Life at the end of the road

July 15, 2017

Seven weeks ‘offline’ :-(

It’s been a while hey, well things have been a little ‘topsy turvy’ here and ‘your truly’ has been severely distracted of late. Not only that but we lost our normally fast and reliable Internet connection at 23:00 on the 23rd of May and I’m not ‘holding my breath’ until the next promised date for a fix. To be fair it’s not entirely my ISP’s fault, I do believe they are doing their best to restore it, sadly I think the main issue is beyond their control.

Apart from that my laptop died, me Mammy aint well and I’m trying to get to grips with Windoze friggin 10 on this Dell Latitude Rugged 5404 that I just bought. The solid, functional and ‘idiot proof’ ‘puter I love, the operating system I hate. I don’t want all these messages it keeps sending me, I despise all that mince appears when you press the Windoze key and who on earth is Cortana. Worst of all the new OS is no longer compatible with ‘Windows Live Writer’ the software I use to do my blog. Of course they don’t tell you that and I spent hours trying to install it!!!! Of all the carp that Bill Gates tries to force on you Windows Live Writer was the one thing that I really liked and used a lot, surely I can’t be the only blogger that misses it?

Off on a real holiday

Having been under pressure for several years now to go on a ‘proper holiday’ involving an aeroplane and sun I reluctantly booked an apartment in Malta for a week and some flights from Prestwick via Ryanair. The £39 deal quickly became nearer £600 for the four of us once you had added all the ‘bells and whistles’ like baggage and an 8 Euro sandwich for the 4 hour flight though.

The last time I was in Malta was 1981, this I know cos I found my diving permit for then in my old log book which I had to dig out to present to the Watercolours Dive Centre in Sliema . The plan being to put my son through a 3 day PADI course then do some diving with him.  I’d spoken with Jason Fabri the owner prior to booking the course and he was fine with my 1977 BSAC logbook as I couldn’t find my commercial ones, they seem to have gone AWOL in our house moves. The young Belgian instructor Veronique who examined them on my arrival was somewhat amused at what she called vintage documentation right enough.

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Sliema turned out to be a great choice, we were just five minutes walk from the bus station, ferry terminals, shops, restaurants and night life. Every morning a ten minute walk to Tigne had us swimming in the warm clear sea and it was just an extra five minutes jaunt to the dive centre.

The apartment in Sliema was amazing, just a couple of minutes walk from everything . Ok, there was the odd cockroach in the morning but they were invariably dead and it is after all an old house in the Southern Mediterranean, not a 5 star hotel. Vanessa was the perfect hostess and arranged our airport transfers which all went smoothly.

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A week there only gave us chance to ‘scratch the surface’ of Malta’s many attractions but it was long enough for me and will give us a good excuse to go back. We did a few of the touristy type things, ate out every meal bar breakfast and really enjoyed it. Took a day trip to Gozo and Comino and moored up in the Blue Lagoon right next to an old CalMac ferry, the MV Kepple


The old Kepple was on the Largs Cumbrae route for years until she was replaced by the MV Loch Striven on which I served for years until we got the Hallaig.

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Other stuff

The beauty of working ‘two weeks on two weeks off’ meant that we arrived home on Saturday and I still had a few days of my ‘off shift’ on the croft before going back to work.

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Not that I got that much done right enough, I was hoping to get on with more concreting but that never happened.

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I did however get some posts in position for the new deer proof fence though.

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I wouldn’t want this chap getting in and munching all our herbs, hedge and plants again.

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The fine looking chap still covered in velvet is ‘out of season’ and the freezer is full of Django and Ozzie, well not quite, Raasay House took over 50kg. So if you fancy some proper Raasay free range ‘Black Pig’ then now is the time to ask, 01478 660 300 Smile


Here’s the trusty old MV Lyrawa Bay steaming through the Raasay Narrows, built in the 1970’s I spent many a happy trip on her commuting between fish farm sites to haul out dead salmon, happy days. For years I worked as a diver hauling out ‘morts’ from the fish cages and I never ever got used to it. I would spend much of my time throwing up after a spell in the water doing that job. Luckily I worked with two heroes who had stomachs stronger than I and they would often ‘pull me out of the brown stuff’ Smile 


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The Portree Lifeboat, Stanley Watson Barker passing by one fine evening.

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The locally built trawler Sea Ranger heading south.

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Coastworks tug Coastworker and a ‘spud leg’ barge laying an outfall for the new Raasay Distillery.

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The fish farm landing craft Emma C at Sconser.

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MV Hebridean Princess and MV Hallaig at Raasay pier.


An unusual visitor to Churchton Bay, the tri-maran Kanga Roo Too.

