Life at the end of the road

July 4, 2018

Another ‘off grid’ paradise :-)

Another fine day here in paradise, another fine day everywhere else by the look of it, and already people, myself included are looking back towards the ‘summer of 76’ I remember it well, tarmac melting, reservoirs empty and cruising the Yorkshire Dales in my 1962 MG Midget Smile It’s almost 8:30 though and I’m stuck in the house with a panty liner on my head!!!! I kid you not!!!!

Panty liner

Me scleritis flared up again yesterday and I’m awaiting a lift to the Wednesday surgery on Raasay. It started around seven years ago when I got thwacked in the eye with a hawthorn bush and flared up every 12 months or so for the next couple of years. It’s been fine for the last two or three years so I’m puzzled by this sudden recurrence. Perhaps the intense hay fever I’ve had has brought it on, who knows, but I cannae see out of it now and it’s boodly sore. It is also not the first time I’ve used sanitary products as a temporary repair. Once used a Tampon to fix a cylinder head water leak on said MG Midget in the ‘Summer of 76’ Smile

 MG Midget

Mk1 Midget, notice no side windows or door handles!!! it was pretty basic!!! Was even more basic when the heater didn’t work cos it had a Tampax in the inlet valve right enough. Not that was ever a problem in the ‘Summer of 76’. Anyway, (as usual) I digress, it’s even hard work typing with one eye, I keep hitting the key to the left Sad smile


Sorry, got distracted there, it’s now 21:00 and I ended up in Portree after seeing the Doc, she was quite worried and got me an appointment in Inverness on Friday. Meanwhile I have to stick steroid drops in me left eyeball every hour. Seems to be working OK cos I’ve no longer got a sanitary towel on my head and can almost see through the fog in my left eye Smile


I did fully intend some serious blogging yesterday but the day was long and it ended up a late one. First off it was out with wife and the dugs for a wee romp through the woods, half hoping to collect some chanterelles on the way. It’s been far too dry really and my eyesight isn’t just keen enough with this malady, which the doc informs me now post traumatic uveitis. Well that was a relief the other thing sounded pretty serious and I’ve not taken the time to ‘Google’ this one yet, probably never will truth be known, I’m a great believer in ‘ignorance is bliss’. Sure, if it was the Land Rover, car, boiler, inverter, wind turbine or a gazillion other mechanical objects I’d want a full report or post mortem. As for my body, I just want it to work and then get fixed when it goes into the surgery Smile 

As expected, it was pretty grim on the ‘shroom front but they went into the prawn stir fry anyway.


Having lost my digger driver yesterday I took on the mantle of chief road builder myself.


Burying a power cable before I built a track over it, something I should have done several years ago. This track is going through one (the main) hen run as it’s quite soft here during the winter and would be way too risky bringing a digger or dumper for much of the year. I did start it early on in the year right enough and yes it is possible to just keep ‘tipping and spreading’ to make the track as you. The problem with that is that you really need two diggers, one to load and one to spread.


Doing it when the ground is hard means you can start at the far away end then dump your load going ‘back the way’, then just bring the digger up to spread all the ‘cow pats’ you’ve dumped.


It would have benefitted from a few more loads had I been planning heavy traffic but it’s only really for walking and the quad.

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Having said that, I did widen the gate to just over 5’ so I can track the digger through if I want.


At least now I can get the quad and trailer up to easily change the pigs bedding, move the ark and a whole heap of other stuff.


Most of the day was spent in the Raasay surgery or in Portree on ‘eye business’. Portree was not as mobbed as expected and I managed to get home for 14:30.

MV Stardust II another ‘Wildcat 40’ just returning to Portree from Holoman Island on Raasay.


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I don’t recognize this one moored at Brochel but her passengers were very much enjoying the walk along Calum’s Road.

Once home and with my eyes almost working I got on with creosoting my extended gate.

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Fed the animals and then spent some quality time with the pigs.

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That hen is REALLY pushing her luck Smile

It was whilst I was painting the gate that the pigs came round for a play, I wish I’d have got pictures but it was a bit boisterous for that. Pigs really are great fun, we had a great game of me scratching them and they rolling over onto my legs. Seriously, if folk knew more about pigs they’d no be so keen on cheap bacon, pigs are far too sentient to be farmed industrially, they deserve respect Smile 

If I had to move, it would be here!

I had a surprise email from my good friend Jamie Robinson of Alternative Engineering   the other day saying he was ‘selling up’ having been offered the ‘job to die for’ in Gloucester heading a team that repair old wooden boats. Not just yer regular 13’ clinker but the likes of HMS Victory and the RS Discovery. Jamie lives in what can only be described as one of the few locations that I’m envious of, the Knoydart Peninsula

For the price of a broom cupboard in Knightsbridge or a semi Slough you could have all this!!!!!!

Amongst Jamie’s many hats he’s an expert in renewables and I know from corresponding with himself and Hugh Piggott that this place is ‘fully sorted’. I could just see my own Avon Searider on that mooring were I not a slave to CalMac Smile


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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