I’ve been thinking about it, and I don’t believe I’ve mentioned Willow.

Last year we had the sadness when we lost two of our long time dogs, Prue, one of out Scottish Border Collies, and Todd, a trained Border Collie the we got in Colorado.

Not long after we moved to Michigan we got Willow. She came from Colorado too, but was too young to travel when we moved, so she had to join us a few months later. She’s one of our Livestock Guardian Dogs, but she may be alternating between looking after the Goats and looking after Melisa when I’m gone. She’s a gorgeous Akbash, a relatively rare breed of livestock guardian, and she just loves her daddy and the little goat kids she has to look after.

Willow cleans faces
Willow loves her Dad

Update; into 2015

Yet again it’s been a long time since my last blog post.

snorkel hot tub
Snorkel Hot Tub

In the last real post I was telling you about the new hot tub area that we had created. Well, it has been completed for now and our new Snorkel Hot Tub assembled and used over the autumn. Now that we are well and truly in the depth of winter we haven’t braved the snow enough to go for a dip, but we have occasionally had the stove burning to keep the temperature up. We’re looking forward to the spring and not having to dig through 3 feet of snow to get to it!
Other projects over the winter have included refurbishing the milk parlor, which now has metal siding and roof to match the other buildings.
Work wise, over the last six months or so I have been bouncing around various locations on-shore and different vessels off-shore, partly as my usual vessel, Skandi Seven is not too busy doing the type of operations that I am normally involved with, and partly because I have started the process of gaining US citizenship through naturalization.
This winter has been another long haul on the ranch with the weather being very cold and lots and lots of snow. The spring thaw will be very welcome, and already the planning for this year’s projects is in full swing.
One of the recurring problems that we encounter is that we seem to be too busy trying to get things done, that we don’t have time to enjoy them. That’s something that we want to endeavor to change going forward this year.

Really? I mean… really?

This was a story from earlier in the year that I remember reading and chuckling about at the time. For some reason, I stumbled across it again today.

Drones or UAVs? The search for a more positive name

Apparently, some people do not like it when their Hi-Tech ‘Unmanned Ariel Vehicles’ are referred to as ‘Drones’, as they feel that the term ‘Drone’ has negative connotations, presumably believing that it may result in a failing for them in the popularity stakes.

General Atomics Aeronautical Systems, a leading manufacturer of UAVs, went as far as to described the ‘Drone’ reference as having pejorative connotations’.

Really????? Your model line-up contains UAVs called, ‘Avenger’, ‘Prowler’, ‘Reaper’ and ‘Predator’ and you think ‘Drone’ has negative connotations???? If I was building shit like that, I probably would have paid a PR company to promote the term ‘Drone’


Orchard and Hot-tub area

As promised, here are some pictures of the new Orchard and hot-tub area that Melisa and I have been working on for the past month.

Melisa’s (more articulate) thoughts on our progress can be seen here.

Now that I’m away for a period of time, I’m looking forward to seeing the changes that will come about in the time I’m gone as, when I return, grass will be sprouting and Melisa will have woven her magic with all the flowers that she will be planting.

The travails of work related travel

I went to great pains to arrange for my off-shore medical, in a sensible manner, co-ordinating with all the relevant parties, while en-route to Norway for my trip to the vessel. Then, last minute changes to the crew-change, had the office re-scheduling my travel from Aberdeen to Norway with too tight a margin for me to be able to make the flight after my medical appointment. A fact that I didn’t find out until late in the evening the night before, (and only then thanks to the vessel co-ordinator calling me to check that I’d got them!). Thankfully I’ve now managed to get a THIRD set of flight bookings that has me making all the connections that I need, albeit with only 10 minutes to spare between my arrival in Brønnøysund, Norway and the check-in time for my helicopter flight. The plus side is that I’m supposed to be on the first helicopter, so if I am in anyway delayed, I can be switched to the second one to give a bit of lee-way. All of this was on top of having a tight connection in Chicago and missing my original flight to the UK, being transfered to a later flight and making it to Aberdeen six hours later than originally planned. My recent history with Chicago O’Hare has not been good!

Brønnøysund, Norway is a first for me, and I believe that it may be the furthest north I’ve ever been (70 miles south of the arctic circle) while still on land, though I have been further north while at sea.

All good things…

Another leave is over, and it’s been a busy one. On my way back to work in Norway, via Aberdeen to re-new my off-shore medical first.

Like I said, a busy leave. Getting up a 8:10AM constituted a lay-in, and if the tools were packed away by 10:30PM, it was an “early knock”.  Can’t think of the last time I had so much intensive physical work for such a prolonged time. Much has been done in the way of tree felling, landscaping, creating a new orchard for us, a meadow area for the goaties, and the creation of a small deck area for our new snorkel hot-tub. Unfortunately, the work load was too great to get the hot-tub put together this leave, so that will be one of the first jobs for next leave so that we can enjoy the fruits of our labours! In the mean time, while I’m gone, Melisa will continue to plant flowers around the hot-tub area, to create our idyllic setting for long soaks.

