About us and the boat

About us and the boat:

We were lucky enough to retire early at the start of 2013 so we could head off and "live the dream" on board our Nordhavn 47 Trawler Yacht. The idea is to see some of the planet, at a slow 6 - 7 knots pace. There are no fixed goals or timings, we just had a plan to visit Scotland and then probably the Baltic before heading south.

The Baltic has been postponed as we didn't manage to see everything we wanted to in Scotland during our first year owing to family issues. The idea is to visit the nicer areas in these latitudes before heading south for warmer weather. If we like somewhere, we will stay for a while. If not, we will just move on. So, for the people who love forward planning and targets, this might seem a little relaxed!

If anyone else is contemplating a trawler yacht life, maybe our experiences will be enough to make you think again, or maybe do it sooner then you intended!

The boat is called Rockland and she is built for long distance cruising and a comfortable life on board too. If you want to see more about trawler yachts and the Nordhavn 47 in particular, there is a link to the manufacturers website in our "useful stuff" section. For the technically minded, there is a little info and pictures of the boat and equipment in the same section


Richard and June

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Doing the Uists (and their neighbours Benbecula and Berneray)

After the little van experience on Lewis / Harris, we decided that a similar exploration was needed on the southern Outer Hebridean islands. The captain called the local hire car folks, Laing Motors who also run a garage and a van rental and light haulage / plant hire business. Yes, when you live in the main settlement on South Uist and that only has 300 souls in it, you have to be flexible.

It was a good job that the captain called as the nice helpful man’s accent was rather broad and local (remember, this is a Gaelic speaking area!) He kindly collected the captain from the harbour and drove the 3 minutes to their workshop / storage area / junkyard / whatever. It was a throwback to the 1960s with a nice workshop, 3 lifts, cars in various stages of dismemberment, a scruffy office and lots of tins of useful stuff like grease, brake cleaner, exhaust repair tape etc etc on the office shelves.

The hire car paperwork was interesting. A single sheet of locally prepared and copied A4 with a few typed lines on it where you (yes, the hirer) filled in information like name, address, driving licence number etc. As I completed the form, there was no attempt to check the licence was mine, valid or in date. The DVLA code to allow them to check on penalty points history was, of course, not asked for. We chatted about running a workshop, the captain dragging back things learned from his early years with Ford and BMW as a field service guy. A brief chat to one of the mechanics as well, then off to cause chaos in a little Nissan Micra:

No terms and conditions signed, no nothing. The simplest and friendliest car rental process ever – sorry Stornoway, you are now second! Of course, one could question the legality of it all but let’s not.
We duly zoomed (not really, that main A road is single track with passing places job) around South Uist, Benbecula, North Uist and Berneray. What were the highlights? Well, Flora MacDonalds birthplace was duly marked by a rock pile:

And a little plaque explaining some of her history:

For those of you who are not familiar with the Bonnie Prince Charlie story, look at Wikipedia. Of course, Nicola Sturgeon the SDP leader might take over from her soon as the national heroine when Nicola forces another independence vote.

There are some more nicely renovated crofters cottages (Blackhouses) here as well, mainly turned into holiday homes of course:

The houses on these islands are, on the whole, much more interesting than the drab rendered boxes on Harris / Lewis. However, they have the same propensity for dumping old tractors, vans, agricultural implements, baths etc everywhere and anywhere, even in ruined houses:

We feel that rusty life expired Sherpa vans don’t enhance the landscape much.

Heading to the east coast and the glorious loch area, we pulled over and were “mugged” by the local semi-wild ponies. Firstly, as soon as the window was down, they tried breaking and entering with a demonic look in their eyes:

Then the crew went all soft and got out to feed them a biscuit which resulted in her being surrounded by hopeful ponies with very bad teeth:

Once they finally gave up hoping for more food, they groomed each other a little, showing off the aforementioned teeth that could do with the equine equivalent of Dentastix:

The lochs and hills are quite something:

As are the many ruined old stone houses:

The west coast has a quite strange spot where some local fishing boats are moored. These guys were sitting on buoy moorings with no sea wall, rocky outcrop or anything to protect them from the prevailing westerly winds. As you look out to sea, the next serious landmass is the Americas! No idea where they hide the boats when it is stormy out there:

On the roadside, there were plenty of creels. Somehow we view them as pot markers that we will not have to dodge and so it was a welcome sight:

The islands are linked by causeways where you literally drive across the Atlantic Ocean. The views on either side are amazing at both low and high water. On the most northerly island, Berneray, there is a ferry to Harris and then not much else in the way of housing, shops or anything bar great scenery.

