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

Called out early on Saturday evening as there were a couple of groups booked in at six and it is quite difficult to arrive and start work at the same time as the customers arrive while looking at the booking list for the evening. Turned out fairly busy but not silly. Lots of moving people about throughout the shift and seem to have got away with it. Bit like a game of chess when you have to plan a few moves ahead. Building a rapport with the tables helps and “being too nice to refuse my requests” help as well. Only because I knew them, I moved a couple in-between courses, as regulars and knowing what the Inn is like, took it as a compliment that I asked them. It was a compliment to them that I was able to ask them and also that I knew they were okay in helping us out and the table was used for yet another late group of dinners. In this case four sirloin steaks, at least they were rare and medium rare so kitchen were not too frazzled. Despite this there are always tables who are not quite with it wandering up to the menu board after service has finished to see what they are going to eat and ordering desserts at eleven, an hour after the prep room has closed down. But you treat them just the same and not get too fashed.

Sunday, and Jack gets to sit on a police bike and seems to enjoy the experience.

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A police training day with a lunchtime stop at the Inn. A slightly quieter day, plenty to do but reasonable numbers. The thirty bikers booked for twelve arrived but some just stayed outside and had a coffee and ice cream at the “Silver Dream Machine” so we did not see them all inside. Towards the end of the lunch shift we had an interesting customer. First was alerted when he asked several penetrating questions about where we sourced this and that. Squats easy enough to tell but had to go to find out the rollmops came from Strathspey. That satisfied the questioner and they all duly tucked into a seafood delight. Squats, langoustine and herring. Then it was onto the ice cream…..pressure on when he let drop that he had been judging the Scottish ice cream competition at, I think, the Royal Highland Show with a couple of Italians. They were on the ball as they were able to identify all five ingredients along with saying that the whisky used was from Islay. Also the way that the gelato was finished pointed to the fact that the ice cream maker was over 60. Turned out that the whisky was an Ardbeg and the ice cream maker was 82 years old. When he ordered the Plum Sorbet I wandered off hoping for Aron it would go okay. Turned out it went better than that. The whole visit was deemed well above expectations and he went out to Aron and Sarah and told them that he would have given them a silver medal just based on that sorbet alone.

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As he was leaving I spoke to him outside and he said it is so often the small dedicated producers that come up trumps. Have to say that Aron and Sarah were excited little kids after the praise their ice cream received, and rightly so. Looking round here when you see The Torridon Smokehouse and Nanny’s at Shieldaig, coming round the Coast you pass another Smokehouse at Kenmore, good things being said about this new venture. Then onto Applecross itself and you have the Walled Garden and the Inn and you realise how fortunate we are regarding food outlets. Yesterday I finish the shift with pan-fried lemon sole, salad and chips and tonight I am having some salted caramel and golden syrup ice cream after my slow cooker tea tonight. We do eat well and I for one appreciate that fact. Another wee story from last week, retold by Judith which reminded me of it. A little chap when asked for his order said nuggets, chips and beans. There was a pause and then his mam said and what is the word you forgot. Another pause and he came away with “baked” to a burst of laughter.

Dark and breezy today so no danger of going to sea so a little book work and a run up the road for my fruit delivery. Busy place with bikes, tractors and buses scattered round the Inn.

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Small blinks of colour at the gate

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but even the greys

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of the horizon is fine to look at. As ever looking over Ardhu and Ardban is very peaceful.

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Dougal keeps wanting to go out to have a look and that is what I did this evening and once again he is worth it.

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Finally yet another chat about independence, this time with an Australian staying at the Inn with her sister. To cut a long discussion short…..complete puzzlement as to why we would vote No. Sums it up I suppose.

Yesterday was spent fishing in the eye of a depression.

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The forecast, if you wanted, was a bit dodgy and there was a land breeze from the east in the morning but it turned out to be a calm and productive day.

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First job in the morning was to head into the Pier and unload the “German writing” fleet and take on board a newer cleaned set.

