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

The come back has stalled somewhat as we are still waiting for the bell housing to arrive in the Highlands. Apart from moments of frustration I just have to get on with it. The weather has been quiet and settled which does not help the mood and am getting a little fed up with cutting, chopping and stacking wood. One advantage of the situation is that it is pleasant to hear the young voices of the community across the road on the play ground. Take a wee break to take some of the younger ones across the road. They are very traffic aware.

Tuesday evening there were four cars which made their way over the Plockton to hear Rura play some fine, fine music.


Good to see a whole table from Applecross but so easily could have gone on the bus if it was legal. Such a waste of a good asset, but so many people have tried to no avail to get it on the road. The music put on by Lochan and The School of Music was so worth the journey over the Hill. The sunset as we travelled along the Achmore road was spectacular and more so as we saw glimpses of it.


We were early so had time to catch the sun dipping down behind the south end of Skye


and a quick trip down to the back of Frithard was rewarding as the after light softened.



Knew the music well as most of it was from the last album, bought at Cambridge.



Made it up to the Pen stock and saw the concreting had all been poured


with the outlet pipe in place


and most of it buried.


The Share launch is progressing and an evening at the Hall is planned provisionally for the 17th of October. Lots of work going on behind the scenes to get it all in place, comprehensive business plans and worst possible scenarios for the Community has to be worked out to reassure investors of the safety of their investment. Both the investor and the community benefit as well as it being a green renewable resource.

The MoD have issued their consultation on Thursday and I am not sure what exactly we are consulting on. We now see the new map which Qinetic want to protect the new hydrophones and it is what we were told at Kyle. Little change and although I will put something down as part of the consultation I am not expecting any positive reaction. Such is life, feels like we are being squeezed in every direction. Maybe being broken down does not help the current mood. The shifts at the Inn continue and many regulars are coming in. By the end of the week you get to know who is in what house and expect them in the evening for their meal. A wedding this weekend has meant a little boost as things have dropped off somewhat.

(just a wee note from a very noisy bar) Came in just before six and it was already jumping. The pre wedding drinks party was well under way with the first 30/40 tippling away. There were very few other customers apart from  two groups of regulars. They were seen to with plaice, turbot and monk fish and enjoyed the fairly raucous night. The wedding crew got themselves together around 7.30 and started ordering lots of food and drink. I suppose I approach it the same way as I fish, if you sort of know what you are doing and stay calm, it all takes shape. Several top comments sent to the kitchen and they could not believe how organised we all are. It’s becoming a really good team again after a scrappy sort of summer with too few staff and too many coming and going. Managed to book a band for the share launch in the midst of it all. So hoping most who are invited will be able to come. In amongst it all the Hydro boys came down, an after dark finish for them and will mean another trip with Dougal and Eilidh to take a few shots of the progress. The Lego bricks are taking shape seemingly as well as the paneling coming off the concrete at the intake. The wedding group are pretty “well to do” but it always makes me smile when I see workies in as well and no one gives a toss. Sign of a good bar. Home now and pickup last nights ice cream. Forgot it so strawberry ripple and amoretti biscuit tonight.


Come Back Underway.

A slightly stressful morning, yesterday, but the come back is under way. Arranged with Donald to take me over to the drying pier at Camusterrach to beach the Varuna and start the gearbox repair.


The last parts are reported to be on the way and hopefully repairs will start on Wednesday. Fresh southerly on the way across made for a tense approach and due to ropes of the pier a wide berth meant we were having a bit of a sprachle getting ropes on to the north side. A wee tourist, staying in Pier Cottage, appeared but he did not have the hearing or skills to tie a rope. Eventually after jumping ashore I managed rope tied to my stern and with the help of the Michelle’s hauler pulled both boats into the pier. After tying up the Michelle made for the moorings but picked up an old rope, ending in her being beached as well to get the rope and an old tyre out. Even by my standards there was a fair bit of rope to cut out of my prop. A number of barnacles settled on the copper paint this year but very loosely and scraping them off took minutes with the spade.



