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

Posts tagged ‘Applecross Hydro’

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.

 

Fuel back on as is Summer Colour

Took a bit of an effort but a trip up to the Screen was needed as it was just over the two weeks since the last time. Now know that three weeks is too long at this time of year as the algae grows very quickly and clogs the holes in the screen up thus the water running over the dam goes over the screen rather than into the chamber. Very dry just now, until today that is, but even now the sun is back out. Decided not to go out today due to the strong south-easterly due to swing round to the south-west. The trip up to the Hydro Head was after a day at sea. It was a day, that although well remunerative, was hard hard work. There was an awkward breeze all day from the north and had to keep going in and out of gear to keep up to the creels and there was just enough motion to make crossing the deck stacking the creels a little graceless. Thus the limbs were tired and ached somewhat, but as usual the rewards for a wee volunteer are immense

both when there and on the way up.

The two pooches would go up every day to check it out of course. Going back to the day at sea,lovely morning,

although the day was hard work the only thing that takes me in is having to land before the evening service at the Inn. Reading that there are people who are now so removed from nature that they cannot teach/tell their children about the environment they live in. This morning began by passing the ubiquitous seals on the Culduie rocks, with watching gannets fly off when you get a little close then a small pod of dolphins swim by with there young. What comes up in the creels seems colourful in the extreme

although the haddock, first for a while, is not in a healthy state.

Now know that this is a Yarrel’s Blenny,

a bit of knowledge from Chris who came to pick up for the aquarium. The last couple of fleets provided the tea for this evening along with many other meals at the Inn.

Tailed all the way in having to finish them off at the moorings, a rare occurrence.

Did not make it out on Monday, a pity for Bethany, as she was on her day off and had arranged to go out, but the breakers were underway by 7.00am and a north wind in full sun meant a breezy day. Finished roping up

the fleet washed on Sunday morning.

That pressure getting it ready was unnecessary but weather and tides always change plans here.

Today another day ashore but still plenty on the go and took the delivery for fuel,

unusually we ran out of diesel on Monday and petrol today, combination of high sales and slightly later delivery caught us short. Only the second time since the refurbished refurbishment. But all well now. Increased my IT knowledge by entering the delivery into the Site computer, still have to work out how to post videos on the blog but will be there fairly soon. Weather is so changeable as can be seen at the After Games Do

and the four Massey Feguson’s parked

at the Inn this morning. The Filling Station snails came out in the rain

and like the sea life are as colourful.

 

 

The Applecross Games Weekend.

(Sunday morning) and it is 6.30am, now regretting that I kept a fleet of creels on board on Friday to wash over the weekend. The plan was to do most of the work on it on Saturday morning before heading to the Inn at 3.00pm start. It is the Applecross Games weekend and with the weather being good, every man woman and dog is in town. Puppies as well including the 13 week old lab who had his owner worried as he slept on the road. Twenty minutes later he was messing about with his 7 month old neighbour. It was that kind of day. Not a good start to it as several Naproxen were needed to get me going, hence the regret with the creels. Made it out to the Pier at the back of 11 but had missed the tide for washing. Mended for three hours before making my way to the Inn with some trepidation. It gets so busy, especially with the weather being so good (no hydro), it can end up with just hanging in. Just a thought as I was leaving the creel mending on the Pier, I have got to enjoy those jobs/activities that never end. Creel maintenance comes under that category. As long as you keep on top of the job and you do not have so many that you cannot keep up in good order it is an occupation that you can do as the mood takes you. you can have a three hour burst or a twenty minute one and either way you are never going to finish it but it is a natural part of the fishing cycle. A rhythm of the seasons throughout the year.

Have added to my camera collection due to heavy wear and tear on the boat I have acquired a Sony bridge and another Canon that will not be going on board unless in emergencies. Some of the staff got hold of the bridge and the result, late at night is very promising. Three bonny members of staff, unfortunately down to two as Gemma is heading back north to promotion and nearer home. She will be missed both for her work ethic and craic.

Back to Friday and a full day with Tania, a Peruvian Research Fellow at St Andrews University. Doing a project that meant going on board different fishing boats, creel, trawl, lobster, crab and langoustines, the Varuna being the first prawn creel boat and single handed to boot. Saw a twin rigger heading north about mid day, a different approach to fishing.

