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

Archive for the ‘BUTEC Range’ Category

“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……

So Much…..

Siting at the menu table after 4 hours work and just before it all kicks off again you wonder how on earth she runs this place the way she does. I have only been here for the weekend, granted I have also been fishing and washing creels and trying to sort a breakdown in the last couple of days, but running the Applecross Inn takes a phenomenal effort. When things are running okay it is busy, food, accommodation, drink and people all coming in and going out the door. The Dream Machine outside is also ploughing on with haddock, Aron’s ice-cream and coffee all going south as fast as it is being made or fried. As well as all this the roof needs done, the cold store gets put outside to make way for more space in the Prep room, new gas boilers and constant repairs for accommodation. For me, without all the extra stuff, this morning from just after eight it was checking out residents, taking booking for accommodation and meals for anytime this summer, bottling up the bar, cutting lemons, changing the menu board, ordering soft drinks and answering random requests from the phone, redirecting customers to the Walled Garden for breakfasts, sorting the float out for the Dream Machine and finally getting the crashed till system up and running again. Twelve o’clock now so the day starts. That plus another twelve staff, cooking, serving breakfast, servicing rooms, prepping, preparing salads…..

(The above was written in the heat of the battle just before twelve last Sunday, cannot believe that it is ten days since last post). Having said that, looking back on the photos there has been a lot packed in. The weather has been immense over the past while, to the extent of having three fires in Applecross in 24 hours. The first one in Toscaig had about ten residents and holiday makers beating out a fire across from the old homestead. The following day I called in one that started on the Coast Road, across the Bay. The opinion was that this was started by a passing car throwing a cigarette out. The Fire Brigade came from over the Hill as well as our beaters. If this had not been tackled, judging by the flames seen across from the Inn, this one had the potential to race up the Hillside behind Cruary. While the Brigade were in another one was called in at the Campsite and seems this was caused by wood worm dust coming down on an extractor fan, over heating, setting off what could have been a serious fire at the Steading. Pure coincidence/luck that the fire men were in Applecross and were diverted from across the Bay. Story is that another ten minutes and there would have been serious damage.

The week has been taken up with some long days, combining the fishing and the Inn. This is what I have been telling myself during the winter that I work the whole year during the summer months and should not feel so bad during the winter wind down. Yesterday, for example, I was up at 6.30am, fishing till around 3.30pm, landed the langoustine and squat tails, a half hour on the couch and shower before going up to the Inn till just before midnight. Finding the Inn very rewarding these days, meeting lots of folk, both regular and new arrivals. The weather makes such a difference to people’s moods and on week’s like these no wonder so many people come for a “get away from it all” holiday. And there are some who get that bit more, speaking to Ian last night and we were talking about the essence of the place, a spiritual peace. The bubble of the Inn can be left behind by walking in any direction for ten minutes and you enter a place of peaceful serenity. At a meeting last week I asked some one to describe the character of Applecross, he could not which I found a little disturbing as he is tasked with conserving it. But more of that later. I love being surrounded by people’s contentedness, happiness, pleasure of visiting such a beautiful part of the world and you try to covey to them what it is like to live here. Despite being hectic, busy, sometimes not enough time to stop and look around, the conversations you have with people like the Walkers or Ian, who obviously connect with the place, reinforce the feeling of pure joy of living in Applecross. Very occasionally there is a spare room available due to late cancellations and one such was filled on Sunday. I showed them the room and left smiling at how excited she was by the room the view and the promise of good food, a Hungarian who had just come of the ferry from one of the Western Isles having the holiday that they will never forget. You meet the world and their dogs at the Inn, so far not a Trump voter in sight, and there are a large number of Americans on the move.

The fishing had taken a bit of a dip last week but seems to have recovered somewhat on the last couple of hauls, catching enough to keep both Inns supplied. This morning there was an early start to get some langoustines over to the east coast with a regular carrier who was heading back with an empty lorry. The sights and sounds on the fishing trips are as varied as ever, some soaring and graceful,

some that jar, who is watching who,

traffic as other marine users ply their trade and make their up the Inner Sound,

natures intriguing creatures,

this being a Rhizostoma octopus floating by, I stopped to take a couple of shots but as the tide was flowing found it quite hard to manoeuvre, but pleased with the effect of the exhaust discharge on the water over it

and just the views of all the different goings on

and weather

fill one up.

