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

Posts tagged ‘Applecross Games’

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.

Applecross Games,…”Are you normally this busy?”

Seen off another Games Day and the Aftermath, although the Inn staff are still seeing to it now as there is still two hours of food serving to go as I start this post. I had an easy day yesterday by catching up on some sleep and cycling off down to Toscaig to case the croft for a bit of fencing. The outer fence of the north end of the croft has been down for a few years and that section has been deteriorating letting bracken and rushes take over. The deer and sheep quickly finished off the willow that had been growing inside the fence, but prioritising making some money meant that nothing was done to sort the problem. The plan this autumn is to have both sections of croft fenced and reintroduce a wild flower meadow below an orchard. It will have to be something that does not take a lot of time and animals on the croft is simply a no-no. By rights I should not still have my croft as I have not used it properly. Over the years I have maybe used it as an extended garden but little else. Now with a little more time and effort I intend some clearing, soil analysis, drainage and planting. See how it goes as I maybe using this posting as a bit of pressure to get things underway. Luckily I will have some good advice behind me from the Black Isle. That apart the day was quiet but aware of the busy part of the community as the Applecross Games were underway at the Campsite. I almost made it but could not find the energy and knew I needed that for the evening shift at the Inn. As ever Applecross is full of contrasts and the hurly burly of the Inn is so different from the peace and quiet just a half mile down the road at Milton.


Came up early and soon we were ordering, serving, arranging tables for the Coghills from Skye to the Carron Valley MCC. The couple of rooms that were full we found tables without any waiting. Sometimes you think how lucky things are to work out like that but it is so well organised that it always falls into place and it is no accident. There was no sign of the Boss so we decided that there was drink involved with her visit to the Field. Good team on meant there was no reason for her to worry about anything, just Billy appearing after ten (closed early for the staff to get a night out) for a pint or two only getting the one, bit miffed but it is one of the few nights for early closing. Home by 11.30pm and asleep not long after.

Today was approached with some trepidation as some staff have had a few the previous evening and it is one of the busiest days of the year. Began by getting some more langoustine ashore


and things were rapidly underway with the visitation by the Nicolls, all seventeen of them. Put them on two tables and it worked out pretty well as the young and older of the group split up fairly naturally. Biggest table bill I have done so far but they were so easy to look after and very appreciative of the service. The day slipped into a bit of relentless ordering of food and drink with hordes of people calling in before heading home or people passing through.


Noticeably more Chinese on the go and mainly attracted by the NC500. It was getting  a bit fraught by 4/5 o’clock they just kept coming in, luckily for us the weather held up is still holding off so the evening shift should not be too hard. The car park extension is taking place under the careful eye of Kenny.


He is doing a very fine job and Applecross is showing quite a few examples of his dexterity with his machine. Seems natural when working away at his job. Garden full and the bikers just keep on coming but you can see why.


While all this is going on Rob comes in to cook a BBQ for the Games helpers/organisers and some spread it was too.


I managed a small plate on the side just to sample of course. The lamb and monk fish kebabs, langoustine, squats were all top drawer.


That food could have graced any tables in any top restaurant in the country.


Meanwhile on the other tables the food just kept coming out. Isla and her mate had her eye on some langoustine tails, trying to look cute as she could but don’t think she managed one.


Things had quietened down a little by tea time, the band had struck up again and I was away down the road with some ice cream and a Crabbies to check the forecast for Cambridge, pack a couple of bags and plan for the next week.heading to Aberdeen tomorrow to take in a Blue Deal Workshop, organised by the NEF, before heading to The Cambridge Folk Festival. Christy Moore and Afro Celts are top of the list but the list is long and there will be surprises among the attractions of Imelda May, Baaba Maal, Mike McGoldrick, John McCusker, Blazin’ Fiddles, Imar, the list goes on and on, filled with brilliant musicians. So be off-line for a week or so but taking photos and meeting lots of friends again.

A post on fb coincided with a train of thought I have had over the last few weeks regarding how we live, politics and how we treat each other and the environment. In particular as we joined the Trident protest in Inverness, we watched the inevitable vote for the renewal of our weapons of mass destruction. jobs was rather a new and lame reason put forward for its renewal, but saw in the debate how party lines are more important than common sense although some Labour MPs just cannot vote for something so against their conscience. Came across the following tweet from Gary Lineker, not often see tweets from him but worth a mention and this diagram which say it so succinctly.

