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

Archive for the ‘Hydro’ Category

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.

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.

Back after a Technical Break

Been a wee while since posting but there have been technical reasons for this and it feels good to be back. When I was preparing to post a couple of weeks or so ago my iMac bit the dust. I had been warned about a filling start-up disc and had tried to delete various files but to no avail. As I was enjoying an episode on 4oD everything went pear-shaped. Took it to a Dr and it came back, fixed only for a couple of hours, but minus all the files. So now owner of a MacBook and finally with a bit of technical help can post and with photos. Slowly getting used to it as there seems to be techniques to simple things such as scrolling down that I am only finding out on a suck it and see level.

Looking back it is extraordinary what we get up to on the peninsula. Daily life goes on and, although routine, it is never ever boring. Whether it is meeting people at the Inn or going fishing there are always lovely people to make contact with or wonderful things to see

and watch.

The banter with Geoff and Maureen over the last three weeks or meeting the family who just wandered in this morning are part of the daily tooing and froing. Certainly a bit of the English/Scottish involved but all at a banter level, not what I have been seeing on twitter this evening about Catalonians being beaten up by thugs for daring to vote for their Independence. As usual at the Inn we have a direct link to Barca and was told about the underlying current of fascism that exists in certain quarters of power in that country. Our source was quite definite about what has been known and talked about for years and now has been exposed on social media. I had to stop watching scenes of women being beaten up by men who were  wearing balaclavas and full riot gear. And they were the law of the land, makes you question how much you can take before standing up to authority that you believe to be wrong. Justice is an oft used word these days but there appears to be little on view. It was amazing seeing the restraint shown by the Catalonian populace in the face of such brutality.

The family in the morning hailed from Whitworth, N Yorkshire and I was treated to a wonderful word picture from an elderly gentleman who described a community of mills and workshops, neighbourliness and knowing everyone in the community. Very relevant in today’s world and how the Inn operates, unqualified help to anyone who needs it, whether it is simply finding visitors a bed to sleep in or sorting a breakdown. It is probably just me being in a positive frame of mind but for about ten minutes we had a lovely symbiotic and reminiscent conversation comparing the changes over the years in a Yorkshire mill town and a crofting township in Applecross. Sometimes a simple conversation can transport you across the moors to someones community that they are proud of and lets you in for a brief look.

Leaving the specifics aside for another post the fishing catches have remained very good

until the last week where there was a serious dip in the haul. This coupled with poor weather forecast for most of the week means langoustine availability is going to be stretched this week. Only a couple of portions left as I had an early finish today and likely not to be fishing until later in the week. Just being at sea keeps ones sanity in the increasingly crazy world we live in. Making the most of the quiet days

in-between the days of wind. There is a notable change in the air as it is now only after seven and it is wet, dark and windy outside.

Ashore and in tandem withe fishing there’s still plenty to do, cleaning the screen goes on,

sometimes in the dark as the day is shortening,

walking the dogs, although decided the Bay is a little too crowded with birds just now. some however do not seem to mind Dougal careering after them. The heron

has a disdainful look as he surveys the relentless dashing about. Eilidh dives into the river yipping away, unusual, but then I see an otter swimming out to sea. fortunately she comes back on command as she would have stood no chance if the otter had stood its ground. It’s a cliché but there is so much to do and so much to see and so little time to achieve this……..and that is just in Applecross. So I leave you with one of the sunsets of the last fortnight. Feels like a season away.

Dolphins,Spiders and Dogs.

Today in itself would take up a full post. Without looking for it, there are so many things to do, get involved in, favours, requests, work and just living, you have to limit oneself otherwise you go into a bit of a tailspin. Today will have to wait for the next post. Since coming back from Lismore it was straight back into catching langoustines. The Inn only ran out on the Thursday evening so not so bad and the Loch Ness Inn is fully stocked. It was a pretty long day on the Friday to catch up  but they are still coming on board despite the fact that more and more of the berried females are coming into the creels. I have been able to ignore the large numbers I am putting back as there are a healthy number of bigger males and females about. I am probably returning around 15/20 kilos on a full days fishing, but knowing the vast majority of them survive it feels as though you are doing the right thing and possibly stopping the decline of the stock even if by a small fraction.

Every now and again a creel comes up and takes you back to when this amount of langoustines in each creel was normal,

 

whether is it is just part of a natural cycle the fishing has been pretty good this year. It may be down to a little less pressure on some parts of the Inner Sound where a fair bit of breeding takes place, I have not seen a prawn trawler this year so a lot less pressure from that direction. The enlarging of the Range will not have kicked in yet so any changes in catch quantities will not be attributed in that direction. Saturday I do not usually go out in a breeze but saw the forecast for the following few days and it was decidedly autumnal so knew that langoustines would be scarce. lovely day ashore but rather up and down at sea. Bright sunshine does not help the staggering across the deck for most of the day. Managed a couple of hundred plus before heading in with enough for the weekend and into next week. Highlight of the day and it was only for a few seconds was on the way in splashing into a southerly force 4/5

a family of dolphins came across for a wee visit. the baby came out of the water several times and spun in the air before swimming off leaving me feeling blessed.