We visited the local shop and tearoom, chatted to a very English guy who ran it and who admitted  that he was not from the area but assured us that he did not commute to work. Wonder how many times he has used that line?

The folks in the north of the island chain have an amazing lifestyle  – not one that we could contemplate though. The nearest shop of any size for food is on Benbecula and there you have one excellent local store and a Co-op. For the kids, well, not a lot really. One cafĂ© come coffee shop come deli (again on Benbecula) and the hotel in Lochmaddy (North Uist where the ferry terminal is). No idea what else they do as they grow and want to spread their wings. As Morris, the Stornoway man said, "anyone young with get up and go has got up and gone". Then they sometimes return for their retirement. Kind of a remote version of  Eastbourne but with harsher weather and much nicer scenery perhaps? Not really, much more life here!

Monday, 27 June 2016

Alternator belts, a diversion

For Nordhavn / Nothern Lights tekkies only:

After the broken drive belt game and having wondered why there are two belts to drive one small engine battery alternator on our main engine, we did some digging.

Here is what the Lugger / Northern Lights guru "Lugger Bob" had to say. (He has been mentioned in here before as the "go to guy" for any queries and that he is amazingly helpful to the Nordhavn owner community). When asked about alternaitves to the twin belt setup a while ago by another owner who didn't like the belt dust it created, Bob gave these alternatives:

1.Run with one belt. Each belt can carry 100 amps with so much wrap on the pulley. It's the famous Lugger "two belts and no suspenders" approach. Two belts allows you to upgrade to a big, rebuildable alternator when the cheapo little starting battery alternator dies and goes to heaven. One belt may mitigate the torsionally induced vibration of the belts enough to kill the dust. If that doesn't work, I'll bet you a dinner that a Gates green back Fleetrunner will do it. If you want to run two belts, that's OK, too.
2. If you want to run with zero belts, you should disconnect the alternator field and turn your paralleling switch ON between the house batteries and engine start batteries. Make a note for the pilothouse to remind you to turn if off while at anchor. Read the note before you go to bed.
2a. If you'd rather not mess with the paralleling switch, buy an ABC switch (automatic battery combiner) that will switch power from the house batteries to the starting battery bank when the house batteries reach 13.5 (or 27) volts. Blue Seas makes a nice one, as do some other vendors. NO battery combiner diodes!!

THIS APPLIES TO ALL L668D/T, LP668T AND L1066T LUGGER ENGINES!! Everyone else: just buy the green belts and have a good time.

So, now you know, even if you didn't want to. Good that his method of running with no belt (option 2) was the same as our idea on what to do if both belts had broken. Reassuring!

Sunday, 26 June 2016

Loch Shieldaig to Lochboisdale (Outer Hebrides) and some maintenance for those who are hungry to read about a problem at last!

Leaving at 10 pm felt more like an early evening thing with the light levels. In fact, it didn’t get properly dark at all. Twilightish from 12:30 to about 2:00 am but that was it. The start of the trip was wonderfully atmospheric, a little mist hanging between the mainland and Skye, the mountains peeping over the top of it, wonderful sunsets. Sorry but no pictures for you to enjoy as the captain was trying to sleep before taking over for the passage around the top of Skye.....

The route was an interesting one, slowly turning south as we headed down the western side of Skye, with a little shelter from the Outer Hebrides until the wind turned southerly:

Our route seems to start in the middle of the sea though - looks like the AIS signal was not picked up properly by the shorebased stations. For info we started out from the purple circle! The first dogleg in the course heading south is because there is a traffic separation scheme in place and we had to either avoid it or cross at right angles. This course allowed us to clip the top end of it, a minimal diversion. We were amazingly lucky - our course didn't have to alter by a single degree to avoid all the ships, we just added 100 rpm to our speed to give a nice 1 mile clearance from a southbound tanker who was heading for the TSS. Sometimes, you get lucky.

