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

Sometimes you just feel angry and then a little despair when you realise how little you matter in the grand scheme of things. Our local paper, the WHFP, published an exclusive on its front page letting us know that the Raasay Range is going to be doubled in size. That is the area called the Inner Sea Area which is a strictly no fish zone. In its current form it has the unintended consequence of an MPA and a conservation area. Now, if the expansion goes ahead this may be the last straw for some creel boats fishing the Sound, both beside and within the proposed closure extension. The anger comes from the fact that there has not been one iota of consultation with the local fleet, either through our associations and Marine Scotland. The despair comes from the inevitability that the closure may well go ahead. The grounds up for closure produces some of the best quality langoustines off the Scottish shores, second to none. Recently there has seen an upsurge in the lobster numbers and some prawn boats have gone creeling for lobsters. Squat lobsters and prime scallops also come from this area. £10s of thousands of pounds worth of seafood enter the local economy and this is threatened by this move of the MOD.

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The fishermen who have gear in these areas will be directly affected but all the boats working the grounds around here will feel the consequences. Where are all these creels going to go? The grounds will be chock full of gear and we will be going back to the days when every second fleet of creels will be foul on our neighbours. A simple example of the effects of this proposed action, The Auk, a scallop diving boat, currently moored here, works these grounds during winter and early spring. While here she needs fuel and buys from the Applecross Pier Users Assoc helping us survive and keep our Pier solvent, skipper pops into the Inn so it is all circulating monies. Now she will lose 30/40 days that she fishes on these grounds.

Knowing a little of the history of the setting up of the Range from first hand and speaking to people who went to the meetings I have this feeling of foreboding that this is all done and dusted. The fact that the only discussions I have heard taking place has been between Qinetic and the MOD and this has only been about the date of the announcement confirms this view. The meetings that took place in the early 70s were conducted by naval officers sent up from Deep South and they promised that nothing they were planning would affect the fishing practices on the Inner Sound. The next meeting that took place two different officers would arrive on the scene to announce fishing restrictions, when pulled up about what was said at the last meeting they used the term, “we cannot vouch what was said previously”. And so it goes on to the extent I was told the experienced fishermen stopped going to the meetings as they no longer could take the disrespect. They were known as gentlemen and were not used to being treated in this way. When you are told it won’t matter too much as you take your creels ashore each night and the ground needed is only 15 mins from Kyle, it exposed the ignorance of the officers sent up to dissuade the fishermen of the  proposals.But you realise that plans were set in motion many years before, when you hear that the Hydro boys were puzzled by the size of the power cable that was laid into Sand five years before the first meeting with the fishermen was held in Kyle in the early 70s. Also told the specifications for the weight-bearing placed on the causeway at Kintail was as much as 200 tons. You can understand my cynicism. I don’t imagine for one minute that this has been planned in the short-term but like the seventies, we have to deal with long-term planning from the establishment, the difference this time the MOD are not dealing with fishermen who are trusting and may not be so gentlemanly. And to think over the years I have complied with just about all their wishes around the Range. Can safely say that my fishing has never held up or interrupted a trial and when requested have left gear unhauled at my cost in order for Trials to continue. Cooperation and partnership are a vehicle that goes in both directions. Would I rather see these on the Sound

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or the static gear boys that have  a far more sustainable connection to their environment like generations before them.

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So I feel free to speculate on the back of so little consultation and information. We do not even know who is a contact, who do you go to put your case to.  I am not interested in State secrets just being treated with a little respect. This news has been preceded by the rumours coming from the shore side of the operation. We have been hearing that millions of pounds are going to be spent on redeveloping Sand which looks as though this is linked closely to the offshore closure. Interesting to note that after Monty Halls left the veranda that was built for the programme had to be taken down as it had not planning permission. I don’t for one minute imagine Applecross Community Council will be dealing with any such planning decisions.No idea about what the building works are going to be, some saying it will be underground. At my worst moments I think Applecross is going to be turned into a Coulport type base. How out of character can you get for this peninsula, a Sanctuary where people come to enjoy, recharge and head back to their hectic lives in a better frame of mind. Who in their right minds would change such a Sanctuary into a Destination that provides a Govt with war materials and methods to kill? But that,  I am sure, has never crossed the Strategists minds. I sometimes feel as though I am living in a Farce, a dark one. Parting thought is something I read recently, it’s about time we get round to”socialising profit and getting private industry to stand on its own feet”. So much corporate business depends on public contracts and are priced accordingly. That’s it.

This and That.