Screen Shot 2016-07-22 at 23.03.42

“Don’t get Trident, never have. If it’s ever actually needed we’re all screwed anyway. Spend the money on something important.” Gary Linekar. Very disturbing that in our democracy our Leader states openly in Parliament that Human Rights and the Geneva Convention mean less to her than killing a 100,000 people in the so-called “Defense of our Nation” using illegal WMD. Sometimes up in the remote North West it is easier to envelope oneself in the busy day-to-day life of Applecross than contemplate huge issues such as building weapons that we cannot surely use in any circumstances with money we have not got and Climate Change. We are busily setting records of ice melt and high temperatures around the world which only merit a sentence in the News Bulletin but if some one walks into an office in parliament then headlines are written about Parliamentary privileges being broken. Life is more simple up here with just a few petty disturbances and on the whole you get what you see. Stick to sorting out the croft maybe not so simple.


Applecross Games in Colour.

The week leading up to the Games was full of comments about how hot it was and we should n’t complain etc. So inevitably on Saturday afternoon at ten to one it started drizzling and during the rest of the day it rained and rained. Perhaps in the future when it does rain we can say that at least the community can make some money from the Hydro scheme. The Community Company had a stall at the Games


but as it was at the other side of a rain-sodden field was very quiet. Sold a few calendars but not as many as hoped but glad to have a stock for the steady sales going on at the Inn. Despite the weather there was lots of colour on show and a fair amount of people around. The shop keeper with her balloons,IMG_0714

as one of our local builders, in deep conversation with another builder, probably talking about building something,


the Skye Pipe Band,


Caroline dancing in the rain


to the exquisite local talent Bronny Glover,


ably backed up by the harmonic Coast Road Truckers.


Over at the burger stall Applecross Ices man Aron


helping out Darren whose photo was taken but was moving too fast in the poor light. And inside the main marquee our proper photographer, Jack, selling his wares


to the background of the sad but colourful clown keeping the kids happy.


And finally sporting his patriotic umbrella, John,


our visiting local optician, taking a break from repairing anyones glasses for a small donation to the Boat Pull total. Lots more going on but it was down to the Inn for an afternoon into night session. Shame about the weather especially for all the organisers who put so much effort and work into it and great to see so many young volunteers involved, but it was enjoyed by all there and there is always next year.

Games Day without the Games.

Least said about Friday as it was a migraine day, three in about seven weeks is not good but in terms of pain and nausea it could have been worse. Lasted twelve hours and did not have too many after effects as I managed to haul 400 creels and six and a half hour shift at the Inn yesterday. Early start to try to get the prawns in before the evening rush. Unfortunately the evening rush started about 3.30pm and did not stop till after 9pm. Also when landing the prawns had a wee look at the Inn rota and seems I was working there since 12 pm. So it was home for a rapid shower and straight into the organised mayhem. It actually was not too bad although very, very busy. People coming down from the Games field wanting fed. Last night the kitchen were brilliant. 10s,11s,18s,6s and all the rest were going through at the same time and the food kept coming out. You knew how much every one enjoyed it by the compliments that came your way over the evening. I go on about the contrast in Applecross all the time and despite all these people in “town” I was in the middle of a mist bank for most of the day, on my own with the skuas,gulls and fulmars, I suppose they were getting fed as well come to think about it.


The morning mist came and went most of the early part of the day.





This has been the first time in 30 years that I have never made it to any part of the Applecross Games, but I do have a couple of excuses. Sounds like there were a lot of people there so the efforts of the organisers would have been well rewarded. As with all events they do not just happen.

Good shift today and not too many hangovers evident, possibly went home as opposed to putting it off for another day. Spent quite a bit of time with a farming family who had steamed over from Plockton and chatted about community work.