The second diversion was when the crew had to avoid a pesky fishing boat who turned, stopped and then set off directly towards us. We think he was upset at seeing an English registered boat on his AIS screen and blamed us for brexit, the lack of Scottish independence (so far), austerity budgets, Bonnie Prince Charlie and the number of calories in his Irn Bru. The rest of the run into Lochboisdale was a matter of plodding into the building waves (on the nose), avoiding the pot markers (and there were plenty) and staying awake. The latter was hard as all the TV and radio coverage was on political meltdowns, stock market meltdowns, exchange rate meltdowns and similar exciting stuff. We amused ourselves by switching it all off and thinking nice thoughts instead. This is not a trip to do in the dark, far too many markers, some of which were right in the entrance to the TSS lanes too.

As we headed up Loch Boisdale, it started raining so no nice pictures of that for you either. We have stolen a couple for you to enjoy though as it is a pretty place:

There was no VHF reply from Lochboisdale harbour and the phone message was to “pick a berth” so we did just that. The place has a strange layout – no hammerhead berths on the two “legs” – just shortish fingers so we had a nice job trussing up the boat ready for the forecast strong winds. Our plan is to stay for a while and explore the islands in the chain here:

Around lunchtime, Coll the harbour man arrived, said hello and was incredibly helpful and friendly, giving us local information, advice, a chat about the area and the new harbour development etc etc. It seems that Lochboisdale Harbour cost about £11 million to do with lots of nice EU development money. It involved building a causeway between two islands, then two wavebreaks to form a harbour entrance. Phase 2 was supposed to move the ferry terminal to here and build a bigger commercial vessel quay. He said that post Brexit, he wasn’t sure where the funding would come from. We cannot escape the impacts of this it seems. Don’t think he held us responsible though. Talking of impacts, we luckily still have quite a lot of fuel on board! Cannot imagine that we will see 32.8p / litre again….

Maintenance news

We have some!! For the people who like problems and getting the spanners out this should amuse you. Shortly after heading off, the captain did his first engine room check and noticed that one of the two belts that drive the small frame engine battery alternator had broken. Luckily it hadn’t taken the second belt with it when it thrashed around a little in its death throes! Here is the very sick belt, removed after arrival in harbour :

To be fair, if it had killed its twin, that would not have been a disaster. The main alternator that runs off the huge multi-V belt would still be working and we could simply parallel the engine battery to the domestics so it got charged. In fact, the battery alone would have provided the small 2 amp current draw needed by the engine for the rest of the trip. We would just have to isolate the power feed to the alternator to save it overheating whilst not being driven. See, something at last for the spanner addicts!  

These were the original belts and so have run for 2,600 hours. Just over a year ago they were showing signs of wear but nothing too dramatic. The captain of course didn’t check them this winter as getting the belt guard off is a horrid job. Hum.

Both belts were replaced with the spares. Yes, the captain's huge spares stock has been depleted a little. One of the problems with the Lugger 1066T setup is that the two belts don’t run at the same tension or properly parallel. The bracket holding the alternator doesn’t hold it totally square to the pulley on the front of the engine that the belts run on. Are both belts really needed to drive one small frame alternator that in reality never has to produce much power after replenishing the startup current draw? Well, the engineers at Northern Lights are way smarter than the captain so we defer to their logic in fitting two, whatever their reason was!

We have more info for you as well. During another engine room check, the captain noticed that the stuffing box (for the non-boaters, that is not a rude phrase! Look at Wikipedia) was running much hotter than normal:

The potentially OCD-inspired regular temperature checks on various components had paid off. For some reason, the stuffing box that had run quite happily for around 370 hours since the last adjustment / repacking decided to stop leaking and hence cooling. Again, for non-boaters, the scary thought of water dripping into the boat through this is quite normal and needed. It helps cool and lubricate things. Don’t worry, it is a regular slow drip, not a torrent!

The captain could understand the water intake increasing as the packing wears but for it to stop is less likely of course. It looked like the nice slippery material used to coat the packing material had managed to bung up the water flow. So, whilst underway, the bolts that hold the “gland follower” part were slackened off a little and then it was “persuaded” to expand with a few carefully aimed thumps! Sure enough, the odd water drip started with lots of nice sticky brown gunge being washed through, then a regular drip and the stuffing box went back to the normal 22 centigrade operating temperature.