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When you think nothing really happening and what to write, look back on the last couple of days and full on. Although does not feel productive we are keeping the Filling Station going at the moment. Seems just rebooting it is getting it going again and maybe our router that is the problem. Down again and just going along now for a reboot. Twice yesterday and again today. Will be a technicality and be sorted by the technicals shortly. Still far better than the last system. Just got to accept that things do go wrong, after all my boat is ashore and having wear and tear repairs are underway.

One of the trips to the Filling Station meant I just made it to see Morag off. Nice little group of people turned out. She had spent her last days in Wales and had reached the fair old age of 98. Was born in 1916, three years before my own mum. Pleasantly surprised to get a photo of her sitting all dolled up in Broadford.

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Morag was married to my granny’s nephew and lived in  Culduie for most of their lives. Nice wee story about them as they were getting on in age and they were traditional crofters, bed and breakfast ears with a few jobs thrown in aswell, Duncan being on the roads. He gave her the choice of the cows or the B and B. The cows won hooves down. Her man did not see this century and used to work on the roads, was involved with the coast road construction. A road that was opened just short of forty years ago by Princess Margaret. Celebrations were mighty on the day and carried over. Unfortunately the Dingwall bobbies were in and said road man ended up in Dingwall after a humorous but unsuccessful plea. Ironic that he was not allowed on the road that he helped to build for a couple of years anyway. Had many a cup of tea in Morag’s and shortbread or fruitcake and enjoyed the craic. All good as long as you knew that you were always going to end up in an argument. Morag loved this and it did not matter the subject but she would take the opposite view. If you went back the next day and changed sides she would do the same and you would have the same argument but on completely different sides. I know one goes through little phases but every now and again you do feel the passing of a fine generation of simple, natural and intelligent people. Closer to nature with a better understanding of the land and sea that we have. We have to study changes and work out cause and effects while they through experience passed down through generations seems to know what thrived or was caught when and where.

Inn shifts went well on both Wednesday and Thursday, last night in particular it was just short of 30 meals and for no special reason. Mid week and mid winter, the bar half full and mostly people living here who appreciate what we have. It is fun matching up couples on tables, guessing that they will get on with each other. Easier in the summer and only fails now and again. Success last night and makes it easier as every one looks after each other and do not need entertained. Filling Station still acting up and rebooted today and see again Zuzu was on duty again tonight. Suspicious it is our equipment and not Tolkhiems. Alison has been down the road fighting our cause for funding for the private wire side of the Hydro scheme and sounds as though it went really well, or as well as could be expected. certainly got praise for her efforts from the Agencies that are helping us progress the scheme. So just the weather to moan about with only a glimpse here and there of spring. The Cuillin do look good in the mornings if there is a bit of sun about.

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A major local sea story is breaking here over the last couple of days, with more information over the weekend. Big boy against the wee boys story.

And this is what we do.

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Applecross Community Company
Newsletter February 2015
January and February have been a busy time for Applecross Community Company. Directors have met upfive times for very productive meetings to discuss and deal with various matters. One of these meetings was a very useful and informative training session delivered by Rory Dutton of Development Trust Association Scotland which covered roles and responsibilities of Directors.
Notices have been served for the AGM which will take place in Applecross Community Hall on March 6th 2015 starting at 8pm. There are spaces available on the board, anyone who is interested in becoming a director should speak to one of the current directors for more information. Directors must be a member of the community company, membership is open to all residents of Applecross aged 18 years and over. Please speak to a director for more information. Membership and director nomination forms are attached and paper copies are available from the Applecross Inn and the Schoolhouse.

Hydro and Private Wires Scheme
The community company has sought tenders for the design and construction of the hydro and microgrid schemes. At the time of writing a decision no decision had been made on the preferred contractor. More information on this, our central project which has been under development for several years, is available in the form of questions and answers at the end of this newsletter. If you have more questions please ask a director or the local development officer.

Filling Station
The filling station is working far more efficiently since the new system has been installed. There have been some teething problems with it going offline however the majority of these have been resolved remotely by engineers in Dundee which is considerably less work for the folk who have kept it going in the past and had to physically reboot the system at the filling station kiosk. Hopefully these are just teething problems and will be investigated and resolved over the coming months as Applecross gets busier with visitors.

Public Toilets
The Community Company toilets are experiencing their quietest time of year. However we provide access to these year round for visitors and locals alike. Sadly the toilets were subject to some mindless vandalism in December, but the offensive writing was quickly painted over. Many thanks to those who volunteered to help to do this.

