Life at the end of the road

December 23, 2016

Three forward four aft!

Gosh, it’s exactly 36 hours since the winter solstice, so officially the days are getting longer. Not that we’ll actually see any difference for a while but it’s another of the year’s milestones by with. Almost 23:00 now on Thursday night and that’s the ferry cancelled for Friday so I’ll not be rushing off to work tomorrow. The Hallaig is firmly attached to Scotland with ‘Three forward, four aft, two springs and two breasts’ so she’ll not be moving anywhere until Saturday at the earliest. This may make my life a little easier but it’s not so great for those wanting to travel, or the poor ‘post lady’ who’s gonna have double mail on Saturday.

221216 003 221216 004

This is the mountain of mail we had locked in the store on Wednesday Sad smile Fine by me but it does make the post lady crabbit Smile

Severely ‘pear-shaped’ from day one

With the shortest day behind me I was gripped with great enthusiasm so thought I’d tackle this job that I’d not been particularly looking forward to. Changing a stainless steel one way flap valve on one of the ships sprinkler systems. The Hallaig has three of them and more fire fighting and prevention systems than you can ‘shake a stick at’. This is a ‘wee job’ that ‘reared its head’ in September, the valve was passing a very small amount of water, which after time was building up pressure and setting off an alarm. Now the worst thing you can have on any alarm system is spurious alarms, cos pretty soon you get used to them and human nature being what it is. Well you get the picture, so at the time I tried to remove it, couldn’t and then managed to repair it in situ with a large hammer. Don’t ask but it did work, however, with the dry dock coming up in November my ‘back to back’ ordered another from the usually very efficient manufacturer of the system. Tyco Integrated Fire and Security are normally first class in both the service and replacement parts department but the failed sadly on this occasion.

To cut a very long story short, first the wrong one arrived and was promptly returned after much explanation of the problem. The right one was listed on the delivery note but the wrong one was sent, much apology followed with the promise of correct valve to be sent as soon as wrong one received. Many phone calls, emails, threats and months later the valve arrived on Tuesday so I set about fitting it on Wednesday.

 221216 005221216 006

Not the easiest thing to access but with some minor surgery I managed to remove it only to discover the new one was a bit longer.

221216 009

Not a major issue methinks that a few alterations to the pipe work and I’d get it so I removed the fittings off the old one to transfer them to the new one.

221216 008

Bit of a problem though, the 1 3/4” BSP threads on the new one were not tapped deep enough causing the fitting to ‘gall’ . Galling is when the threads weld themselves together, usually due to poor machining but not always. The roughness caused by poor thread cutting can exasperate the issue but stainless is prone to it anyway. This being even more common in Indian and Chinese bolts, we had some Indian stainless M12 x 50 bolts and more than half of them locked up solid and had to be cut off!!!

Galling can often occur in screws and bolts, causing the threads to seize and tear free from either the fastener or the hole. In extreme cases, the bolt may lock up to the point where all turning force is used by the friction, which can lead to breakage of the fastener or the tool turning it. Threaded inserts of hardened steel are often used in metals like aluminium or stainless steel that can gall easily.

221216 012 221216 013


This fitting was well and truly galled into the new valve and took some serious effort to remove. When I’d finally removed it

221216 011

both the valve and fitting were in poor shape so I decided to have a go at cleaning up the threads on the new fitting and then refit the old valve. It had after all been working OK since September and now it was out I could lap the flapper so it would seal even better.

221216 014 221216 015

Sadly my efforts with a hacksaw blade and small triangular file proved fruitless so as a last resort I cut the top two threads off with a 1mm cutting disc and all was peachy. Had I one of these on the ferry,

091216 008 Correct fit for thread file

a ‘thread file’ I could have sorted it but mine were at home Sad smile I bought two of them over twenty years ago in a sale at Jansvans in Portree, they were £9.50 each and at the time it was money I could ill afford but they’ve ‘saved my ass’ many a time. Why only the other week I was using them on the threaded bar for the ‘ole Smile

Ten minutes lapping with some coarse and then fine grinding paste had the valve nicely lapped in.

     221216 018221216 019

Then it was just a matter of putting it all back together, then topping up the water and nitrogen.

