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

Archive for the ‘Applecross Inn’ Category

Fuel back on as is Summer Colour

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.

 

 

The Applecross Games Weekend.

(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.

“Hindsight is an Exact Science”

Feels like a weeks worth has been done and it is only Wednesday, but then when does a week start and finish in Applecross? On Sunday it was one of those days when the door at the Inn opened around 11.30 and stayed open as people came in from all corners of the world, I am pretty sure there was some one from every continent in. I know we had Afrikaans, Chileans, Asians, Aussies and the usual Europeans and North Americans all complimenting the food and service, the weather which was a little wintry did not put anyone off. Kitchen worked well and long and when I sat down at around six it was to a fine shell of hand dived scallops with a rice and salad to go with it. By the end of the day the weather had improved somewhat and Thor appeared over Skye and Raasay to show the visitors that Applecross has at least two seasons a day.

This meant that with the forecast for a breezy Monday morning from the west to settle down later, a relaxed start to the day was appreciated. With it being so busy though I had to get out and a lunch time haul into early evening brought the langoustines back on to the menu board. With a few more berries appearing in the creels another fleet has to be hauled to keep the supplies going. Almost got the long-standing fleet on the Pier repaired so that will go out in the next week.

Monday evening we had a Trading Company meeting and the main topic at the moment is broadband. It is complicated and with so many factors involved, quite a few of them are not in our control. Giving everyone individual addresses before switching over to the new system has thrown up more than a few problems. We have had no internet for about 4 weeks, but is now up and running. Likewise the North Coast although there is a lot of drop off. Today’s problem is a router in Toscaig which is now in the post so that should be sorted fairly quickly. I think that the statement “Hindsight is an exact science” could quite easily be applied to our attempts at providing this service. We all find it very draining and the strong rumour that fibre optic is coming over the Bealach, treated with a fair amount of skepticism admittedly, would be such a boon to our efforts in keeping the system going. Using remote islands to service the more tricky parts of the peninsula, relying on people’s good will, while not having enough expertise in the community to ease the burden of the few who are keeping the system up and running is getting harder and harder. The alternatives are pretty grim, getting a half meg from BT or paying three times as much for a poor satellite service that is constantly being slowed down as they put on too many users restricting width. Maybe we have to go through the fire like we did with the Filling Station before we find a solution to our problems. The latest national solution is certainly not going to work in its current form, loading so much work on community groups so we get the next generation network. We are struggling to get and keep this generation one. However as always you feel better after a meeting like this as you hear everyone’s views, opinions and the actions to be taken. Must be a sign of age or just the fact I have been self-employed my whole life, I accept we are where we are and we have to deal with it, maybe some of the decisions we take will not be to everyone’s individual benefit but will have to be taken.

Going fishing and easing away to some extent from the direct stress of these issues helps although the body comes under a fair bit of pressure hauling over 400 pots. Beautiful sunny/blue sky day,

gannets

and even the seagulls were enjoying.

It was warm but never too much so, it is always too hot or to wet or too windy or too cold for some people, this must be another age thing…it is what it is. Over the Monday/Tuesday I was keeping fish/shellfish and other sea creatures alive for a pick up on Tuesday evening to stock a refurbished sea water tank in Moray. Some boys had been in touch and they were diving in Lochcarron to collect some shallow water animals. Managed some lemon sole, wrasse, codling, feather stars, shrimps, dog whelks, a couple of small octopodes and a big seven finger starfish. Surprised to learn they only live  for about three years, overfeeding on langoustines I reckon. The fact that I was able to keep the various animals alive with relative ease shows how the creels work in our environment, only cropping what we need to sell and returning the other sea life back. Opinions are currently a little tense on the inshore waters fisheries with opinions properly divided between mobile and creel sectors. I find it almost mirrors the political state of the country where you only look at the facts that confirm your views. Classic example of that is a minke whale comes ashore drowned with rope damage and immediately creel men around the coast are to blame for every mammal drowned. There is no doubt that the re are fatalities, I have had two in my forty years at sea and suffice to say these two days to have been my worse days in the job, far worse than losing a boat, which I have managed to do as well. Anecdotal, I know, but these mortalities take place in both fishing methods.