AppleNet
Our broadband scheme AppleNet is entering its final phase and we have extended our offer of free installations for permanent residents of Applecross. If you wish to have broadband installed in your home please get in touch with either Sean Kilbride on 744475 or Zuzu Vojackova on 744379 to arrange installation. AppleNet is on Facebook also, please follow for updates. At present we have around one hundred customers connected to AppleNet. We have had some problems providing a reliable connection to customers on the north of the peninsula due to damage caused to the wind turbine which was powering the mast on Rona. However the caretaker on Rona has agreed to power the system by connecting the mast by cable to his own energy system, meaning it will now be much more reliable.

Applecross Energy Efficiency
The funding for this project finishes at the end of February. The community company directors are very pleased with the results of this project – particularly the hard work put in by Valerie and Zuzu. They have worked with and supported local households and businesses to tackle energy efficiency issues and learn about the potential to use renewable solutions. Surveys will be distributed to businesses, households and individuals in due course. Your time in answering and filling these in would be very much appreciated.
Applecross Community Company has entered into an online competition called The Big Energy Race. Anyone can enter as part of the Applecross Team and prizes include energy saving monitors and increased knowledge on energy saving matters. If you have some time please have a look. Links can be found on the AEE website and Facebook page.

Hydro Scheme and Microgrid: Questions and Answers

Why is Applecross Community Company planning to build a hydro scheme?
To earn a long term income for the community, which will be used to tackle priorities identified through community consultation. The scheme will earn from selling energy to the grid and to local people, but will also be eligible for Feed in Tariffs, a government subsidy provided to encourage the development of renewable energy schemes.

Why is some of the energy to be used locally?
The scheme is designed to generate 90kW, but SSE was only able to offer a 50kW connection because the grid in our area was not designed to export energy. We therefore carried out feasibility studies to see if the energy could be used locally by providing heat to properties nearby, which demonstrated that this was a viable and attractive option.

Where will the scheme be?
On Allt Breugach (the burn which runs through the fields opposite Craite Barn and into the sea next to the filling station. The intake will be in the hills above, with a buried pipeline to the turbine house in the field between the Smiddy and Craite Barn.
The microgrid will include Craite Barn, the Applecross Inn and most of the houses on Shore Street and the old Estate Office, subject to the agreement of owners & tenants. Buried cables will run from the turbine house to Craite Barn and to both ends of Shore Street, with a spur going under the road to the Old Estate Office.

How can we be sure that this is all going to work?
We have been advised and supported at all stages by experienced professionals, including staff at Community Energy Scotland and Local Energy Scotland, hydro engineers at Highland Eco Design, engineers at AECOM, hydrologists at MNV Consulting, legal advisors at BTO and Harper MacLeod, community shares specialists Co-operative and Mutual Solutions. No commercial lenders will agree to provide finance for a scheme until they have gone through all detail with a fine tooth comb to establish that it is viable and deliverable.
We have issued a tender invitation this week for an experienced full-time project manager to see the schemes through from start to finish.

What will happen to customers on the local microgrid if the hydro scheme is not producing electricity due to dry weather or maintenance?
There will be an automatic switch back to energy from the national grid; householders will not be aware of this.

Why would householders chose to buy energy from the local microgrid?
It will be cheaper than energy from the national grid, and instead of their money going to a big energy provider, it will stay in the community and be used to provide benefit.

Those not included in the private wires scheme will not be able to benefit from cheaper energy, which seems unfair?
We can only offer this to people in buildings close enough to the turbine house to make it cost effective and their heating systems must be electrically powered. Those not connected may be able to access support to carry out energy efficiency improvements which can be paid with from income from the hydro scheme, so that they can also reduce fuel bills.

How will the Community Company raise the money to build the hydro scheme and microgrid?
The cost of building the hydro scheme cannot be covered by grants, as this would mean it would not be eligible for Feed in Tariffs. We have formed a Community Benefit Society (sometimes known as a Co-operative) called Apple Juice, which will sell shares in the scheme. Those buying the shares will earn interest at a rate higher than the banks will pay on money in a savings account. There may also be tax incentives. We have also identified financiers which may be able to lend the balance.
We are planning a shares launch within the next few weeks and full financial details, business plan and all other information needed by potential investors will be available in full via a website and printed information.
As part of a consortium named the Community Microgrid Accelerator we have applied for grant through the Challenge Fund, which would cover the costs of installing the microgrid. The consortium is led by Community Energy Scotland and involves a total of nine community groups, all of which plan renewable schemes which have been affected by grid constraints. The organisation which manages this fund can also provide loans and we have requested a loan from them towards the cost of the hydro scheme. The result of the grant application will be known on 9th March, following interviews in Glasgow next week.