There are little things like these visitations that let me know that what I do is a way of life worth having and, although tiring, it is not what most people call work.

The Inn, no matter what the weather, keeps going and even if the schools are all back there are plenty people around for it still to be termed busy. It is what you are used to….. if all the tables are used and no one is waiting that is not too busy. What is busy is if all the tables are used, the weather is good and twenty people are eating outside, and twenty more are waiting for tables,…..Last night I was quite tense as I could see we were going to have a logjam around 7.30/8pm and sure enough with the 14 booked taking out a quarter of the bar, most of the residents appearing at that time, ten walking in and the regulars that are up this week meant a stressful hour. And the Boss was having a day off so you just got on with it and as usual it happens like magic, all the prep work pays off again. A weird little side-show was the request to sign one of the calendars which, if not mistaken, was going to be auctioned off. We are definitely in the hunting season as more and more of the tables are being taken up by shooters and fishers. We had a trustee table in and despite what a lot of people misconstrue we get on find with them, they leaving with compliments and calendars.

This week the weather was as expected and although no gales I waited until I had to go out for the Inn as it would have been seriously awkward to work in all week. Yesterday was heavy going and the thought of doing that all week did not appeal. There was plenty to occupy as we had a new customer for diesel at the Pier, the hard grafting Michael from Shieldaig.

Good income for the Pier as the number of diesel users have dropped off. Then it was up to see the Hydro with investors from the community hydro scheme at Balerno

on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Good walk up with the usual interested chat about how we got to where we are and a good exchange of information. The weather this summer has been perfect for the Hydro with it running at almost full capacity for the last two months after a dry Spring.

Dougal enjoying his customary dip,

watch a high altitude spider have a meal,

take a look at the view

and clean the screen after a barefoot slip on the pipe.

Then a day and a half dip, doing nothing and not enjoying it, before kicking into gear again on Wednesday with a badly needed massage and Inn shift. And so it goes on.

Community Audit.

A day ashore due to a breeze from the south so a catch up with a fuel dip and a screen clean

up at the Head of the Hydro. Interesting that it was only ten days since going up and the screen had a skim of green algae on it. With the rain we have had over the last few days there is a spate running so there is no effect on the power out put, it running at 90kWhs for the last week. It was shoes off and trousers rolled up and even then getting pretty wet on cleaning.

Good to see the monitor reading at 7000 kWhs more than the whole of last year with just over three months to go. Called in to grease the generator shaft, Dougal seems to have mastered photo bombing now.

This despite being the subject of many himself, this checking out the dam at the Head.

You would think he would be happy with all the ones I take of him. Have to say he gives me hours of pleasure and entertainment.

At the moment the community audit is well, with everything up to date, the Hydro running well, the Filling Station has 7000+ litres in each tank and, dare I say it, the broadband is going like a train, at least in the schoolhouse. There has been a dramatic improvement around a week ago with download and upload speeds both good, certainly relatively, hopefully across the community. The fact it is quiet is a good sign. There is always some sights on the way

(Friday evening) Starting to think I should not be saying anything about broadband these days. This morning it had to be kicked started and also hear that the improvement is not universal throughout the community, frustrating. Even since writing the above a couple of days ago we are now taking in fibre optic from Broadford by radio. All the rest is as stands as there seems to be only two cabinets. There is supposed to be a big push in Applecross, something we are very sceptical about, opinion says that someone “important” has been pushing for us, I suspect it is because AppleNet exists and is a tiny wee threat to current monopolies.

On the water today with nothing but tangles due to the strong tides, rain and a few ships of interest,

and a couple of small foul ups as the creels went out earlier in the week. Still, managed a good fishing despite feeling very tired after sorting out the tangles. Trying to get a stock in for a couple of days off next week with a trip to Lismore planned. Attention caught by hearing familiar voices on the radio. Mark Stevens interviewing Jimmy up at the farm chatting about Angus the stag he is feeding by hand. Just so happens I caught Jimmy in the Inn having a blether with the twins, Phammie and John

while Angus was causally  looking at Dougal, having just come down from the screen, who decided that he was a bit too big and close to chase. He does look well fed.

Although the rain here is not at as heavy as places further east with word that the road to Inverness is closed due to flooding and part of it washed away west of Garve there was a litre break and the sunset came through again, different but always worth a look.

 

“Media Tart”

I honestly do not go looking for things to do or get involved in, I have a wee problem with saying “no”, especially if it helps a cause I believe in and round Applecross there are plenty of them to be active in. Sunday evening found me down at the Pier, mainly as a result of a contact that involved Paul, a Reuters photographer coming out on the Varuna on Monday. Rather than have a pile of rope on the stern I roped up the last fleet to be washed this year, managed all but the last twelve, leaving them for the way out in the morning. I ended up switching off the music and listened to the nature flying round Pol Creadh, the grumpy calls of the herons, the occasional honk of the cormorant, the high-pitched but short call of the small gull and all accompanied by a cacophony of a flock of birds settling into the trees on the Culduie side of the Bay. This done, I had promised myself that a trip up to the Hydro screen was needed and duly set off with the dogs at the back of nine. Fading light but an enjoyable and rapid hike up the track. Not before losing the dogs for a couple of minutes, then hearing a series of excited barks coming towards me I thought a hind would appear soon but was slightly taken aback by a badger tearing across the path in front of me with a Dougal in hot pursuit about 5 yards behind, both going at a serious rate of knots. Dougal, fortunately, responds to shouted requests and immediately came to a muddy halt, not realising that tackling a badger would have been out of his league and would probably ended up with a visit to the vet. Screen cleaned, Dougal double checking it,

mainly to get rid of the mud, power increased back up to 90Kwhs and a welcome couple of Crabbies to finish a very long day.