Today, with a brisk south-easterly wind blowing I was up early to wash the fleet I kept on board,

rather warm for the pooches though,

Dougal for once being more sensible than Eilidh,

before going up for a badly needed massage. Was second in line so took an hour out at the Inn patio with the headphones on and listened to breathing and music while watching the ever-changing light on the Cuillin. Not a bad way to have a break before the ever so painful massage. I register how much I need them by how painful they turn out. These massages are more than just physical manipulations but the chat is holistic as well and having No3 at home over the last couple of weeks there have been a few “in the mind” chats as well to counter the pain of headaches. Sarah also has some great yoga moves which I am hoping to find time to carry out. Actually all this adds to a good feel good factor and having a half hour to ones self is surprisingly regenerative. Now as it is Thursday morning fishing calls.

“It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got.”

( Wednesday evening) Every now and again things are in place which either mean all is well in life or there is a spot of trouble to deal with. Today was one of those days when you have to cope with a spot of bother. Early start due to a day off yesterday and the plan to haul extra fleets went well until the last one. Just a wee bit tired, 540 creels hauled and thinking of heading home, turning round to shoot back my final creels, found myself on the wrong side of a creel which wrapped itself round my legs. That would be okay to deal with but I was in gear and going half ahead so the weight of the buoy was trying to pull me over the stern. Adrenalin kicked in and after what felt like an age, but was probably only a minute, I managed to ease myself into a position to fall backwards off the creel and away from the rope that was trying to catch an ankle. Only resulted in a couple of pulled muscles and a little shake. Thinking about it on the way in you accept that was as close as you want to go but no point in dwelling over it or you would pack in the job. Clarity of thought is so distinct and so many people say how time seems to slow when you are in serious trouble, but I reckon it is the mind working through the survival strategy. I am sure there are many incidents that happen every day at sea like this and no amount of regulation can cut them all out. One of the silly thoughts that went through the brain was, “mustn’t spoil the upcoming wedding”, daft, I know, but it gives that bit more of an incentive, if any was needed. So the engine stopping on the way into the moorings turned a good long day at sea into one of those days. Uncertain about why she stopped but got her going quickly and soon was tied up.

( Tuesday, last week) One of the things I love about this life is its unpredictability, slightly later than usual I was getting ready to go fishing last week when I saw an unfamiliar boat heading slowly into the moorings. Turns out Joel with three SNH guys were out on a wee field trip. Unfortunately their gear box was playing up and heading for Lonbain was too risky. After a request for help, equipment and people were put aboard the Varuna,

we steamed north shooting yesterday’s cleaned fleet off in the Bay. We were looking for flame shell reefs and although we were working with gps marks it was not till the last dip with the camera that we came across them.

There was plenty evidence of maerl beds which is good in itself. I am sure this would be described in certain quarters as supping with the devil, but if it helps the environment in any way I am up for it. Passing The Sand Base on the way home one wonders about the 22 million investment…….

Hauled a fleet, on the way in, still trying to hook up my missing one but failed yet again. Lots of squats though so not a total waste of time. Started towing the boat south

to meet Angus who completed the rescue, turning up just south of Saint Island.

Another few broken creels mended and a squat lobster fried rice completes the day. Means an early start tomorrow to make up for the lost time.

( Now Thursday evening) And now taking a bit of time out after a busy night at the Inn, a spot of reflection. With Tarnybackle singing It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got, so true working at the Inn. Introducing the song it sounded like a plea from the heart asking why we do not help each other more instead of just looking out for ourselves. Classic small example of this was Zuzu and I headed over to the Filling Station to try to sort out the lack of receipts over the last week. I had tried on several occasions and Zuzu had a go as well before going off on hols for the last week. Pooled knowledge and we sorted it out in approximately five minutes. Went into the system as the engineer and got the drawer opened with a bit of knowledge I had learned and fixed my earlier mistake. Good feeling of working together for community benefit walking back to the Inn. Where it was one of those special nights, friends made, can see several tables with people deep in conversation with each other they had never met before eating their meals together earlier in the evening. The camaraderie is immense and although the Boss was a bit tense thinking it was going to be a struggle to seat every one nothing went wrong, comments were off the scale about the food and the service. Easy for me to convey a magnificent Highland night of hospitality, food and drink, (Sandy even got his chic chip ice cream with sprigs of mint) and fine appreciated music. Enjoyed Green Fields of France, Caledonia and others of the folk and country tradition. Like the last couple of years working at the Inn with an ever-changing but fantastic team gives you so much satisfaction. It has been very fulfilling despite the numbers over the last few days and regulars keep coming back despite the ten levels of busy. Rob in his dapper tweeds always cuts a fine picture. Asked if he would mind a picture taken but my shift finished before he came down on the Sunday evening. The Boss took an iPad photo.

