Life at the end of the road

March 22, 2018

The Sound of Mull

Having spent much of yesterday catching up after my spell away at Lochaline on the mainland side of the Sound of Mull it was a pleasure to get back into some worthwhile projects again. Not that yesterday wasn’t productive in it’s own way but quite a lot of it was spent sorting out the caravan, giving it a clean inside and out then catching up on house maintenance. The most important of which was the monthly battery checks, here and around at my mate’s house along the track. Ninety six battery cells in all, using around 24lt of deionized water between the three battery banks. The main one supplying our house being the thirstiest, the 16 x Rolls S400 batteries taking around a litre each since their last filling in January, these Rolls sure do like to drink. In true ‘anorak’ or is it OCD style I log each cell specific gravity and individual battery voltages, SOC, SOH (state of charge, state of health) temperatures and the number of cycles of the main bank. This currently stands at 171, though quite how it works that out I’m not sure. On something like an EV (electric vehicle) or the Hallaig it’s quite easy, the batteries are discharged during the day and charged overnight. On a house with multiple charging sources often supplying loads directly I fail to see how it’s even possible to arrive at a figure but the SMA Sunny Island inverter seems to do it, or at least pretend it does Smile

Then of course there were the mice, both here and at the schoolhouse,


six yesterday, three here and three at my mates house. Bizarrely two mice had managed to get caught in two traps each!!!! 

Fresh water on site

Today’s project was to get a supply of fresh water down to the old fish farm slip, primarily for doing more concrete mixing but it will also be very handy for flushing outboard motors and cleaning diving gear. I’ve already poured several cubic meters using water collected in tubs and a ‘wheelie bin’ but this just isn’t half as handy as having a hose pipe on site for cleaning the mixer etc. as you’re ‘going along’ so to speak.

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Luckily, I’ve no shortage of 2” Polypipe ducting that would be ideal for taking a supply from the wee burn behind the house. Used for filling with explosives during the construction of the new harbour I managed to acquire well over a mile of it in 6m lengths that slot into each other. Whilst the manufacturer insist that it’s absolutely NOT suitable for use under pressure I’ve tested it to well over 10bar with glued joints 

Armed with this knowledge I commenced to join them together and drag them down the hill to the slip.


I seem to recall that we’re about 70m above sea level and just 250m or there about from the shore so it didn’t take too long to slot the pipes together and drag them down the hill.


It’s all downhill after all Smile

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Anyway’s, by lunchtime the pipe was under the road and gushing out water, all that was required was to set up the IBC and attach a hose.


Needs a little ‘tweaking’ right enough but the IBC is now full and feeds a 1/2” hose (care of me dear old Mam) Smile right down to the shore.

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Whilst the IBC was filling I set about preparing the shuttering for my next batch of concreting, the generator and electric chainsaw being used to trim a suitable piece of timber to attach to the slipway.

Back to Lochaline Smile

So, in an effort to use some of the ‘all too few’ images I took from Hallaig in The Sound of Mull, here goes.


MV Fri Ocean now somewhere off ‘Lands End’ heading south in the Sound of Mull last week.


The MV Hebridean Isles on her way back from Colonsay, Coll, Tiree, Barra or some other exotic location Smile OK, I appreciate that’s a little vague but I’m well into a bottle of spiced rum at the moment Smile


The Norwegian ‘well boat’ Ronja Skye.

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Some serious towing of a concrete pontoon by two vessels heading to Kyleakin, at least that’s what said at the time. Made me speculate that it was something to do with the new Marine Harvest fishmeal plant there.

Happy Days

I gotta say that this ‘wee jaunt’ to Lochaline was the ‘perfect tonic’ to recent events. The weather was great, if not a little fresh in the wind department and the ‘wee dug’ and I did lots of gentle little walks.

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The nearby ‘sand mine’ providing much in the way of interest.

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It’s disused narrow gauge railway at one time extending all the way to the ‘West Pier’.

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The ‘West Pier’ being somewhat unique in that it is actually ‘cantilevered’ on a cliff face out into the Sound of Mull. The pictures showing the MV Loch Alainn who was tied up there for just one night last week. Loch Alainn was actually especially built for this route some twenty odd years ago but never really served here. She now serves the Barra/Eriskay route, which is where she was heading when these pictures were taken.


The MV Liva Greta taking on silica sand in Lochaline, just a few hundred yards west of our very own MV Hallaig.


And ‘tied up’ snugly ‘round the corner’ MV’s Peregrine and Brendan of


two of the best dive charter vessels on the West Coast of Scotland.


March 21, 2018

The perfect project :-)

Filed under: daily doings — Tags: , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 9:14 pm

I suppose I’d better make the effort or I’ll never do it, almost six weeks now since a post actually made it onto the Internet but I’ve lost count of the times I’ve tried. Me dear old Mum died last month so I’ve been somewhat distracted, much as it was expected, it’s still, well it’s still so final. She’d been pretty poorly for months right enough, not that you’d know it if you spoke to her on the phone, which I did daily. She was always fine according to her good self, not that she was actually fooling anyone, least of all me. Still, I guess it helped her to think we were not all quite so worried about her. Anyway, she’s in a good place now next to the man she loved since she was 15 and we’ve just ‘got to get on with it’ I guess.