It is always so positive when I talk to outside people and they are very interested/impressed with the amount of work that goes on. It seems different when you see the practical problems on the ground and you know the reasons why events do not run as smooth as they could. With the Filling Station, the ongoing software crashes tend not to affect me so much as I can always access fuel and the constant callouts are merely irritating at worst. Annie, our software guru, is going to try to address the problem, assuming Gilbarco will let us deal with it ourselves. We have tried MD level with little progress and are, after today, going down the political route. It is not through lack of trying and we will solve it and most people will forget the initial teething problems. Always the problem of being a pioneer. It is the same with the broadband installation. On one level it is going ok but the BT lines are causing us issues. We have three lines up and running and for some reason unknown to us two of the lines keep dropping from 6 to 2 mgbs and when that is sorted out they drop them back down 10 days later. This coupled with CBS not being as quick as we expected in releasing monies so we could set up the relay from Portree. One week has evolved into six and everything is in place apart from the finance.Unfortunately the customer is not interested in all these “reasons” for a system not working, they just want fuel and faster internet connections. One of the keys to the problems seems to be Gilbarco, Datacash,CBS do not live in the community where there are stresses and strains put on the community company when it tries to provide a service but find outside influences adversely affect the service. In a positive light these are teething problems and while they are happening you have to take the long view and keep going. Although the devil is in the detail you keep positive when you talk to visitors who are interested in the work of the community and without fail they are really encouraging and want you to succeed. Leaving the Inn pretty exhausted after 26 hours solid work and little food in the last two days, stopped to take a couple of photos of the now rampant meadow sweet and the tranquil scene south across Ardban.



All seems ok again and its all worth it.

Nothing Much.

Coming back from the pier yesterday evening the light over Camusterrach was wonderful and went straight back down the road with Dougal and Co to take a couple of photos.


Probably one of the most lived in hamlets on the peninsula I really enjoy the light compared to the slightly darker Toscaig. On the way back up Dougal spotted a bit of movement and headed off to find June,I think, also checking out the light.


Just a little while later the moon appears over the Culduie ridge and settles in for it’s traverse across the front of the house.


This is all in the same place where 125 meals are served in an hour and a quarter. I know some people are uneasy about the number of visitors that come here but firstly why not share the paradise you live in and give every one a welcome and second, you can leave the hubbub behind with a five minute walk into solitude…best of both worlds, employment and tranquility.

Going by the forecast this is the last of the sunny, hot days although my forecast is good into next week….no wind. Plan to stay fit and breakdown free and try to catch a few prawns for the customers. A busy week ahead culminating in the Annual Applecross Games at the Campsite. There are always indicators as to what time of year it is here, Bikers, push bikes, Norwegians, Ashbys, Applecross Games, Fishing Competition/Raft Race along side the usual jobs one does, like washing creels etc. On the way out a cormorant is often surveying his domain from the rock on the Culduie side of the moorings.


Turned out to be quite a hard day as every spare second was spent tailing squat lobsters, never caught so many in a single days fishing. Most of my creels were on harder ground as the deeper water is not fishing well at all just now and the squats were not about as well….until today. Had to leave the Inn early before the prep room staff saw the shelling they had to do.


Went back to the pier to load up some creels on the rising tide as the Blue Mist is tied alongside, waiting repair. Picked up a mooring to strech it out but not sure that worked out as the bridal seemed to move as well. Tonights tea of squats in ginger, garlic with fried leeks and mushrooms served with new potatoes is meal equal to any I have had this year and living in Applecross that is saying something.

Easterly Blow and a Piper in Marseille.

Early EveningEast/southeasterly gale hammering out of the moorings just now. Went down to see if everything was ok and although it was looking a bit hairy things are in the right places.The divers are out and must be tucked round the corner at Sand but do n’t envy their trip back and the hook up to their moorings will be interesting. There is not a lot of space in this wind.We certainly have a variety of weather here and the photo taken by Annie of the Varuna coming in  a couple of weeks ago shows the extremes.


Earlier on as I was waiting for a fuel delivery for the Filling Station I took Dougal and Co along the Beechwood path and stopped to clear brash from a fallen tree that had come over the track. Three trees down, this wind being bad as the trees are braced against the prevailing west and south westerlies. Decided to come back by the shore and sure enough saw another coming down and by the time the fuel was delivered and I went back up to take a picture, another. Again so different from the photo taken a couple of days ago on the same path.



When I was fuelling up the Auk on monday Davie gave me a laminated poster he had found at 20 meters off Sand…it was one of our advertisments for the GP campaign last year, complete with pegs. Must have escaped from the Applecross Games stall last summer. Just goes to show what ends up in our seas. Maybe because I feel so connected to the sea I keep the smallest bit of plastic and nylon on board for disposal ashore, still not enough I know but you have to try.