Even the blackbacks have a certain beauty.

Still time for Dougal and Co to go for a wander on the mornings I do not go to sea. The advantage of being single-handed was I had time to recover on Monday morning before going out to haul two hundred creels in the afternoon to keep the Inn going. A walk is as good as a rest.

The trips home on the bike from the Inn are as good an example of the contrasts that Applecross throws up. Serving a hundred and fifty folk followed by a serene cycle home in the moonlight.

The rest of today , although the plans have not been set out properly yet, involve most of the rest of the day off with just a stop off at Aird to pick up a half ton of bait for the creels on the way home. The plan is to head north to Ullapool, eventually for a spot of music, possibly an art gallery visit and a dog walk thrown in. And it seems the weather is holding out so looking forward to a busy day off. Again so much has been going on so will try and catch up over the weekend as there was another film crew on board the Varuna and two more Consultation Meetings plus a missed CC Meeting due to tired head. Onwards. Duncan Chisholm on the stereo certainly setting us up for the rest of the day.



Trident for Tourists

Not only is Applecross on the NC500, has exquisite local seafood, a welcome second to none, stunning scenery and backdrop but it also has our very own Tridents. This according to Argyll and Bute Council and Mr Mundell MP is the ultimate visitor attraction. Personally I abhor these insane WMDs which look so out-of-place on our beautiful coastal backdrop.


Turquoise Seas

So far this week it has taken place mainly at sea. We are experiencing a wide-spread algal/plankton bloom which is giving the seas here a beautiful turquoise colouring.


My limited knowledge of these occurrences are that basically the ones you see are great for feeding as are the dinoflagellates, less visible, but when they die they give off toxins which the bivalves feed off and ingest and those are harmful to us. The scallops and mussels are fine and when we were scallop farming back in the 90s the toxins hardly entered the mussel (white meat) of the scallop. Our gripe with the testing regime was they tested the whole animal, the liver, intestines and anal tract finding lots of toxins so shutting down whole areas for harvesting. Testing something you do not eat to find for toxins was a daft way to protect the public but it happened to be the latest food scare. The catch yesterday showed severe signs of disappearing although on reflection it was deep water and not the cleanest of creels. Today a little shallower fishing and they were back to good quantities.


Still finding a large number of octopodes, I have been wrong in calling them octopi seemingly.


They could be octopuses but I prefer the former. Despite their delight at scoffing large quantities of langoustine they still go back over. Very artistic as they disappear back to the deep, leaving an ink trail behind.


29th of June the new Bylaw was enacted that doubled the size of the BUTEC Range, despite what our Defence Minister said in Parliament. With all the chaos everywhere this does not even register a footnote In anything other than our local press. It is news in papers like the WHFP, however it did appear in the National yesterday. You feel totally powerless against the Establishment regime. It is worth pointing out that the  Range managing company, Qinetic, is a privately run organisation which runs at a profit for its shareholders. I have a licence to fish for langoustine, for profit also, on the waters off my shores and now this Company has had a law enacted that has taken this right away from me and other small operators. The area we can no longer fish in is now over 52 square kilometres. If this happened on land then it would be called compulsory purchase and users, we are not owners, would be compensated. Qinetic to pursue profit for their shareholders are doing so in part preventing me and others from making a living from this section of previously accessed grounds. But for the sake of national Security and the pursuance of profit we have not got a leg to stand on it seems.

At the Inn it is busy and the Scottish schools have broken for the holidays so it will not get any quieter. Good Sunday music session with Sally on whistles, Mo on bodhran, John vocals and Bill guitar and vocals. Enjoyed by all even the wee one in the corner woke up for some.


One of our prep room stars is getting very excited about the Euros 2016 as Portugal and Rinaldo are still there, not sure he dresses well for the occasion though.


