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

Archive for the ‘Applecross’ Category

My Wee Scallop Farm

Although it meant going down the engine room hatch and guddling about in emulsified oil and water, the heat exchanger is back on and the gear box oil is changed again. Instead of going fishing I decided that the first run out of the moorings would be to check on the long-line. At this time of year there is still a lot of growth in the water and the line gradually sinks as there is added weight which overcomes the buoyancy which keeps the line below the surface and off the seabed. If it is too near  the surface the scallops suffer from motion sickness and poor salinity. Fresh water for scallops is deadly unlike mussels and oysters. I have to admit I was pretty nervous thinking the surface buoys may have sunk under but was relieved to find them heavy but in sight. Picking up the first buoy I was pleasantly surprised at the huge amount of scallops on the ropes and the pearl nets

I had filled using the creel caught spat earlier in the year. Looks like I will not be bothering with that monotonous task again. Worked my way around 3/4000 queens,

putting them in clean pearl nets and adding a bit of buoyancy to the line. Looking forward to a new source of seafood next year and good to see there is still a lot of health in the local waters. Made me forget the messing about earlier in the day, I had batteries ashore as well due to long lay off, (a varied load on the dinghy this morning)

although it reminded me of the cold and sore backs of years in the 1990s when the scallop farm was going great guns.

Applecross Meanderings

On the way south to see and hear Afro Celt Sound System and leaving Inverness behind finally. The ticket collecting machine did not like my Visa card. May be a west east issue. As a result by the time I had picked them up from the ticket office the planned train had left. So now after an M and S coffee, couple of music purchases, Lau and Julie Fowlis, it is south we go. Another difference between east and west is Christmas seems to have arrived on the east coast, horribly early. These little jaunts are essential to life in Applecross where believe it or not one does suffer from cabin fever. However a meander around the community,

with

and without the dogs allow for some good viewing of colours

and bird life.

Keeping the dogs off the beaches at the time of year is good for the seabirds, enabling them not to fly off trying to avoid mad spaniels and terriers. One or two little hiccups at the Hydro, a couple of tripped switches but no significant lose of power out put. Angus is always about.

It still uses up a bit of volunteer time, getting the key for access, checking over the switches and returning the key and you are three-quarters of an hour down, that as well as a screen clean and before you know it well over a couple of hours are taken up. But to counter balance there is always the views.

Events of the week have involved our Community Council no longer having enough elected councillors to continue, still have to check up to make doubly sure but an election is in the offing. Another meeting this week to progress the Community Company consultation, something that should not surprise anyone as the Community Company is obliged to find out what the Community want and for it to carry out its wishes if it is feasible. There may be consulting fatigue in the Community but this one is quite important as it is a Community led one. Yet more volunteer time but gradually cutting back on the overload.

Sheep that Couldn’t Pee

After the fine morning we are back to the autumnal/winter south-westerly breeze and mainly grey skies. Although it is a little frustrating that there are no langoustines on the menu board I am less fretful than in younger days. Looking back on the week, despite the inactivity at sea and a seasonal feeling taking hold, there were a couple of highlights. One involved working at the Inn and meeting the C of I vicar, Terry and his wife Alison. Wednesday evening went as planned with it being a lot less frantic, still having to watch tables for residents, but being able to chat to people for a little longer. I had already made contact earlier in the evening so sat down in their vicinity for my supper. The House 9 Cowans were in and the evening really kicked off from then on in. A proper Highland Pub craic and ceilidh ensued over a couple of malts, well possibly three. Although unlike at the Awards Ceremony no one was counting. Everything was up for discussion, politics, banter, world events, certainly Ireland was up there with Brexit and local community activities ranked fairly high. I like the fact that card-carrying Tories, an Irish vicar and a Scottish Green can pass the time of day discussing the events of the day and remain/become friends over the piece. It was only left for me to state that it is evenings like these that make working at the Inn so enjoyable. Working is probably the wrong word.

So often when you chat to people the connection is there, like the friends of one of the late Prof Romanes’ daughters. She was so surprised I had heard of him, far less knew and worked with him when we were scallop farming. And so to the vet, Alasdair, who used to live in Fintry and now in Doune. Only realised that I had spoken to them the last time they were here. Loved his story of the ewe that could n’t pee. She had turned up at the practice and belonged to a “hobby farmer” who fed it to the extent it did not eat grass, even when put in a field of fellow grass-eating sheep. Resulting in a crystallising blocking it channels. Despite having a “bit” chopped off it did not survive through the next 24 hours although she was able to pee, which must have been some relief as she left this world.