The rest of the time ashore in the last week or so has been filled with wood cutting and a little bit of creel washing and landing the last of the langoustines caught the previous week. With a little time to spare I drifted over to a busy part of the moorings and congregations of resting seals




and cormorants.


Lots of hours at the Inn and although the shifts in the evenings seem to have slackened off the weekends have still been remarkably busy. This is partly due to a continuing staff shortage a twelve-hour Sunday shift does leave its mark. No wonder the Boss has to disappear for a twenty-minute break now and again. On Sunday my enjoyment of the Rugby World Cup continued, although there was a shaky first half against the USA to keep quiet. Only seen the second half of Scotland’s two games and surprisingly pleasant they have been. It has been a joy to be surrounded by South Africans, English and even Aussies for bit of tennis ribbing in the last couple of weeks. Got to make the most of it as it does not come round very often.

A week last Sunday we had two tables of Californians, two from Alness and two from Isreal. Small but varied world. So the Inn is still attracting many many tourists from around the world. There are some concerns being expressed as to whether our roads can take all this traffic especially as we have seen a new promotion selling the area as part of the Coast500. And this campaign has been successful seeing the number of maps out on bar tables. Difficult to balance the overselling of an area to getting customers to come to and stay in remote places. Can the services cope with every increasing amounts of usage. The money does not seem to be around as evidenced by the half finished improvements on the north coast road.

Chatting about coming towards the end of the season and the moods and how a bit of tiredness creeps in. Occasionally a customer can be on the receiving end of a little shortness through no fault of their own. When the Boss admits to this then you know it has been a busy, long season. Coupled with all the other activities a nice spell of dry windy weather would be nice and a wander with Dougal and Eilidh up a quiet glen in the middle of the Highlands with no one else in sight for miles around. This does appeal. mind you when chopping logs with a background

9Q7Q1155 like we have here there are little complaints.


Because the weather has been mixed the light shows have been many and varied.


Also as I am still on the bike a lot some cycles to work with the mix of dark clouds and bright sunshine create lovely contrasts.



Couple of signs of age creeping in, the first being the older you get the bigger the wood store seems to be. Taking an awful lot of effort to fill it this year. And the other sign I had this week was leaving my bike elsewhere, forgetting it, and thinking that some one had nicked it from outside the house. Luckily there is still a doubt in the far recesses of the mind that leaving it somewhere was the case, in this instance it was at Uisdean’s when I went out to catch the evening sky last night.


Walked back forgetting I had cycled up the road. I went back out after the sun had dropped as that was when it was in its full glory.


And across most of the country going by the social media reports.


Range Expansion Going Ahead?

With over thirty years fishing on The Inner Sound of Raasay behind me I hoped to have many more to look forward to, I now believe that is in doubt. First rumours that something was in the air emerged last year when a question was asked in Parliament by the late Charles Kennedy MP, alongside some mislaid emails, coupled with a map leaked to the local press. The map caused a lot of consternation among the static gear fishermen working the Inner Sound as it would seriously impact on our livelihoods. From then on till the recent revelations on Thursday we have had little consultation with the MoD/Qinetic about their plans. We have been met with denials concerning the map, fudged answers in Parliament and the promise of a “consultation”. This was to take place at the end of June and then at the end of the summer.

The local fisherman’s Association called for a meeting with Qinetic in the summer after reports that three fishermen were contacted and met with on an individual basis. This was granted and I “gate crashed” this meeting through asking via our Community Council for any information regarding future plans. The only relevant new information was a conformation that the map may well be right. We were shown the planned placement of the new hydrophones on the seabed both to the north and south of the existing “no-fish zone”. One absurdity that emerged from the meeting was the excuse that the fishermen were not contacted as Qinetic did not have our contact details, and they are charged with running a Range that has torpedoes and Tridents on it and they cannot find our contact details!!