We have the European flags flying on both sides of the Inn now and to be fair views are not clear-cut at all. The chaos down south continues but I watched a really interesting view from the north of England, around Doncaster where they voted out but for different reasons than the oft-repeated migration issues. Sure they were a factor but they also felt they had nothing to lose and use their vote to tell the Establishment what they thought of them. It goes back to the de-industrialisation of whole swathes of areas leaving the younger folk with little hope, no jobs and few future prospects. Mines, steel manufacturing which were the reasons for these town to exist does not happen any more. Interesting to hear that MainStream media interviewed and edited the UK discontent out but concentrated on the migration issues. Hearing that May, the leading PM contender, wants quick decisions on Trident renewal you can understand that things are not feeling too rosy at the moment. Add in a wee family trauma that only time will heal plus having to keep a close eye on the Hydro there is not much spare time. But it is not all doom as our Cambridge Festival Tickets are here and the last week in July is earmarked for unadulterated musical pleasure.

Surprise,Surprise, MoD get their Expansion.

Back from the Pier washing the 100 or so creels I took home on Saturday.


The washing did not quite go as planned and a few left for tomorrow.


Arranged to meet up with Eileen, come over from Inverness to chat about the expansion of the BUTEC Range. Seems the Bylaw is being enacted on the 29th of June, assuming the fishermen concerned know that they have to shift the gear from the new enclosed area. As expected this is all going ahead with the repercussions throughout the local fishing fleet dismissed without a thought. The socio/economic survey concluded that around £500,000 would be taken out of the local economy and fishermen would lose employment with fewer boats fishing on the Inner Sound. The survey seems to have been a simple fact-finding mission with no actions intended to mitigate the expansion. It was made patently clear that there was to be no compensation awarded for lose of fishing grounds. An act of compulsory purchase which if carried out ashore would come with some recompense, but the MoD/Qinetic do not follow these rules and comply only with National Security and shareholder profits. The survey steered well clear of added value of the catches which are sold in Applecross and attract large numbers of visitors into the area who want to eat local and sustainably caught seafood. Although I do not know the source but I have read that £1 spent is worth £6 when it is spent locally.  You do not need a calculator to work out the value of the hundreds of kilos of crab, langoustine, lobster and squat lobster sold locally and what they mean to the local economy. I will always support local when I am able as, if we lose services that most people consider a right, then this community is in trouble. While there is absolutely no animosity between the local Qinetic workers and the fishermen, both sectors see the need for the other’s survival, there are only two Applecross jobs directly connected to the BUTEC Range. The other danger I see is the tie in to the Defence machine and the vulnerability of the local economy being so dependent on public funds being made available for the continued operation of the Range. It does not matter if they are left or right-wing politically, a future Government may well decide the operations here will be too expensive to run and may turn off the tap leaving local employment now dependent on this industry high and dry. Applecross has always been a Sanctuary and that has been desecrated to some extent by these actions. I was asked what now but I have always taken the view that we were powerless from the start and whatever the MoD/Qinetic wanted they were going to get. Statements put forward by management saying that the structural work taking place at Sand costing millions was maintenance was being disrespectful at the very least to the fishermen, but this has been the case since the MoD have come into the area in the 1970s. Pleasant to meet Eileen anyway and all went well apart from her camera falling over on the pier, new camera and old tripod, which a bit of tape did not sort out. This was just before the camera tipped over on the slope of the pier.


She was doing a long shot of the moorings with the Varuna sitting peacefully there.


The interview was finished off on her iPhone, now a lot seemingly are. On the way down to the pier there are lots of scenes telling us that conditions this Spring have been conducive to reproduction.


With more up on the Bay yesterday.


The weekend began early but fortunately finished reasonably early as it was a lot quieter than expected on Sunday evening. Half past four start on Saturday but again only had to haul seven fleets as the fishing is still holding up. The weather is forecast to deteriorate at the beginning of the week so hopefully have enough in tubes hanging over the side of the Varuna for the bad weather days. On the way out I passed the Suilven at anchor in the moorings.


I saw her the previous evening bouncing her way north but obviously deciding that it was a little too choppy. The passage on Saturday was fine.


The Boss was away at an old man’s concert at the Caley stadium, we got a couple of fairly incomprehensible phone calls late on so assume she was enjoying herself. Sunday was very enjoyable , starting with a couple of car rallies, the Porches are regulars and although parked neatly along the side of the road they managed to upset a passing local.


There is always going to be little upsets. As I keep saying there are a lot of people wanting to experience the Sanctuary and who are we to deny them, it means going with the flow a little and when you pass the Inn it will take half a minute longer. The Aussies from Sydney, the Americans from Louisiana, Miami and Oregon along with the Europeans from Romania, Germany and all other parts seemed to leave very happy. I have been in need of a shift like that and even better when I get home early as well. When the weather is fine it makes front of house so much easier.