Asked to take some photos of the new wonderful lobster linguine

and as they were opposite and very photogenic the langoustines were snapped as well.

Did not know it was supposed to be for the Herald or more care on composition would have gone into the shot. The intrepid two arrived back yesterday, pretty knackered, hungry but contented.

( Finish off Friday evening) As ever one day does not lead into the next with any sort of conformity. This morning saw me out on the Varuna but nothing doing when I went to start her, ignition okay but starter motor dead. Ashore, phoned the ever reliable Ewen, luckily in Inverness, new one picked up and now in the van, ready for refitting tomorrow, langoustines in for the day and the old motor off with out the usual one stuck nut problem. That is usually my engineering experience. Lazy sort of day with only activity was spending lots of money on camera equipment, mainly to keep ashore as the marine environment takes its toll on the one I have. Although the weather is a bit broken the langoustines are still going into the creels although the numbers of berries seem to be coming in earlier this year. The days we are out are a joy to be on the water,

still waters and a view to die for

in every direction.

Interesting vessel moored at the moorings last week,

someone doing some serious open water rowing.

Did not get to chat so have little info about who it was.A wee blast from the past occurred when Willie came over on Saturday evening from Erbusaig to help entertain the Sally Leaving Do. There was only 27 of them and they were great craic. One thing I like in the Highlands is the generation cross over and girls in school with the boys just treat you as anyone else rather than parents. Banter flowed and a fair few vodka and lemonades were consumed, some with ice. The handbag was heavy with tins of cider on the bus for the way home. Back to the blast from the past and it was a photo that appeared on FB of the Curlew being fitted out on the Slip in Kyle, my Dad being on the left of the four, this would be in the seventies and a few memories came back……

Seals and Sunsets.

Listening to John Beattie at lunch time today I was struck by the interview with the guy he met in the street. This guy walked past smoking a spliff and he wanted to hear his story. At the Inn I often get the privilege of doing just that. Sunday lunch and speaking to an Irish couple was such an occasion. They were from Belfast and a very short conversation ensued with me saying I was over there during The Troubles and nipping through from Donegal to Larne at speed. He casually mentioned that he was in a mixed marriage, relevant during the marching season, and he never knew what list they were on, probably on both sides. A quiet statement by him saying they never opened the door after dark unless they knew who it was, was a stark description of a life lived in Belfast 30 odd years ago.

On a brighter note was the Columbian who took to the Inn and left after photos and a hug. I think he was just a very happy and contented fellow who appreciated all around him, if only we were all like that instead of walking down streets banging drums in the name of culture.

On the way out to the Varuna to put last week’s washed creels back on the line I stopped to take a couple of photos of our residents,

generally they were unconcerned with my presence.

There is no need for any seal trips here unlike Plockton where they get the patter as well. https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=calums%20seal%20%26%20dolphin%20trips. 

And finishing off the day after mending a few creels on the Pier and catching up on Designated Survivor, nipped out to watch the sun go down

over the Rona Gap

Pirates and Calendars.

June.

That is the first run of calendars ordered.

It tells a story when you have a day off and around a 100 creels are washed and the boat is fuelled up. Before.

And after.

Bit of a slow up in the langoustine sales means I can take it a little easier on the start of the week and get the creels mended and ready for out.

And tonight there was a pirate in the Inn, well he was really a ” free thinking Hungarian artist”with a lemur on his shoulder, not a real one I may add.

Apart from that it was a fairly gentle and uneventful shift with a little rush towards the end but possibly the quiet before the summer school holidays storm.