I have watched events, rumours and speculation for over a year and have found the treatment of fishermen who have worked the Sound over the last three or four decades to be disrespectful in the extreme. There seems to be little or no acknowledgement of other marine users livelihoods and there is a strong feeling locally that what the MoD want the MoD gets and if any consultation does take place it will be nothing more than a paper exercise. What are we to consult on, the plans are laid, the Long Term Partnership Agreement in place and major works already well underway at the base at Sand.

The language is so similar to that used by naval officers in the 70s, who travelled up the length of the country to reassure fishermen that there would be no loss of grounds and their livelihoods would not be affected in any way. Every meeting the fishermen attended a different set came up and could not confirm any previous commitments that were made and so we ended up with byelaws restricting creel fishing from an inner sea area and mobile sector from the outer area. Seems the same is happening again.

This planned expansion is going to seriously limit crab, lobster, langoustine and scallop fisheries to the extent that it will directly stop about six boats fishing. They will have to move elsewhere, affecting another twenty to thirty boats and putting huge pressure on the surrounding fishing grounds. Worst case scenario is that several boats may finish their fishing careers.

I live in Applecross, who’s Gaelic name is a’Chomraich, which means Sanctuary. In medieval times, people on the run from the law or feuds, if they made it inside the six mile ring of stones, had the sanctuary of the monastery. The last thing I want is to see this beautiful part of the world, this sanctuary, become a navy testing base for Trident and other pieces of warfare, build a reliance on defence public funding, which can be withdrawn on the whim of a future government, while the traditional industries have been decimated to make way for this futile industry.

Wrote the above on request for an internet newspaper, may or may not be published, but might as well post it as an update to what is happening at Sand and as it has made the national press again as notice for changing the by-laws has been given. This means that Westminster can go ahead and expand the Range by Act of Parliament. The consultation has been announced to the press yesterday after the notice to change the by-law. And so it goes on. By coincidence on one of my trips up the road with Dougal and Eilidh, I saw the dredger that is working on the cable duct at Sand sheltering in the Bay


from a stiff northerly breeze.


I always find it easy to disassociate my grumps from the people involved, whether Sand workers, employees, trawlermen. There is never any point in personalising disagreements. The construction workers at Sand are often in the Inn on the way home and we have good banter.

Walking down from the site of the Pen Stock at the Hydro Intake, Mike Vass playing his In the Wake of Neil Gunn, just low enough so the tumbling of Alt Breugach over the rocks is also part of the music, all is well in my world. Put that together with the expansive, awesome view of the Inner Sound and blue sky you would expect me to say that. The last part of the journey has been a little fraught and to explain one has to be on board the Varuna around 2.30pm on Thursday afternoon. The had started so well with the sacrificial hauler plates changed


along with the knife


on the way out. Never like “just steaming” and have to be doing something. The last fleet of seven just hauled and was kept on board to take ashore for a wash when things went awry. I had previously picked up one of my own ropes, cut, respliced it and dropped it over the side before finishing my fleet. Turned to go home when I heard the sound of rope in propeller. Bit puzzled as I had all my rope on board but then realised that it was the other rope that I had spliced had caught either on my sounder or the keel and then went into the prop. Bar tight and tried to get clear again by putting into gear and hoping the rope cutter on the prop shaft would do the job. Unfortunately what happened was like putting a winch pull on the gearbox which smashed the centre of the drive plate and pulled out of the bell housing.


It was still just engaging so hooked rope, onto the creel hauler to cut free and engage gear but too much and complete breakdown.


Nothing for it but to call for assistance and DJ on the Grace Anne was the recipient, coming across from Raasay, a fair bit to the south, but rope on and an hour and a half later we were back on the moorings, grateful for the help.