How much income will the hydro scheme and private wires bring to the community?
The figure will vary from year to year, depending on rainfall and the percentage at which the rent is paid to the landowner. It will also depend on how the hydro scheme and microgrid are financed; the bigger the proportion of costs raised through sale of shares the better, as a loan from a bank will be at a higher interest rate and will need to be repaid in full within a set period. A very approximate estimate would be a net average income of £25,000 per annum.

Applecross Community Company Directors: Judith Fish, Ewen Gillies, Ali Macleod, Jon Glover, Marion Gilroy, Jill Olsen, Elodie Matthews, Nick Goldthorpe
Staff: Alison Macleod (Local Development Officer), Valerie Hodgkinson (Applecross Energy Efficiency), Zuzana Vojackova (administration), Sean KilBride (Broadband Manager)

Company number SC342825 Applecross Community Company is a registered charity: SCO42865
Registered Office: The Schoolhouse, Applecross, IV54 8LU

Wolfish Breadcrumbs.

Memories of the Post Valentine’s Sunday now a distant past. Quiet lunch yesterday with 25+ customers and little to say. The saturday evening chaps and chappettes were fairly late in leaving and not too surprised about that. Saw a bottle of “angels share” changing hands but no more said…. Tide was as low as it has been over the last few days

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and as no one around wandered off down the shore for a couple of snaps.

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The oyster catchers only let you so close before taking off and should not disturb them too much as they need as much as they can get coming up for breeding season.

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Does not feel like spring is in the air and the Hill was closed during the day with a combination of falling snow and wind blow. Contributed to the lack of customers. Maybe the menu was too fierce for some, in particular the breadcrumbs.

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The old head was acting up but kept it suppressed long enough to see through the shift without anyone noticing but this morning paid for it. Lost day but nothing worse. Had a wee power cut which needed the Filling Station rebooted. Zuzu went up first but with no success and I headed up later on and again struggled. Owen came along and spotted the OPT panel may have tripped. I had messed about with them but green for me is on and red is tripped, not so in electrical terms. A switch back on but we had to leave with it only 71% up assuming that would be it and remotely rebooted from Dundee or Burnside. Not so as a phone call came through to the schoolhouse asking what was showing on the screen. Not something to be answered straight away as the screen is two miles away. Back on the bike and another reboot, this time all okay but a wet cycle back home. Patience is the virtue that is most important when one gets involved in todays community activities. Although far better than the previous system there are still always going to be problems to solve, many of which are not of our own making. An example is a lady of twenty years standing leaves our fuel supplier and it almost as though she takes the files with her. DDs are having to be redone and driver instructions and phone numbers are being passed on though they have been in the systems for five years. One just sighs, learns another small detail for sorting the system, and gets on with living in a small community. Dougal loves these Filling Station hiccups and when they are not happening he is at the door ever ready for his next outing.

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Just a passing thought but last thursday/friday the whole of the Applecross fishing fleet was out of action, two boats up on the Yard, one boat out of action through skipper breaking a bone in his foot, another having trouble with his hands and wrists and finally Davie the Diver’s back giving out. He had been going to the Torridon gym a couple of days a week as his medical was coming up so his son bought him a personal trainer, result he did his back in, the irony. Good to see him back in the water today so nothing long-term.

A couple of days of variety. Thursday evening was steady busy with plenty to do and the prawns just got bigger

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and bigger.

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Yesterday back to the Varuna to finish off the keel, some rust appearing so must be getting somewhere. Stopped off at our little Highland stream which produces the purest of water.

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And then over the top with little snow on the road

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but bonny to drive through.

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Anodes and a coat of anti fouling on next week. Three hours of that is the limit so went over to the landing craft salvage.

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It was low tide so the dive bags and pumping was going flat-out.

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Impressive operation, looked daunting but everyone did appear to know what they were doing. Obviously succeeded as the craft is now in Kishorn waiting for the rehab work to start. Seems a wee bit late in catching the tide this morning so Ewen was late back tonight, putting her up the shore and moored off for the weeks coming gales. Photos next week, better taking them in her proper place as I find it quite upsetting seeing boats under the water. Have experience of that in the past and not recommended. The chap that owns the boat is Nigel who raised the Mary Rose in the eighties. Seems he had seafront property in Portsmouth or Plymouth and sold up for redevelopment. Now has a farm on Knoydart, hence the landing craft to bring in supplies for the farm, it being so remote.

From there it was away to Shieldaig for a massage and chat. Not too bad with only a couple of tender areas. Always leave Sarah’s in a gentle mood and driving up Shieldaig Glen this was mirrored.

