Life at the end of the road

July 6, 2018

On the move :-)

Apologies in advance for any errors in grammar or  spelling cos I’m ‘on the move’ being chauffeured to ‘snecky (Inverness) for an eye appointment. So between the bumps in the road an me cloudy left eye this may go a little pear shaped.

I did set myself the goal of actually posting something yesterday but the day ended up being much longer than expected and it was a case of in, shower, bed Smile 

The plan for the day was to service my old wind turbine next door for the neighbours in me old house. It’s been on the ‘to do’ list since May but I just keep getting distracted, nothing fresh there then. The Proven/Kingspan and now SD Energy   turbine has been working away for some 13 years now with little more than routine maintenance. Sure it’s broken a few springs and worn out a couple of sets of yaw rollers but I’ve always managed to scrounge, repair or botch it without actually spending a great deal of money on it.

From a recent email :- SD Green Energy of Tokyo, Japan are pleased to announce the acquisition of the wind turbine product range from Kingspan. SD Green Energy have established a new division called SD Wind Energy Ltd and will expand its team immediately with the addition of the staff and manufacturing capabilities of the site in Stewarton, Scotland.  This will also be supported by an existing international sales team based in Asia.


With all this dry weather I’d have been stupid to put it off any longer for the access to it is now good and hard. Normally it’s bit boggy which means I have to use the quad and a dubious anchor point for lowering it. When conditions are ideal like this then I can use the Land Rover and winch or Calum the digger. As the ‘Old Girl’ is still away having a new galvanized chassis, bulkhead and B posts it was down to Calum the Kubota.

Servicing a Proven wind turbine

First task was to fuel up, grease up, load up then track up to the site.

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After carefully positioning the digger in line with the axis of the turbine I fitted the ‘gin pole’ to the mast in preparation for lowering.

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The Tirfor winch was then attached to the digger and the wire slack just taken up prior to removing the base bolts, one of which had snapped!!! That must have been a helluva wind to snap an M20 high tensile bolt!

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Once the base bolts are removed on a 2.5/3.2kW Proven on 6m mast it’s possible to just tip it a few degrees manually before lowering with the Tirfor. On larger versions you need to jack them up a few inches with a hydraulic jack first. Normally you would do this with the brake on but replacing the brake rope was one of the jobs that needed doing. This was in part one of the reasons for it taking me so long to getting around to doing the job, it needed a very calm day.

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The mast is lowered onto a rest, an oil drum in this case but care is needed to ensure it doesn’t slide on the tapered mast. I usually put a tyre or some soft wood between them and just keep the winch wire fairly tight. A proper steel trestle like I use for my own would be far safer but it’s not very portable Sad smile


The ‘wee dug’ supervised as I removed the springs Smile


It’s the furling springs and their mounting hardware that generally require the most attention on these normally very durable turbines. Over the years these have undergone many modifications and improvements. Initially only two springs were fitted, then three, then the mounting yolks were changed from pressed steel tp cast steel and the mounting bolts upgraded from M8 to M10.

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Whilst very simple in principle there are actually a lot of components so it’s important to take note of where they go. This is a version with the pressed steel yolks and at this age I’d be tempted just to upgrade to a complete new spring set with the later yolks and bigger bolts. However, for now I just overhauled it as I had a few spare yolks.

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Check for wear in the bolts, washers and bushes, new nylon washers can be got from RS online or eBay from memory the washers are 1” x 1/2” x 1/82 or 25mm x 13mm x 3mm but do check, I’m driving past Cluanie Dam now with no Internet Sad smile  More info here The bolts are M10 x 110 and the bushes are made from 12mm air line with a 1mm wall thickness which can be had off eBay or any commercial vehicle factors (it’s the same as lorry air brake pipe and you just cut it with a Stanley knife.

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It was a great opportunity to try out the impact wrench that the new smiley postie delivered.


That ‘little job’ took me all afternoon, more because I kept getting distracted than anything else, and with wifey working a late shift at the Raasay Distillery I was glad of my son making dinner.

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Welsh Rarebit pork chop I was most impressed Smile Even had a fine view out of the window as the cruise ship MV Prinsendam glided by

After dinner I went round to the turbine and did an hours work replacing the springs, greasing the bearings and inspecting the slip rings.

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Needing some 7.5mm x 370mm tie wraps and some silicone sealer I left the turbine head itself and went to remove the broken bolt from the base.


The M20 x 60 bolt came out quite easily really, just drilled a 4mm hole through it and used an ‘Eaziout’.