Going further back into the week, on Tuesday, I headed over the Hill making my way to Sleat for a bit of a wild card concert put on by Duncan of Seall. The Red Dirt Skinners and what a find the were.

On the way I stopped off for a shop and to drop off my sick iMac at a doctor. Not very hopeful of getting it going and getting data recovered but still worth a try. Then down to Dave and Maggie’s for a wee ceilidh. Always great for a catch up and usually afterwards I wonder why we do not do this more often, just drop in to people’s houses  for nothing more than making or at least keeping a strong connection going. The upsetting side to the visit was finding out I had missed the passing on of Sylvia. the Iceland trip had put me out of communication and missed both her passing and send off which to all accounts was immense. Hearing that both Slippy and her daughter did her proud on the day. The least I could do was to call in to Ruairidh and try to convey some heartfelt feeling, always feels so inadequate and hopefully he picked up some genuine sympathy and for a few minutes felt a kindred spirit. When we lose empathy with our fellow-men then we are in trouble. I suspect a lack of human empathy in our Political Leaders leads to many a war, and although often said it is very rarely their sons and daughters who are sent to fight their wars.

So easy for me, as I was back on the road to Sleat via a monster fish and chips in Broadford. The Skinners were awesome, soprano sax

with guitar and vocals were immense.

Mostly their own self penned songs, all accompanied with stories, with a couple of covers thrown in. Sunshine in Leith stood out and came a close second to the version sung by the 20000 Hibs fans after they had won the Scottish Cup. Don’t think anyone can compete with that version. Sat at a table of Lochcarron and Kishorn guys but you are never on your own when at a music gig. This concert ranks as one of the best and the drive home felt short.

So back to Monday and a trip up to the screen to check up and clean. In spate

so it was a shoes and socks off rather than wet feet.

Pooches as usual in attendance.

Photogenic Applecross Morning

A wee snippet as I await my heat exchanger part for the Varuna. Perfect day to go to sea but times have changed. Every company seems to have cut its cloth to a bare minimum these days so when one has a break down you can no longer go into either Inverness or any component parts place and get simple parts of the shelf. I have a 7/10 day wait for the heat exchanger for the gear box. No point in fretting as a week over 40 years at sea is nothing. This morning I had serious pangs about being ashore while watching the Grace Anne slide north.

So nothing for it but to enjoy the morning ashore, watching the geese share the field with the Highlands

across the road.

Next it was up the road with the dogs along the Beechwood path.

The weather for the Hydro has been good for most of the summer so a day like today is the perfect antidote.

Trees are wonderful to walk beside, under, through and the colours at this time of year are so vivid and on the ground as well.

Back to the Inn where I was recognised by my calling for Dougal not to bother a wee dog, which turned out to be from Barleyport. Wee chat before seeing another photo at the back door, Lyndsay and Shaun,

who are heading off on their travels tomorrow and I don’t mind saying the Inn will not be quite as bright while they are gone. Pretty sure they will be back though. And then it was off home for a gentle afternoon.

 

 

From Ice to Awards

Finished the Iceland trip with a quiet day around Reykjavik. Morning was spent messing around with photos and posting before Alison went down the road to a museum and I went up the road to the Perlan Centre. A place built on geothermal tanks that has a glacier in it.

A genuine glacier, or at least part of one.

There were layers of ash in the ice, a crevasse and an ice tunnel.

For the first time I balked at a tourist payment and it was to go out side on the balcony for a better view of the city. This was an extra fiver on top of the guided tour of the inside glacier. Fair play to them for being able to make a bit of money of their visitors and they do seem to have done it without overdeveloping and spoiling what people are coming to see. The only complaint on the whole visit came from the serving staff of the Perlan. And it was only because they had to deal with a slowly revolving centre from where they were serving their coffee and cakes. They had to rearrange their furniture as it turned slowly round and I got a wee grump from a staff member who was unimpressed with the design.

In the evening I decided to head out to have a fish and chips, we had kept the expenditure down with the self catering, down by the harbour. For a capital city Main Street this is about the right size.

Cod and chips was expensive but worth it. So very early start on Friday but picked up outside front door and were at airport in no time. Packed out with people going places and slightly nervous about everything although on flight and sound asleep for the two hours it took to get to Glasgow. On the train and another three hours North, again asleep, before decanting to the Premier Inn and another Awards Ceremony.

We talked ourselves down and actually think the Boss does not want to enter too many more. It means more to up and coming places and helps them on their way. The Applecross Inn has arrived many years ago and the aim is not to let standards drop rather than to keep gathering prizes. A good night though with some people taking a little longer to get ready than others.

