconser quarry and washing down all the muck off the digger, dumper and quad. I’d also ‘lost’ the clutch on the Land Rover on Monday, just after unhitching my trailer in a layby near the quarry. The clutch pedal started to get harder and harder, the clutch dragged more and more before eventually failing altogether some 40 miles from Sconser at me Mam’s house. The pedal was solid, no fluid was missing and the clutch just would not disengage, not an uncommon problem on a Land Rover and usually a sign that the clutch release fork that has worn through. This puzzled me somewhat as when I fitted the engine some years ago I welded a reinforcing plate across the fork to prevent this happening.

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Something like the one on the right.

After taking my mum for a spot Christmas shopping at Home in the Highlands in Balmacara square, in her car of course Smile I ordered a new clutch from Dingbro and headed home without one Sad smile Long years of owning bangers have made me quite adept at driving vehicles with no clutch Smile I even managed to call at the quarry on the way back and collect two tons of 20mm concrete mix, quite an achievement, though it did take me an inordinate amount of time to hitch up the trailer. Still I made it to the ferry without incident and fully prepared to be removing the gearbox on Tuesday morning as Dingbro would have clutch waiting at Sconser before 10:30am.

Bizarrely, when I got back in the ‘Old Girl’ when the ferry arrived on Raasay, the clutch started working again!!!! I’ll be removing it anyway to replace the gearbox in my next ‘rest period’ right enough but at least I didn’t have to do it on Tuesday. The Land Rover has been needing the gearbox replaced for a couple of years now so it’s as good a time as any to do it. The LT77 gearbox in the early Defenders is a bit lame and very prone to wearing the teeth off reverse gear. This causes it to jump out of reverse, usually under load and it gradually just gets worse and worse until the thing just will not go backwards at all. I’ve had an uprated ex military recon gearbox sat in my shed for months now so it’s a good opportunity to ‘force my hand’ into finally fitting it. At least then I’ll be able to reverse my trailer or caravan without getting the passenger to hold it in gear Smile

The mystery ‘self repair’ though, did at least give me chance to fix the Kubota, who’s starter had stopped working.

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It had started acting up the day before whilst loading rock so I just left it running as the starter is a bit awkward to access to say the least. The cab is tiny and you have to remove the seat to get at the inspection plate behind it. The problem I eventually traced to a faulty interlock relay below the drivers seat. This relay breaks the starter circuit when the hydraulics are live to stop you inadvertently starting it when the safety lever is down. The manual has a fault finding guide which is very good for this kind of problem as it tells you the terminals to check and which relay to ‘swap out’ to test it. Anyway after a couple of hours I had it sorted and got on with some work at the chalet site.

Then as darkness began to fall it was a case of putting everything to bed and then rushing down to work to let my ‘back to back’ away at 17:00. A couple of runs on the ferry would ‘break me in nicely’ for the first full day on Wednesday.


Of course, after the annual overhaul there’s always much work to be done, usually ‘wee hiccups’ or jobs that need finishing after the dry docking and journey back home. As usual, and this year was no exception, and aside from the time it takes the Hallaig herself to get into a routine again there were a few snags for the crew to sort out. My first one being a bilge alarm that kept going off, usually when just departing Sconser. Turned out to be a leaky electro hydraulic valve.

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Of course it just happened to be the most awkward one on the ship to get at and required some serious contortions of my ailing body to remove it.

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Once it was finally out I got the body in the vice

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and after lapping  the poppet valve flat on the pillar drill stand I made up a mandrel and guide to lap it onto the seat in the body. Seemed to work a treat and kept me busy until the sludge tanker arrived.


One of the many advantages of our hybrid propulsion is the vastly reduced quantity of waste oil we produce. Normally a vessel of this size like the MV Loch Alainn would have three large diesel engines running all day, 2 x main engines and one diesel generator. Our hybrid propulsion means that we only run 1 engine per day so we produce one third the amount of waste engine oil. Given the cost of the stuff and it’s subsequent disposal this is a huge saving and we easily go the full year without emptying the 1192lt waste oil tank.

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Whilst the tanker does have it’s own vacuum pump there is no direct connection to the waste oil tank without going through our own waste oil pump, which seems a little bizarre but I’m sure there’s a good reason. What this means is that we have to run our pump so the tanker can suck the oil out through it!!

Not so regular these days.

So, that was the first day out of the way and off home I went without ever having seen daylight there and apart from Sundays I’ll no be seeing any on the way to and from work until March 2018. Even though we’re more than half way through November, darkness apart, we’ve not had much in the way of wintery weather yet.


Sure, we had the first snow on Glamaig on Monday but there’s been no frost or ice yet and we didn’t have a power cut until this morning. Well, the island did, I’ve not had one in almost thirty years Smile a huge advantage of making your own. A far cry from November 2013 when we first got Hallaig and barely a week would pass without one. However, as soon as my phone rang at 6:00am this morning I knew there had been one, why else would anyone phone me at that hour? Sure enough the Skipper informed that power was off, not only in the village but at Braes too.

Once upon a time such an incident would have me a little concerned, the Hallaig does not like power failures, they play havoc with her on-board systems. Years of experience and lots of drills later such incidents are nothing more than a minor irritation, so when I arrived aboard at 6:45 to 54 alarms and a ‘red screen of death’

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I was not unduly worried. Less than 15 minutes later ‘we were up and running’ with all systems restored and the batteries at almost 100%

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