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

Posts tagged ‘Applecross sunset’

Rain at Last

(Tuesday) Given the choice between a 33C urban office job or a grey still morning with soft falling Highland rain on a glass sea,

well there isn’t really any way I could do the 33C one.

Took a couple of hours to get on the water on Monday morning. A longish, felt longer than it was, shift at the Inn. Occasionally the odd shift drags and looking at the clock becomes a regular glance every twenty minutes. Plenty of people through and no one knows you are a bit out of sorts. Headache kicks in properly mid afternoon despite lots of painkillers. They still came from as far afield as Hawaii and Sardinia. Home via the Chalet internet and bed by ten. Although it is still busy it feels a lot quieter at the Inn. Still no tables but at least the residents are not waiting for their’s and there is not a queue of twenty.

(Friday evening) you could say it is a bit of a recovery day. Needed a long sleep and even with that behind me there is a pretty constant tiredness in the old legs. With the week almost done it is not that surprising as most days it has been pretty physical. Today’s recovery day involved a bit of a catch up at the Chalet, hoping not for much longer as Alison is taking our broadband contact home from Inverness to work on our switch over. We and others have been off for four weeks now, too long. Had a conversation about it today and it feels like a rerun of the Filling Station problems. Crashing every day, rebooting, late billing and general stress. The fact that fuel is no longer is not a topic of anyone’s chat is testimony to how well it is being run by the Trading Company now. I am hoping this will be the case with our broadband in the months to come.

So a visit to the Community Hall where the School entertained us by running a French Cafe lunch, with Thor, Mason and Lily attending our table, in French no less. Lots of Potential for front of house at the Inn. The onion soup and chocolate cake were pretty good as well. Sam and Caroline are up from deep Deep South and arranged for Sam to come up to the Hydro screen checking it over for a clean. After Mick’s visit last week was thinking all was not quite as it should be with a fair bit of rain it was only running at 54 kWhs this morning. Looking at local streams I reckoned there should be more power being produced. After a wander through Carnoch, with Sam, visiting his favourite birch tree,

we made it to the top via the Archeological Trail.. By the time we came back down to the Turbine House there were 84kWhs being produced.  via the Archeological Trail. Lots of chat about land, sea and everything else, and a lesson learned about cleaning the screen

more regularly in the summer.

Better to have wet feet rather than wet shoes. You can see half the screen clean and the water going through while most is running over the dirty half.

Does not matter what the weather the view is always worth a stop and look.

Came back down through the coppicing part of Carnoch after Sam stopping to admire the Hebridean Barns, resuscitated through the ALPs project and reverting to its original purpose of clothes dryer.

We were in good company as well.

Fishing has stayed at a very healthy level with only 250/300 creels hauled to get the requisite amount for the Inns and a decent wage. Although tired my extra wee trip out on the evening of the Solstice was not regretted. On the way when I was heading back to the lights of Applecross, the hum of the Diesel engine and the breaking of the water against the bow, I went back in time and thought of the fishermen of Applecross who spent a week at a time away from home and what they must have been thinking of when they saw the lights of home after their week away, in far harsher conditions than I usually experience. Apart from the many octopodes,

occasional gannet

and that sunset

it was the simple routine of hauling, emptying, rebaiting, stacking and reshooting the creels.

Often said and thought by me that these trips to sea keep my sanity intact after the frenzy of the Inn. This week has been a little easier, a little dip in the numbers to just being busy. That’s every table being full but not the twenty people waiting. There are a fair amount of workmen at Sand and the biggest problem they have is accommodation. Amusing as that was one of the selling points during discussions around the Range expansion, that the work would fill accommodation places in Applecross. My quiet protestations that this was not necessary fell on deaf ears but has proven to be true. The first visit of Tarneybackle took place last night and they went down a storm, especially as they did not sing Sam the Skull. There was dancing till late and a return visit in three weeks is on the cards so farewells were not too extreme.

And always a view to stop and see on the way to and from the Inn.