This evening I had Eileen back on the phone, seems that the interview done on her phone was causing problems for the technical staff. A telephone interview follows and the spag bolls takes a little longer to cook. Foxgloves always seem to find the hardest, poorest ground to grow on.



(Monday evening) Four and a half hours of meetings on a beautiful Spring day.


Balanced out a bit by taking the dogs out just now. Looking up to the sky, seeing Orion’s Belt along with a fat finger nail moon and listening to an owl calling puts things into perspective. The ill-informed tweets I’ve been getting from the mobile sector, the long three hours with Marine Scotland trying to close off The Inner Sound to the mobile sector to mitigate the actions of the MoD need a balance. By keeping the trawlers out it may make a bit of room for the displaced creels. Not just about banning mobile sector but instigating our own conservation ideas. Some good intelligent debate and all positive apart from coming up against the slow machinations of government. Nowadays the negative “Whatabout my rights” when you try to instigate some measures that will help the long-term sustainability of the fishery against the short-term lose of livelihood using unsustainable methods. It seems to be a mantra both at sea and on land from those that have so much and have their environments at the bottom of their priorities. More the defence of their positions and the continuation of supremacy is more important. Ended with a quick trip down to the Ironworks to drop a couple of photos off and a Highland Wholefoods shop. Good craic there although had trouble writing the cheque….still recovering from the Marine Meeting. Beautiful drive back through Torridon as  I picked up some bait and salt at Aird. (Would have been back later if I had not forgotten the camera.) This along with dropping prawns at Loch Ness Inn meant more than just a meeting. Home in time for a plate of soup and back out to Community Council. Good meeting and MoD features along with an organised Independence Convoy of around 250 cars. We are taking the opinion that we cannot cope with this number of cars on top of a busy summers day in May.

(Tuesday evening) busy old day involving, fuelling up,


bit of fishing on a stunning quiet day,


salting a quarter tonne of herring, landing the langoustines, an hour at the wood after checking dips at the Filling Station, tea cooked (Thai squat lobsters), and then Fortnight invoice to the Inn followed by an on time Fishing Return and a last but one (late) VAT Return. Managed a few tweets in favour of MPAs and had a couple of discussions with the mobile sector about what is sustainable and what may not be. As pointed out in Inverness where is the inshore mobile fleet now? two draggers left in Kyle now, one gone to the twin rig and the other up for sale…..not a great sign of sustainability. Hopefully the creel sector will try to get their own house in order in reducing their fishing effort. We are having a good spell just now and I only needed to haul 200 creels for my own little market. Fishing and catching the langoustine is only part of a day at sea, looking around and taking in the beauty that surrounds us


is the best part of the deal, keeps the tiredness at bay. The solitary seagull


or the very happy female eider


and the basking seals.


Caught my first mackerel in the creels, a little unusual at this time of year.


Summer has arrived,


for a week anyway, and is to be enjoyed with lots to do. Have not even thought of the croft and garden.

Uneventful, but Wait a Minute…

Apart from sky-high stress levels it has been a fairly uneventful week so far. Wrote that before I thought too much about the week. Monday was a usual days fishing, couple of fleets foul with mine but in shallow water so not too hard to free up. Have to watch the shoulder, had it diagnosed as the equivalent of carpal tunnel syndrome of the shoulder. Bit of a pain and always need to protect it. Seals basking


in the sun on the way in.


The weather has been pretty good this week, today it bright and fresh from the south, so it a mix of wood and starting the garden make over.

Tuesday was a day of walking the pooches, casing for the wood pile, and then over the Hill for a meeting in Kyle at the BUTEC Base for a meeting about the Range expansion. Managed to get a “commitment” that the Outer Sea Area will never be closed during a Trial. Sounds fair enough but there are going to be times like now when they will be using the Outer Sea Area and we will be requested not to be there while Trial goes on. Am I too skeptical or just realistic. We keep hearing about the wonderful cooperation, mainly we do not upset the MoD operations by not fishing there. The lines of the expansion seem to have hardened and are going to be the expansion, full stop. They were the original lines on the “leaked” map, something I was told was a regular occurrence with in these establishments, although in this case there was a pretty hefty investigation following this leak. I am impressed with all the ideas put forward by the fishermen from the south on how to have a bit of dual use of the Range. They are all “being taken on board” but nothing further I fear. It was pointed out that the so-called ripple effect should be described more as a tidal effect on the boats out with the Range area when the creels have to be moved from the new restricted grounds…..on a weeks notice it seems. At the end of the meeting the last kick in the teeth was lobbed in. “There will be no compensation” for lose of the Fishing Grounds. Minister has already decided….and people still query why I voted Yes?