These hardened steel bits are excellent at removing broken studs, they are kinda like a left hand threaded tapered tap. You drill a hole in the middle of the broken stud/bolt then insert the tool screwing it anticlockwise, as the tool bites it extracts the broken stud. However much care is needed when using them cos if they break they’re virtually impossible to drill out Sad smile A couple of things to watch, do not use one that is too big or it will expand the stud making it more difficult to remove. Do not use one too small or you may break it and these are no use for removing bolts that have snapped due to being seized insitu. Chances are if the stud was so tight that it sheared the head off a bolt, then it WILL break your Eaziout.

130 years ago

Came across this on Facecloth yesterday.


It’s a picture taken up at Arnish in 1885 by an unknown photographer so well out of copyright but copies can be had from Raasay Heritage trust .

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So, here it is today, can’t get the exact spot due to the trees,


Looking at the same spot from up on the hill.


July 3, 2018

Barbecued mink for breakfast :-)

Been far too nice for blogging I’m afraid, indeed I’m struggling to remember a of spell of weather so good for so long. Mind you, that’s probably more to do with my failing memory than well kept records from my weather station, according to that piece of Chinese junk it was over 30 degrees when it was about 10 degrees, still methinks the wind and sun bit works just fine.

Last time I managed to ‘put pen to paper’ so to speak I’d been living off White Russians and festival food for four days at Eden and boy was it great fun Smile Took me the best part of a week to recover right enough and the nail varnish still hasn’t worn off or grown out. Eden is most definitely going on the annual festival calendar from now on Smile We didn’t get home until the Tuesday night prior to me starting work

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but what a welcome we got. There’s nothing quite like an Arnish sunset and there’s been a few ‘to die for’ recently.

A spell of PCB’s

The weather wasn’t actually that good aboard Hallaig, I know I’ve been banging on about how boodly marvellous it’s been but I never really count the ‘working weather’. Well, I leave home at 6:15 and do not get back home until 20:00, so even if I did feel like doing anything I couldn’t anyway. Still it worked out quite well really after the festival, it was too wet for painting so I got on with long and repetitive task of interrogating the ships BMS system (battery management system) and it’s 216 individual modules.

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Sad I know but I really like doing this as it’s very similar to the SMA software that I use for monitoring my own system at home, so it’s good practice for me. I am of that age now where, if I don’t keep doing something I forget how too.

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Good module charging profile on left ‘noisy’ one on right.

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The ‘spikes’ generally indicate a poor connection to the BMS cards that balance the voltages on the individual cells in this case four in series, six parallel, giving 24 3.6Vcells in all. Basically a 14.4V LiFePO4 battery of 3.5kWh. These Lithium Ion batteries are not the most ‘energy dense’ but they are the safest and not prone to ‘thermal runaway’ . Unlike the Lithium Ion batteries fitted to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner . Though you have to ask why Boeing fitted a battery with known issues into a space on an aircraft with no fire suppression!! The short answer of course is money, Lithium Cobalt Oxide batteries are more ‘energy dense’ than Lithium Iron Phosphate so lighter, not much right enough but enough to convince the accountants Smile

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Then of course there was all the regular stuff like testing the anchors

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and replacing £2K worth of PCB’s in the navigation light panel, why fit a simple switch or two when you can overcomplicate something and charge thousands of pounds for the spares Sad smile The wipers are the same all chips, modules and PCB’s when simple switches would do the job much more reliably. And don’t even get me started on the engine room watertight door, I spent much of the first week trying to repair that after some ‘storm damage’ caused by the ‘damp squib’ that was Storm Hector. The much publicised event was little more than your average Hebridean summer gale but t was accompanied by power wash like rain which managed to find it’s way into some sensitive electrics.


Several days with a fan heater and heat gun failed to sort it so another £2K on a PCB Sad smile

More sunsets


It seems that every evening is blessing us with amazing vistas as the sun goes down, can’t say I’ve seen one like this before, looks like lava rolling down a volcano.


The pigs are doing well and fattening nicely, so much so that they keep missing the odd feed, here they are waiting for me to come home along with a hind that’s been hanging around the croft.

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The Portree fishing boat Serene at Raasay pier and at the other end of the scale a large cruise ship heading for Portree.


A hind with last year’s calf still at her heals, these two on the road just near Tarbert whilst driving to work one fine morning.

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A few hinds sizing up the fences and looking for an opportunity to get in the garden.