Seeing in the Solstice

Couple of days ago I had a strong urge to be on the water around the Summer Solstice. Yesterday as the sun set over the Staffin Cliffs I made it out to the Varuna and intended to fish into the Rising Sun.

Sunset was worth it in itself and although there was the remnants of the northerly breeze coming down the Sound on the way out.

I picked up the first fleet and began hauling. Feeling of aloneness in nature was strong but also an awareness of working just a little near the edge. Everything had to be thought through and the descending darkness meant that I could not really carry on as my fleets were too near the other boats working the Sound and I have put a couple of fleets over them in the last two hauls in broad daylight. Not enough light to see the bouts although to the North it never darkened at all.

Steaming in to the lights of Shore Street, Milton and Camusterrach listening to the bow wake and the steady hum of the engine may turn out to be one of my moments of the year. Earlier in the day it was relax time

for a couple of the Schoolhouse inhabitants.

Meaning of Life

Cycling home listening to Duncan Chisholm playing An Ribhinn Donn followed by Big Archie with this back drop showing to the North West

and having completed a twelve-hour shift at the Inn helping make people happy and content constitutes a real meaning to life. From the guy who was at the Inn before I was having had the usual two punctures to the final group on table 14 who were eating a Cheese Board and Sticky Toffee Puddings it was an almost universal appreciation from all who visited the Inn on the day. The weather, food and welcome brought them all out and judging from the spontaneous handshakes and thanks as customers left it went well. The whole team at the Inn has to be proud of what they did today. The comments and stories today could have filled a book and came from everyone from across Europe to the States and back. I am only guessing that there were probably over the 600 people served well today. The kitchen went like a dream, even when Steve had to cook off a whole sirloin to feed the last seven tables. Ranged all the way through to several well done ones. Every one who waited just a little longer than usual were all so considerate. Mind you we were are all pretty knackered by 10.30pm. But for me the tunes and the post sunset was uplifting. The first stop was just before Milton and then as the Staffin Cliffs came into view I had to stop and gaze in awe.

The Parrot Visiting from Germany

It is beginning to seem that I could start any post with, “a bit of variety this week” and that was certainly the case this week. Going back into the time line of the last post to Tuesday, I had done a day’s fishing and came in to meet the ladies for a bit of filming on the Varuna.

They had come up on Sunday and I met them over the weekend when they had come down for a meal on the Sunday evening.

Seemed to go well enough on the day and I am pretty sure I will not be watching the programme just in case I am on it. The Bloody Project has struck again and it was good to see Graeme and to meet his partner, just finished his French detective mystery and good it was too. Interesting from the boat perspective as we could see Culduie, where the deed was done, scurrilous Ardhu, Camusterrach, the Big House and Shore Street which was Applecross village in the book.

So up to Friday and a day off. It began at 7.00am, selling langoustines to the Loch Ness Inn and ended at 1.30am on Saturday morning loading just short of a half ton of herring into the back of the van at Aird. The time in-between was the day off. We headed north after twelve, stopped for lunch at Gairloch and a trip down to the beach with the pups.

Then going further north we took a detour down the Inverasdale/Cove road, mainly because Gemma proclaims it is the only place she knows that is better than Applecross,

so it had to be seen.

It is truly a beautiful part of the Highlands and Dougal and Eilidh seemed to agree.

Another beach walk with Dougal having a discussion with the white cow, who seemed very disinterested in him.

Then off to Ullapool to an exhibition/private showing of how plastics are entering our world in not the best of ways, even becoming part of the geology. Not an edifying prospect but well underway and out fishing the next day I pick up a plastic bag floating by

just to reinforce the message of the way we live has to change. Met up with Sara, a contact from the Inshore Fishing Conference and the discussion about sustainable fishing carried on to the Ceilidh Place where we were treated to some awesome music by King Creosote and Mairead Greene. Time just flew by and it was an hour later than I thought before we were back on the road home. Me in the passenger seat after a couple of Thistly Cross ciders and just as well as we were met on the road just outside Shieldaig by our local custodian, Craig. Not knowing the van he rapidly turned round and followed us down the Coast Road to stop us enquiring as to our late travelling home. Think Alison was quite excited to be stopped by the bobbies with blue lights flashing and all. Mason and Thor would have been impressed as the last time I saw them they were in said car outside the Schoolhouse. So the last stop was for the bait and salt and home by 2.00am, asleep by 2.05am and up at 6.00am to go fishing. Not even enough time to take off the wrist band.