Lesson from all this – keep going with the OCD engine room and temperature gun checks at regular intervals!

Saturday, 25 June 2016

Loch Shieldaiging

As you can imagine, we did not rush to get up after our 3am arrival. However, some sun lured us out finally. We took the RIB to the Gairloch harbour pontoon and then walked across the headland towards Gairloch itself. En route, you get to enjoy the stunning beach and loch views:

Passing the golf club, we saw a tempting sign – it said that the clubhouse (which also has stunning views) was open to visitors, did tea and cake and had free WiFi. As there was no data via O2, Three or EE anywhere in the area, we were happy – needed to check the long term forecast of course. Sitting outside in the sun, with a view across Gairloch, was wonderful. The scones were the same. The scouser who came to chat to us (local Tesco delivery van driver who liked alcohol and chatting) was amusing.  We were so glad not to have his liver (or booze bills). We used to meet all the scousers in Penarth – they seem to be spreading out now. Perhaps this one wants to keep an EU passport?

Having said farewell to the Liverpool comic, we wandered back again enjoying the loch and beach panorama:

Being high above the little harbour area on the headland gave a nice vista too:

Back on the boat, the RIB looked very happy bobbing around behind us:

 So, not wanting it to enjoy itself, we took it for a trundle around Loch Shieldaig:

You can see how well trussed up the Nordhavn is - the messy line around the bow is the chunky fixed mooring strop, being hauled out of the way. You can also get an idea of how beautiful the surroundings are:

Then the RIB had a blat across to Badachro which is good for the engine, less good for the crew’s posterior and back though as there were a few waves building. The moorings around the island are in a very picturesque setting and the narrow channel around the southern side at low water is quite impressive too:

Andrew, the nice Welsh chap who is now happily cruising on his own Nordhavn had kindly sent us the 48 hour forecast by SMS. When we heard the short term update from the Stornoway coastguard on their regular 7:10pm update, we revised our plans. A building southerly wind would make a trip to South Uist tomorrow pretty unpleasant once out of the shelter of Skye.

Going overnight tonight would allow us to optimise the tides, shorten the journey time and have a smoother run with the tide against us towards the end of the trip too, avoiding "wind over tide". The only drawback was heading off at 10pm after arriving here at 3am.  Leaving it another day would not be nice – force 7 winds were forecast. So, 10 pm it was to be. Time to recover the RIB and prepare for departure….. We did get to enjoy the setting evening sun on the hills though:

Friday, 24 June 2016

Stornoway to Loch Shieldaig (via the Shiants and Skye!)

Leaving the harbour in Stornoway was simple enough thanks to a good dollop of thruster use to push us sideways off the walkway against the wind. Pottering out of the harbour felt a bit like leaving home somehow, after two excellent weeks there. The plan was to head down to the Shiant islands which are great bird sanctuaries (although troubled by rats who like to eat eggs / young puffins etc) and then on to an anchorage off Skye called Duntulm Bay. Morris, the local expert master mariner chap said that it was a great spot from which to admire the sun go down over the Hebrides. We were not sure about a stunning sunset treat though as it was a bit grey and cloudy when we headed off.

It was a very gentle run down the coast of Lewis / Harris and on towards the Shiants. As we watched them appear, so a few puffins came into view on the water amusing us with their usual antics (which we guess the puffins just view as perfectly normal taking off and landing). Patrick was watching thses islands very intently, perhaps hoping for a penguin or two to hove into view:

He was to be disappointed though. We think that his domestication has caused him to forget the kind of conditions that his type of penguin normally lives in. Perhaps we will have to stick him in the freezer for a while – unless anyone has a better idea?

Around the islands we were treated to a wonderful panorama that photographs cannot do justice to:

Sheer cliff faces with birds somehow nesting on them. Puffins, cormorants, gannets etc etc flying around (sadly no sea eagles were visible). Rocky outcrops and the odd hopeful seal too. Not as many birds as we have seen around Skomer but still quite something. As we had set off late(ish) there was not really time to anchor for lunch in the one area that you can use for a temporary stop (not safe for overnight mooring) so we headed down to Skye and into Duntulm Bay. All alone, we happily anchored in the best spot according to the pilot book and sat admiring the views:

Nicely sheltered from the both forecast and actual NE’ly  force 4, the sun came out and we were happy bunnies. Of course, such an idyllic moment had to be broken by the arrival of a yacht who chose to anchor quite close to us. Then our anchor decided to drag a little so, it was out, disconnect the snubber, fire up the engine, move a little bit further from the pesky yacht and drop the hook again. It had a good hold so back inside for dinner and to enjoy the evening sun and views – perhaps there was going to be a sunset after all!

