It is more than two weeks since the Varuna grounded with no sign of Ali. We are in limbo; we know that he most likely died fairly soon after he fell into the sea, and yet we have no body. We’ve been informed by the police today that there will be an intensive search on 17th December (28 days after he went missing) in a specific area well north of Applecross. The search will involve two police teams, lifeboats and the coastguard. The decision to search this place on that date is based on the advice of a forensic oceanographer based in London. But it makes sense to us; we know John Newsome was found in the Gairloch area after he went missing off his boat in the Inner Sound not long after we started fishing. We know Bruce Fewell was found 28 days after he went missing off Plockton in April. It is good to be in touch with Sheila, Bruce’s partner.
Sad to say, since Ali disappeared, another Applecross fisherman has died, after a long and very stoically borne illness. Donald Cameron (Don to his close family and Taddy to most of the rest of us) was from a family which had fished for many generations, and the extent of his knowledge about fishing and the heritage of Applecross was legendary. He had an astonishing memory and was a mentor and role model for the younger generation and will be very much missed. His funeral was on Saturday and Kenny represented the Macleod family.
We’ve decided that we’ll organise a celebration of Ali’s life here in Applecross, but that we will wait till we know the result of the intensive search before deciding the exact date. We think it will most likely be towards the end of 2017 or the beginning of 2018. If he’s found the celebration will also be his funeral. If not, we’ll go ahead with it anyway and if his body is found at a later date we’ll have a private cremation.
Life stops and life goes on. Visitors spend time with us and we have (almost) normal conversations, indulge in local gossip and laugh.The dogs need walked and Dougal bounces along as ever, though his mother seems sad at times, missing cuddles on the couch with Ali. The hydro scheme churns out its 2000 KWh plus each day, earning income for Applecross. Kenny produces warm and comforting meals and nags me to give up caffeine. Calum, called home from New Zealand after five years away from Scotland, adjusts to jet lag as he quietly continues his studying. Ruairidh is back in Dundee where the situational judgement test he sat on Friday went all right, he thinks. His fellow students provide good support as does Mariclau by Skype, from faraway Florence. Niall spent the week on a kayaking course near Ballachullish and then, back home with Rachel in Glasgow, he recognised the flooded slate quarry where the course had taken place in the Landward episode dedicated to his dad.
There have been many very lovely tributes paid to Ali on social media, in blogs, e-mails, letters and cards, a Spotify “Songs for Ali” list and in person; we appreciate every one. Most unusual and surprising of all must be the naming of the wind turbine built by the community in Coigach; it is called Varuna, after Ali’s boat: https://www.facebook.com/CoigachCDC/posts/1546302978768351