Life at the end of the road

July 28, 2013

Westering home

Well, I’m not, but I will be tomorrow, it’s 19:00 on Thursday and I guess we’re about half way from Kennacraig to Port Ellen on Islay. A place that I visited often in the late seventies and early eighties and I’ve never really been back since, well apart from a few hours in December some ten years ago. That would have been my first ‘dry docking’ on the Loch Striven in 2002, when we left Raasay and took three days to get to the Clyde due to the weather. Our skipper a seasoned old sea dog put in there for shelter and we tied up for six hours awaiting a favourable wind and tide to take us around ‘The Mull’. Sure enough just as forecast the wind eased and we made the dash around Kintyre into Cambeltown  without spilling any tea, or anything else for that matter. However it was dark, wet, wild and windy as we sheltered in the tiny harbour at Port Askaig and my visit ashore was confined to ‘making fast’ and ‘letting go’.


Westering home and a song in the air
Light in the eye and its good by to care
Laughter o love and a welcoming there
Isle of my heart my own land
Tell me a tale of the Orient gay
Tell me of riches that come from Cathay
Ah but it’s grand to be waken at day
And find oneself nearer to Islay
And it’s westering home with a song in the air
Light of me eye and it’s goodbye to care
Laughter and love are a welcoming there
Pride of my heart my own love
Where are the folks like the folks of the west
Canty and couthy and kindly, our best
There I would hie me and there I would rest
At home with my own folks in Islay
And it’s westering home with a song in the air
Light of me eye and it’s goodbye to care
Laughter and love are a welcoming there
Pride of my heart my own love
Now I’m at home and at home I do lay
Dreaming of riches that come from Cathay
I’ll hop a good ship and be on my way
And bring back my fortune to Islay
And it’s westering home with a song in the air
Light of me eye and it’s goodbye to care
Laughter and love are a welcoming there
Pride of my heart my own love


Well that went severely ‘pear shaped’  peeps, it’s now Sunday and I’ve ‘westered home’ to Raasay, that little jewel of the Hebrides that is my home. Actually it was more of ‘northing’ but anyway I’m home, though not for long, I’ve another friggin 200 mile drive down to Kennacraig tomorrow Sad smile

I know, I know, it’s a week since I posted, but the internet is pants on the Islay route and ‘yours truly’ has been a little ‘down in the dumps’ having spent ten months of his life mainly away from home Sad smile My son is on holiday and I see precious little of him at the best of times as he stays in a hostel during the week. The weather is great and I’m stuck in the friggin engine room of a ship 200 miles from home and my cabin doesn’t even have a window Sad smile OK, I know that I’m really lucky because most of the people that I’ve come into contact with since Easter have been paying to visit these beautiful places and I’m getting paid for working in them Smile So, I’m not expecting any sympathy but that’s why you’ve heard precious little from the ‘end of the road’ of late. Well that and I’m ‘pi55ed off’ with folk telling wifey how marvellous the blog is, the ‘hen lady’ don’t read the thing, hates me writing it and really, really hates people talking to here about it, so if you want me to carry on writing it then stop hassling her Smile


Not this one, last one, the 21st that is,

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that got off to a very ‘shaky start’ with a starter motor failure on my mates Yamaha ‘Big Bear’ 350 quad. Typically it was just as he was about to arrive after a long absence and I had to fix it PDQ. It wasn’t too difficult to remove, just a matter of seat, fuel tank, starter lead then two mounting bolts. Though just to make life simpler I hoovered   all the mud and carp out of the way with a vacuum cleaner first, and then again once the motor was removed.

Overhauling a Yamaha quad starter motor

Once the little ‘Nippondenso’ unit was off I took it to the bench and stripped it down, taking care to mark all the bits first.

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As soon as I got the unit apart it was obvious that one of the brushes was worn out and severe arcing was going on with resultant burning of the commutator. What was also clearly apparent was its similarity to my own Honda TRX 350 quads starter motor brushes.

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The Honda TRX 350 quad is quite heavy on starter brushes so I always keep a spare set of their part number 31206-MN4-008 for my own trusty steed. Well would you believe it, the Yamaha uses the exact same brushes and I soon had it sorted. Not only that, but I now discover you can get the genuine ones on eBay for less than £30

Genuine Honda ATV ( quad ) Starter Brushes kit TRX350 any model any year

Once that was sorted I seem to remember helping wifey’s  mum with the poorly hen,



a ‘blackrock’ with a broken leg that needed antibiotics. This poor thing had to be separated from the flock once she’d been ‘repaired’ by the vet . Immediately after her return from having a splint she’d been set on by the other hens so we moved her to a large ruin behind the house.

Next task was back up to the water tank to fit the new lid prior to heading off to catch the last ferry.


It was a bonny bonny day but I had to join the MV Hebrides for one last day on account of Friday’s fog.


The 16:00 ferry from Raasay giving me plenty of time to get to Uig for her arrival at around 17:40


Skilfully manoeuvred alongside by the first mate


from the starboard bridge wing I joined her for my last night aboard.

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A fine night that involved a trip to Lochmaddy and back prior to a night in Uig then a journey across the Minch in thick fog on Monday.

An added bonus

Leaving the good ship Hebrides at Uig on Monday morning in brilliant sunshine I had the pleasure of a couple of hours to kill on the way south to Kennacraig to join CalMac’s newest vessel, Finlaggan.


That I did with my parents and their dogs on the mainland Smile


My home for the next five weeks arriving bang on time at Kennacraig courtesy of another Raasay man Smile


This time via the port bridge wing Smile



As it was Monday night the ship bunkered with HFO and I went to bed!!!



The following night was spent at Port Ellen on Islay,

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where I set foot for the first time in thirty years.

The rest of the week

After that it becomes a bit of a blur but here’s Port Askaig


her lifeboat


and the Jura ferry


which I have to say was very skilfully handled.




The ‘Paps of Jura’



looked awesome as I assisted the second engineer in repairing the lift but it’s 22:30 now on Sunday evening and I’m ready for bed Sad smile

Tattie Bogle

However, just before I go I’ll leave you with the ‘highs and lows’ of a weekend at home.



Saturday had us ‘fog bound’ on Raasay with five piglets until 12:40


whereupon we headed towards ‘tattie bogal’ territory with five piglets.




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Worse than the ‘bin bag fairy’

The weekend at home has been marvellous but the ‘idiot of the month’ award this time does not go to a kayaker or worshiper of the ‘bin bag fairy’ but to a bunch of clowns with large aerials Smile


You just have to laugh at this collection of halfwits and their parking,


you couldn’t make it up really Smile

Yes that really is some plank parked in the middle of the road with a generator at the side of his ‘hippy bus’ Smile You have to laugh really or you’d cry, only twenty four hours earlier my mate had been up here with a large truck and on Wednesday the bin lorry is due. Not a prayer that any of them or the coal lorry would get past this idiot. I mean they could even have put the generator and coil of rope behind the truck but they couldn’t be ar5sed Smile I did stop on my way passed and tell them that it ‘was an insane place to park’ but the reply I got was “we’ll be away before Wednesday” Smile 

MV Hallaig

All that aside, the reason why I’m doing all this training, our very own MV Hallaig, the worlds first sea going RoRo hybrid ferry spent seven days in dry dock last week.


It was just routine stuff, a little damage suffered alongside at Ferguson’s plus a ‘bum scrape’ due to her seven months in the water but it means that she’s a step closer to arriving here.



According to the BBC Gaelic news we may see her before the end of August Smile


I just can’t wait to get aboard her!!!

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