Instead, the anchor chose to drag a little again. More chain didn’t help – of course the amount of chain was limited by the yacht who had anchored close to us but we already had much more than the normal 4 times the depth. We could not move that far away from Mr Yacht as we would not have enough swinging room between the shore and the rocky island offshore that was sheltering us. The tide there tends to hold you across the wind and that means lots of swinging around. OK, third attempt. The anchor dug in nicely and resisted the pull of the main engine working away in reverse. Surely we haven’t picked a patch of kelp / weed this time? All seemed well until around 9pm when guess what, we slowly started to move again.

Our previously very trusty Delta anchor, which has held us most happily on the south coast of England in vicious tides, around Wales etc seemed to dislike the Scottish kelpy / sandy conditions this year:

Perhaps we need to invest in a Rocna or similar. Ouch, they are eye wateringly expensive but very pretty engineering:

Decision time - do we keep playing this game all night or move on. If we move, where to? The Dunvegan Castle anchorage was close but not close enough to reach before it got as dark as it gets here during June. Entering a new unknown area at night that has moorings and probably several pot markers did not excite us too much. An alternative was a longer run across to Loch Shieldaig where we had used one of the heavy duty mooring buoys before. If they were busy, we knew the area to anchor in and it would be getting light (2:30 am is “getting light” here!) as we arrived to help us avoid the many pot markers. Decision made. So, engine on and head off.

Around the top of Skye it was bumpy as the wind was over the tide which runs fast around the headlands. Naturally, the fog then descended so no pictures for you of nice sunsets or a mean and moody looking Isle of Skye. Then it was just a 5 foot or so wave train on the port bow for the run across to the mainland which of course calmed down as we got into the lee of the land.  Entering Gairloch, the crew bravely stood on the foredeck as pot spotter and did an excellent job issuing avoidance instructions over our radio headsets whilst the captain stayed inside in the warm midge free environment. He needed to look at the equipment in there of course. Then to add to the fun, the crew's radio headset went flat so we had to resort to hand signals and some door open shouts. The midge free environment was at risk suddenly....

Although all three of the big 80 ton buoys were free, one had still got the ton and a half of monster hawser attached to it and having wrestled with that on our last visit, we were not keen:

Quite a navigation hazard at night too if you were not expecting it! Not sure how the average rope cutter would fare against that line.....

Another one of the three buoys one had no pick up buoy / line attached and so we went for the most easterly mooring that offered a pick up buoy attached to a strop but without the 30 odd metres of heavy, slimy, barnacle encrusted rope to manhandle on board. Naturally, the strop was also a monster and the crew could barely lift it. You really enjoy wrestling with such things at 3 am! The strop was so long that when secured, we were floating rather close to a yacht on an adjacent mooring buoy. So, for safety as we swing differently to yachts, we launched the RIB and fitted our own line directly to the buoy.

Then, finally, we could get some sleep. It had been a long night and didn’t go at all to plan. Still, Loch Shieldaig is lovely and it meant that we could look forward to a proper walk the next day and get our 10,000 paces in. Every cloud has some sort of lining it seems….  

Thursday, 23 June 2016

Escaping the lure of Lewis / Harris

It had to happen sometime. As lovely as this place is, we ought to move on. Our original thoughts were to head for Orkney (for the non UK folks, these are another set of islands, off the north east coast of Scotland). Orkney is stuck out from the north easterly tip of the mainland  - the area outlined in red below:

We are sitting in Stornoway, also shown on the map, stuck out into the Atlantic.

Big decision time - where to go next? The folks that we talked to all said that the Outer Hebrides were probably more beautiful / interesting than Orkney and so we were tempted to explore more of these islands. The deal was sealed when a retired ship's captain, Morris, chatted to us and offered to show us all the best local anchorages. He kindly popped over and we had fun marking the charts and Maxsea software with all the spots that the pilot books miss out. There will be plenty to keep us amused / the anchor busy.