Crofting the Sea.

And in the post arrives the prototype of the 2018 calendar, still raising funds for the Applecross Community Company and kindly printed at cost by Stewart of https://yourdoricmor.com printers in Edinburgh. The offering for September.

While catching a few langoustines and squat lobsters on my own, although it is a draining physical occupation, you can do it almost subconsciously. Sometimes a trigger can make you think and that is what happened just before Christmas last year. A couple of fisher folk from Shieldaig stopped off for a quick brandy or two while waiting for the bus to take them back round the coast. And lots of questions came my way from which the information required meant a dip into my past when we had a good going scallop farm based in Toscaig and Camusterrach. A combination of it being a hard job, aging body and a slight change in the scallop spawning, possibly due to climate change, meant a great way to make a living was shelved naturally. But the conversation stuck and now there is a little long line in place, tucked away and less than a quarter the length of a crab fleet, to on grow scallops and mussels for personal use.

Work on filling my wee long line continued over the weekend and finally getting the mussels in the water yesterday. I took 30/40 kilos of mussels of the bottom of my dinghy,

a deliberate leave as I wanted them at a decent size for on growing.

Starting to feel like a sea crofter.

Hoping to have a range of seafood by next year that will include, mussels, squat lobsters, langoustines and queen scallops. A fine seafood linguine, fresh and mainly chemical free. Seems that there are traces of emamectin  benzoate appearing in the Inner Sound from the salmon farms. This comes from their lice treatment and hopefully will be banned as proposed next year. But back to the mussels, the next stage is to empty them into a pergola netting, prepared by putting the netting round a tube and filling through the tube with the netting tied off at the base.

The tube was a cardboard one spotted in the school grounds which came up the road in the form of packaging.

Then onto the long line where the mussels settle in, grow the beard attachments and then make their way through the mesh, making the mesh the rope which they will hang onto, feed naturally and grow fat without any grit.

It was a chequered start to the week, with surviving a twelve other shift without me and the Boss falling out. This, it turns out is quite hard work when coming to the end of a long weekend at the Inn. Also knowing that there is a pretty full on day ahead of you. So on Monday it was a 4.45am start, hauling 300 creels before I saw many other boats out beginning their day. Do not usually see the sun breaking through over Applecross Bay both the time of day and year make that an unusual occurrence.

Taking ashore 50 odd kilos for both Inns and setting off to Inverness via Drum by 11.30 with Alison and the pups. Too long a day for them to be on their own. Full van so Sean had to take Alister back after his weekends work on the broadband. Seems most if not all are connected apart from Raasay. Some work to be done and then Sean has to make a trip over to do some physical replacements over there. May join him if time permits but despite the long days there does not seem to be much of that about. A run round Inverness, purchasing anything from food to wedding jackets, haircuts, pet food and boat hooks before heading to Eden Court to make sure of my ticket to see a German renewable energy film. Fascinating but disturbing as well when you realise how little is being done in this country, in fact how we are regressing in the UK. Interesting point about across the world subsidies to fossil fuels compared to renewables, if I remembered right it was 5,300 billion to 120 billion. As well as the FiTs that we get from producing green energy from the hydro scheme we will be reinvesting these monies back into the community. Many people visit Applecross for more than the scenery, good food and walks, but also to make contact with a vibrant and thriving community. Monies well spent on two levels. Made it to the film with an hour to spare so it was off down the Ness with the dogs.

No plan but ended up in the greenery of the Ness islands which they loved. Lots of new city dog smells for them and a good hour to chill out before the film. By the time Alison had finished her Community Leadership meeting it was 11.30pm by the time we were back parked at the Schoolhouse.

Maybe a reaction of packing too much into a day and not eating properly Tuesday’s planned day off did not go to plan as the day was spent, sitting mainly as too painful to lie down, waiting for a migraine to dissipate. But even then when the recovery kicks in there is time to take the mates out for a wander down the shore in the evening sun and set up for the next days fishing.

Still the catches are holding up, only down side is I am still missing a fleet of creels to the north, spreading the search further each time as it looks like it has been dragged out of position. Summer definitely here going by what is floating by in the water.

Busy with other boats fishing close by.

 

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