And seemingly there were a few whiskies drunk towards the end of the night. Judging by my lack of hangover they could not have been imbibed by me. So the kilt gets its third outing of the fortnight and good to meet up with Mountain Cafe,

John, Glen Wyvis, and Coast and Glen. A very well behaved table,

at least for most of the night,

and they went looking for the stars of the evening.

 

Good to get home and back to the Inn with a couple of shifts on Saturday and Sunday. It is now the time of year and back to earth, waiting for weather and finding out which heat exchanger was down. Found out it was the gear box

so it is off and waiting for part.

Volunteering

As it transpires this is a good time to get away from Applecross. There has been much going on on so many different levels, whether at Meetings or friend’s conversations. The conversational side of things makes you think, especially on this week of mental health awareness, on the difference of being alone and being lonely. I am very comfortable with being alone, which is no bad thing having a single-handed occupation at sea, and rarely find myself lonely. The only times I feel just a little out of kilter is during the coming season of darkness and I put that down to physical rather than mental aspects. Usually it can be the people who you would least suspect of being lonely. Tuesday was an interesting day and it was brought home to me that I have to make one or two decisions very soon which may mean a bit more dog walking. The morning began and took up a fair bit of time going into the Applecross Community Council email site, picking up emails and forwarding them on. As ever, with anything new it takes time, but becomes routine after 2/3 hours. Necessary due to lack of Council Secretary. The dog walking however was prominent in the days activities as we continued the morning by going up to do a screen clean.

Although there is plenty water flowing

it would not take too much time for the screen to clog up. Even with the constant running water over the dam you can see the build up of algae which clogs up the micro holes the water falls through. If we had a drier spell then the water would simple fall over the screen and down the slope. Forecast for more rain so the next week or so the Hydro hopefully will be powering away. The 800,000 kWhs has been passed leaving us well on target for income generation. We will be looking out for some one to fill a paid admin post for AppleJuice, accounts, paperwork and upcoming AGM all being worked on. Dougal and Eilidh know the hydro scheme well and Dougal

has his dip in the small reservoir overtime he is up. He is usually pretty hyper by the time he is back down but local pets are aware of his behaviour and he never gets close.

Autumn is well under way and the dampness has meant lots of fungi this year.

On the way back to the van it was a call into the Filling Station to dip the tanks as we are away for a few days.

Next it was getting the fuel bills at the Pier sorted out and this went on with a brief stop for a fine Inn staff tea. So sitting at the Hall table finishing off the Pier accounts as people come in for the Council Meeting I realise I have been “volunteering” for the whole day. Council Meeting routine until I spent 20 minutes defending my right to write what I perceive, view and opinionate on what happens in my locale and further afield. I tried to point out that I do not write as Chair, board member or anything else other than me, but this did not meet with much agreement. A couple of Crabbies and a good chat with friends at the Inn afterwards puts everything back into perspective. Also knowing my very small issues will not be blown out of all proportion by me and I have the ability to sort them out simply myself.

Almost forgot….minutes have to be done and duly posted for trimming as I do not have Office on the MacBook yet. That was done in Glasgow, too much, just too much.

So it is with a sense of relief that I am posting from Rachel and Niall’s flat in Glasgow getting ready to catch a flight to Iceland in a few hours time for Alison to do a presentation about our Hydro Scheme to an audience of Nordic people. I am just tagging along and we have lengthened the trip for a look around the Island before heading back-end of next week.

A Grumpy One

Although we are in for a busy weekend there is a definite end of season feel in the air. Maybe not helped by it being Friday and the first day on the water this week and even then it involved a northerly swell and a breeze from the south. By mid afternoon the breeze had developed into a wind, fortunately the fishing had improved from the morning although being in gear you have to watch when you steam past the south end you don’t get the tailing in the prop. Well more than once anyway. This coupled with noticing some spotlets of emulsified oil coming through my wet exhaust adds up to a bit of a grumpy feel to the day. I could have done with a longer visit from the dolphins. They came up very quickly, pirroeted a full 180 degrees out of the water alongside the boat and swam off. The oil problem is a heat exchanger and I have to find out if it is the gearbox or the engine oil I will be losing. It is never all joy and happiness in any job but at this time of year after a full on and busy summer these little things get blown up and exaggerated in the mind. Western world issues so in the grand scheme of life they will be trivial.