The journey there and back was made to feel quite short due to the company and wide-ranging discussions, mainly politics, very interesting and a little insightful shortened the journey. A bit of concentration needed on the Hill as there was a covering of snow on the road but all well. Wednesday morning meant an early trip down to the pier to refuel the Auk


before they headed out to a days diving for scallops. Received a bag of smaller scallops on Monday for a fine feed. Rather more than expected but the freezer is stocked up for the summer with lovely underaged king scallops. The morning was beautiful


with the snows still on the mountains


and the sun shinning bright.


The last couple of nights I have been pretending to be in charge at the Inn and so far it has been very smooth. Result being that I have not added to the double-digit shifts with any fishing. They have plenty prawns to sell over the weekend and the forecast for the next week seems quite settled. It was a gentle night last evening but tonight threatens to be a lot further up the scale. Full Inn and more at the Hostel alongside a pre funeral meal means at least 50/60 meals tonight. Just Zuzu and I to deal with the front. Regard it as a challenge and a reminder summer is close by. Instead of the fishing the wood gathering and dog walking take precedence in lovely weather and big tides. Went out to Sand


to check up reports on some dead sea life but did not come across any. Worth the trip though and Dougal


certainly thought so.


Back Fishing Again.

Slow start to the week. Bit cheesed off on Monday morning, glass calm and out to the Varuna for a day’s fishing.


Not to be as the batteries would have been good for Shrove Tuesday. They were flat as pancakes. Back ashore and did a bit of wood cutting, along with a bit of the community stuff, up at the Hydro


and taking dips at the Filling Station. With the storms we have now there is always a bit of something to burn which has just been blown down. Trying to stay a season ahead and pretty hard work keeping wood for drying so it burns properly. Companions are always with us


on these trips and the light


and deer


were looking good. Think Angus is the stag in the middle. Later on the light changes again.



Tuesday evening it was back into community council stuff. Long meeting and pretty interesting in that it ranged across many subjects as diverse as setting up First Responders, purchasing defribulators, complaining about the condition of our roads and wondering what to do with the heavy advertising from the NorthCoast500 tourist group. Slightly relieved to hear that it is neighbouring councils that are worried as well. Chatted about the Highland wide development plan and the Trust consultation where housing came up. The school roll has dropped markedly and it was pointed out that Shieldaig has a healthy roll now and they have affordable housing. We are in trouble as far as that goes. I find it frustrating seeing the SLE campaigning as hard as they can about all the land reform legislation proposed but just wring their hands about the landlords that prevent communities trying against all the odds to keep their heads above the water, far less encouraging them to develop.

Batteries fully charged around 11 o’clock so decided to go out and at least fit them and give the Varuna a run. Conscience took over and went out to haul a couple of fleets so I could get the big N/A beside the langoustines off the menu board. Not many in the creels but the ones that were caught were good size and condition and went down well in the evening. Some Swedes booked in checking out some scenic views for a new Volvo advert. It just keeps happening. Seems the Inn has just been voted best pub by Countryside magazine and Sand the best beach. I would have thought Luskentyre in Harris would have won hands down, but there we have it. The world is coming to Applecross this summer.

Today was meant to be full on but due to a slower than planned start, and the last two fleets hauled were fouled up, a planned trip to Kyle BUTEC was called off. Short notice and good weather does not go well with fishing politics and as I am working this evening not good to charge over the Hill to attend a three-hour meeting for an hour and head back home. Low tide


and cormorants


are more interesting than these meetings anyway. Smart rainbow yesterday. Helicopter on the top and boat sailing up the Sound at the bottom.


Submission against Range expansion.


Response to MoD/Qinetic Consultation.