A last wander around the harbour come riverside come Lews castle grounds was most enjoyable, some great views and contrasting scenery to enjoy. The rock formations at low water are impressive:

We also loved the "Cobblers bench". You can see that they are a little more substantial than the average commemorative seat, being hewn from solid timber. This one was sponsored by a local shoe shop and the right hand side is a huge mock up of a cobbler's last:

They build things to "last" here....

The folks in the Stornoway Harbour office and the guys out on the pontoons have been very friendly and helpful. Check this out - we asked in the office if they had waste oil disposal facilities here. The man who had helped us berth when we arrived said yes and that as the tank was not on the harbour area, he would collect the drum from us! We said that we were happy to take it as we needed the drum back ready to take the waste from the next oil change (main engine oil is a "one 20 litre drum out, one in" activity). He said that was fine and they would take the drum, empty it and drop it back to us as well. He even arranged a time to do it..... They duly arrived and did so, this was sitting on the pontoon for us 30 minutes later:

We remain amazed and happy at how good the harbour staff have been here - how about that for service at less than a third of your mooring rates Mr MDL?

Maintenance news:

On a wet day (yes, we've had one now, most upsetting) the captain got keen and adjusted the wing engine valve clearances (2 of the 8 needed a little tweak) and gave the air filter a clean. The main engine gearbox was treated to an oil and filter change and the genset got a new air filter. All most industrious really. These were coming up as "due" - part of the routine maintenance work.

We've mentioned the gearbox oil filter before - a big ZF thing that handles seriously high pressures and so has to be the original equipment ZF part, not a cheapo Chinese pattern job. There were some pictures on here a while ago when the genset valve clearances were checked so we will not repeat the images of a topless engine - just a reminder to anyone with the Northern lights / Lugger unit to also clean out the little folded gauze filter that sits in the rocker cover under a metal flap and that traps oil etc heading for the breather / air intake. Easy to forget but equally easy to do with some brake cleaner - you also get to enjoy the smell of the stuff!

Sunday, 19 June 2016

And yet more Lewis / Harris adventuring

We hope that you are not too bored by the information on the Lewis / Harris area yet. If so, then just skip this post. That would be a shame of course as it is a fascinating place with plenty to do / see even if you have to do it in a little white van that has seen better days. So, where else did we explore?

The little island of Great Bernera was lovely - just a bit chilly in the wind though. Some iron age house remains were uncovered during a big storm in the 1990s and one has been "restored" as you can see in the picture below:

If you cannot - it is the "mound" on the left hand side at beach level! This is a truly remote spot and very beautiful. It is mainly populated by sheep who sport some most impressive horn things:

Not to mention nice thick coats that were needed that day, despite the sun.

We also hit the northern part of Lewis, enjoying the little cafe in Point Ness at lunchtime with views of the beach and harbour. This was a major fishing harbour in years gone by and was built and then extended many times as you can see from the strange layout with old breakwaters appearing as "arms" in the harbour. At low water it would not be ideal for us:

The Butt of Lewis lighthouse area is as exposed as you would expect. Apparently it has a claim to fame - it is noted as the windiest part of Britain in the Guinness book of records. Well, although it was blowy, there are some great rock formations to enjoy:

 The lighthouse tower is unusual - brick construction and not the normal white painted stone job. somehow it looks more utilitarian:

The wires hanging from it don't help either.  Still, an impressive structure. Of course, visiting places like these does not necessarily excite labradors:

Food usually does though.

The harbour area around Stornoway itself has some good walks. You get views of Lews Castle which despite a bit of scaffolding is still quite a building:

Stornoway has become quite a calling spot for the smaller cruise ships and of course you can spot the average cruise passenger from several yards away. The attire and attitude are unmistakable in most cases. We did have a "special" visitor though, the Hebridean Princess:

She is an old (1964) Calmac ferry called the Columba that was converted to be a 5 star passenger ship with only about 50 passengers on board who pay heavily for the privilege of course. It is a little harder to spot the folks from this ship - more a case of "spot the jewellery, and watches" than "spot the cruise liner baseball cap".

