A view on Fishing,Community and Life on the NW coast of Scotland


Fishing Tales.

Friday was a day of contrasts for me and the community. Woke up needing paracetamol and another three hours to recover so that decided the morning, whether to go fishing or to the funeral of Duncan Macleod, Coillie Ghillie, who was being laid to rest at Clachan around mid day. Was back on the go for that and was at Clachan  in plenty of time. Although I did not know Duncan personally there is a tradition of seeing people off for the family’s sake as well. You are paying respect to more than the person but an age and those around. Although you never forget the reason for the occasion often it is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a time gone by. As mentioned before Duncan came from Coillie Ghillie


being one of two brothers who survived an outbreak of TB. When you hear some one say that he was at the head stone five times that brings it home. I sometimes complain about a headache, losing your father, mother and sisters puts things in perspective. Duncan and Ian “Ali Bheag” were then looked after by an aunt, possibly a mother of Murdo “Noochie” at what became the store for the wee shop at Camusterrach. He then went on to live a full life mainly connected to the sea like most of his generation. Canada, as evident at the grave side and later meeting family members at the Inn, featured large in his life. An excuse to post another photo of the Mary Anne tied up in Canna, the ring netter that his brother Ian skippered and part owned and which my Dad was engineer on board.


Something I have heard before and spoke to Kenny on Saturday evening was name changing. The Macleods, so the story goes changed their name to Tolomie, the suggestion being that at one time they were in Gairloch and being a Macleod in Mackenzie country was not the easiest. Kenny was down from Shieldaig and his family changed their name from Macleay to Livingstone, again no definite reason given but the possibly around the time of the explorer David Livingstone and holding him in high regard….. Name changing would certainly be an awful lot easier then than now, no bank, DDs, passports etc to sort. I spent a fair bit of time with a couple of local worthies and heard tales of days gone by of the ringnet, have to say that there were copious amounts of whiskey and rum in many of the stories that stretched from the Eagle bar in Inverness to coming back to the Mary Anne and the Kathryn which were tied up at Aultbea at three in the morning. Loved the attempt at coming back on board quietly trying not to wake the other crew members, with a full load on board an impossible task. The trip at the top of the stairs of the Eagle bar and coming down the full length would have been bad enough but there was a visit to the butchers just prior meant mince, pork chops, black puddings and steaks tumbling every where around the fallen hero. And a hello to the family, some of whom I have never met and others I was in school with before heading down the road for the rest of my recovery. Back up around half four for a hectic shift, the season is well under way even if the weather has not turned yet. It has remained very unsettled. The opposite to the funeral took place in the evening at the Community Hall where local”superstars” took to the stage and although happy to cover to let younger staff go to the event by all accounts it went well with lots of money raised and every one enjoying themselves. Thriller up on youtube for all to see.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FtBMXjFlMYI

Yesterday, after more dog walking rebooting, not bothering to keep the diary for break downs now as it will be all change soon, a trip out for the last of the langoustines,


back to the Inn in the evening for another early start. Will be glad to get the missing data for the local cards back from Gilbarco as well, just has not been a good news story despite the visitors telling us so. Windy day and a busy, noisy, good-humoured bar with an Inn full of Scousers among others. It turned into a very windy day



but bright and good to watch,


knowing that you were not at sea.


Good night on the food front apart from me pushing the kitchen tolerance to its limit when I missed a pork fillet out of a big order, but humour prevailed on the table and eventually in the kitchen.

The lead up to Easter weekend continues with another busy lunch and looked like continuing as I left about six. Another little boost from a regular visitor, a silver surfer, who was exclaiming how good the internet connection was compared to last year, so Applenet beats BT in Applecross. I could have stayed but need to get some fishing done in the next couple of days, the quieter looking part of the week.Nice light leaving the Inn.


For some reason it feels as though we are half way through the year instead of the start, I suspect the weather has something to do with this.