Once I get time to breathe I will post some photographs of what Melisa and I have done.



Selling paintings

While I have been away this trip, Melisa told me that we have sold another of my paintings from our Etsy Store. This is now the third painting that we have sold (if popular rumor is to be believed, that’s three times more than Van Gogh sold during his lifetime – not that I put a lot of credence in that) coincidentally, all of them have been sold while I have been off-shore.

As a business plan it is clear that I,

A) Need to do some more painting and

B) Need to spend more time off-shore (!?!)

 Anyway, below are pictures of the three paintings that we have sold.

Offshore in Norway

I’m heading towards the end of my latest trip offshore in Norway, just as we are getting towards mid-summers night.

It’s been an odd trip this time as we seem to have been steadily working our way north. I joined the ship in Halden, a town in the south of Norway just beside the border with Sweden. In fact, to get the ship into Halden it has to sail up a fjord, under a bridge that is Norway on one side and Sweden on the other.

After Halden we sailed to the company’s base in Dusavik, near Stavanger, to complete our mobilization then we were off to Oseberg field for a few days. After the installation work there it was back to Dusavik to de-mobilize that project and mobilize for the next. We also had some heavy re-instatement work to do to the Lay Tower after a project earlier in the year. On completion of that, and the annual re-certification of the ship, we headed further north again to the Norne and Asgard fields. Norne is at 66° north, only 40 miles south of the Arctic circle. Although that isn’t quite far enough north to be into the ‘land of the midnight sun’, it is far enough north that, at this time of year, it never really gets dark.

Only a few more days and I will be homeward bound again, but in the meantime, here are some photos of ‘night time’. Oh, and just in case you couldn’t tell from the times the photographs were taken… I’m working night-shift again!

Move over Prius… F1 goes hybrid

The 2014 season has seen radical revisions to the rules in Formula 1. The most sweeping of which is a change to the engine regulations. Gone are the 2.4L V8 normally aspirated engines which have been used for the last 10 years and in their place are smaller, more efficient, 1.6L V6 turbo-charged engines which rely on a high degree of ‘energy recovery’. In other words, F1 has gone ‘hybrid’.

Coupled to the new engine formula is a severe restriction on, not only the total amount of fuel available for the race but also, a maximum consumption rate. With only 100kg of fuel available and maximum fuel flow rate of 100kg/hr, the cars are now completing a race distance with around 66% of the fuel they used last year.

Other changes to the rules have reduced the limit on the maximum revs of the engines, reduced the size of the downforce creating wings making the cars ‘twitchier’ and more difficult to handle, and as the power-trains require heavy battery packs, the minimum weight for the cars has been increased by 45kg.

The net result of these changes are that the cars are faster in a straight line, but slower around corners, theoretically increasing the opportunities for overtaking. One downside, that has been overplayed to death in the media, is that the engine noise is no longer of a deafening volume, but even this can be regarded as an advantage. With the lower engine noise and the cars being more of a handful, other aural nuances emerge in the tortured squeal of tires that were previously drowned out under engine roar.

The detractors of the new regulations also point out that the overall laps times of the cars is longer, a point that is factually true, but practically negligible. The cars are 7% heavier, use 30% less fuel, but are only 2-3% slower over a lap in race conditions. I don’t recall these same detractors relating to the fact that, for many circuits, the existing lap records are from a time before the last changes to the regulations!

As often happens when there is a major change to the regulations, there has been a shake-up in the pecking order of the teams. Of the current three engine suppliers (Mercedes, Renault and Ferrari) Mercedes have done their homework the best, and as a result the teams using their engine, particularly the eponymous ‘works’ team, are doing particularly well so far. Red Bull Racing, the team that have dominated for the last few years winning both the Drivers Championship and Constructors Championship for the previous four consecutive years, have not been doing so well with their new Renault engine and, not unsurprisingly, are now making the most complaints about the new regulations. Red Bull are, however, still doing considerably better than other Renault supplied teams suggesting that, yet again, their underlying car is well designed.

In the first six races of the season Mercedes had won all six and placed second in five of them. The only blot on a perfect record being a retirement, ironically with engine failure, for one of their drivers in the opening race. Speculation had already started as to whether or not the team would able to maintain such a dominant position for the rest of the season, or if Red Bull and the others, like Ferrari, will be able to progress at a faster rate and start to challenge for victories instead of fighting amongst themselves for the 3rd step of the podium. However, the seventh race, in Canada this last weekend, has revealed a potential Achilles heel for the Mercedes team. In the course of the race, both cars developed the same problem which lost them both braking force and re-generation power for the electrical part of their hybrid engine system. One car was forced to retire, while only an excellent defensive drive from the second car kept it in second place. The Canadian Grand Prix at the Circuit Giles Villeneuve in Montreal is a particularly fast circuit with very heavy braking, and it could be that this is a type of circuit where the Mercedes engines may have problems. The Italian Grand Prix at Monza could be similar, but Mercedes will now have a few months to try to find a solution before they have to face that race.