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Headed north and put the fleet together on the way out. Generally I have something to do for just about every minute when I am on board as just steaming for place to place is fine but I find it more tiring than work. Pleasantly surprised by the catch today. The quality is not too bad and despite the large numbers of berried prawns returned the quantity was okay as well. Nine berried prawns went back from one creels. Working around 50% returned in quantity but by weight as the berried females are smaller maybe 30%. I tend to be more accepting that other fishermen do not put them back, more so than a northern visiting fisherman who was at the Inn on Thursday evening. he took the stance that he just could not understand why fishermen landed the berried prawns. I do not know about potential imbalances of female/male structure of the stock if we all put them back. but I had to agree with him if not quite so forcefully as he was putting it. As far as I know there are only two establishments that do not buy berried females, The Applecross Inn and the Loch Ness Inn. Also we have had other guys on board Sam from London and Ian from Edinburgh who agreed 100% with not selling them. It will have to come from the buyers if it ever to become part of the fishery. I suppose  am fortunate that I cover some of these “loses” by landing the squat lobsters.

Back to the weather and there was, how do you say, plenty of it going on. Lots of showers drifting by,

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good to watch especially as they passed mainly to the south. On the way in, after hauling 400 creels, I looked up from tailing numerous squats and noticed a couple of porpoises lazily making their way across the Bay. Nipped in for the camera but was not really close enough. However looked around and saw a cracking rainbow to the east across the Bay and very close to the boat.

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That and the soundless flight of a passing gannet makes the day more than a job.

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An encouraging sign in the last few weeks has been a re-emergence of some immature haddock on the grounds. For a while there were none to be seen and you were starting to wonder if they were following the hake in their local demise. This little one returned and swam off.

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“Noo, noo, loons [boys], stop that. Divn’t ye ken whit Peter said till the haddock when he took it aff the bait and left his thoum [thumb] mark on it? He said: ‘Roast me and bile me but dinna burn ma beens [bones], / In case I grow scarce aboot your hearth steens [stones].'”  From a Hamish Henderson collection. The origin of the St Peter’s thumb print I know not. Have only seen a couple of draggers out on the Sound this year. Not scientific to put the two together and come to a concise conclusion but may be connected.

Thursday evening at the Inn there was a new edition to the Applecross dog population, a cute little terrier from the North Coast called Russel.

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Sunset was not too bad either.

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A Ceilidh Day

Another couple of days, beautiful weather and indifferent fishing. At sea yesterday coupled with a shift at the Inn. Cannot stop taking snaps of Ardhu in this weather,

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so well situated below the Cuillin, despite The Inner Sound between them. Fairly intense schedule with everyone away it is just the dogs and me so spending so much time at the Inn and/or at sea they take priority when I come in. They do seem relatively settled and just lie around when I am out. Am assuming that as there is no destruction when I return. As soon as I come back from landing the prawns at the Inn it is straight down the road with them to the top of Criag Darroch and a wee seat overlooking the moorings.

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Good for me as much as them as it is just a bit of time out before tucking into the tea, washing etc.

Today has been one of these time outs, partly due to a bad headache when curtailed the enjoyment of last night’s shift. Was in a spot of trouble by the end of it and made it home slowly on the bike doped up with painkillers and after letting the dogs out a doze on the couch helped things as it was reduced to just a headache by twelve. When I say letting the dogs out that meant two as the east wind had blown the back door open and Dougal headed off for a jaunt. He has been good lately but this time I did not worry about him too much and sure enough he was there at 7.00am sitting across the road despite the gate being left open for him.

Yesterday was a routine day with a stunning morning

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to start work in

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and it was over the Pier to fuel up and sort some diesel for the Inn’s Generator, and take bait on board. Sometimes I think I could do with a crewman, have a cleaner and slightly less chaotic boat although everything gets put in its place by the time I arrive at my first fleet.

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Passed the Grace Anne hauling crab pots at the back of St Island with her shaky crewman. Seems the result of a couple of glasses of wine with Son No1 last night. The calm day will help.

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The evening light show was wonderful,

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the result of a front coming in from the west and the excuse for not going fishing today.

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Kept the last fleet on board for a change round tomorrow morning. Only a couple of fleets like this and it will be a pain to remove, but we are back onto the “German writing” worm. The pressure washer does not remove them and they have to bashed off……time consuming.