When a little younger fretting about lost time and expense would always kick in but now there is too much to do. Showered and up to the Inn where the Boss was taking the evening off so it was Linda and myself out front. A good night and all the tables enjoyed themselves, so many people are just a little sad in leaving and I have attended more than a few “last suppers”. New group have been in at least twice, live in London but were so complimentary about amazing food and friendliness. Phone call to our resident engineer, Ewen, to explain my plight and arrange an early morning visit to the Varuna. I think it is fair to say bad enough but could have been worse, always have in mind the Ivanhoe which was lost in Portree Sound with a rope in the prop, tried to remove it by thrashing the engine revs and ended up cracking the stern gland and sinking. Last thing before coming ashore yesterday was checking any water intake which was nill. What I have never done is to raise the revs to try and free any ropes, just not worth it, enough damage without doing that.

Lift over the Hill with Ewen, after taking numbers and details for part ordering, walk round the head of Loch Kishorn,





followed by a lift to the Van Hospital out side Lochcarron. The lift almost came too soon as everything was stunning, more than a little hint of autumn.


DMK Motors and another fine job done, back over the Hill,


down for the bike and up to the Hydro Scheme to see the further progress. Worked up a sweat in the beautiful weather but well worth it to see how it is going, getting ready to pour tomorrow,


having finished putting the panels up, this being where the water falls over the dam, through the screen and fills up the box before making its way down to the turbine house and generating electricity,


while Steve was laying the first of the pipes.




A few more lengths to go but the speeds they are working at….no problem, so thinks Dougal.


Gravel sand mix arrived and I nipped half way back up, well quarter of the way, to see where they wanted the load dropped. knackered by this times and have settled for a couple of bacon and egg rolls, a cracking mug of Peruvian coffee and The Elephant Sessions playing in the background. One or two wee rumours suggesting they may be heading this way. So I should be cheesed off, down but what ever switch was flicked about three months ago is still on and a wood cut is on the cards for the afternoon. (written yesterday afternoon.) Two ways of looking at events, could mope about a four figure bill and four figure loss of revenue or think that I have a bit of time in the next week or so to catch up in so many things.

The week had been quite good for weather,


langoustine catches and work effort. Mornings,







followed by pleasant days at sea


and meeting regulars at the Inn have filled the days. On Thursday evening took a trip back with Ian Wallace, over with Jamie, and recalled with him many of the old names and characters sadly gone from the area, Straight, Douchie Douch, Peerie, Morag, Straight and Gillies and many more. He had been woking on the first bit of the Sand road with RJ Macleod’s and had a pretty impressive memory going way back to the 70s. On the odd grey day there has been plenty of activity going,


Dougal and Eilidh are getting plenty of exercise with all the coming and going.


Little time to read about supposed rogue helicopters landing on the shore outside the Inn.


Some one put something up on YouTube and it was picked up by the press, a no news day. Good response from the Boss.


Some Applecross Skies.

Over the last few days the weather has been as good here as any time over the summer and some of the skies over to the west have been pleasant to watch.



Some have been eye-catching and would have loved to have had more time to enjoy the changes which happen every few minutes.


Always something happening.



Yesterday morning there was thought of a rainbow.


Must go and try for a few more langoustine.


Housing and Hydro

(Sunday evening) Lovely little connection this morning chatting to a couple. Picked up that their accent was very rural Aberdeenshire and the conversation involved talking about coming over the Hill, from Gairloch but you are not from Gairloch with an accent like that. No we are from Kirriemuir, and I said that was Sunset Song country and the reply was yes very close ands Lewis Grassic Gibbon was my wife’s uncle. That stopped me in my tracks. I have always regarded that trilogy along with The Silver Darlings and Butcher’s Broom by Niel Gunn as among my top choices of Scottish literature and to have a niece of a famous author speaking to me gave me quite a sensation. Strange really as I did not know her and it may be his fame thing. Chris and Lesley from Emmerdale have been here for the week and seemed to be very pleasant folk with a real interest in community and in particular what makes Applecross tick. The fact that they were from Emmerdale did not enhance their status but being a niece of Gibbon did in a strange sort of way. Possibly because I rated the trilogy so highly. Sunset Song, in particular took you to “the Mearns” and I remember feeling for Chris Guthrie when the gossip turned on her. “They said” is  afire way to get at some one and still happens. The evening was completed by Dave and Jan’s neighbours in Oregon turning up. Dave and Jan are cousin’s of Alison and spent a couple of days with us last month. They were a little shocked by me telling them who I was and the world gets ever smaller. All in all it was a good day at the Inn with it steady rather than busy and lots of time to look after the customers and chat the evening away.

