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Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Fuel Deliveries

I was down at the pier today collecting my messages (Scottish term for groceries) and watched the empty fuel tanks being lifted back onto the boat from the pier.

I use oil (kerosene) as fuel for the heating boiler and getting it out to the island is something of a challenge. The process goes something like this :

  • phone order through to supplier in Kirkwall who then checks there is an available empty tank on the pier at Stromness.
  • no empty tank, supplier phones customer (me) to locate empty tank on island and get it shipped back to Stromness (this can only happen on certain days).
  • Supplier then fills empty tank on Stromness pier and this is brought out to island on a Friday and loaded onto the back of a neighbour's tractor and trailer.
  • I then get the tractor with trailer and oil arriving at my house. Attach electric pump to tank on tractor and household oil tank. Wait (usually in pouring rain) for 20 minutes till transfer of fuel is complete. Dismantle pump (well I know the theory but I leave it to my neighbour to do the practical bit!). Offer hot tea (or other warming liquid) to neighbour.
  • Empty tank is returned to pier where it can then be put back on the ferry and transported back to Stromness on a Wednesday. (Ensure paperwork is handed to ferry crew for shipment of "dangerous cargo").
  • A week later, make strong cup of coffee, take deep breath and asthma medication and open bill. Exhale sigh of relief or reach for alternative stronger beverage dependant on contents.
  • Four or five months later - repeat process!
Our ferry is going away for it's annual marine test and tweak so we shall be without lift-on/lift-off cargo for a couple of weeks. So the farmers were stocking up on animal feed and other essential supplies today. This also has to be winched on and off the ferry.


  1. This is why islanders are such hardy souls!

    Love the "messages" - am happy to hear it still being used. I always think of my aunt (in Glasgow) whenever I hear that word and thought it had died out.

  2. We all enjoyed your fuel-delivery timeline. Maybe you won't have to get more until next winter.

  3. It all makes Westray sound very 21st century, what with the tanker coming over once a week.
    Mrs Malc has adopted the use of 'messages' - sounds a bit weird with the Wolverhampton accent.