Sorting It

Busy little morning and it started off with heading up to the toilets and finding Anna and Sean already there. Seems the stop cock has to be almost closed as the pressure is too great for the taps and just splashes out onto the floor and the valve closes down reducing the flow. Need a regulator to sort it out in the long-term and a bit more investigating in how to control the emersion heater.IMG_8970 That sorted, read a comment on the suggestions notes,


and taking the dogs for a walk in the rain, passing the Filling Station with some one needing diesel and it being offline, a quick trot back to the van for the key, a reboot, and an appreciative customer.


A good conversation going while we waited for the reboot and an acknowledgement of the trouble we would be in if we did not have it. Just maybe worth the hassle of Gilbarco to have chats like these. This couple has come to Applecross for the week and despite the weather are loving it and nice to play a small part in it. Pouring rain and back to the toilets to empty the donation box of just short of £45, the third time it has been emptied since it has been opened, more regular emptying when the season kicks off, and to read the comment….well community works does it not. That along with a couple of conversations about community matters with community minded people turns the day around and it is twelve noon before you know it. Overhearing one or two second-hand snippy/conversations about the Community Company, it’s the way it is, the small group active in the Company can only do so much and we are in it for the long haul. Having the dogs with me ensures exercise and even in the pouring rain we head off, burns are full, this one along the shore at Camusterrach is rarely running,


and the dogs are wet.


Afternoon shoots by with not very much happening but early up to the Inn as there were big groups  in at five. Strange evening regards the timing as it had all happened by 8.30  but at half six the place was heaving and struggling for seats but as usual it goes like a dream. Getting complaisant may be the only problem this season. Met up with two couples, one from a hotel half way up Loch Shin. Connections again and they are going to say hello to Hugh who  used to live here and was in my class in school. Good craic as well as the other two who were teachers frae Fife. Home early with three scoops of berry, black currant and rhubarb crumble ice cream.

We are now at closing/drinking up time, so good I no longer want to “have another for the road”. Day was fresh from the west and breezy so glad decided that no fishing took place. Instead it was back up to the Sillage pit for more very mature cow compost and a half-dozen boxes were loaded on to the van before heading back into Carnach wood


or Lili’s magic forest.


Beautiful in there today with the sun coming and going and everything greening up. Better weather today although still not settling down.


Extra ordinary numbers of ticks about just now, Dougal in particular, took around 50 of him today, many of them just crawling through his fur ready to attach themselves. He loves the better weather, unfortunately the shrews and field mice have to watch out and he seems to be getting pretty good at snuffling them out.




Another fine and busy shift this evening, practice for the Easter weekend which was broken up by a magnificent sunset.




The lifeboat in the photo above will soon be on the move as Alfie and the boys head off on their week-long trek raising money for the RNLI and other local charities. Extra ordinary amount of money they have raised over the last decade or so. http://blog.islayinfo.com/article.php/boatpull-fundraising-event-islayBig groups booked and Inn fully booked as well as guys just walking in meant a full on session topped off with a nice wee session from Hannah and Emma on the box and fiddle. good political banter tonight with locals at the bar and a Catalan family from Barcelona, the majority being Yes voters. A couple of good chats about the local politics as well, good to hear other views and also good to feel that you are not isolated. A lot of guys hold the same views but are nervous about expressing them in public, such a shame. Despite these local difficulties they are always positive conversations.  Talking about good news we have received the money from Gilbarco and will be building another new Filling Station, must be the only community in the Highlands that will be building two Petrol Stations  in five years.

A couple of days of funerals, many people out to say goodbye to Dougie over in Lochcarron and tomorrow Duncan Macleod will be laid to rest at Clachan. He was the sole remaining survivor of the tuberculosis outbreak at Collie Ghillie. They were looked after by an aunt after their parents and siblings succumbed to the disease. Duncan was the brother of Ian who skippered the Mary Anne, the ring netter my Dad was engineer on. The passing of an era. Had trouble posting this with uploading photos a bit of a hassle the last couple of days.