This Response is on behalf of Applecross Community Council.


The consultation has taken place to a background of leaks, rumours and silence which has not helped the process. There have been only two meetings that I have attended, one at the BUTEC Base in Kyle held by Richard Freeman and in attendance were a sub group of the NWRFA, Ally Hughson and myself representing both the Inshore Fisherman’s Assoc and Applecross Community Council. At this meeting we were shown a map of the proposed Range expansion and the positioning of the new hydro phones which required protection, hence the proposed expansion. We were not to take photos or take the map with us but it is almost identical to the one leaked to the press earlier this summer. There was a distinct lack of answers to direct questions regarding the positioning of the hydro phones and fanning of cables. The point of the design of “creel friendly” hydro phones was brought up but with little positive response.

I also attended a public and un-minuted meeting at Kyleakin five days before the end of the consultation period. A meeting whose date and time were changed at fairly short notice and surprisingly we were told that we were fortunate to attend as they are not standard procedure. Several points were brought up at that meeting with very few specific answers regarding the powers to close the road to the Base at Sand, the need for an Outer Sea Limit to the North of the Range, a socio/economic study on the cause and effect of the Range expansion, studies on where the directly affected gear is to be moved to, loss of earnings to the fishermen directly and the Communities they live in. How does the increased presence of naval activity affect a strong and healthy tourism industry, how will cetaceans be affected by the increase in sonar activity, the powers to close off transit of the Range and the Outer Sea Area to fishing activities during Trials. All these questions remain unanswered or were given non-specific replies.

As a result of these issues there is so much uncertainty surrounding this “robust consultation” process. We are concerned as to why the consultation has been carried out with so little information available to respond to. Indeed there are so many unanswered questions that this response has to make assumptions that may not be factual in the current plans for the BUTEC Range. We were promised in a Parliamentary question that the consultation would “involve a full and proper discussion”. What has emerged has been far from this.

Finally the manner in which the fishermen and communities have been treated leaves a lot to be desired. Claiming that the on going work at the Sand base is merely maintenance disrespects the currently good relations between the fishermen and the MoD. There has been a stream of workmen carrying out the “upgrade” from early summer which includes renewing the cable ducts and putting in place all the cables for the new hydro phones, lorries going off the North Coast Road with huge concrete ducts. This is not classed as maintenance in anyone’s eyes other than Qinetic/MoD. While accepting the need for a BUTEC Range a continued existence, and the current local economy is now reliant on its continuance, there is a need for Qinetic/MoD to acknowledge there is another thriving economy that operates alongside their operations which provides much needed employment on the Applecross peninsula.

It is important to note that the timescale of the consultation has not been nearly long enough to carry out a detailed socio/economic study on the impacts of the Range expansion. The standard timescale for consultations carried out by the Scottish Government is 90 days. While extending the current consultation from 35 to 49 days has been welcome it still is not long enough to gather information to show the detrimental effects of the expanded closure on the local economy.

It is difficult to obtain definitive landings from such a concentrated area as it transcends two blocks, areas 43E4 44E4, but first sale values of £3.4 million have come from these blocks. This will include tonnage from the mobile sector which brings down the average value of the catch. The area of the proposed expansion is one of the few grounds which has a creel only fishery and the value of the fishery per tonne is far higher. An example of the potential impact comes from landings of £271,000 accounting for just seven vessels from June to August 2015, fishing in the affected area. The point to be made here is the proposed restricted area is regarded as one of the most lucrative fishing grounds on the west coast of Scotland. The vessels which fish this area are all under 15m and are locally based, not being the nomadic mobile sector. They land all their catch into the local ports surrounding these grounds.

Given time a socio/economic study would supply the numbers of jobs created that supports the landings, packers, drivers, office and administration work and marketing, advertising and promotion of a top quality product. There is a strong secondary industry reliant on the procurement of this fishery, that of a strong tourist industry. An example of one boat’s landing to one local outlet during the summer over one week totalled £1,000 and this value is trebled by the time the product reaches the plate. This is a locally based economy which is part of the attraction that brings in many visitors over a extended season. The creation of a vibrant sector around fresh and sustainably caught seafood is an important factor in its continued success.

The lack of information elicits several questions over and above the actual flawed process.

Regarding the activities on the water.