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Back to today and down the road early for the prawn landing. Nice few minutes on my own with a heron and a couple of gulls. Did not have the camera unfortunately as the heron is notoriously shy. But sitting on a rock looking west waiting for the Boss it was peaceful and for a couple of minutes of solitude all is well. Wee ceilidh with the Boss before head back to the house to complete recovery. Only other thing of note and this made my day, the ceilidh continued. I headed off down to the shop, Mainly for a WHFP, which had not arrived incidentally. Before setting off, Margaret was at the door and for something that took 5 mins ended up chatting for 20. On the way to the shop and stopped for a chat with Ali, who mentioned about Dan being taken off the Hill a couple of days ago by helicopter to Raigmore while out helping with a stalk. So armed with a packet of biscuits I called in to see Dan, an excrewman, turns out it was a condition that he has had all his life. Simply put it is a short-circuit of his heart that doubles his heart rate and if he tries to work through it causes him a few problems. Normally he shuts down to get it back into sinc. As there was a stag to load and ponies about the shut down stage never took place so company got worried and called in the chopper which already had a causality from Torridon on board. Dan was more embarrassed than ill so all ended well. But another wee ceilidh ensued. Makes you realise just stopping for a chat means so much and we just do not make time for it these days…..too rapped up in being busy and there is so much to talk about. Now back to busy which means the evening shift is beginning soon.

Contrast.

The contrast over the weekend to the beginning of the week could not be more stark. Saturday evening a definite pub atmosphere in amongst all the good food being consumed. Lots of big fishermen going over what they had caught, fish getting bigger, in proportion to the number of pints consumed but it was enjoyed by all and the visitors joined in with gusto.Sounds as if it was a good day with good catches, Michelle landing 150 kilos of fish. Being too old to enjoy myself at the Dance I was left to close up at the Inn which turned out to be a very pleasant task. Although I had come across the “man from Mull” earlier I had not engaged. he turned up after hours looking for a Heineken with the intention of heading down to the Hall. First thought was way too late, but had a look about and realised I had a half hour before it was all sorted and locked down so went to get one. Great chat and it involved Macleods and Yes voting. Realised that I may know who he was as a Macleod and box playing were dropped into the conversation. turns out Robert Macleod, son of the famous Bobby Macleod, accordion player extraordinaire. (Cannot stop playing the Libations’ Caledonia just now).Right on locking up he asked what it would be like down at the Hall, “Would it be a Rammy?” Suggested it would be and he took the decision to head back to the tent. And the story from the Hall was that it was a Rammy.

Sunday turned out to be a long shift, getting prawns in the morning before a twelve-hour shift. Cheesed off when I went out to the Varuna only to find I had forgotten to put one of the boxes over the side so all dead. Waste…. really cheesed off. The rest of the catch did last the shift so only of the menu for the Monday lunch shift. With the pooches on their own today I took them down the road in the stunning morning,

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otter watch was the order of the day. Some do not learn their lessons.

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Mind you others are on Dougal watch.

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Cycled home for a break and to feed and take out Dougal and Co. Back up the road and was late having had to stop off to take a few snaps.

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Weather has turned and wonderful long sunny days still here with sunsets to compare anywhere in the world.

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Nice end to the evening when a London family turned up latish and there was a bit of confusion over a forgotten anniversary. All sorted by putting an extra-large Eton Mess on fire.

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Contrast the two days fishing on my own on the water with the hustle and bustle of the weekend, the blue skies and relatively calm waters,

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a breeze from the east but only gentle. Difficult time of year to fish for me as 50% of the prawns are now going back over the side. There are large numbers of berried females appearing in the creels but fortunate enough there are enough being landed to keep me out of poverty. Today surprisingly enough we almost caught as many extra-large as we did small prawns, although that does not account for the numbers of  returned berries. Don’t know what a gathering of cormorants are, anyone?

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Looked busy still at the Inn but it is coming to the end of the English holidays and that will ease the numbers down a bit. Evening out with the dogs and although tiring all shaping up to make the winter feel that bit shorter,I hope. Heather looking great and going to check to see if honey available this weekend.

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Had half an eye on the Debate last night out of interest, bit shouty but what you would expect. Do not think many people would be persuaded either way but twitter is full of people going towards Yes. Possibly the worst outcome looming….a recount with recriminations. Bit different from the 30% Yes starting line eighteen months ago. The next three weeks are going to be intense so better not go on too much but I think there is a chance we may be taking the opportunity to make our own ballsups instead of blaming everyone else..