Not Really Grumpy

Later start and hoped for a bit of a quieter afternoon and that was what happened. So after taking the broadband equipment earmarked for Rona down to the pier, a self powered unit,


passing the Grace Anne on the way,


it was out on the middle bank all day and it was not till the last two fleets that I came out of gear, meaning I almost always haul the creels facing into the wind and if there is a breeze and/or strongish tide against you, you have the boat ticking over ahead to keep her up to the gear. Always have to be alert for foul up or shoot overs as ropes are drawn into the propeller. Fairly uneventful day apart from missing one buoy and after going astern the rudder came around too far. Luckily the safety bars keep it from the propeller but it meant switching off the auto helm and heading down the aft hatch with the stilson to swing it back around with the help of the wheel. Not a very pleasant job in the swell but no damage apart from straightening the auto helm rod that is attached to the rudder. Although I get these things sorted eventually I do not have the engineering brain and began by trying to turn the rudder the wrong way but also I know I have not that type of knowledge so do not force things too much before taking time out to have a proper think about it. Last fleet I hauled had not been hauled for a while for various reasons and came up with half a dozen creels wrapped around my first couple of creels. Nothing else to do but cut them off and cut the other rope to get myself free. There will be a land delivery of the creels and hope I retied okay for the least hassle for the other boat. No blame just two fleets that had not been hauled for a while had come together.


Lovely afternoon and although sun arriving late it was an enjoyable day.


Only ashore you realise there is another ALPS meeting to go to, so it means, a take away fish and chips before heading back out the door. The project is coming to an end now and it is now the Gateway project to do and all these decisions are taken out with the Group so not really too much to say. I have stated that the pier option was the most carbon friendly but that has been turned down for several reasons which I can accept but not agree with. Taking timber out of Applecross by road is the least favourable option but that is the route we have gone down. Road upgrades and damage payments make the pier a better option financially but that is now history. Light looking even better ashore.


Today the weather came in albeit a little later but by 11 am was not bothered about not going out and got on with a pretty busy day of wood work, a pier tidy and landing some prawns to Spain via Ardheslaig. And by the time that was all over it was evening and time to make the sweet and sour prawns caught yesterday, which were bearable. Had to call into the toilets as we have a water problem, temporarily solved with a bucket but more needs to be done tomorrow morning. There always seems to be something at the moment. Bookwork, a long and intricate discussion on the future of rural west coast broadband on the email streams, Filling Station upgrade, and we thought it already was, and now the toilets. Hopefully it will turn out to be something simple like an airlock but it still needs to be sorted by some one who knows what he/she is doing. Slight relief in that we were not going to be quorate tonight at the CC meeting so cancelled. Bealach Beag has reared its head again, as said before it is tolerated here with not an awful lot of benefits but the organisers have decided in their wisdom to put the May event on on the May Bank Holiday. Businesses actually lose money on the day and losing a Bank Holiday payday seems a bit unfair for some people. When the organisers came in first it was to “extend the shoulder of the season” something that people in Applecross by September are wondering as necessary. But the opinion was that neighbouring communities may need or want this extension so we have shrugged our proverbial shoulders. The impact on the organisers will come from Shieldaig CC as we have been dismissed….we shall see. Good to have a grump and as we are on one then the situation with the Roads Dept regarding the undermining of the road at the bottom of the Craig Darroch is not the best, especially as they are putting a cattle grid on the Culduie road which as far as I know there will not be any fences round it. I am in a better mood than the post suggests but it is good to see what can be improved. Another way of looking at it is there is so much going on here for just a couple of hundred souls who live on the peninsula. When something goes wrong on the Varuna you fix it and no one knows, but when you have community problems like the Filling Station, local cards or running out of diesel, (that was me), you are a hostage to every one. It does mean there  a healthy and sometimes vibrant community, needs more people though. But as the trip round the coast shows there are sights and colours that keep you going,


a sign seasons are turning when you see the Seaflower 11


back on the water,




in the garden no exception. Wild bees choice but not the honey bee.


True Value.