What actions have the Range operators taken to mitigate the loss of grounds regarding the Range Inner Sea expansion? Where do the boats place their creels when the restricted area is doubled in size? I am sure they realise that as well as being the most lucrative fishing grounds that are to be restricted the surrounding grounds are already the most heavily fished. The displaced gear will either put boats out of business or create an atmosphere of conflict between static gear men fighting over more limited fishing grounds. As pressure intensifies to the south of the expansion, this conflict has the potential to spill over into a mobile/static gear area. The summer trawled grounds will have more creels for the mobile sector to negotiate leading to gear loss for the creel fishermen and loss of time in the mobile sector.

The concerned following question has been repeatedly asked and has not received a definitive answer but an evasive response. The Range operators have the power to close The Outer Sea Area during trials, how often will this happen and what notice will be given, when this occurs? Due to the increased size and scope of proposed operations on the BUTEC Range and the intimation that Qinetic aim to have the Range active as much as possible. This power and the exercise of this power may well be crucial to the viability of the local fleet.

As the size of the vessels using the Range increases it was intimated that the vessels need a greater area to turn. The Range expansion to the south appears to have more than the protection of the hydro phones as a reason for implementation. Again by implication, does this mean that the Outer Sea Area will be closed more often? While not expecting reassurance for the future the fact that there already has been a request to close off the Inner Sound north of the Crowlins for a trial does not hold any kind of positive prospects for the future.

Have any studies taken place to find any negative effects on cetaceans which are both resident and transitory on the Inner Sound? How does this affect the growing trade in environmental tourism?

Tourism and commercial transport companies are expressing concern about restricting transit of the Range. Have the operators investigated the safety implications of exercising this power?


The considerations of the tourist industry on the Applecross peninsula does not appear to have been addressed. Tens of thousands of visitors come here to enjoy a Sanctuary, the original Gaelic name of the area, establishing a larger commercial base at Sand can adversely affect tourism here. Accomodation is already fully exploited, the Range operators expect a good standard of pre-booked accommodation, will this be available in the future? Has this been investigated? The powers to close of the road to the Base at Sand, how does this affect access to the Sand beach, an established holiday destination?

Tourism is the main employer in the locality and there does not appear to be consideration given to any adverse effects the expansion of the Range will have on this well established industry. The economic prosperity of the locale depends largely on the health of tourism and additional employment from the Range expansion will not replace any job losses. Once Applecross becomes known as a major testing site this will put the “remote and beautiful attraction” of the area at risk.

Conclusion and future

The length of the consultation period and information released during it has meant that there are fundamental flaws in the process.

There has no consideration been expressed by the Range operators on the effects of the proposed plans on the local community and economy.

There are too many concerns expressed locally to include in this submission but one that is uppermost is if the Range is operated in a successful way the shareholders of a private company will benefit. This benefit accrues partly through the denying of access to long established traditional fishing grounds from which small operators have turned over profit for centuries. What have the Range operators put in place to compensate the loss of earnings from these fishermen as there is a CPO being carried out and a transfer of profits from several small businesses to Qinetic.

Important to note that up till now there have been good relations between the Range operators and the local fishermen and we hope this will continue despite the flawed consultation process.

Yours Ali Macleod, on behalf of Applecross Community Council and as skipper of the FV Varuna.

The Friendliest Inn in The Highlands.

What a complex mix of emotions over the last 48 hours. Starting out at the back of eight and a quick look in to see Mick on site already done an hour and a half. Roofers away having completed the House and Mick was just doing a site tidy.