It is a project to investigate ways of collecting data that is not too burdensome on the fishermen and to understand more the workings of the Inshore fishing industry. Yet another fund that will be closed off to us it being the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF). Really do not understand the Brexit argument other than that based on “don’t let any more people in.” A pleasant day with quite a few questions to answer and she seemed to enjoy it, tailing squat lobsters

and having a meal of langoustines and a side of squats at the Inn.

Handy as well as her speciality is scallops so was picking a lot of spat of some creels.

Did not have time to tray them but they seem to have survived, interesting to see them climb the side of the bucket.

Timing was a bit tight as I had planned a wee trip to hear some music at Torridon Estate, The Dan River Girls, in the evening. http://www.torridonestate.com It was quite an effort to get to the event especially as I went up the glen a bit to pick up some more wood. On the way I completed a mission that only happens up here. While looking after the Inn on Thursday we realised that an Australian family had paid for some one else’s table meaning they were over charged by £36+ but did not know or twig that this had happened. Luckily Zuzu had worked out that they were heading to Torridon and so after a phone all to Sarah at Shieldaig and a follow-up phone call to Nigel at Badan Mhugaidh https://www.facebook.com/BadanMhugaidh/ we got him to give them the refund and I dropped in the money to him on the way to the music. They were impressed with the local connections and how they worked but it felt good to sort out a genuine error this way. The wood was quite a haul after going through 300 creels during the day, a result of information from our local tree surgeon. The cut sections are becoming further from the road but good exercise. Made it to the house to be given a lovely welcome by Felix and Sarah. Have a place in my heart for them and their venture after attending their opening and cleansing of the House. The tapas, wine and music was top drawer and made to feel at home. I resisted the invite to stay for the night, music was going to be played into the small hours and so tempting but duty, work and home called. Superb music played by the three sisters, youngest, Jessie, being 13, and such a fine fiddler, going well with cello, bass and mandolin. Their harmonic singing of blue grass tunes through to playing Scottish and Scandinavian influenced tunes were timeless. Seems when Felix asked them what they planned etc the 16-year-old, Ellie, replied that they were just living the moment. Such wisdom from a youth. whether this works or not I am not sure but will post and give it a go.

Clip #1

Once the head was sorted out and some creels mended it was off to the Inn for the Games weekend of organised mayhem. The Saturday shift started at 3.00pm through to finish and we were helped by the weather. Glorious sunshine and with more people eating outside finding a table on the patio or garden was a problem rather than queueing for tables inside. there was even a breeze to keep the midges away. I closed up at the Inn partly to let the staff away and partly an admission of age in that I cannot function too well after a night on the town. And knowing what was in store for Sunday meant an easy decision and home by 11.00pm as everyone else danced the night away to Rhythm ‘n Reel. By all accounts a really friendly and happy crowd being entertained by a fine band. Gemma now knows who they are.

(Monday evening) Survived this phenomenon called the Applecross Games Weekend. The second part of the work day began by bottling up at the Inn and then the doors opened and stayed open for the rest of the day. Weather was on our side and not the kitchen’ with every table outside used for eating, drinking and listening to the music provided for the after Games party or as Joe calls it the Aftermath. Had fantastic comments throughout the day on the food and with everyone in a good mood an enjoying themselves even the rare mistakes were quickly corrected. A honeymoon couple were staying at the Inn and I had forgotten their scallops, not for long but also their wine, but with weather and music it was easy to appease, not that they needed any. He had proposed on the coral of Ard Ban and they had just been married so where else would they come. They lived at Drumsheugh….. west end of Edinburgh and that little snippet reminded me of a night in the West End Hotel after a Scotland/Ireland rugby international where the discussion with a couple of Highland polis went along the lines of would we be able to get a grant from the then HIDB to fish for lobster on the West End Hotel staircase…..silly times. Working at the Inn enables me to catch up with people from the past and present, 34 years since I met up with Peter and Maggie who had come over with Kenny and Susan of the Plockton Inn, cousins, some by marriage!! John from Kyle also stopped by for a chat, love these meetings and catchups. Have the Inn to thank for that. Little else to report on the day other than to wonder, when gathering some plates, if the wasp which seemed to be drowning in the toffee sauce was its version of going to a better place.

Crofting the Sea.

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

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

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

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

Starting to feel like a sea crofter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Busy with other boats fishing close by.

 

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