It was hard work leaving the house at that time in the morning and staying on the couch with these two was very tempting.

Days off are tiring but the sights, sounds and conversations were all so worth it. Maybe Dougal could have done with more than the Pinewood walk at Inverewe and the two beach walks but his form was still good and he enjoyed the trip down to the Ullapool Harbour, fishing boats

and tall ship included.

So from the fishing to the shower and straight to the Inn where we had a tricky evening dealing with many bikers, a closed Walled Garden for Calum’s wedding and lots of visitors wanting to eat good food. And again on Sunday, the full twelve-hour shift, with a half hour for a bit of food. Lots of good food, laughter, good craic and a parrot,

a German one at that.

Seemingly she stayed at the Inn couple of years ago and was back for a return visit. She came out briefly for a wee look around during the quiet spell in the afternoon. Busy but a well run if a times tense day and even the nine bikers who turned up at 8.55pm for a meal were happy to be served nine fish and chips. They had just rode down from Thurso, turned up late at the Campsite and came straight down to the Inn. You could not serve them so another group were treated to the Highland hospitality of the Applecross Inn. The visitors were from all over, Kazakstan to Holland and all parts in-between. Hope the two Dutch girls who were to be in Mallaig for 2.00pm on Monday made it. They were to drop a hired car in Portree  and make it down the road to Armadale to catch the ferry across Sleat Sound and I think it was going to involve some hitch hiking. Good “we are all European” chat with them and while acknowledging we all come from different parts they hoped we would finally have the nerve to become Scottish in our own rights. All the european visitors are really sad about Brexit and hope that Scotland will stay around. We shall see.

Finishing on a sad note though I heard off the sad passing of John, who used to live in Applecross and worked and inspired many troubled youngsters. He also had a pretty troubled past which unfortunately caught up with him. I only have good memories of John, taking me out with No 3 and doing a spot of sea rescue before my trip to Canada with the kayak. So there was an appropriate sunset to finish off a memorable weekend and to remember him by.

Blood Doning, Roads and Fishing Talk.

Sitting in Inverness Railway Station wondering if I wait for the next train which comes in over two hours as no message and no partner coming off the instructed to meet train. A remark and a small curry beckons. It’s been a “fun-filled” couple of days, going back to Tuesday in fact when I set off over the Hill to Kyleakin to give blood. All by appointment means you get seen to as soon as you arrive, the only trouble is arriving at the right time after travelling fifty odd miles. Building up a strong distaste for the needle in the arm bit but as I have benign blood, no antibodies, so any one can have it, it’s better that some one gets it….I can always make more. The weather has taken a turn for winter and although cold and windy it is not unusual being called the lambing or cuckoo snows. The Bealach was looking good

but there was not a flake of snow on the road, it being well cleared.

Unfortunately the road continues to deteriorate and more photos going in to the HC Roads Dept

coupled with the news that RBS are no longer sending a bank van to Applecross due to “health and safety concerns over the route” into the peninsula. We had a very helpful visit from Richard Green who is hoping to be re-elected as one of the councillors in Ward 6 and interesting to see how disturbed he was at the state of the Bealach in places.