Not before getting my hand crushed by a Bantry Bay Irishman saying keep up all your campaigning, it will come good. Seems he is battling his government over their attempt to harvest seaweed in Bantry Bay on an industrial scale. Why do authorities keep expanding industries that outgrow their environments, our salmon farming comes to mind. Export figures come before longterm sustainability.

The Inn has been full to overflowing the last few visits,

doing the door most nights now to give the Boss a well-earned break.

For me it is a lot easier coming from home or the sea to organise front of house. Would not be quite so keen if I was there day and night. Wednesday evening was finished of with some fine box playing by Ali from Inverness, originally Caithness. He has and is still playing with Addie Harper, both Senior and Junior. Thursday evening saw another visit from Tarnybackle and they went down a storm, always good to get a wee catchup with John’s fine version of Caledonia, our version of the Irish Spancil Hill.The Inn that night was full all night, example being the seventeen geographers from Hamburg University. They loved the Inn, the music and everything about the night. Hug from the organiser, reminding me of the many compliments and even more hugs from customers who leave after saying what a friendly place it is, the food amazing and the atmosphere second to none. The Catalonians who have visited could not be more friendly, especially when we talk nationhood, resulting in yet another leaving hug, Karen’s German Mum completing a fine warm series of shifts. So satisfying when customers leave with such a strongly felt welcome that they come up to you to shake hands or give you a hug, it is a testament to every one who works at the Inn. The previous Thursday it was a bunch of HillBillies playing and again busy night.

Feeling like the media tart from Toscaig at the moment. It all started on Tuesday with Olivia who was travelling with a group of 21, mainly, landscape architects from across Europe with a Prof from Edinburgh.

They were doing an alternative view of the NC500, pouring wax into the waters of the Rogie Falls does sound alternative. She had come across the SCFF report on sustainable creel fishing on the Net and was after an interview with a fisher chappie. My name was suggested and I rarely miss chance to put forward the long-term sustainable practice of creel fishing so agreed to meet up. Beautiful evening and we sat outside the Inn in the evening sun

talking fishing and trying to talk her through why the establishment allows our waters to be degraded so much by the trawl and dredge. A view from the outside and she just could not understand why we have allowed ourselves to be dictated to by such a small group of fishers. Unfortunately due to Brexit one of the principles the Federation used up till now, Article 17, will now fall by the wayside, which is a fairer distribution of wealth amongst fishermen. Chatted about the NEF New Deal and the No Growth economy. I do not want to keep growing, I am happy to stay small to work within the environment I am fortunate to live in. From then it was on to Paul, working up a photographic essay for Reuters News Agency who came out on Monday on a rainy and breezy day.

Hauled a couple of fleets of creels that was pure pleasure on seeing the quantity and quality of langoustines in them. Although the female egg carriers are appearing more and more in the creels the landed catch is still looking as good as it has done over the last 15 years. He did seem to enjoy himself and said he found it all very interesting, especially the sustainable side to the job. Lots of photos taken and I saw him in the Inn enjoying a fish pie before heading off to photograph Ewen and head up to Assynt and some gamekeepers. From there it was at the Inn and an interview with the BBC Travel Show about the effects of the NC500.

And Applecross Ices got a mention as well.

Here is what you don’t see below the counter

but luckily inside has Jolene.

More and more the different angles to the NC500 are coming to the fore, having turned into a road trip is proving, I think a mistake. There is so much more to the Highlands than this mad scramble to do 500 miles in a week or in some daft cases a day. The last media event of the day was being interviewed by the BBC Travel Show, an interview that, ironically was stopped several times by a five car convoy, two camper vans and a screaming toddler in a push chair. I may not have said what the anti NC500 folk wanted to hear but pointed out that although Applecross has changed it is not all bad…..in fact I find little that is. Standing outside the Inn looking across the Bay I saw the Sand track and was reminded of my mother on a BSA250 going along it carrying out her district nursing duties post war. Yes, you can argue everything has changed here beyond recognition, but I can still walk up that track and meet no one, take time out and draw in the awesome scenery from miles around. Maybe the change is that the folks had little opportunity to take that time out as they were closer to subsistence living. I know that things were not easy when my Dad grew up here and he regarded me coming back as a failure as he was unable to achieve his ambitions due to family loyalties. The NC500 has turned Applecross into a pit stop on a track, but over time those who follow TV and Ad campaigns and tick boxes may find a new box to tick and those who have taken time to find the real Applecross will come to further explore its Spiritual qualities that I come across every day.

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