Signs of spring earlier in the week when I was down in Toscaig picking up the last of my floats/raised beds and I saw my first Applecross lambs enjoying the sun….hopefully behind a wall today.


Weather seems to be better in Marseille as the busker gets money together to be a doctor. Ruairidh gets around, being in Paris last weekend and now Calum, home briefly, heads off to Australia via Malaysia and Indonesia. It seems so much easier than thirty years ago when I went across the States. My way of doing it was telling every one about it so I would lose so much face if I did not go.


Applecross Games and Facebook GP campaign.

A windy day on Friday so that meant I was quite fresh for work at the Inn and it was needed. Although it was not quite as busy as thursday evening it was not quiet! Tonight’s little hiccup was the fryers went on a little go-slow as there were many fish and chips and fryer related orders going in mainly because guys were concentrating a little more on the liquid scene. Not being a drinker now it is amusing watching and dealing with fairly inebriated customers. When I stopped about 10 years ago I found it quite difficult as often the social scene does revolve around a few drinks but the knack is doing something other than sitting, watching people get drunk…ie working or organising. A very noisy bar with the main struggle serving the food around the good-humoured but boisterous audience. Bit scary at 8 o’clock when we were trying to seat a group of 20 but as usual it happened and with Jill and I were on the floor not 100% sure how. The result is always enthusiastic praise which is very rewarding. feel sorry for the grumpies who were in the other night but the follow-up to that was a couple got overcharged as I was bothered by them but happy ending the couple came back and I immediately recognised them and they got their refund before tucking into yet more wonderful food..

300 creels hauled on Saturday morning and a reasonable catch landed before going up to the Games. Another thought about the Fishing meeting on Thursday. We were regaled yet again about the detrimental damage that banning trawling can do to fishing grounds. Seems that the seabed in Broadbay of Lewis is full of starfish and empty scallop and razor fish shells and we “have the evidence to prove it” I suspect if this is the case there also is an argument to say that because there is trawling outside the bay is upsetting the ecosystem of the bay. Only supposition and we need the science to help us.I know there is video evidence of the BUTEC range where the seabed is in fantastic condition and there has been no trawling there since the mid 70s. Hopefully I will be able to change my opinion if confronted with data that did not support my beliefs.

Anyway off to the Games on the Campsite and passing the Filling station I saw a busy place. Applecross would be in a spot of bother if we did not have one, there is no doubt about that. I suppose most people would have to convert to diesel but the tourist trade would be badly hit, bikers especially.

The next photo is where the Games take place and is taken from the Broch site. One of the Broch entrances is showing on the bottom left of the picture and I can’t help thinking about the wee chaps who were here 1000 and more years ago and what they got up to. Timeless Applecross.

It is a busy little Games with a lot of effort going into organising and running it and raises a considerable sum for the community over the day, pipes,heavy events, and an opportunity for the Community Company to spread the word on our campaign to attract a new Doc to the practice.

Even the pipe major needs a moment of quiet contemplation.

I wonder if he could lift 300 creels in a morning.

By the time I arrived at the stall set up by Alison our Chair was in full flow explaining the importance of a GP to Applecross. It is nothing short of essential and Alison and Elodie have set a Facebook campaign in motion to make sure the information is out there and no stone unturned.Seems I am the administrator. I think it is an example of a new determination about the place that we are trying to halt the decline here. The membership of the Company grew by a possible five during the day which was a nice little sideline.

Back down to the Inn for another busy but not too frantic session. Found the bunch of local guys who came over amusing and 30 years ago I would have been there. Spotted quite a few by recognising their dads who were in school with me and it was reciprocated. This is one thing I like about living here, the eighty year old talks to and knows the eight year old. A five hundred pound kitty was shifted in two hours by the boys before Judith moved in to quieten things down. All was peaceful and they went off to dance to Rhythm and Reel in the evening. Saw them again next morning, subdued and eating lots of steaks and chicken for brunch. They are good lads and chatting to them you find out what they are up to and all are either studying or working. A busy shift but good despite the techy start to the morning involving bacon rolls. Mediating fails but all ends well before the shift started in earnest. There are lots of regulars who appear for the Games as well as numerous characters but once again its all over for another year.

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