Life at the end of the road

December 29, 2013

Settling in

Filed under: boats, daily doings, New hybrid ferry, weather — Tags: , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 10:21 pm

At last, it feels like some kind of normality is being restored, the weather seems to be calming down, the days stretching ever so slightly and our new ship settling in nicely. I think we’d all be hard pushed to go back to a ‘Loch Class’ now, especially the folk who ‘would’ have been left behind on Saturday.  A whole bunch of cars and vans turned up at 12:15 along with the bin lorry, two or three of them at least would have been stuck on Raasay until 14:30 had they been journeying on the Loch Striven or Loch Linnhe.

Saturday was the first ‘long’ day I’ve done on the Hallaig and she managed it in ‘hybrid mode’ for the whole day, I was well impressed. The normal working day is pretty much 12 hours from ‘start up’ to ‘shut down’ but Saturday’s late ‘requested’ sailing can push that up to a 15 hour day. All the poor weather of late seems to have put folk off requesting the late sailing, at least on my shift, so yesterday was a real ‘eye-opener’ especially as at least three of the sailings were in the dark.

The ships ‘power management system’ acquires data over the course of the week and then depletes the batteries accordingly. The idea being to drain them over the course of the day evenly and share the load with the ‘in service’ generator. The great advantage of this over a regular ‘diesel electric’ PMS is that demand for extra power is supplied instantly by the battery bank rather than having to wait for another generator to ‘come online’. it’s called ‘peak shaving’ and provides great savings in fuel plus wear and tear on the generators. The PMS in ‘diesel only’ mode is excellent but generators are inevitably brought ‘on line’ early and switched off late due to warming up, cooling down and safety considerations. The ‘static generator’ of the Hallaig’s 740kwh of LiFePo4 batteries is instantaneous, free of harmonic distortion and can be shut down instantly.

Of course it comes at a price, the batteries aren’t cheap, don’t last forever and the technology (in ships at least) is pretty ‘cutting edge’, so there have been one or two glitches. However, they’ve been either resolved or are being resolved by the excellent technicians at

and TecSource 

who designed, built and provided such excellent back up for our new ship.

The only PITA as far as I can see is that it takes a good deal longer to start up and shutdown than the old ‘Loch Class’ so I’ve less time for blogging Smile


Normally I’d be leaving home in daylight at this time of year on a Sunday, I’d even feed the pigs before I left for work, but not now, no today I was away for just after 8:00, almost two hours prior to sailing. The old ‘Loch class’ could be ‘fired up’ in a fraction of the time and I didn’t have to put up with ‘ Sunday Worship’ on Radio 4, no I could usually leave it until ‘A Point of View’ or even ‘BH’ before heading south.



Still, by the time I got there and had her ‘flashed up’ it was a bonny old day



and the ‘Golden Dawn’ from Portree was making the most of it too.


It’s a while since we’ve had a day like this on Raasay and our day on ‘batteries only’ seemed to fit right in with the peace and quiet that has been missing of late.


Funny how a lovely day can suddenly wipe away the strain of a fortnight or more of continuous gales and rain Smile




A decent day had the washing gear out to power wash  away the salt and made the weekly boat drill


a far more pleasurable experience than of late.





The Penfold rock buoy in the Raasay narrows, a favourite clam diving spot of mine, or should I say a favourite spot of my skippers, for Willie Eyre would dump me in here, usually with an ebbing tide. He had a theory that the clam dredgers would ‘spill’ their dredges here as they turned, and like most of Willie’s ‘theories’ there was something in them Smile


Apart from all that, and the traditional ‘big breakfast’ I got on with routine stuff like topping up the ‘Aquamist’ water tank and filling up the fresh water tanks.



Actually, that’s a lie, the rest of the crew filled the fresh water tank, I just cancelled the alarm and told them to stop when it was full. Much to my amusement the tank indicator turned from blue to red when it was full Smile I do like this ship Smile


That was it really, I meandered home in the old girl, was treated to the customary Sunday roast by darling wife prior to all settling down around the kitchen table for a game of ‘Pass the bomb’ .

Pass the Bomb

Hardly ‘Grand theft auto V’ by your average teenagers way of thinking but a great laugh with two deaf people and several cans of cider Smile

Anyway, it’s way past my bedtime now so I’ll just leave you with the Raasay weather

weather 291213



which by recent standards has been exceedingly boring!!

September 4, 2013

A very fine ship indeed :-)

Well after 21:00 now and I’m just showered, plonked in a comfy chair and sipping an ice cold Cobra That’ll be a beer and not a frozen snake, don’t think I’d buy it out of choice right enough but my mate did say ‘help yourself to beers in the fridge’ Smile Anyway, I’ve something to celebrate, my first day at sea on the worlds first Ro Ro sea going ferry that is . Only as an observer, amongst the crowd of technicians, contractors, shipyard workers, owners and surveyors but on board nonetheless.