Back in the water

It’s not just the laptop and Internet that died during the last few weeks, so did my pocket camera, yet another reason for lack of blogging and enthusiasm. Whilst the lack of Internet has prevented me from doing lots of things and made life very difficult in some aspects like moving pigs, transferring money and paying bills it has brought with it some very welcome benefits. For one thing I’m speaking to my family more and I’ve started reading again, something I’ve not done for around twenty years. Sure it has been entirely non-fiction and related mainly to ships, salvage, wrecks and the sea but this, allied to my son’s new diving qualification has got me all fired up again to go diving.

As soon as we returned from Malta and completed my next ‘on shift’ we tried on the newly acquired eBay dry suits and went for a dip. In fact it was usually several ‘dips’ cos stuff kept breaking and or leaking. It says a lot for my son’s character that none of this phased him in the slightest, not even a few blown O rings and duff demand valves seemed to damp his enthusiasm. Anyway, by the end off the fortnight off he’d at least another 10 dives under his belt, mainly looking for lost anchors and clams.


It’s a bit like ‘riding a bike’, you never forget it and boy did we feast on scallops last week Smile

We also spent quite a lot of time looking for my old mooring in Loch Arnish for the MV Conqueror,


my trusty old fishing boat from years gone by.

Whilst we never actually found that one, we did find and lift two more that had been lost and this beauty

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that I came across in over 20m of water some 200m off the shore. Weighing in at 200kg it was great experience for the boy, especially as we had to remove the chain from it. We put around 175kg of bags and containers on it, took down a spare bottle and filled them on the bottom using an old regulator 1st stage. The ground around the anchor began to ripple and shudder then it lifted off the sea bed in a cloud of silt. slowly at first and only a couple of meters due to the huge ‘stud link’ chain attached to it. We were not sure how much chain was on the end but it was plainly obvious that it was far too much for the lifting capacity we had so we slowly returned to the surface. Once there we hatched a plan for the second dive of the day and returned home to fill the diving cylinders.

On the next dive we took down tools as well as the spare bottle, once on the bottom we emptied the three bags and gently lowered the anchor to the sea bed again. Ten minutes hammering and some work with a pair of large stillsons managed to undo the shackle and we once more filled the lifting bags.


Our man in the boat some 21m above us said it was very spectacular as it broke surface and we shouldn’t lift the chain until he had a video camera with him. This was just fine by us as we had worked hard enough for one day and with the chain marked by a buoy it was going nowhere. Having said that the first marker we put on the anchor snapped but luckily the bags an containers attached to it on the seabed made it quite easy to find in the good visibility underwater.

That’s about it really, well apart from doing loads of concreting, erecting a fence, fixing a quad, refitting a digger track and a gazillion other things. 


November 19, 2016

Wind takes over :-)

Filed under: boats, daily doings, life off grid, New hybrid ferry — Tags: , , , , — lifeattheendoftheroad @ 7:22 pm

Change in the old weather here that’s for sure, had to scrape ice off the car twice this week!!!! Now most people are under the impression that it’s cold in the winter in Scotland, which may well be true for the east and south. Not so the West Coast that’s washed by the Gulf Stream, sure I have seen –10 degrees here for days on end but that was 20 years ago and the exception rather than the rule. During the last five winters I’ve only had to de ice the windscreen a handful of times at home and never during the evening at work. Well that changed on Thursday night when the Hallaig’s crew all had to scrape ice off their cars on the pier.

It’s certainly colder up at Sonas than ever it was a couple of hundred yards away at ‘Number 3’ I guess the surrounding trees kept the air still and retained a little heat. Here we have a small burn quite close to the house and the frost seems to follow it down the hill. Not that we feel it in the house, the house is so well insulated that we get little sensation of what’s going on outside. I did however turn the heating on a few days ago and leave it on, only in the bathroom and living room right enough. They are the only two rooms we ever heat with the thermostat set to 18 degrees in the living room and 21 degrees in the bathroom. The MVHR system and the 20mm gaps under the doors making a fine job of keeping all the bedrooms at a comfortable 15 plus I guess. 

There’s been five days in total this month that we’ve actually run the generator, a total of 12 hours in total. More than I’d like as we’re aiming for total freedom from oil but to be honest I’m sure we could have managed without it had we been more careful. You have to bear in mind that the house is totally electric bar the cooker and it looks like there was a cold, windless and sunless spell around the beginning of the month. Had the hydro turbine (PS Hydro 800W) been running at the time we’d not have needed it for sure.