We did find one drawback of this lovely spot. Saturday night seems to be the time when all the younger folk in the island congregate to hit the pubs and then race their elderly Subaru Imprezza vehicles (or Ford Focus or even a life expired Transit if desperate) around the town. Not such an issue for us but not good for Norman and Julie who tried to sleep in a car park that was being used like a drag strip. The noise upset Indie, our godpuppy, so much that she chewed the gas alarm in their motorhome leaving several severed wires. Our moral guidance fails again. The noise clearly doesn't upset the local police though, who do nothing at all to stop the lads at play.

Norman thinks that a 240v gas alarm might discourage Indie next time. Harsh but understandable.

Wednesday, 15 June 2016

More Lewis / Harris by van

Towards the top of the island is the sort of famous "Bridge to nowhere". It was built by the then owner of the island, Lord Leverhulme just after the first world war. He wanted to change the island into a more industrial area; the returning soldiers from the war wanted to go back to their crofting lifestyle and rebelled against his changes. Hence, the planned road around the top of the island didn't get completed and the bridge is a reminder of this attempt:

Shock, horror - we did return to Stornoway during the rush hour and had to wait at a roundabout with at least 4 cars ahead of us. Having the modern stop/start function on a car is really not needed here....

The "Lochs" area on Lewis is also beautiful and kept us amused for an afternoon drive around:

We stopped off at Ravenspoint, where there is a hostel come community centre come fuel point come shop, come cafe sort of place. Sitting at a window table, with views across the loch (binoculars provided so you can watch the wildlife too) was pretty good. Seeing the enormous scones, we ordered one cream tea and one tea, planning to share the food bit. The relatively mute lady serving duly delivered a teapot, two cups and one enormous scone with two plates. Very good it was too. So, half a scone and 1.5 cups of tea later the captain paid. She said that she had just given us one cream tea between two and so that would be £3. Get that Starbucks... If we'd got the extra tea we ordered, we would probably still be there drinking it all. Some bargain, just a shame that the lady serving was a little monosyllabic.

Norman and Julie (the Bobil people) arrived by ferry to Tarbert (yes, yet another Tarbert) as part of their Scottish motorhome tour. Why so many Tarberts we hear you ask (and if you have not then you need to develop a more enquiring mind). Well, it is pretty simple - here is what Wikipedia says:

Tarbert (Scottish GaelicAn Tairbeart) is a place name in Scotland and Ireland. Places named Tarbert are characterised by a narrow strip of land, or isthmus. This can be where two lochs nearly meet, or a causeway out to an island

Of course, Norm and Julie brought the canine trio along too. So, we had to find a beach and the one at Luskentyre is amongst the best:

Roxy had a great time playing ball in the water then dripping gently as she emerged:

Indie, our Godpuppy wanted to play with mum, or bite her, or steal the ball or generally just be the centre of attention:

As you can see, our moral guidance responsibilities are not going well. Still, the beach is an amazing place. It is a must see when you come to Harris (that was when, not an if, the place is too special to avoid). After a suitable amount of ball throwing and chasing around, we had one sandy godpuppy:

Of course, Milo the Jack Russell just stood and looked on with a sense of dignified amazement at how silly labradors can be:

The southern tip of the island at Rodel was a good stopover for tea. No carrot cake available in the little hotel of course so no chance for it to overtake the all time best from St Ives. The little harbour area was typical of the coastline and such a peaceful spot too:

There is even a tucked away little anchorage we might explore in future. The area is just wonderful, it is a shame that most of the the houses are typical little "Scottish boxes" - plain architecture, rendered and in drab colouring. We also don't get the way that the folks dispose of old vans, tractors, equipment etc. by just leaving it dumped in the corner of a field / along the roadside / wherever. Perhaps opening a scrapyard here is a way to make money?

A little more about you folks:

Well, the number of reads is still increasing. The average is now up to 1,600 per month, no idea why, Must be the breathless prose in here. However, mentioning a few folks has clearly frighted them off. The UAE reader has gone away as has the (potentially Mossad employed) reader from Israel. No recent accesses by either of them.

Since it seems so simple to get people to leave you alone, perhaps we should just mention "EU referendum campaign" now and see if all the irritating people telling half truths and trying to persuade us to take a massively complex decision with little reliable data will vanish too. We live in hope.