During my mid afternoon break I took the chance to nip home for Dougal and Eilidh and go up to the Penstock area to view the progress and could see lots of that in a week. The river is now dammed off


and concreting has started.


the pipe has been welded


and dragged up the hillside


while the first load of the turbine house base has arrived, looking very like Lego blocks.


The dogs are loving this job, but Dougal does come back absolutely filthy. back on shift and a fine evening it was, not the chaos of Saturday night but a lot quieter with all the rooms in early. A wee local drinking session meant that some of the rooms preferred the quiet of the dinning room. The beauty of the Inn is it caters for all. The evening sunset, coming earlier, was a fine one and several times we had to go out to call in diners who were taking snaps of the afterglow.


(Monday evening) The fishing today is always a bit of a struggle after a twelve-hour shift at the Inn but the morning was beautiful and the catch has dipped a bit. Only one foul up and the rudder problem again but quickly sorted before hauling the last fleet for some squat lobsters. The North wind came back again in the afternoon so just the seven fleets up before making my way in. After landing the langoustine, back to the house where we had a visit from Des and Donna from Oregon, a snooze and then out to catch the late evening light when I met Mick on his way down. Good to chat and moan about the hurdles in the renewable system and general politics. Going by what is happening over the last couple of years any one predicting the future is a brave person. Meant I did not have to start up the chainsaw again this evening.


Going back to our Trustees meeting and having a think about what was said there is very little to report. The main topic is affordable housing and it was said very plainly and pleasantly that we may be heading for a dearth of young people in the area, the planned departures, the housing already priced out of local wages, the services industry that needs to bring in outside employees,but has no place to put them, all contributing to an increased pressure on accommodation. Little offered but to look to crofters to alleviate the problem. I did ask the question why does affordable housing have to be tucked away into the crummiest little corners. These houses could be easily integrated with existing buildings. Several sites were mentioned but it felt like Groundhog day, with nothing specific. It is frustrating when it is suggested that the crofters give up their half of the development value of the site to make the site “affordable” if decision is taken to build on common grazings. The meeting was pleasant enough and communications are open but no progress in ten years is frustrating and I now get the strong impression that the Trustees are genuinely puzzled as they do not see housing as their problem in running the Trust. And it is not if you read the aims of the Trust but there is now a community development page on the website now so the PR does not match what is happening on the ground. After the meeting I remembered seeing a photo of the 1920/30s which showed the arrival of the servants coming up of the summer to look after the “Big House” and the seasonal inhabitants. I wonder if this may happen again as the resident population continues to age and decline in numbers. Photo and many others may be seen at the Applecross Heritage Centre.


Must be the sun. It has been shining for the third day in a row now


and it gives another burst of energy. Fished Monday and Tuesday with relative success, still some prawns about but as they are becoming a little more patchy so creels are concentrating in slightly smaller areas so foul ups are becoming more common. Just part of the job and no point in getting upset about it. A little awkward in clearing the lines in the swell and deeper water but needs must.

Bright and sunny so everything feels so much easier and yesterday hauled over 550 creels


and would have been in good time if not for one of these foul ups. Made it to the kitchen about half-minute after cheffie decided I was not fishing. Getting slightly harder keeping the langoustine on the menu, but still it’s good healthy work. The intention for hauling the gear yesterday was that another fleet ashore so washing on Wednesday rather going fishing. But first there was a wood collection to be done as the van was going to the hospital for its annual. Some gash wood as a result of the turbine house site. Fascinating to see the welding machine in action.


Two lengths of plastic pipe put together, heated up to 220c and with a band round the pipe which is eased off the weld once it has cooled down.