(Well that was all at the Station) and Alison turned up on the next one so no need for the mobile, till the next time. With all that is going on at sea and on land currently, waiting an extra hour or so in a van is little hassle. The day had started at 5.15am to get out to the Varuna for some langoustines for Loch Ness Inn. They were duly boxed and put in the back of the van to be delivered in the afternoon. The morning was to be taken up with The Inshore Fishing Conference. Made it in time, just, and heard Fergus Ewing’s opening speech. There was not too much about us in it and it seems a page and a half was missed out that would have made it more relevant to the static gear boys. Have thought for years that we have our politicians and audiences the wrong way round. The politicians should be in the audiences and listening to what is being said rather than telling us about policy and then heading off out the door while the real stuff goes on. I was a bit nervous most of the morning as I had been asked to go onto a panel. I had thought that it was in one of the workshop breakouts but it turned out to be in the main auditorium. Just as well I did not know that until half an hour before. Went to the Norwegian workshop but was slightly off focus for me and it was all about science and compliance rather than down to earth inshore fishing.

So it was off to the Main Hall for the last session before lunch and home. After an intro from  knowledgeable Brexit lawyer/facilitator, Daniel,

and a wee intro from the three of us it was Q and As and I can only go by the reaction and it did seems favourable from what a few people told me afterwards. I tend to go onto automatic pilot a bit when in meetings and this was a first for a panel. Seemingly I sort of butted in and got everyone talking about Inshore Fishing rather than Brexit and went on a little ,mild, I thought, rant about it was the fishermen catching the fish being the main reason that there are not fish in inshore waters. Must have touched a raw nerve with an Avochie fisherman as he asked an awkward two parter but luckily I had enough knowledge to answer it. I appreciate the comments afterwards and just relieved that I did not make an idiot of myself. Now have a researcher, Cardiff University getting in touch and been invited to another Conference!!. Part and probably the most important part, of these gatherings is meeting people and information collecting. The most striking conversation I had and related to the recent ridiculous dredging in Lochcarron. I was listening to a diver telling me how it was and the day it all changed for him. Lucrative diving off Gairloch, enough to be able to afford a rather smart car, which partly due to personal circumstances and good fishing he could now afford. He remembers that day so well as he was on the phone ordering the car and turning round the headland he saw three dredgers circling on the ground he had just come off. He then gave a before and after description of how the sea bed had waves of sand which were protecting the marl beds and above that in shallower waters were the flame shell reefs. On Monday back in the water and all flattened to desertification levels where only periodic visits from dredgers can now fish there. The whole marine eco system has been degraded to this level now up and down the coast to the extent that divers only find small patches that the dredge cannot get into. The whole reason for me being on the panel was to give a different view on how we treat our environment, catch less treat the catch and the environment better and receive a greater economic return. Not “rocket science” as a previous member of our community used to say with much regularity. There should have been more fishermen there but the forecast had Friday as the best day of the week

after the northerly gales at the beginning.

I am a strong supporter of the SCFF

and in turn appreciate the sterling work our officials do,

one of the few organisations which does not advocate the status quo for its members all the time. Thanks to Sally for the photos and encouragement.

Then it was down to the Loch Ness Inn with the still live

and kicking langoustines. Some larger ones going down now to try to keep supplies going more uninterrupted.

The fishing has tailed off dramatically but the weather has kept some of the visitors away and the day’s fishing on Thursday saw through the weekend. Good weather, an easterly breeze with lots of sunshine for the week,

despite the lack of langoustines bodes well for a pleasant but tiring spell. So leave the land side for another day as we are in-between responses and to last night’s sunset to leave you with.

The Inn with Everything.

More has happened in the last seven days to fill a chapter in a book but as there is a bit of emotion in the air tonight I will just post a picture of the window showing table 11. Not only does the Inn serve top class dressed crab, creel caught off the Inn shores and so well dressed in Applecross, they sell hand dived scallops lightly sautéed in garlic butter with bacon, rice and salad, langoustines pan-fried in lemon, herb and garlic butter and squat lobsters in garlic, sweet chilli or accompaniments to lemon sole, plaice or cod, but the sun sets inside as well. The Inn with everything. The emotion concerning the land and sea will have to wait for a more considered space of time, so here is the sun setting inside the Inn.

