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

Posts tagged ‘Coast Road Truckers’

One World in Fancy Dress.

(Was writing this in the cafe of Scottish Parliament but Virgin Wifi not good and lost it on way home) I almost made it but on the way out an Aussie lady with a bottle of sambuca suggested, quite strongly I may say, that we should partake in a valedictory shot. Which led to another one and another one and all the goodbyes and tears of the previous half hour were to no avail as we made our way back into the core of the party. Had a bit of a catch up since and the vaguer parts of the night are being filled in by some of the other more experienced drinking compadres.

The event was the end of season Applecross Inn staff party, although no one believes it is even close to end of season. It being a fancy dress party and this being the Applecross Inn, meant there were impressive attires on view. Every one from Wally to Thelma were on display including the witches, cats and clowns and various others just as impressive. Great food, lots of drink and after the Coast Road Truckers warmed us up Glittery Johnny got the karaoke going. So a night of food, drink and terrible singing just flew by. Astronaut Aron’s Relax was well impressive, the Boss’s and my Brown Eyed Girl was pretty awful and there was no shortage of volunteers. I went as a Moroccan wearing a borrowed kaftan


before changing into an Indian kurta


before ending up at home in the kilt.


So many photos were taken that the progress was followed by the camera and karaoke. Many photos on Facebook and Elaine kindly, if that is the right word, supplied my three. Because of the sambuca I ended up with the crowd singing Hotel California, why I ended with one of the mics is usually because they find the worst singer in the crowd. Seems that is “good” karaoke. It was a fancy dress party so, although not talked, about the fuzzy idea behind costume changes was saying it is one world with all our different cultures, ideas and heritage. One is no better than the other and all are to be respected as long as they come within a general view of human decency. Seeing the young folk of today who travel and work round the world I have hope that they can deal with the many problems,especially environmental, that they are going to have to face in their lifetimes. For me I have always regarded it as a privilege to know them as they pass through Applecross. The night ended with a rousing Hey Jude for the boss before a very apt fire alarm cleared the building. Of course by this time I was well beyond redemption and the party carried on at 6/7. The theme of the night was a hug, a feeling of camaraderie with lots of good people. Seems the goodbyes were repeated three times during the evening so there were lots of tears as I say the right things to reduce travellers to break down…in a nice sort of way. Was told that there were another two at the staff house but things were extremely vague by then. There was a little run of bad luck with the chefs with a couple of cracked ribs with one and another’s car had some very severe broken ribs, discovered air bags where he never knew they were kept, but no personal damage. A fine night with conversations ranging from economics to illusions, there being many silly forgotten ones. Needless to say the problems in Applecross, Scotland and the World were sorted very quickly and easily with nothing more than a tipple to lubricate the negotiations. Huge thanks to everyone at the Inn who set up, cooked and generally organised a great night for lovely people to have a ball.

Monday was payback day and it cost a lot. There was a six-mile walk broken up by a substantial bacon, sausage and egg roll, think I was hugging chefs on Sunday, a look up to see Dan who was in doing some work on the hydraulic ram at the Turbine House, good to see all is well as it is 90kWhs weather,


a fry up, sleep and finished off the recovery with a Macaroni and Cheese tea. This coupled with the desire not to partake in any alcohol beverages for quite some time. As there was a planned trip to Edinburgh to see Fergus Ewing about fishing on Tuesday a short night’s sleep on the couch before a half three rise to catch the early train in Inverness.


After the excitement of the connection, there was the usual keeping it together and making for work. You could tell that the pressure was released when the boys came down from the Turbine House for their late dinner on Thursday. The main relief was that Sandy and his team came good.


There was still much to do and although the site works and landscaping will be left to the spring when the weather improves, programs, hydraulics, taking weights of the deflector, allowing for smoother drop and many other checks have to be carried out. The boys just had a couple of pints and looked pretty wiped out before making it back up to check the now running turbine before switching it off for the night.

Friday was a longish shift with some more of the Hydro guys and families appearing in preparation for an informal commissioning celebration, combining this with the Primary school coming out for their Christmas meal. It was a grand night busy but easy going and friendly. In fact nights like these hardly feel like work although the kitchen had to deal with 95% of their covers in around half an hour. As usual they coped well with top compliments flying back to the chefs. No mistakes from out front and all went smoothly, with Roddy and Elliot joining in only briefly. Did not stay out too late as a day at sea was planned for Saturday and I left the remaining revellers to it, leaving about 11.30.

Early start, up in the pitch black, a normal time for summer but does not feel right. Bit nervous the batteries would be flat but have disconnected the lighting bank from the starter bank and we were okay. Uneventful day although spent a fair bit splicing up cuts. Wasn’t out hauling these creels for about 3/4 weeks so other boats fishing close by catch them. Either that or the last day I was out must have been very careless and shot five fleets over other fleets of creels. No matter a good day passed rapidly


and it was growing dark by the time I got to the moorings.


Tried the new spotlight out, unfortunately it did not perform but got in safe enough. Result was that it was a bit of a rush getting ready for the evening shift. Did not discover it but forgot to pull the dinghy out. Only realised when I received a phone call saying it was close to the shore. No damage as there was no weather and she just rested on the beach as the tide slipped out.

HighlandEco had decided that their Christmas dinner was going to be at the Inn this year, partly to celebrate the success of building the Applecross scheme and of course they knew the food would be okay. Mick with a bit of inside info bagged the last venison loin the previous night and the fresh squats, scallops and langoustines made an appearance. Boss was a little worried that it was not going to plan at the start as it appeared a little bitty. But it was so informal and friendly and it wound its way naturally through the evening.


