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

A Photographic Catchup.

Partly due to time and partly due to internet mishappenings I have to catch up through the camera. There are numerous stories ashore so will leave them for another day, possibly tomorrow. Since coming back from the wedding time has just flown by quicker if that is remotely possible. Everything apart from my book work and CC duties have gone reasonably well, autumnal weather has arrived along with the small gulls heralding a change in the season. As the fishing has held up remarkably well this weather suits me as there is a day off now and again to recover the physically draining summer. I am not complaining as the tiredness is an achieving one, one that results in long and hard hours but satisfying both at sea and ashore. In between the bouts of weather coming in off the Atlantic there have been stunning days at sea,

for me this means calm

and grey as well as the sunny ones,

the creels have now all been washed

with only a few broken bars at sea to attend to now. Some of the long hours have been due to the washing of the creels but even then you are rewarded by some lowering lights on the Sound. The only casualty has been the demise of my iPod, flipping out of my pocket on the end of my headphones and landing in a muddy puddle on the pier. This being hindsight knowledge as I found it two hours after it was posted missing. I get really cheesed off with these accidents not so much for the cost but more for the misuse of resources. I do not enjoy our throwaway get another society. Even if that is exactly what I have done although a refurbished one that has lots of new buttons and applications not needed.

The sun is slipping south and now setting on the north end of Raasay

signalling the onset of colours ashore such as the apple tree

and the resting dragonfly.

The creels keep bringing up new and familiar sights, this colourful but unknown fish,

the wanton destruction of the happy octopdes,

another unknown but regular, he/she never survives the pressure and is always a meal for the bonxie or gull,

and a cuttlefish and octopus getting it together.

Rainbows, jellyfish

and putting out collection bags for scallops completes the picture.

Like I said, a busy week and that does not include the media outlets and the little pub up the road.

Broadband with a Sigh.

To say that providing a geographically scattered community with broadband is difficult, we are finding is one of the understatements of the year. My optimism of a couple of years ago has long since vanished as the problems emerge as to how tricky everything is becoming. The latest little piece of knowledge we came across is that there is going to be a world shortage of IP addresses. These are only available in batches of 256, why that number I have no idea, and cost a fair bit to rent and even more to buy. As our new system has meant that we are now all on individual IP addresses and we are close to using that number then those on the waiting list have a further problem to overcome. I suppose that our problems are taking place in a background of poor broadband over our whole area. In fact the NW Highlands and Islands have among the poorest service of the whole country. We also hear that BT have “negotiated” a deal that is to give them the monopoly to roll out next generation to 99% of the country. The rather big caveat is that they are do not need to service around 650000 people, the 1%, and I wonder where they will be living. Locally rumours are rife about BT actually providing fibre optic in Applecross with workmen looking for six months accommodation for bringing it in over the Bealach. Our contacts say that this is not going to happen but already there are two cabinets built at the exchange and Milton. Of corse this means that those outlying areas will be in the same boat as before with BT taking the core of the customers away from AppleNet. This appears to be coming over from Skye and, assuming the copper lines in Applecross are in good nick, will be distributed from these cabinets. Going by what one hears from Skye the source of this new system leaves a lot to be desired and also BT numbers on lines are far more than AppleNets. There is a strong rumour that the fibre cable coming over the Hill is going direct to Sand and will not be available to the community at all. The workmen say otherwise so basically everyone is in the dark. South to HUBS and there are all sorts of machinations going on as we are being connected up to the new system. Currently we have been offline for around six of the last eight weeks and in today’s world, as we are both involved in various issues that need a fair bit of communication, that is seriously hampering our volunteering and work. Also to be noted that a company providing satellite service to one of our customers has gone bankrupt, proving all is not well in rural broadband circles. It is also a problem describing our efforts not as a business to some customers but a social enterprise providing a service. Sure the bottom line has to be kept in the black but were are not in business to make money and if we do it is purely for reinvestment.

Locally we have a mast on Raasay that serves the North Coast and finally it was up and running but not unfortunately on the island itself. There were a few emails coming back and fro, getting more and more irate, phone calls increasingly less polite and not understanding our inability to remedy the fault. This needed expertise from south. This done Sean and I headed over a couple of Mondays ago on a lovely quiet day

and very quickly he had the two connections up and running although speeds could have been better. The third connection was not attended to as he had thrown his toys out of his pram. As we had a bit of time before the next ferry

we headed to Raasay House

for a coffee with Lyn and Freya,

after a tour of a very smartly done up accommodation post fire. Prices range from £250 to £25 so all tastes accounted for. Views from the cafe and rooms at the front almost match Applecross.

A good catchup as usual, Lyn being my PE teacher at school back in the day. Lovely day and would have been better spent out on the water catching langoustines but needs must sometimes and the trip and company meant a good day out. variety keeps one fresh after all.