Feels a bit like having walked up and over Liathach a couple of times in the last couple of days. Although still very part-time at the Inn I knew that they were a little short-handed out front and also there were a few big bookings for Saturday evening, so offered to come in a couple of hours early. Accepted with some alacrity and so at 4 pm there was a constant flow of customers until things quietened down at around 12 pm. Had a little dip into the past as well as there was a little local/staff session going on concurrently with the amazing food that kept coming out of the kitchen. The only difference is that I have moved on from being involved in the said “sesh”. Such a better feeling the next morning both physically and financially, that is not to say that it is not good banter you hear from that corner. The Boss intervened at one stage to keep things under control, sounding ominous with out shouting is a skill honed over the years and receives instant quietness, lasting 15 mins. Actually Saturday evening was a stroll to this lunchtime when we were panned again, may be what the season is going to be. The big groups are easy for front of house but the kitchen have to deal with 10/15 orders all at the same time and hats of to them for getting it right every time. All I had to do was get the orders right. Have to say over the two days the number of compliments about the food and how it all works are endless. No delays, lots of banter and great atmosphere are some of the reasons why people from Mexico, Germany, France, Norway, Manchester and Lochcarron have all visited this weekend. There are so many familiar faces now, just working the two seasons through the week. I missed many of the regulars only working the Sunday lunch shift, but now am starting to see them year in year out. It is a very personal Inn and people want to know what has happened since the last time they visited, having made the connection to the community through the Inn and it’s working. New faces in the form of Lena May and Charlotte have bolstered the defences for a wee while so leaving at five today was not too guilt ridden. Hopefully with Son No1 and Jill leaving for the Walled Garden that will take some of the summer’s pressure of as visitors sample another amazing eating place on the peninsula.

Although it feels as if I was at the Inn all weekend Saturday saw me ankle-deep in the proverbial….. loading up a number of fish boxes for the garden’s raised beds, lovely black mature compost produced by Jimmy’s cows now long since gone. may have moved around a half ton, so my back says and as I had the Dougal family with me I wandered into Torgarve and then down the Carnach track.


Always such a peaceful place and feels so ancient and timeless,


stones and rocks covered in thick layers of moss and lichens.


Dougal and his Mum love it being new ground for rodent hunting.


Through ALPS there have been some experiments on how to regenerate a bit of new growth, and with some success, as the area is scattered with many fallen birch and hazel. You can easily imagine the inhabitants of the Broch using these grounds as a working forest. It also ties in with a little post that got me back into a little meditation which hopefully will keep a balance with the frenetic world of rural Applecross during what I think will be a busy summer season. The appearance of Spring is finally breaking through the winter gloom, it always does, but it was a little late this year. The arrival of the compost, the seeds and seed potatoes are all indications the cycle of life is started again.

Leaving the house this morning looking across to the south end of Raasay looked as though south of Sconser was an island in the light.


Another little excitement was a phone call this morning that had so much in it over a period of 45 mins. It was genuinely exhilarating and if a fraction of what was talked about comes to fruition then Applecross will benefit immensely and it will experience a growing capacity to be able to look after itself and may be a model for other communities to regenerate in ways that overcome the restrictions they are coming up against at present. Some communities are well down that road already in many ways and I really liked the story I heard from Knoydart. The community shop is being refurbished, good story in itself, but the local community building company is doing the work and the wood they are using for the shelving has been grown and processed in Knoydart. What more do you want from a community, so often said that a local economy is six times the worth when the money is generated locally and spent locally. And this is what happens through the Inn with its local employment and local produce  generating money to be spent in the local shop or Community Filling station. This morning’s phone call was based on human value and not sterling value. The sterling value comes automatically when the human value is to the fore. Regular visitor, Mike always sparks of these thoughts which never deny the reality of day-to-day living but question the true value of life and he is back in town. I suppose some of the thought provoking part of the weekend was fielding quite a few enquiries as why there was no music on Saturday evening. Pinny and the Breakers were supposed to play but cancelled due to the untimely death of Dougie, one of our very popular electricians, some members of the band coming from the same village. There is still a sense of disbelief in the area and one can only offer sympathies and condolences to the family and friends of a popular and helpful man.

Back on the Water.

