Life at the end of the road

July 8, 2018

A day of ‘many hats’ :-)

Almost 21:00 and that’s me just finished the third plate of herring pasta which was basically that recipe but with spaghetti.


Can’t say that I’ve ever made it but I certainly enjoy eating it, this is one of ‘darling wife’s’ specialities and was the perfect end to a perfect day. A busy day right enough and one with a good variety of tasks, the first of which was to finish off servicing the neighbours wind turbine.

Once upon a time I’d have done this job in half a day but I’ve slowed down a lot these last couple of years and these days I spend half my time looking for things I’ve just put down! Then there are all the times I have to go back to my workshop to collect stuff I’ve forgot. Still, I got there in the end. Even though I’d done all the ‘donkey work’ on Thursday and only had to clean up the slip rings, fit a new brake rope, replace two sheared bolts and raise the turbine, it still took me all morning. And that was with one of my neighbours helping!!

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The turbine has been running without a brake now for well over a year and has safely seen off several storms with 100mph plus winds. The brake is only really used when lowering the turbine or if it shed a blade or spring or something that made it become unbalanced. The brake could then be applied to prevent further damage. Having said that the Proven/Kingspan turbines are one of the very few that actually have a mechanical brake that can actually stop a turbine in a storm and keep it stopped. Most others have an electrical brake that sorts out the alternator phases, less than ideal and not guaranteed to work. You cannot stop a fast spinning turbine with an electrical brake and if the turbine is stopped and the wind strong enough it will overcome the brake, overheat and melt the core or windings. I speak from experience Sad smile

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This will be what was left of my Cheap and cheerful Chinese jobby when it was braked in a storm Sad smile


7:00am now, got distracted last night by a bottle of Dalwhinnie ‘Winters Gold’

Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold Bottling Note

Dalwhinnie Winter’s Gold is a 2015 addition to the Highland distillery’s range inspired by the chilly climate up in the remote part of Scotland where their single malt Scotch whisky is distilled – as the label remarks, it was "Crafted by the Cold". It’s made only with spirit that has been distilled between October and March, and interestingly enough, they suggest that you try serving this expression frozen!

Tasting Note by The Chaps at Master of Malt

Nose: Oak spice, pear skins, golden syrup and gristy malt. A touch of peach polish and chewy, sticky toffee. From the freezer it’s fruitier, more green apple, apple sauce, toffee apple, sultana, even redcurrant.

Palate: Very honeyed with warming peppery spices, Big Red cinnamon. From the freezer the honey is kept in check much more, as are the spices. Plenty of apple flesh and orange peel.

Finish: Allspice, nutmeg and smoky malt. From the freezer the finish is more about the spicy cinnamon and peppercorn heat that’s found on the palate at room temperature.

Overall: An assertive, spicy, honeyed Dalwhinnie with enough sweetness and character to be served straight from the freezer (as intended).

I dunno about all that but it was smooth and nice with just a couple of drops of Arnish water in it. I just don’t get all this guff they talk about whisky, wine and football. There seems to be a whole industry that specialize in carp. I’m sure the Dalwhinnie does all of the above but there’s never any mention by the Scotch aficionados about the chlorine taste of tap water Smile I guess you just get used to it, me I think it ruins a good cup of tea or malt.

The Proven Brake

Anyway, back to the wind turbine brake, first thing we had to do was feed the new rope down the tower and for the replacement I chose a heavy braided twine, like the stuff used in a trawl net. One of the problems with the brake rope is that it has a regular ‘lay’(twist) of three strands wound ‘with the sun’ clockwise or righthanded. Braided or multiplat rope has the strands wound and laid in both directions so is much less prone to kinks and twists. Feeding the new rope down the 7m long pole proved a bit of a challenge as it has to go through a 12mm hole in the top of the ‘slip ring’ mounting. This we managed to do using a length of wire rope, pushing it downwards through the slip rings then taping the green twine to it and pulling from the bottom. The twine is then attached to the brake lever at the top of the mast but it must be run through a length of bungee cord or even spring to keep it clear of the shaft when not in use. To operate the brake you wind the cord around the actuation lever at the bottom of the tower then pull the lever downwards. When the brake is released the cord must be removed from the lever and left to hang loose so as not to get twisted. Even so, it generally does Sad smile