221216 020

Our own little carol service Smile

The weather may have been pretty grim on Thursday, at least in the frequent hail showers but that didn’t stop Raasay Primary School from spreading good cheer throughout the island. They had already been to the shop and sung in there for the staff and postie. Now when I went carol singing in the dim and distant past it was for money. The Raasay Primary School children dished out little presents after their recital Smile

After the shop they came down to the ferry and gave us all treat too, first up in the wheelhouse for the rest of the crew and then in the lounge for some customers and myself.


221216 024 171216 010

Poor Santa was at the other end of the lounge and missed out Sad smile 

The rest of Thursday was taken up with trying to replace some hydraulic hoses and bunkering.

221216 002 221216 025

I say ‘trying cos I’d planned to change four at lunchtime and only managed 1!!! The first one went easy enough but the one on the left was seriously tight and given my ‘track record’ with the sprinkler system I left it alone. Methinks that this is gonna be a Sunday job next year Smile

221216 021

3000lts of marine gasoil will normally do us the whole week and we’ve capacity for going on 10,800lts but best to keep her ‘topped up’. If for any reason we loose our ‘hybrid mode’ and the weather is bad, that 3000lts can easily be 5000.


Having cancelled the ferry yesterday for the whole of Friday we secured Hallaig with extra ropes had today off. The way the forecast was boarding the vessel would have been dangerous and pointless. All the planned maintenance and paperwork was up to date and the chances are we’d be working late on Christmas eve as Saturday would still be seeing Barbara’s tail end.

With the family all here yesterday and me not working I treated myself to a few glasses of vin rouge and had a lie in until 6:00am Smile It was pretty boodly wild then, probably what woke me, so I went out to check for damage. A rattling from the barn had me worried but that turned out to be just the doors and all was well.

There wasn’t any damage but there was certainly a lot of water so when it was light I went back out to clear the drains and feed the pigs.

231216 001 231216 002

That done and with some breakfast inside me I accompanied the postie to work, not that she’d be doing anything but it would give me a chance to have a look at Hallaig.

231216 003 231216 004 231216 005

It was pretty scabby but she was sitting nicely on those four huge stern ropes, the power was on and no alarms sounding Smile Just as well really cos there was little chance of getting safely aboard

After the postie had finished work we headed up to the Orchard for some ivy to go with the rest of the locally sourced and made decorations.

231216 006

It’s never going to be a classic, dunno how old this remnant of the Soviet Union is but Lada’s quite often looked this bad after three or four years Smile 

231216 011 231216 016

An atmospheric tree and a fine set of horns on the way home Smile

October 10, 2016

The ‘fly in the ointment’ :-(

Heaven knows when I last posted, probably a week ago I guess, I’ve kinda lost track but I’m thinking it would be when I last visited me Pop in Aultbea. I’ll be doing the same tomorrow so with any luck I’ll get this posted, for we’re still ‘Internetless’ and I’m sorely dischuffed now. Must be well over two weeks now and I don’t have much in the way of options other than my mates ‘pish poor’ satellite link or a 22 mile round trip to the village. I’ve had a go with the satellite link a couple of times, but to be honest it’s quicker driving to the village and using a 3g dongle than waiting for some of the pages to load on so called ‘satellite broadband’ Sad smile 

It’s really put a whole damper on the month’s holiday and been the ‘fly in the ointment’ of a near perfect spell off work. It’s just friggin impossible to do anything without it these days. Filling in forms is impossible unless you’re online, taxing the car, checking the weather, doing any kind of research and of course blogging all become ‘mission impossible’.

An engineer did come on Friday and do his best but the net result of that was zero as far as getting connected was concerned and he’ll not be back until Wednesday Sad smile I cannae submit any of my forms to get my ‘completion certificate’ and can’t download my ‘sustainability certificate’, whatever that is. In fact I can’t even find out what it is cos I’ve no Google Sad smile 

The Indian summer

Connectivity issues aside it’s been boodly marvellous up here, pure spectacular on the weather front and I’m getting much done on the ‘to do’ list, albeit at my new pace. I’m really enjoying my less manic approach to life, come to think of it so are the rest of the family and dug Smile Seem to be getting everything done and doing far less worrying too, perhaps it’s the Tramadol! I’ve been taking 1 x 50mg capsule every morning now for 2 months and it’s definitely helped the back.