I left home yesterday morning with the Dude at just after 7:00am to get him to school to enable me to be on board the Hallaig at 8:00am today. Of course I needn’t have set off so early but it gave me chance to go and see my parents on the way, sample my mums wild mushroom risotto

 011 010

and go for a walk with my dad. Despite being a mainly miserable Monday, we managed to dodge the showers and have a nice romp through the woods,

006 009

finding some lovely mushrooms along the way.

I had planned to leave straight after lunch but was so stuffed that I never actually stirred out of the chair until 14:00, and that was reluctantly, the day was miserable and the thought of a five hour drive didn’t really appeal. Any normal person would manage the 180 miles or so in four hours comfortably but my driving is pish and 50mph about my limit these days. Still my mum gave me a 5 CD audio book to listen to, the road was deserted and the views quite stunning when you consider the drabness of the day.

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I dunno why but this little stretch of road down the side of Loch Duich with its dry stone wall always reminds of the English Lake district, at least it does until you turn the corner and see the tide has gone out and exposed the yellow bladder wrack. You won’t find much tide or seaweed on lake Windermere Smile

You are going to love this ferry

Arriving in civilization just about the ‘rush hour’ I managed to negotiate roundabouts and traffic lights with only one near miss and arrived safely in Gourock just after 18:30. The nondescript Nissan Almera that wifey lent me for the journey may be more economical than the Land Rover but people just don’t seem to notice it. Two tons of 26 year old brilliant white iron and aluminium almost 2’ off the tarmac has the effect of clearing traffic brilliantly, all the Nissan does is attract people with horns Smile Anyway, I arrived at my mates flat in the middle of a bit of a ceilidh so never got to bed until late and arose this morning somewhat the worse for wear. Not through any overindulgence but quite simply wrecked from a long day at the wheel, I really am rubbish at this commuting business.

Excitement at the prospect of actually getting to sea on our new boat soon had me wide awake, showered and at Ferguson’s shipyard far sooner than any sane person. It immediately became clear that much progress had been made during the last six days and after a quick tour I retired to the mess room with my compatriots from Raasay to ‘compare notes’.  I dunno when we actually cast off and set sail for this new vessel is so quiet and smooth that we were off the pier and underway before I’d even realized that any of the generators had started.


No, our skipper from Raasay isn’t grumpy, he too cannot believe that we’re actually underway, this ship is staggeringly smooth and quiet. I actually thought that we may have been running on batteries but a quick check on the exhaust pipe temperatures revealed that number 3 generator was indeed solely responsible for propelling the MV Hallaig at around 8 knots!!!

 013 015

I’d always said that the thing I was really looking forward to on our new hybrid vessel was being able to use the phone without running up to the wheelhouse and closing the door. However I never dreamed that she’d be this quiet and smooth, even the ventilation fans are barely audible on deck !! The passengers are going to love this ferry, in fact they’re probably going to be reluctant to get off it Smile Seriously the ‘fitting out’ by Newark Joiners a subsidiary of Ferguson’s is exemplary and the ‘acres’ of insulation done by Ticon,ticon-insulation-ltd first class, providing excellent sound as well as fire protection.


019 020

After steaming past Ocean Terminal Greenock where MV Trans Dania with her distinctive ‘ice breaker’ bow and MV Ice Runner with her ‘bulbous bow’ ???? were berthed we tested the anchor windlasses.

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The MCA and Lloyds both being in attendance for the lowering and recovery of the two 765kg anchors that reside at each end of the vessel.


My ‘OCD’ just loves the anchor chain washing facility in the hawse pipes of the Hallaig. Three powerful jets of water supplied by the bilge/fire pumps wash the anchor and its chain as it is stowed, no more mud and seaweed in the ‘chain locker’ Smile



After that we headed further south into the more open waters west of Largs as the MV Bute and Argyle plied between Wemyss Bay and Rothesay on the Isle of Bute.


We dodged all the showers


and I saw the ‘sleeping warrior’ for the first time.


017 038 053

Much got done, with the technicians from and working tirelessly on the electronics whilst the yard continued painting and Ticon insulating.



It was well after 18:00 before we started to accompany  the incoming tide back up the Clyde



and 20:00 before the sun set astern of us over Greenock.


However, with almost 13knots clocked up as we approached Ferguson’s berth, it’s nearly midnight now and I have to sleep.


So here is the mass exodus of workers as we all departed for home and I’ll ‘fill you in’ tomorrow Smile

Post script

Almost midnight!!! it was after 1:30am when I awoke in the chair with a sore neck, it’s 7:00am now and I’m off once more to Ferguson’s for another day out on the Clyde. This will be for the Dutch technicians from Imtech to do more work on setting up and optimising their ICMAS ‘integrated control, management and alarm system’ is what I think it stands for and it’s the complex Windows based ‘nervous system’  that senses and operates all the systems on the ship. Apparently Steve Job of Apple even had it fitted in his own super yacht. Don’t think he was too chuffed at having all those Bill Gates servers on board right enough Smile

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