The pipe was 3.2cm thick and is built to with stand 17 bar pressure.


The last bit of pipe to be laid over the field is going to be steel as it has to with stand the highest pressures. A bit of help with a fork lift, a couple of pints in the tap for that, and a plan of action at the Inn for the rest of the day, before unloading the van at the house. Then out to the Varuna and the creels thrown ashore and the Loch Ness inn langoustine taken across and left in the water at the dinghy. Dougal keeps cool in the sea


Up the road for the pups and back down on the bike for the pressure washer, music and sun. Efficient, so the 70 creels are cleaned in two hours.

9Q7Q1039 To the Walled Garden next for a quick-lunch before the Trustees meeting.

(Late Friday evening) There was not a lot to say about the Trustees meeting, later for that. From there to the Inn where it was a nice peaceful night, few queues for tables and able to chat to one or two people. Finding there is just not enough time to do everything that needs to be done. Thursday was one of these days where being self-employed is a bonus. Change of plans and instead of going down to the Pier to mend some creels I head up the road to take a fuel delivery. Little problem with the padlock and had to phone home for the bolt cutter to get the petrol unlocked. Quite a price drop and it is down to £1.15/.16 a litre and hearing the world news it may stay that way for a while. Burning fossil fuels becoming cheap again, not very sensible, as clever as allowing fracking in areas of scenic beauty and not an offshore wind farm. Made it to the Pier and mended the fleet


before nipping out to the Varuna for the last of my langoustine. They looked in good shape


and settled in to a 3 till 10.30 shift at the Inn. Uneventful until Room 4 wandered up to tell me they were locked out of their room. Easy or so I thought, master-key but for some reason the sneck was down on the Yale lock. Told the window was open so down the Street for Tony’s ladder, counted the windows, tried the window but it was locked so down and a recount, reckoning that Room 7 had two windows, so back up the ladder armed with two oyster knives to ease the sash window open. The Zimbabweans staying in Room 6 and 3 were not impressed with my breaking in efforts and were giving me stick from across the road. Just as well they were there as when I eventually levered the window open, using a couple of oyster knives from the prep room,  enough to fall in to the room I discovered I was in Room 6. Quickly nipping out the door, down the stairs and a recount I noticed that yes the only open window was Room 4. Back up the ladder, this time accompanied by Austrians having a laugh. Got it right this time and back onto service where Linda hardly noticed I was away. Went well, good as the Boss was away for a couple of days, until it got a bit hairy around the back of eight. All the resident and regulars were sorted and seated but they kept coming in. Family from along the Street, the Hydro boys and several randoms. Makes for a stressful last hour or so as people who have eaten looked very settled. Great they do but does not help every one who wanted to eat. Got away with only asking one table of three guys if I could move them to the bar, happy to do so and the rest slotted into place. Finished the night with a chat about our imminent Share Issue and chatted to Jock and Heather from Guernsey and Chris and Lesley from Emmerdale. People who really care about our community, who have felt welcome and seem to want to help our community survive. Left in good humour, partly as a result of having another fine community conversation and being able to seat everyone to their satisfaction. Good to see who, when asked to share, hit it off and end up chatting for the rest of the evening. You know when it does not work but this is not the norm. Up and down the road has suited Dougal and Eilidh but with the weather this week, the only week like it in the summer, it has been good to stop at Milton loch for a soak and top up.




Friday after a deep sleep and not really expecting to go to sea with the forecast on XCWeather last night checked to see if there was much white water accompanying the strong southeasterly wind and decided that as there were going to be no langoustine for the weekend I had better get out on the water. Turned out I was right and after a fairly frantic sorting out the deck trip out, I started hauling in nothing more than a stiff breeze. not too many  in the first three fleets and a large number of berried prawns, it was not looking too good for the menu. However after hauling over 400 pots there was a decent catch on board despite the wind picking up in the afternoon. A hard work day but rewarding. long sleep now and plan to start the winter wood pile tomorrow as the arrows are darker red and the wood pile is almost non-existent.

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