Not too bad a time to write part of a post. It is midnight and the end of another happy night at the Inn. There was never a wait for tables but busy enough with some great compliments about the food. The curtain fitter from Aberdeen was a little surprised to see his neighbour from across the road also booked into the Inn. The French/English game of scrabble looked good and involved a bit of trust. Not been fishing the last couple of days although the weather has not been too bad. Yesterday I discovered I had left my engine room light on and flattened my batteries and today the health was not very clever, just had to cope with Dougal and Co and reboot the Filing Station before recovering in time to turn out for work. The light over Raasay took one or two of the diners out for a photo or two.


Feeling a lot better this evening, although having lifted 400 creels and sorted out one or two tangles, just a bit tired. A healthy tiredness all the same.A day at sea sorts out being fed up. Colours your judgement so nothing about de minimis, land reform and other matters out there. Have to say though, last night spent a little time outside the Inn after the food service finished and before going in behind the bar and sat on the fence in the stillness and listened to the sea lapping on the shore. That as much as anything puts a better perspective on things. Weather seems to be breaking a bit so may go out again tomorrow, making up for the flat batteries. It was flat calm and grey, but pleasant grey this morning.


Soon had the batteries reinstalled and wired up. Hassle getting them in and out of the engine room out of the holding box, half way down the engine room, across the hydraulic pump and up through the wheelhouse floor hatch, all for leaving the switch on.


Starting on the Bay the day was fairly uneventful with signs of Spring well underway. Saw my first “bonxie” last week


and again today along with the ever hungry cormorants.


Some quiet misty views over on the Applecross shore.


Working my way north and over to the Range the fishing was fairly good and at all depths. There was a mix of size and quite a few extra extra large. Struggle to get them into the box.


Planned to haul lots of creels but decided 400 was enough and made it back to the Inn by the back of five passing a few lazy seals on the way in.


Tailing some of the small langoustine for the 1/2 pints I noticed one of the carcasses had what we call green sack. This is the pre egg stage and is usually abundant in June/July.


This is way early in the season and there seems to be less of a uniformity theses days on the breeding cycle. I am seeing female carrying eggs at many different stages. You can tell by the colour of the eggs, the deep green being the newly laid ones and there are quite a number of those. What we do not know is is this a climate change factor or the sign of a stock under pressure and trying hard to reproduce.


Cork Screw Weather

Steady and pretty constant east wind has been blowing for about a week now and is hard work to haul gear in. Went out to see if I could haul a few creels to get the langoustine back on the menu. Breezy as I left and did not really let up for the morning.


Managed 200 creels up but a graft with a crock screw motion all the time. Down, round, up and down again. When the vivier tank threatens to move across the deck you know that the next fleet will be the last. Big tide this week as well which does not help matters. The growth in the water marches on and scrapping bouys clean of grass and seaweed used to be a summer job and not one for the end of winter.


The climate change has been hitting the news yesterday and this is just another sign of change. Just that little bit warmer or more nutrients in the water must be causing the growth. After hauling the 200 creels I headed into the Bay to get out of the wind


and go south in the lee of the Applecross shore.


Plenty to do ashore anyway with a bit of sanding and painting, wood and cooking the tea, squat lobster fried rice, it’s dark before you know it.

Gave the fishing a miss as the east wind was there again and spent a bit of time on wood again. The change of direction of the wind means there will be little drifting ashore but still picked up a good half ton last week.Luckily I do not have to go out in the breezy conditions like the Johan in another great photo put up by Angus Macsween.


She was one of the ring netters which went to the prawns in the 70/80′s. As Spring is just about here suddenly there are lots of jobs to do alongside the usual of taking a fuel delivery from Kenny.


Lots of confusion over the size of the order as I had phoned in over the week end and left a message on the answer phone only to have an extra 4000 litres arrive. Almost sent some back as I did not know if we had enough in the account, only finding out that another order went in on Monday. Luckily we decided that we would take the delivery, badly needed as we had ran out of diesel for a couple of days, annoying but in my defines we were short 2000 litres the last delivery so had an imbalance of 4000 between petrol and diesel. Only an excuse. Signs of Spring around


and after a run around the shore with Dougal and Co it was back down the road to work on more wood and feed the bees. First sting which I always think is a shame as they do not survive and I was only trying to help. She was under the feeder getting the last sugar out so was probably cheesed off at me coming along.

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