 

And Finally.

The display was tremendous and there was more to come.

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I was pleasantly surprised by the photos I took so that was still the first exercise coming to an end. The rafts came in, well four out of the five did, some under there down steam and some with help from others.

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The gnomes decided to do a bit of fishing when they got a helping hand. The next exercise was taking a man from the water

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and taking him over to the lifeboat.

This was watched by some

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and not others.

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The back drop to all this activity is stunning and I will never get tired of looking west to an ever-changing horizon.

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Being a fisherman and hoping never to be in this position it is great to know that we have this back up on the Sound, covered from both Kyle and Portree. It was a fine evening and I have been asked who won the raft race and I actually had to think about that and decided that it was all round win. That is the Community who turned out, the organisers, the RNLI, the guys on the rafts, in fact every one. At around half eight looking to the North, with the rafts ashore,

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and the boys heading home,

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seeing the weather closing in and being on the bike it was a quick exit south and home. Unfortunately going along the Lochside the shower caught me up and it was a damp arrival home. Amazingly rapid two hours had passed since heading up the road. Back home to do my little good deed of the day by downloading the Libations version of Dougie Maclean’s Caledonia with all proceeds going to a local food bank. Coming home from an event such as the RNLI display and seeing/reading about the state of some parts of this country and people are in does make you think. A wealthy country such as Scotland and people are turning up at food banks to eat. Something wrong somewhere, argument that other countries have them does not wash. Well tired with all this down/up loading but got off with not going out in the still choppy north wind on Saturday.

The Race Itself.

Seems there are not enough hours to the day all of a sudden, only to be expected on a Bank holiday(sort of) /Raft Race/Fishing Competition weekend. Before going back up the road in the next hour I have to replenish prawn stocks at the Inn and take the pooches out for a wander. They are going to be on their own for quite a bit today as staff numbers are pretty thin out front and in the Bar. Break will involve cycling home and taking them out for a decent walk before going back into the maelstrom. Weather is beautiful this morning as well so day trippers may well be attracted out for meal……I suppose you have to say “Bring it on”.

Back to the Raft Race.

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I took a meander back to Shore Street before the rafts made their way along the shore against the wind.

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One of the rafts never made it and were pulled on board the safety boat. The boys with the legs “streaked ahead of the “white” streaks”

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and the superwomen

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came in ahead of the Gnomes. Above the lifeboat was joined by the Search and Rescue helicopter from Stornoway.

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Ashore, the Street was full,

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and the local talent on display again.

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Flags flying on the tables of customers watching the spectacle. Decided against bringing Dougal up to the proceedings as sitting quietly is not his strong point with so much going on.

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Offshore the helicopter

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and lifeboat

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came together and the boys put on a serious display,

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showing off their skills in rescuing seafarers.

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It was well impressive and some people watching were a little emotional watching their efforts. watch avidly from the shore by the returning contestants and there was another display to come but more of that another time.

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Managed the first two, that is heading over to the Pier and mending most of a fleet of creels. Ardhu is becoming the most photographed hamlet on the peninsula, but it looks different almost every time you see it.

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Little mishap going from the dingy to Alistair’s boat, ended upside down on his foredeck, better than the water but a wee bit undignified. Dead leg but no further damage. Busy Pier as boats being repaired, returned and setting off. Back to Camusterrach

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and a chat with the ice cream lady,Sarah, love the is side of living in Applecross and always try to find time to stop and talk. Time running on so went our separate ways, me to cut a few logs and prepare some of my tea, and Sarah to prepare for a busy shift at the Airstream.

Scene set to the north

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and south

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and weather holding, it was up the road in plenty of time and saw the arrival of the participants, some in neat little numbers, slightly disturbing,

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pixies, maybe gnomes,

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cat and super women

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and others.

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Some organised,

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others relaxed.

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Lifeboat comes across to attend the start of the Race,

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ready now that Skipper has arrived in a neat little black number.

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So left Milton Pier as the rafts were being put to sea

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and the lifeboat sitting offshore.

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Just a little warning about the last photo….enough said.

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