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After refitting and sealing the cowlings and checking all the blade bolts (one had snapped and was replaced) the turbine was raised, bolted back down with new M20 bolts and the gin pole removed, job done Smile

They don’t make them like this anymore

The dry spell may just have ended last night with what must have been overnight rain judging by the puddles and wet grass but I doubt it will have done much to replenish the depleted water tanks next door. We were always a little conscious of being economical with water at times like this when we lived at ‘Number 3’ but now there are far more people staying there as Maya and Nikky have the house on Airbnb so need far more water than we ever did. Consequently they’ve been pumping ‘Scottish Water’s’ finest from IBC’s into their storage tanks.

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I had a dedicated pump just for doing this that has all the hall marks of something World War II. I can’t even remember where it came from or who gave me but the little 170W Stuart Turner pump just keeps on going. Having said that it required a little attention yesterday but I soon sorted that with some grease and WD40 Smile 

Panasonic NA-127VB5 washing machine

That sorted I donned my ‘domestic appliance’ engineers hat to try and sort out the washing machine. I gotta say this Panasonic machine has been trouble since day one and I’d never have another. It failed within a few days of getting it home and fair play to Panasonic they offered me a new one. Me being a fool said “ I don’t want a new one, I just want this one fixing”. It is such a PITA getting a washing machine up to Arnish that I couldn’t be bothered taking it back. Anyway an engineer came out and initially blamed it on our DIY electricity, this I told him in no uncertain terms was mince as our electricity is far more stable and reliable than the National Grid and that’s a fact. He then blamed it on my DIY plumbing. At this time the washing machine was in the shed as we were living in the caravan and to be fair to him, the drain was a bit high (or was it low). Anyway, he did some adjustments on the door catch and for the next few months it was fine. Once in the house it failed again and another engineer came out. Can’t remember what the problem was this time but it was OK for a year or two bar the odd error code relating to water pressure (despite us having almost 3bar). Recently it has started stopping mid cycle cos the machine thinks the door is open and the only cure is to restart the cycle and or sit there with your hand pressed on the door till it finishes Sad smile 

This was obviously a switch or adjustment fault so I pulled out the machine and had a look at the switch and catch.

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They both seemed fine so I carefully elongated the holes that retain the switch so it would allow the door catch to press the switch deeper so to speak. Well that seemed to work a treat as we have now done three full wash cycles without any problems.

If I didnae have a Landy it would be one of these


Next it was the mechanics hat again to have a look at the trusty Nissan Patrol of next door’s  that had a broken catalytic converter. I gotta say, if I didn’t have a Land Rover then I’d probably have one of these, the Nissan Patrol is truly ‘built like a tank’. The catalytic converter had broken off at the bottom weld.


It was a clean break and resting on the front anti roll bar so I reckoned that if I could remove the front track rod then I’d at least be able to get half of it welded.

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Typically on a 12 year old truck, the track rod end split pins were rusted in and had to be drilled out but that was soon done and the the track rod swung out of they way.


This enabled me to get a good few dollops of ‘pigeon sh1t’ welding on at least half of it. I could ‘blame my tools’ and tell you the rods were damp (which they were) but the truth is my welding is dubious at the best of times Sad smile


Once welded I made up a bracket to hold the pipe more rigidly then if it does snap then at least the pipe will stay in the cat and be perfectly serviceable until a new cat can be fitted (but not by me Smile)

Painters hat next

That done it was the time and weather to get on with painting an creosoting the hen shed. I had made a start on this on Friday night when I came back from Inverness. That was after I called in at the Raasay stores for some milk and caught up with my pal Peter

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who was also on small single seat transport Smile

It was a perfect evening for painting with just enough breeze to keep the midge away and reduce the temperature to comfortable levels as I had to swap the shorts and T shirt for dark blue overalls.

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The hens retiring to a ‘dangerous area’ whilst I got on with the job.

Well, I got most of it done


and should now go and finish off.

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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