I gave up on it a couple of years ago as it was making me constipated, moody, pass wind from both ends, constantly thirsty and giving me wild dreams. I also couldn’t sleep if I took any after midday. Since then I tried all the other meds, gave up on them and have been drug free for almost two years. Relying instead on my six monthly injections to the sacro illeach joint, and of course being kinder to my back. Sadly the injections become less and less effective so I find myself once more trying to ‘manage’ the pain.

Whatever, apart from the odd twinge it’s not bothered me at all, even after quite a few spells of digging drains and burying pipe.

091016 019 091016 001 091016 020

Not to mention some rather unseasonal painting and the refurbishment of a proper fire hose real and enclosure. I know from experience that it takes rather a long while for the Fire Brigade to get to Arnish.

I guess it’s a couple of years now since the chalet burned down and I’ve finally got around to clearing up the mess.

091016 031 091016 033

Or should I say ‘we have’, for my son did most of the heavy lifting, I was just in charge of the fire.

I really thought it was two people

I guess it’s just having a serious view now and being able to spend so much time looking out to sea but I’ve never in all my years here seen so many porpoises in Loch Arnish. Every day I’m seeing them now and have been the whole time I’ve been off work. What, with that, the sea eagles and deer, it’s been a regular wildlife safari up here.

Driving home on Friday after collecting my son from school I spotted two people atop a hill at Brochel. At least I thought it was two people, they were too big for sheep and smaller than deer.

091016 023 091016 024

I asked the chauffer to stop the car and enquired of him what he thought. Two people we agreed before one of them flew off!!! They were of course sea eagles with a wingspan much wider than I am tall. I’ve seen dozens of these birds, some at extremely close quarters, indeed I’ve seen them lift salmon within a few yards of me. Even so, their sheer size never ceases to amaze me. Wifey and I saw one perched on the picnic table by the youth hostel a week or two back and we were level with it on the road rushing for the ferry. Twenty yards away at the most and it never even flinched as we passed by.

Wandering the hills

With the weather being so good and the stags being very bold and vocal I’ve been doing much wandering locally watching them. Though sadly without a camera decent enough to take a picture at the distances I’ve been ‘stalking’ them at.

 091016 003

Rainey’s wall, which they seem to cross with ease, Molly and I crept up the south side and watched a bruiser of a stag on the other side.

091016 004

Eastern end of the wall with Dun Caan in the distance.

091016 005 091016 006

One of the many ‘wallows’ used by the rutting stags.


091016 007 091016 008

Twenty seven years I’ve been wandering these hills at the north end and still I’m finding new ruins, this one near an old peat cutting was probably a hen house. Strange place for hens I know but I think they were moved to these outlandish places at certain time of the year to keep them away from the crops.

More turnips

Methinks these wind turnips were heading for Invermorriston, luckily I wasn’t behind them Smile

091016 009 091016 010


091016 011 091016 013


I did mention the Raasay Primary school coffee day last time I posted a week ago.

091016 038 091016 039

What I never mentioned was the total raised on the day, yet another day when over three grand was raised for the excellent school by an exemplary community. You have to marvel at this place really, eight pupils and a population of less than two hundred and they raise extra ordinary sums of money consistently. In the twenty or more years they’ve held this event they’ve never taken less than a thousand pounds on the day. Truly an amazing school and community, with tremendous support from local business’ too.

A bit late

A year after I fitted the Navitron solar hot water array of 60 ‘evacuated tubes’ I finally got around to insulating the interconnecting pipes.

 091016 035 091016 036 091016 037

These pipes can reach temperatures well in excess of 120 degrees C so special ‘Armaflex’ or similar insulation is needed. I only had 15mm diameter 13mm thickness stuff but I’d plenty of it so I split it and wrapped several layers around the exposed copper. I then used aluminium foil tape to keep it all tightly wound. Have to say, I was pretty chuffed with the result Smile

I have to say that I wasn’t particularly enamoured with this technology being more of a solar PV man. However, having got the 60 tube array cheap and having the thermal store directly below I thought I’d ‘give it a go’ and I have to say that I’m well impressed.  There are days, and today is one, when this array out performs the solar PV by 100%!!!


091016 027

Anyway, that’s it for now, I’m off!

Older Posts »

Blog at