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The blue rows are totals, top one for last month and bottom for November so far, the last column being battery SOC at around 20:00 each day. The large numbers are the meter readings and all figures bar the generator in kWh. What is instantly clear is the sudden fall in solar output compared to last month and the increase in wind output. September saw wind beat solar for the first time since January, having said that, the wind turbine was out of action due to Henry for two months but we managed just fine on hydro and solar. It does however reinforce the need for a good balance between the various renewable inputs to make a good ‘off grid’ system work properly 

Yet another sad loss

The first enthusiastic day back at work was marred by the news that a good friend and ‘pillar of the community’, Calum Smith had passed away. Calum moved here long before I with his wife Sandra who was, when I arrived the school teacher and he was a man of many talents. An ex fisherman, ‘fish gutting machine engineer’ and RN sailor Calum could turn his hand to anything, including building a house right next to the school. A true home that he was always ‘improving’, few indeed were the days when he’d not be ‘pottering’, concreting, planting or even welding about the house or garden. The times he wasn’t doing that he’d be working on his wooden yacht ‘Kate’ or later ketch ‘Suilaire’ and if not that he’d probably be doing unpaid work on, in or around the school. Affectionately known as the ‘Harbourmaster’ by many due to the amount of time he spent down at Clachan working on his boats, he did ‘not suffer fools gladly’ Smile Woe betide anyone who would tie a boat up stupidly or leave ‘gash’ on the pier, the genial Calum would then become ‘Mr Angry’ Smile

Calum will be sorely missed by family and friends alike, he was one of the great characters that helped make Raasay a unique place to live.


Back ‘on service’

The first day back at work started, as usual with the 100 mile drive to see my dad at Aultbea. The official start is Wednesday morning but my ‘back to back’ and I have a great and flexible arrangement where we ‘change over’ on Tuesday late afternoon. This gives us a good ‘face to face’ handover, gets him home a night early and gives us both a shorter day on Tuesday Smile

Having not left the croft much the last fortnight it was good to see great progress on the distillery as I headed for the 7:55 ferry.

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A couple of days later it was even better

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as of course was the weather.

We may not have seen much of the ‘super moon’ whilst it was full but a couple of days later it was looking just as large and even brighter than a regular one.

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That’s it ‘the weekend has landed’, Saturday now, ‘the longest day’ and that’s me catching up on the old blogging front. Even though we finish 15 minutes earlier during the week now we’re on the winter timetable I’m still pretty wrecked when I get home and often in bed before 21:00. That’s me body clock still on BST until Christmas at least, I really do hate all this messing about with clocks!

So, it’s been a busy old week on the ferry but I’ve an hour or so now to the late sailing to catch up. The return from dock and into service with the Hallaig has brought with it quite few catching up jobs. Some remedial work on the hydraulics for a start,

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our ramps now taking a full 3 minutes to lift since they were ‘fixed’ by a company who shall remain nameless. Not Gary’s (the man in the picture) I hasten to add. All three Volvo D13 generators were also in need of a major service after round trip to the Clyde. In ‘Hybrid’ mode we only run 1 so they don’t clock up so many hours. Sailing in ‘DG’ mode means at least 2 and more often 3 if in a hurry, that extra knot or so of speed consumes a lot more fuel than the regular service speed of 8.5knots.

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Dunno who put this fuel filter on number 1 DG but I broke one filter wrench trying to remove it, crushed the filter with the second wrench I tried then had to resort to a pair of 36” stilsons!!! Could well have been me right enough, even putting them on ‘hand tight’, which I always do can sometimes be too much. Dunno if the rubber seal swells with age or what, but they can be a right PITA to remove at times.

An ‘earth fault’ on two of the wheelhouse floodlights turned out to be the junction box of one full of water.


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All six of them had some in so I sucked out the water with ‘Henry’ the hoover then dried them out with the hot air gun on low heat and high speed before resealing them with silicon and putting them back together.


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The heavy weather of late had taken its toll on a couple of the spring ropes so new ones had to made up, and of course the ends sealed with the heat gun Smile

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There was quite a bit of activity on the fish farm front too with ‘Emma C’ working at Sconser and the much larger Fame heading through the Raasay Narrows yesterday.

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Also removed and cleaned out the ‘sight glasses’ from the generator header tanks, the glass have become too discoloured to actually see the coolant easily.

Once that was all done I put my washing back on the dryer Smile


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I dunno what shape people are in Bangladesh where these were made but they must be very long and thin. To get these anywhere near the 31” inside leg they’re supposed to be I’d to wash them twice at 90 degrees and still they’re around 4” too long. They are also so tight that I can’t actually wear any trousers underneath them!! Not that that’s a problem cos they’re such thick cotton that they’re plenty warm enough. The next size up put the crotch around my knees and so I can’t actually bend down without hitching them up around my waist!!

An interesting article about our great wee village shop in the ‘Broadford Beano’ this week

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Our excellent shop has been nominated as one of the best community owned shops in Scotland, and quite rightly so, we’d be lost without it.

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