Who knows where broadband is heading in the near future. We are “expected” to now apply for next generation speeds. Bit ironic as we are barely up to first generation speeds. The forms and work, coupled with the technical expertise and lack of time all works against us having much of a chance of going onto the next stage. As the switch over continues Sean, who is a pretty fast learner, is finding so many anomalies in our set up which may go some way to explaining why some connections have stubbornly remained slow. As well as this we are having to deal with problems in the new system, ranging from radio reception to tidal. To be perfectly honest our broadband at the schoolhouse has gone back in quality since we have been trying to improve the setup, but patience is always going to be a virtue living in rural parts while still trying to improve services. I no longer predict times for improvements as the last prediction was we were going to have vastly improved speeds on 9th November 2015.

On a completely different subject and as I was tucking into some lemon drizzle cake rescued from the Best Man’s grasp the day after the wedding reminded me that several wedding photos have come up on FaceBook, a couple or three caught the eye, the boys, missing Calum,

happiness

and my emotional moment.

Beautifully shot and many more of the lovely bride are online.

(Poor internet has delayed posts somewhat)

And into the evening we sailed. Photos taken again, best man playing up to his role

after piping us into a lovely meal.

Photos taken before,

after and during

making sure the night was well documented.

Ceilidh band spot on and the floor was filled from first dance

to the Orcadian Strip the Willow as the las dance. All the usual antics, speeches, mine being the shortest, took place with happy contentment on everyone’s faces. Had a wee chat  with an exfisherman who fished lobster off Islay and Jura and reminisce about the early days of trying to get on your feet, the battle of trying to pay ones debts, hard work and to a certain extent missing a bit of the family growing up. The dancing, chat was all topped off with some fine bacon and sausage rolls and tablet, lots and lots of tablet. I think I was only out done by the groom in the tablet stakes. The disco did not appeal so left the best man to do his moves on the dance floor

and headed off to a very sensible early and soberish night. Think Calum was still up throwing the water bottle to No1.

Another fine breakfast saw us off on time to make it home for the evening shift at the Inn. Uneventful trip back with Raymond in attendance. Only needed to do a couple of hours as there were plenty of staff on the go. Sat the fourteen who just turned up in amongst the rest of the punters, would have been good if they had all paid, Boss had an attempt to see if any one would see them on the road, but police over in Skye so a shrug of the shoulders. Good eleven and a half hours sleep before going out for the rest of the langoustines hanging off the Varuna and then heading up to a busy shift, but manageable and little to distinguish it apart from the very pleasant and pleased Galicians and New Yorkers. Seafood helped them on their way. Tomorrow it is off to Raasay on broadband duty. Broadband is becoming a massive headache for us but more of that next time.

Their Day

(Saturday morning) Well we arrived here eventually after doing the whisky and castle tours of Speyside. I thought it would be more pleasant going through the Caingorm area as it would be a more relaxed drive than the A96. However, not consulting any maps and having low phone battery, little gps internet access, passing a turn off which took us through Tomintoul all gave me a sense of unease. Result was we ended up back on the A96 around Keith, a detour that left us with little time to get to the rehearsal at 4.30pm. A stop at Kintore for emergency carbs to keep us going, a relaxed phone call from the best man to the groom saying we would be late and it did not really matter, then it was Aberdeen. We found the church

and also quite a few other parts of the city, had a wander round and easily found the hotel. By this time best man navigator and co had pulled resources and conquered an elusive gps lady, forcing her to give up the required info. Snooze followed by a meeting up with the bride’s family. A very pleasant evening meal was had with best man ensuring there was little waste of food. And then deep sleep.

(Sunday evening) Hard to believe that so little time has passed with so much happening. We were staying at the Norwood Hotel, a short distance from the Craigiebuckler Church and as it was a 2pm start everything was very relaxed, partaking in a fine full breakfast before having a long nap through the morning. Met up with No1, who was going to be one of the witnesses and the Boss and sis over from Applecross, sharing a snack and then heading up to get changed. Only a five-minute operation for me….no last second decisions on what shoes to wear or which bag goes with which hat. Shoes, socks, kilt, shirt and jacket with the accessories added before going out the door. A beautiful day, weatherwise, maybe due to the Irish saint that was prayed to or the Mexican knife in the lawn ritual carried out by Mariclau. The only concern was the disappearing gramps. But although there was concern the conversation convinced all involved that he would turn up okay. The gathering outside the church went ahead as planned, not sure what Marie Clau was saying to get these expressions but was in position soon after.

and we all headed in to await the bride.

And in she came,

radiant is not an exaggeration, they do look well together.

Lovely personal service and off into the signing (Niall took the smiler award easily throughout the day but not far behind were Paul and Fiona, his new in-laws)

and witness ceremony.