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I still keep thinking I should phone and if she’d left a personal message on her answer phone I would Smile Still ‘life goes on’ and whilst I’ve never been big on ‘him upstairs’ or any religion come to that I’ve always had a soft spot for ‘The Prophet’ Methinks that Kahlil Gibran said more of relevance  in the 26 ‘poems’ of his ‘strange little book’ than all the tomes of the three Abrahamic religions that continue their 2000 year old quarrel to this day. His piece on ‘Death’ being of great comfort of late.

On Death
Kahlil Gibran

You would know the secret of death.
But how shall you find it unless you seek it in the heart of life?
The owl whose night-bound eyes are blind unto the day cannot unveil the mystery of light.
If you would indeed behold the spirit of death, open your heart wide unto the body of life.
For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.
In the depth of your hopes and desires lies your silent knowledge of the beyond;
And like seeds dreaming beneath the snow your heart dreams of spring.
Trust the dreams, for in them is hidden the gate to eternity.
Your fear of death is but the trembling of the shepherd when he stands before the king whose hand is to be laid upon him in honour.
Is the shepherd not joyful beneath his trembling, that he shall wear the mark of the king?
Yet is he not more mindful of his trembling?
For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun?
And what is it to cease breathing, but to free the breath from its restless tides, that it may rise and expand and seek God unencumbered?
Only when you drink from the river of silence shall you indeed sing.
And when you have reached the mountain top, then you shall begin to climb.
And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance.

The old fish farm slip

With lots to think about this last month I’ve absorbed myself in projects that require little in the way of thought and provide time for serious reflection. Things like deer fencing, creosoting and concreting. The old fish farm slipway in Loch Arnish being my most serious project of late. This concrete structure commissioned by ‘Highland Fish Farmers’ almost twenty years ago was never really ‘up to the job’ and a couple of north westerly gales soon wrecked it. They were told by the local contractor that built it that an extra couple of thousand pounds would have something much more durable but sadly the ‘bean counters’ didn’t see fit to listen. Consequently, what could have been a great asset to Raasay and the ‘North End’ in particular was soon undermined by storms and broken.

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So, with ‘The Boy’ home from Uni for a week we made a start at some repairs. Starting off by hacking up some steel girders and bolting them to the undermined section at the top. This to act as support for the reinforced slab so we could drive the digger and or dumper down and place large boulders there and shutter it up prior to pouring concrete under it.

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Eight steel uprights fastened to the slab with M20 stainless steel studding bonded with Hilti HIT RE500 resin sorted the seaward side.

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A day or two later, once the resin had set and the stud was torqued up the base was set in concrete.

A few days later when that was cured some large rocks were placed on the inside of the old slab and more concrete mixed and poured with reinforcing bars added for strength.

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Just over a week ago the neap tides were perfect for this and the lower reach of the slip are now well bonded with rock, steel and concrete. The word ‘lower’ being my definition as I’m only aiming to be able to extract or launch the ‘Searider’ at around 4.1m of tide. This should be achievable even at neaps, not ideal for most people but it’s only a few hundred meters from my house so hopefully I’ll be able to pick my time. I kept a much larger boat here for years without any issues and that was far too large to take out of the water easily. This part of Loch Arnish is pretty sheltered to all but the north west and I should never be more than six hours away from being able to retrieve the boat on my trailer.

Back to Lochaline

Mixing and pouring some three cubic meters of concrete in the wee Belle mixer proved excellent therapy and gave me plenty of time for reflection on 60 odd years of being my mother’s son Smile My employer was extremely understanding and gave me the extra week off work I requested and for that I’m eternally grateful. Mixing concrete is one thing but looking after a hybrid ferry and the general public does require a little more concentration and a whole lot less distraction. However, I did hitch up my caravan and head down to Lochaline last week to join the Hallaig there.


Lochaline’s regular boat (our sister ship Lochinvar) was due in dry dock and we’d been scheduled for relief. Not great news for Raasay as we’d end up with the much smaller MV Loch Linnhe but I actually love going to Lochaline on the Sound of Mull. Selfish I know but I’ve many happy memories of the area from back in my ‘yoof’ Smile

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Not only that but it would be like a much needed holiday for me and the ‘wee dug’. I was there almost a year ago on the MV Lochinvar and thoroughly enjoyed it. Now that we have inherited my Mum’s Labrador Leah, Molly’s nose is a little ‘out of joint’ so the break would do her good too. Indeed it did for there were many nice walks along the shore and the regular Lochaline crew all seemed to ‘take a shine’ to the ‘wee dug’.

I gotta say, she was great company and better than central heating, not that I’m a ‘dog person’ you understand Smile Unlike the last time I was at Lochaline the silica sand mine was in full operation.

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LQS is just a few hundred yards away from the pier

and a major employer in the area, the high quality sand being in much demand for solar panels these days.

Home at last

Anyway, that’s me back home now and with a bit of luck I’ll be ‘back on form’ in the posting department Smile

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