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Decided to go back over the Hill and fine again with the snow all gone but showers still coming in from the west.

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Finished up with a couple of sirloin steaks.

Thinking no much happened today but just finishing a six-hour shift at the Inn. Good night, kept busy with all the tables in the bar full. Local birthday and some nice contacts made, transport family from the east coast who lived a couple of miles from the glass blowers from the same area. The couple from Paisley kept them company. Bit of hydro and land reform chat and the night is over. High praise for the pan-fried monk fish in a lemon and herb butter. The wolf fish, breaded and served with a couple of scallops was no bad either.

Low Tide on the Bay

A nondescript on Tuesday. Snow had gone and there were lovely shafts of light over  Kishorn

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and Plockton

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as we came over the Hill. Do not like the cleaning side of life although have to admit when it is done it does look well. And will have an extra half knot after getting the mussels off the keel. Sparky was down from Ullapool in the morning and he got his list sorted out. Going to get the Varuna finally finished by fitting the search light on the mast. Radio problems solved with a new ariel, I had thought it was my phone that had come down. And most important is my new radio with aux jack for the iPod. Was chatting to Ruariadh, the sparky, for about ten minutes when I sussed out I was related to him. As he was describing his Dad’s career in the fishing and buying and mentioned his croft in Stockinish, Harris, the penny dropped as my family came from about half a mile away. Small country. Did a bit of keel work before heading over to Kyle via Strome to see the overturned landing craft

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along from the jetty. Ewen is over with the salvage boys to re float in the next couple of days. Big tides and they will be with the depression hanging around. Some poor weather coming in and being ashore suits me fine. Prawns coming ashore in the morning for the week-end.

Wednesday saw me deciding not going over due to the weather, horizontal rain and grey. Minutes to write-up and another couple of bits of paperwork to do before going up for a shift in the Inn. Not busy in the evenings but full on during the day. Lots of kids about with half term just finishing. In our day we were told to go out and amuse ourselves, now it’s off to the pub. Possibly because I am listening to Treacherous a lot just now, read a fine article by Stuart Cosgrove on the Bella Caledonia site and just seen a fine photo of women wauking the tweed over at Ardhu in the late 1920s I get that community feeling where if you do it together there is far more satisfaction levels than going it alone. This photo was taken from the Heritage Centre’s fb page. https://www.facebook.com/ApplecrossHeritageCentre

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Watching Treacherous live, as well as the amazing sounds, you see an intimate community on stage where the whole is so complete of all the parts. Likewise reading about the welcome Sonny Liston received when he came to Scotland and how he favourably compared his treatment here to his homeland, although from the Southern States that would not be hard. And then you see the camaraderie of the women working the cloth, you cannot buy it. This has been followed up today by a wee conversation about the divisions in the world, the progression of technology started by some peoples taking up farming and leaving the hunter/gatherers behind. Always interested in this as I see the progression of technology often separates us from nature. Even being at sea the hum of the diesel engine blocks out the sounds of nature.

Did my nature thing today after going out for the prawns hanging off the dinghy.

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Watched on the way around the Bay.

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Quieter morning although with a temperature drop and wintry showers coming in from the west.

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The nature thing was spending a couple of hours on the Bay with the tide out.

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And Dougal of course.

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The next couple of days will see six metres between high and low water.

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Was going over the Hill today but put off until tomorrow when a trip to Sheildaig massage has been arranged and possibly one to Strome to see how the salvage is getting on.

Snow and Boats.

Took a bit of effort getting to the boat today and as you can see the coast road was the second choice,

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always is for us locals, whoops, residents. Was not sharp enough away this morning before the Hill was experiencing a white out, nothing for it but to turn back, fill up with diesel which I had forgotten to do first time round and then head for Lochcarron the long way round. Bank, shop and then the Yard to start cleaning the Varuna.

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German Writing is hard work to remove so the plan was to start cleaning in three to four different places and by the end of the week she should sparkle, for another week anyway. Showers kept coming through but the hills, when the sun shone, glittered with the fresh snow.

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Such a contrast, this bustling Yard and the back drop of the Applecross hills.

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Managed a big bag of rubbish off the boat and two buckets of barnacles, writing and mussels of the rudder, keel and prop. These have not been copper painted and are difficult to clean up against the Pier so making good use of the slings. Stayed till five before going back over the reopened Bealach. Stopped at the top and stepped out to take a couple of snaps

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before realising the wind chill and shower that had descended. Was not out long and would not survive in these conditions if not prepared.

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