The next stop after following the gritter over the Hill



was to Kyleakin for the first MoD public meeting five days before the “consultation” ends. Using inverted commas as calling the process so far a consultation is disingenuous. Generally consultations are carried out at the start of a process and ones the Scottish Government carry out last at least twelve weeks not 35 days increased to 49. We were given the controls over the land and sea that the new bylaws allow, the road to Sand, the foreshore and for me the right to close the outer sea area when the need arises. Passage over the Range is also in the hands of the Range operators. When asked for assurances that these powers will not be used we were told “ordinarily”, “don’t think at the moment”,”fishing can broadly take place”, were the responses when asked for reassurance about the outer sea area. There seems that little can be done about the inner sea area as the cabling and ducts have already been built and placed at the cable corridor coming out of Sand. It would be better for relations and an element of trust if we were told what we already know. What is happening at Sand is not maintenance but the new investment. Hiding behind a maintenance program and not being totally honest about the work at Sand is not helping us working together. The Range expansion is needed for the new technologies and bigger structures being put in the water. The socio/economic study has not been carried out so we do not know the dramatic effects of this will be on the local economy. An example, £1500 of local shellfish landed to the Applecross Inn becomes £4500 as value is added creating employment and profit on the peninsula. And that is for one week in the summer. Despite the awkward questions asked we have to find a way to exist together and continue good relations on the ground as long as possible. Ian Blackford called for a suspension of the process until studies have been properly carried out and assessed. I have my doubts but still hope to be fishing these waters my father and grandfather have long after Trident has been deemed obsolete.

So started with hydro and now back onto hydro with a quick leafleting of the “top table” before calling in and seeing Sandy as to when we hope to see SSE in Applecross. The problems of Abigail have turned out not to be so severe as hyped by the media. There is a line that keeps tripping and other smaller problems but Monday seems to be on the cards for work on the connection. Again like the MoD there is a huge difference with the people on the ground and how they have to deal with pressures from above and outside. How that affects us here may be further down their list of priorities and the local guys can do nothing about it. As long as we realise these pressures we can keep lines open locally and work with guys that know and sympathise with our situation.

Now on the way to Inverness and a quick call into Eilean Donnan castle to drop off some hydro leaflets.


The drive through Cluanie




to Invermoriston was beautiful,




shafts of sunlight on snow and water made for a very pleasant journey. Bit of a shop, a kilt pickup, snooze and was ready for the Award Dinner.

A curious mixture of an evening as it turned out. Met Tanya, of Kylesku Hotel fame, on the way in for a short photo shoot, then being mistaken for a musician who played at a friend’s wedding in Pitlochry, before making our way into the dining room. Speeches quickly over and the food was astounding. Pressed salmon, baby squid and crab, the venison fillet or the parsnip ice cream….take your pick and that was amongst many other delights. And after some fine, fine music we fire through the awards. There is a big screen that shows the various establishments up for the awards playing on repeat. Phil and Donald are shown prominently much to the repeated amusement and whooping from part of our table. We settled into the social drinking part of the evening.


Great to see Kyleskhu win hospitality award. There is great camaraderie between some establishments and the Kyleskhu guys are coming down to the Applecross in a couple of weeks. Judy said Tanya went a little pale when I said it would be a good idea for us to go up there. And apart from Kyle winning the young ambassador of the year the whoop of the night came when Judy won the Friendliest Establishment of the Year.


We agreed ahead that Steve would go for the Most Informal and I would accompany the Friendliest. A fine honour to accompany one of the finest landladies in the country. This photo is courtesy of Pammie, one of our friendly staff.


Lots of congrats all round, people who I had served, seemingly, were coming up to us and the photos were taken some better than others but great feeling of achievement all round.


The lady who had mistaken me for the musician came back and explained I had told her at the Inn about how the langoustine were caught. She was with the Dolphin Centre, shortlisted but had not won. She came back over after we had won and explained, word about sustainable fishing is getting out there. Then news seeped in about Paris and the awfulness of our world. You could not have two extremes. The opulence of the our room to the death and despair some Parisians would have been feeling. Kept quiet but Son No3 was over in Paris for the week. Found out via Caroline at breakfast he only knew about it in the morning. You stop your mind going to “what if” places. It is coming closer and it brings home what has already been already happening in other countries for the past decades. Decent people are on the move to get away from these inhuman acts. The dehumanizing of war, whether through drones or suicide bombs, helps the cause of destruction of everyone’s civilisation. Neither work, the only results are fear, horror and hopelessness. The festivities continued although there were many mentions of the Parisian horrors. On an aside I wonder what new law Dot was trying to get Fergus to pass next week.


Taxis duly arrived and I went in the sensible one back to the hotel and not on to Johnny Fox’s as I had already pushed my boat well away from the shore.

All the was needed yesterday was to buy a kilt, get home in one piece, check and bail boats




and do an easy shift at the Inn. A good evening at the Friendliest Inn in the Highlands. Almost forgot, a couple of quieter days on the fund raising front but still the total climbs to just over £470,000.

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