My first unexpected welling up came when we were led out of the church by Son No3 playing a Gordon Duncan tune on the pipes,

fitting as they both so loved his music and were seriously bothered by his passing. He does pose well.

Outside the transport awaited

and photos were taken,

all so relaxed and natural.

It really was beautiful, as were the shoes from Achmore.

And before the bride and groom left Gramps made his quiet entrance and joined in,

he had gone for a walk earlier and got lost, just the sort of thing I would have done. And so it was off to the Norwood Hall, with Calum showing a great interest in the transport,

for an evening of eating and dancing to celebrate a wonderful occasion.

No4’s Big Day

In a normal year we would be joining  the queue to get into the Cambridge Folk Festival, gates opening at 10.00am, and setting tents up and settling into four days of full on music but we never have “normal” years these days. In a couple of hours a few cars are setting off from Applecross are heading towards Aberdeen to help celebrate Son No4’s get together with the lovely Rachel, courtesy of photographer, Debbie Walker.

I am surprising myself by being more than a little nervous but I am sure all will be well. It does not seem that long ago that he was running about Toscaig in a Highland cow costume and a wee soldier uniform. Little did we know where that would lead to. A trip to Kenya

earlier in the year no less.

Anyway here’s to the happy couple and we hopefully be there for rehearsals this afternoon in sunny Aberdeen.

Took a bit of an effort but a trip up to the Screen was needed as it was just over the two weeks since the last time. Now know that three weeks is too long at this time of year as the algae grows very quickly and clogs the holes in the screen up thus the water running over the dam goes over the screen rather than into the chamber. Very dry just now, until today that is, but even now the sun is back out. Decided not to go out today due to the strong south-easterly due to swing round to the south-west. The trip up to the Hydro Head was after a day at sea. It was a day, that although well remunerative, was hard hard work. There was an awkward breeze all day from the north and had to keep going in and out of gear to keep up to the creels and there was just enough motion to make crossing the deck stacking the creels a little graceless. Thus the limbs were tired and ached somewhat, but as usual the rewards for a wee volunteer are immense

both when there and on the way up.

The two pooches would go up every day to check it out of course. Going back to the day at sea,lovely morning,

although the day was hard work the only thing that takes me in is having to land before the evening service at the Inn. Reading that there are people who are now so removed from nature that they cannot teach/tell their children about the environment they live in. This morning began by passing the ubiquitous seals on the Culduie rocks, with watching gannets fly off when you get a little close then a small pod of dolphins swim by with there young. What comes up in the creels seems colourful in the extreme

although the haddock, first for a while, is not in a healthy state.

Now know that this is a Yarrel’s Blenny,

a bit of knowledge from Chris who came to pick up for the aquarium. The last couple of fleets provided the tea for this evening along with many other meals at the Inn.

Tailed all the way in having to finish them off at the moorings, a rare occurrence.

Did not make it out on Monday, a pity for Bethany, as she was on her day off and had arranged to go out, but the breakers were underway by 7.00am and a north wind in full sun meant a breezy day. Finished roping up

the fleet washed on Sunday morning.

That pressure getting it ready was unnecessary but weather and tides always change plans here.

Today another day ashore but still plenty on the go and took the delivery for fuel,

unusually we ran out of diesel on Monday and petrol today, combination of high sales and slightly later delivery caught us short. Only the second time since the refurbished refurbishment. But all well now. Increased my IT knowledge by entering the delivery into the Site computer, still have to work out how to post videos on the blog but will be there fairly soon. Weather is so changeable as can be seen at the After Games Do

and the four Massey Feguson’s parked

at the Inn this morning. The Filling Station snails came out in the rain

and like the sea life are as colourful.

 

 

(Sunday morning) and it is 6.30am, now regretting that I kept a fleet of creels on board on Friday to wash over the weekend. The plan was to do most of the work on it on Saturday morning before heading to the Inn at 3.00pm start. It is the Applecross Games weekend and with the weather being good, every man woman and dog is in town. Puppies as well including the 13 week old lab who had his owner worried as he slept on the road. Twenty minutes later he was messing about with his 7 month old neighbour. It was that kind of day. Not a good start to it as several Naproxen were needed to get me going, hence the regret with the creels. Made it out to the Pier at the back of 11 but had missed the tide for washing. Mended for three hours before making my way to the Inn with some trepidation. It gets so busy, especially with the weather being so good (no hydro), it can end up with just hanging in. Just a thought as I was leaving the creel mending on the Pier, I have got to enjoy those jobs/activities that never end. Creel maintenance comes under that category. As long as you keep on top of the job and you do not have so many that you cannot keep up in good order it is an occupation that you can do as the mood takes you. you can have a three hour burst or a twenty minute one and either way you are never going to finish it but it is a natural part of the fishing cycle. A rhythm of the seasons throughout the year.