Missing

Just finished a fairly busy shift at the Inn but heart not in it with the news from Plockton. One of our community of fishermen is missing with the boat being found across the loch. A heavy feeling and cannot help imagining the scenario. Will never know but that does not stop the mind playing out the final scene. Tonight we did not have a table ready for a booking and they could not understand why, another trio went away because they were made unwelcome……..they came back and that was repaired but putting everything into perspective I feel so sad. It was only this week that Walter, who was staying round the coast, had gone to Plockton, met with Bruce, and came back with my nickname and a “how are you doing”. Not only do you never expect it to happen to you but you do not expect it to happen to fishermen you know. There are many communities but the one I belong to, despite our ups and downs and disagreements, is a special one and if you lose a member it stops you in your tracks and does make you think that bit deeper. I often have to fend off comments of why are you not out today?. Luckily I have got to that stage in life where I do not have to justify whether I go out or not. Thoughts with the family, it must be a hundred times worse for them. Still a very faint hope that I may be assuming the worst but three days of searching the shoreline around Loch Kishorn has not produced anything positive. (Now a week later and I am afraid we have to bow to the inevitable)

Maybe todays driech weather adds a little to the mood but thoughts that Spring had arrived have dissipated a little. Fresh breeze blowing mostly from the west making fishing non existent and hard work when we get out. The catches have tailed off a little meaning that more fleets of creels have to be hauled to keep the supply going. Unfortunately we are a little out of sync with the numbers of people who have descended on Applecross. Even in the poor weather langoustine and scallops are the popular dishes. Creel caught always get mentioned as many people have not experienced the firm flesh of the creel caught as opposed to the trawled variety. But Spring has arrived between the showers and the snow forecasts

and some days at sea have been spectacular in their clarity.

The other days you just get through.

It is often at sea I see the arrivals and departures as indications of a change in the seasons. When you see buds appearing often there may be snow following. When you cycle home from the Inn on a Sunday evening and you see the three whooper swans take off in line head south and then wheel off to the north flying over Milton to disappear to the north up the Glen then you know Spring has arrived. A truly awesome sight as you see them at the start of a journey that will take them hundreds of miles north for the Summer. Now we have six more on the Loch, one assumes they are ones from further south who are resting for a few days before heading north.

One swallow does not make a Summer but two bonxies make a Spring.

No grass cutting till the dandelions are away as the bees are flying on the odd days of warm sunshine.

We had a week of fantastic sunsets, possibly two weeks ago, time flys, every one different.

Last Wednesday was a day of contrasts. early start to get my bulkhead filter changed and land langoustines for the Inn before taking out a couple of boys from Deep South who wanted to film for a pilot show about outdoor/wild activities and it seems, through a contact, I fitted the bill. All was going well until trying to get the filter back together. I have had trouble in the past with this but after a couple of hours, gave up, sacrificed a washer and it all came together making sure everything wa sealed up as it was downline from the fuel pump so would draw air if not. Knackered with the effort in a cramped space but was just on time for the boys and a decreasing north westerly. Have to be careful with passengers assessing how assimilated they are to the work space and Rufus and Steve did not have their sea legs. The day gradually improved and they seemed happy with what they filmed. They tried a drone flight but was aborted as on the way up it hit one of the buoys on the cat rail, adroitly caught by Steve before disappearing down under. Unfortunately my battery was flat so no photos of the film crew. Ashore in time for a shift at the Inn and the visitors have arrived. There is little time to make much contact now as the numbers mean that you are just trying to find them a table to eat a meal before the next wave comes in.

Saturday and Sunday shifts were a bit like that but still the welcome must be maintained or there is little point in being there. I think that there could hardly be a worse place to work if you did not want to. Having said that when you are a little under pressure some one says something or orders something that is either misheard/misconstrued or just plain wrong you have to keep smiling and back stage there are plenty people to laugh at you as can be seen when little Missy from Aussie land appears with a “mistake” on a plate.

We have attracted a group of Polish residents from London….they drive up every third or forth weekend, the group getting bigger and bigger, Sunday lunch found them colouring in the kiddies drawing books while waiting for lunch, different but then this is the Inn.

Even dealing with the numbers there is nowhere else one would want to be.

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