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A sunset without the sun Smile and probably the FV Dunan Star towing for some late evening prawns.

Evening paddles

The long, light, calm evenings have had my son out exploring the environs of Loch Arnish

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in his kayak, at least I think that’s what it’s called. A good friend gave it to us recently cos he wasn’t using it, well it’s certainly seeing plenty of action now.

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One of the many sea caves around the north end of Raasay

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and an infestation of jellyfish, the one on the left being a ‘Lions Mane’ or ‘scalder’ (cos that’s what it does, scald you) which is the bane of any clam diver. The long and often invisible tentacles often ending up around your tender lips, they being the only part of the body not covered in neoprene or gloves. They’re also bad for getting caught up in nets and creel ropes making a fisherman’s life misery too. Even when dried out in the sun on a fishing net or rope the powdered remains can give you a nasty sting in the eyes or start a sneezing fit if you breath them in through your nose.

Seaflower of Skye


The latest addition to the Portree fleet, the ‘Wildcat 40’ catamaran Seaflower of Skye. Offering what are more like mini cruises than day trips Ewan and Janice do not serve soup and sandwiches Smile

Passengers and crew in the sun fresh langoustines

Locally caught seafood being the ‘order of the day’ whilst you watch the sea eagles or seals.

Off to Greenock

The first three days of my ‘fortnight off’ were taken up by a trip to ‘Stream Marine Training’ at James Watt dock in Greenock. I was due to refresh my lifeboat certificate, not that we actually have any lifeboats aboard Hallaig (or any of the other small vessels for that matter). Can’t say I was looking forward to it but the weather was great, the roads quiet and the hotel fine, well apart from the breakfast.

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The Premier Inn managing to serve up the most anaemic egg I’ve ever seen, the most tasteless tomato and the stodgiest sausage I’ve ever eaten. Still, the rest of it was good, the staff marvellous, the room spotless and views spectacular.

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Hellensburgh at the opposite shore of the Clyde, Garvel Clyde dry dock entrance in the foreground, the the James Watt dock and Titan crane in front of the old warehouses.

After a good night’s sleep it was off to SMT just down the road and into their Chinese lifeboat.

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I could do with that concrete batching plant up here Smile

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Well, what can I say, it was a perfect day for it in the ‘Great Harbour’

Great Harbour

The Glen Sannox

Then, with my certificate ‘in the post’ it was off northwards toward home,

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passing by Ferguson Marine Engineering and a rather late Glen Sannox on the way. FMEL may have made a fine job of upgrading their offices,


and building a new shed but this ship should have been delivered by now Sad smile

Home at last


It really was ‘touch and go’ with visibility down to 25m at times but Alastair Iain Gillies expertly got Hallaig to Skye and back throughout Friday.


As you can see, the fog was very localized!

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Just had to call in at Raasay Distillery to see ‘darling wife’, she’s also got a nice view from her office window Smile

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The first couple of days home saw us also shrouded in mist, at least during the morning, by Sunday it was fine though and my son and I managed a trip out in the boat for a spot of diving.

Scallop pasta with capers and a white wine sauce

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The catch was quickly turned into a crab salad starter on toast and a rather ambitious pasta. I’d  seen a recipe on Facecloth recently and it gave me an idea. First off I never did any of that messing around with water, water, ice and salt. Fresh scallops contain plenty of their own salty juices so why wash them off and cover them in tap water? I also used the roes, putting them in first and cooking them longer. I used a chicken stock cube cos I’d no broth and lime instead of the traditional lemon but, if I say so myself it was boodly amazing Smile

The next project

So, with the ‘Old Girl’ still at the doctors and only 4 tons of aggregate left I turned my attention to some road building on the croft. That was after I barbecued the mink that my son shot on Sunday night. I’d gone to bed and Daring wife’ had gone to shut the hens in sometime after 22:00 but they were all still outside, huddled together and looking nervous. She went inside the henhouse to be confronted by an angry hissing mink. The wee devil must have been too stuffed to run cos he’s eaten six eggs at least, so he must have been in there for a while. Anyway, she locked him in the shed and went to get my son who managed to shoot it.


First thing yesterday I burnt him in the incinerator along with all the paperwork that normal people shred, he smelt quite tasty, well once the fur had burnt away Smile

Then, when my son returned from his work at the distillery (nothing like keeping it in the family Smile ) we got on with some road building.

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A new track through the hen field so we can access the hill behind and get a quad and trailer up to the pig ark.

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