Have added to my camera collection due to heavy wear and tear on the boat I have acquired a Sony bridge and another Canon that will not be going on board unless in emergencies. Some of the staff got hold of the bridge and the result, late at night is very promising. Three bonny members of staff, unfortunately down to two as Gemma is heading back north to promotion and nearer home. She will be missed both for her work ethic and craic.

Back to Friday and a full day with Tania, a Peruvian Research Fellow at St Andrews University. Doing a project that meant going on board different fishing boats, creel, trawl, lobster, crab and langoustines, the Varuna being the first prawn creel boat and single handed to boot. Saw a twin rigger heading north about mid day, a different approach to fishing.

It is a project to investigate ways of collecting data that is not too burdensome on the fishermen and to understand more the workings of the Inshore fishing industry. Yet another fund that will be closed off to us it being the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). Really do not understand the Brexit argument other than that based on “don’t let any more people in.” A pleasant day with quite a few questions to answer and she seemed to enjoy it, tailing squat lobsters

and having a meal of langoustines and a side of squats at the Inn.

Handy as well as her speciality is scallops so was picking a lot of spat of some creels.

Did not have time to tray them but they seem to have survived, interesting to see them climb the side of the bucket.

Timing was a bit tight as I had planned a wee trip to hear some music at Torridon Estate, The Dan River Girls, in the evening. http://www.torridonestate.com It was quite an effort to get to the event especially as I went up the glen a bit to pick up some more wood. On the way I completed a mission that only happens up here. While looking after the Inn on Thursday we realised that an Australian family had paid for some one else’s table meaning they were over charged by £36+ but did not know or twig that this had happened. Luckily Zuzu had worked out that they were heading to Torridon and so after a phone all to Sarah at Shieldaig and a follow-up phone call to Nigel at Badan Mhugaidh https://www.facebook.com/BadanMhugaidh/ we got him to give them the refund and I dropped in the money to him on the way to the music. They were impressed with the local connections and how they worked but it felt good to sort out a genuine error this way. The wood was quite a haul after going through 300 creels during the day, a result of information from our local tree surgeon. The cut sections are becoming further from the road but good exercise. Made it to the house to be given a lovely welcome by Felix and Sarah. Have a place in my heart for them and their venture after attending their opening and cleansing of the House. The tapas, wine and music was top drawer and made to feel at home. I resisted the invite to stay for the night, music was going to be played into the small hours and so tempting but duty, work and home called. Superb music played by the three sisters, youngest, Jessie, being 13, and such a fine fiddler, going well with cello, bass and mandolin. Their harmonic singing of blue grass tunes through to playing Scottish and Scandinavian influenced tunes were timeless. Seems when Felix asked them what they planned etc the 16-year-old, Ellie, replied that they were just living the moment. Such wisdom from a youth. whether this works or not I am not sure but will post and give it a go.

Clip #1

Once the head was sorted out and some creels mended it was off to the Inn for the Games weekend of organised mayhem. The Saturday shift started at 3.00pm through to finish and we were helped by the weather. Glorious sunshine and with more people eating outside finding a table on the patio or garden was a problem rather than queueing for tables inside. there was even a breeze to keep the midges away. I closed up at the Inn partly to let the staff away and partly an admission of age in that I cannot function too well after a night on the town. And knowing what was in store for Sunday meant an easy decision and home by 11.00pm as everyone else danced the night away to Rhythm ‘n Reel. By all accounts a really friendly and happy crowd being entertained by a fine band. Gemma now knows who they are.

(Monday evening) Survived this phenomenon called the Applecross Games Weekend. The second part of the work day began by bottling up at the Inn and then the doors opened and stayed open for the rest of the day. Weather was on our side and not the kitchen’ with every table outside used for eating, drinking and listening to the music provided for the after Games party or as Joe calls it the Aftermath. Had fantastic comments throughout the day on the food and with everyone in a good mood an enjoying themselves even the rare mistakes were quickly corrected. A honeymoon couple were staying at the Inn and I had forgotten their scallops, not for long but also their wine, but with weather and music it was easy to appease, not that they needed any. He had proposed on the coral of Ard Ban and they had just been married so where else would they come. They lived at Drumsheugh….. west end of Edinburgh and that little snippet reminded me of a night in the West End Hotel after a Scotland/Ireland rugby international where the discussion with a couple of Highland polis went along the lines of would we be able to get a grant from the then HIDB to fish for lobster on the West End Hotel staircase…..silly times. Working at the Inn enables me to catch up with people from the past and present, 34 years since I met up with Peter and Maggie who had come over with Kenny and Susan of the Plockton Inn, cousins, some by marriage!! John from Kyle also stopped by for a chat, love these meetings and catchups. Have the Inn to thank for that. Little else to report on the day other than to wonder, when gathering some plates, if the wasp which seemed to be drowning in the toffee sauce was its version of going to a better place.

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