Good mood to have a mini rant about how the community is impacted by outside decisions and the little we can do about it. There is a theme across the Highlands that Community Councils are of little import and to some extent I would have to agree. As a region and country our local democracy is in pretty poor shape and to some degree unrepresentative. This is mainly due to most people’s perception that there is little the Council can do other than voice a community opinion. I do not usually post on individuals but the fact that the Inn Chef, Robert, and the School and Fire person, Marion, have to deal with a planning decision that stops their plans in progressing their presence on the Applecross peninsula is frankly incomprehensible. Robert and Marion, holding three jobs down between them, one young un and another imminent, working crofters cannot get planning permission to build a croft house near their croft. They are refused on the grounds that it is not in keeping with the surroundings environs and is too far from other habitations. I find it hard to put into words what I think of these decisions taken on the east coast by people who have no conception of what living on the fragile west is like. Apart from the ludicrous reasons for refusal, I can take you round Applecross and show you houses that have been built with no other houses near them, so as well as being a negative decision in the first place it has no place with any precedence. Ridiculous from which any angle you look at. It is easy to criticise but this and other decisions have little basis in a community’s growing it’s capacity and resilience. Another decision on the Street has been negative on the grounds the living quarters are upstairs. Considering that already happens in Holiday Houses three or four doors along it holds no water anywhere else but the east. You couple this with no land being released for affordable houses you can see we. are going to have problems in the very near future. Do people think it is ok for workers to live in multiple occupancy and caravans, in poor housing where do these issues come into the planning process. I leave the argument that everything is fine and should be left as it is to discuss, that is the rewilding argument in a way, saying that people should not and have not lived here for generations, which is patently untrue. Always change, sometimes the change is rather quick but you have to deal with it as it will not go away.

When, we as a community, are faced with an absentee landlord saying that a site is unsuitable because you can see it from the road you can only shake your head in disbelief. Drive down the road from Ardeslaig to Toscaig and you see every single house, holiday house and empty house from the road. Mind you I have been told of two other reasons for that site, the first being the presence of sink holes, not a good excuse due to the Turbine House being built there, and finally an agricultural reason just to make sure the site will not become available. You get the idea that releasing land is  not on the absentee landlord’s agenda, frustrating when you look at Achintrad, Sheildaig, Lochcarron, Balmacara, where affordable houses are being built and lived in by young folk who send kids to local schools and have employment in their locales. So individual planning decisions taken against this background feel so negative.

I have been to some positive and not so positive meetings lately, great to hear ideas put forward about a Community Hub, increased employment, housing from people who understand the fragility of the community and have  thoughts and plans to reverse the almost imperceptible decline. On the positive side there are more crofts being used now, the decline seems to have bottomed out and younger folk are growing and producing more food locally, building the resilience of the place, it’s a good year for wee ones being born, would be great if this was the norm rather than being unusual and employment must be 120%, more to do than the people living here can cope with. In a way it is a sort of curse when asked what is one’s agenda for the community. I can state that nothing is personal in that my living and employment prospects do not need to be improved so it is purely on a community level. Of course I may be wrong but I can see how a fine community can work in difficult circumstances and that is the one at the Inn. Great team and generally a happy place, building under pressure, workers not in ideal housing, but despite all the problems a fine example how a community can work.

So the consultations go on, there is the launching of a proper community consultation run by the Community Company, while the Trust Working Group continues. I feel I have made the right decision not to keep putting time into this and leave it to more positive minded people. I see no change in the direction the Trust is going in despite different personnel  on the Board. The suggested Chair of the Working Group, someone who is not only not local but is also not “independent”, confirms my decision to spend my time more usefully. I sincerely hope the Group is able to influence Trust policy for the future before more and more people think the  development of Applecross will have to go through new powers of the Community Empowerment Act.

Another meeting attended this week concerned the laying of fibre optic cable from Sheildaig to Lochcarron. Wonderful one may think but we came away from the meeting thinking little or no benefit to the community. There will be empty chambers for a licensed provider to build cabinets to deliver superfast broadband but that is unlikely to happen as cabinets cost around £65,000 and does not make economic sense to supply to a half-dozen houses. There was more unsaid than we were told, i.e. the contractor, the huge expense of laying a cable that is not going to be used locally. SSE backhaul does not really hold water and we all came away with the strong suspicion that the customer is based on the North Coast and has little to do with the local community and decisions are taken far far away. Meanwhile some residents are being promised 50/70 meg speeds from BT as they take in broadband by radio. Very puzzling and can only wait and see if this is true.

Now that feels better and life goes on. As said before the fishing was better than expected and the tea was good, it being these shrimps, all eyes

trying to make me feel guilty, some squats in mayo, and mussels increase,garlic and wine sauce, good accompaniments to baked Tatties.  This chappie was released after the photo and swam away happily in a flash of colour.

In-between the grumps the dolphin visits, they were too quick for me,


and the occasional calm days with lots of activities on and in the water,

a Thai massage and good chats with good people keeps you on a level, although maybe reading this I may need a lot more therapy.And to finish with a light show

or two.

 

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