The late arrival of Steve, Craig and the irrepssible Kyle added to the numbers and bonhomie. I managed to squeeze in a delightful squat lobster Thai green curry. Highland Eco use the same contractors and you can see a strong bond that results in everyone working as a team, complimenting each other. There was a short spell we as a board were looking to another contractor to carry out the works, but circumstances allowed for that decision to be corrected and the final result vindicates the Board taking the Eco route. Despite everything put in the way, every hurdle and problem was cleared with a whole day to spare. The main feeling I picked up from the evenings entertainment was the buzz of a happy group of people,


some just in for the music provided by the Coast Road Truckers,


and many out to enjoy the achievements of the community built scheme. The music was complimented by many first time listeners and there were a couple of times during the evening I took a step back and just thought WOW, hardly believing what has just been achieved. Always planned a couple of Crabbies to celebrate and it was noted by many, concerned of course that I was on the road to alcoholism. Severely limited and now back to not drinking. Too much effort and have no time to spend just recovering from drinking too much no matter how much the enjoyment of the evening. Quote of the evening was, “this scheme has given us the most satisfaction in all the ones we have built”. That is saying something considering all the stresses along the road, not least the financial pressures involved in the contract. Delayed payments and trust ran through the whole project which inevitably lends more to the achievement. There was a suggestion that a few photos should be taken




while every one was still standing


and that was duly carried out with Kyle appearing quite prominently in many.


Seems there are another series of photos taken later while he was modelling underwear. That is for another part of the Internet and may be used in later life…….another reason not to imbibe too much in today’s technological age.


I made it home happy and relatively sober by 1.30am, still I think not completely taking in the immensity of what has happened. It was great to meet Leanne, Paul, Jen, Katie and reaquaint myself with Steve, Craig and of course Kyle. Taking Dougal out looking up at a crisp clear sky, the stars of Orion’s Belt, bright to the south west there was a small element of satisfaction that Applecross is now producing some green renewable energy for the foreseeable future. So small in the grand universe but the ocean is made up of many drops.

Fishing Competition and Raft Race Weekend.

(Sunday evening) Not sure how far this post will go but home after another brisk day at the Inn. After landing the langoustines yesterday and thinking they would last till I was back out on Tuesday I was back out to the Varuna for another two boxes. They are playing a star role at the moment, going out to locals and visitors alike. Great to see people relishing good wholesome Scottish food in a dramatic surround and for once fine weather. Todays weather was slightly off kilter in that it was blowing a gale from the east but the temperature was up into the mid 20s and blue skies all around. A long and fairly tiring shift and when a finish at ten was offered I did not protest too much. Lots of walking involved as many folk were sitting outside eating in the Garden, Patio or just outside the Inn. All the flags out at one point and reactions to flags by some are interesting. The Polish who did not want the German flag is fair enough, bit of history there, the Swiss who do not want the French flag, and the Lithuanian who was so disappointed in us not having her flag. Maybe go onto to eBay and purchase a few. Flags are funny symbols of national belonging that some people hold dear and most people would say a region then a country. I am first and foremost a Highlander who looks to the sea for a living and a way of life. And for the life of me cannot explain why my flag is the saltire and not the Union Jack. A strange statement from some one who does not consider oneself to be Nationalist.

Back to the script, Friday and Saturday were concerned with the Raft Race, Fishing Competition and aftermath. Tricky decisions had to be taken due to weather forecast but everything went ahead as planned despite a heavy down pour as the Rafts were heading towards an exciting finish.


Lower numbers than usual but with a following wind all three were neck and neck at the finish. Working during this part of the evening and only took the camera out after it was all over. Funny to think this man


keeps my boat afloat, this being the same man later,


after over £1000 raised for Macmillan Cancer Relief Care, at the Hall shorn. The second photo was taken by Lesley Fox at the Hall. One of the best engineers on the west. The lifeboat from Portree came over,


unfortunately the helicopter was called out, the Coast Road Truckers played the night away and the Inn kept serving.


The Fishing Competition took place on Saturday without the Varuna as I was still trying to keep the langoustines on the menu and I hate standing about on the boat doing nothing waiting for people to catch fish. Also I know very little about catching so is a bit unfair on who ever would come out. My day was as usual, as it was a windy start, washed a fleet and went out about twelve,


hauled 200 creels and parachuted into the Inn till around eleven. Only the bonxies for company.




Came across an electric blue squat lobster, usually found on the line and not at 50 fathoms.


Enjoyed the challenge and did not hit the wall until after ten which meant it was very easy to drive past the entertainment going on at the Community Hall.

Going further back to Thursday and the three start to cover breaks and in for the long haul as Tarneybackle were playing after nine.


Last two times it has gone well sorting out the diners and finding the space for the band to set up. Small Inn and needs a fine line between getting it done and not spoiling the customers enjoyment. They have a dedicated following and were enjoyed by all.


I am sure they would not mind me saying that “The Glasgow Cat” is not the bar staff’s fav tune although the Boss was in there with all the actions. I was watching a follower making some slightly bizarre motions, not having taken part in the song before, and did not realise this was a request for the song. More my kind of song was their fine version of Dougie Maclean’s Caledonia, but that is the beauty of music, something for everyone. The wee chappie from Dundee got so excited after the rendition of Bonnets o’ Dundee that he stotted over to Judith and declared she had “the best pub in the world”.

Serious signs of autumn


well under way


although some of the summer bits and pieces have not finished such as the Buddleia which is still flowering away.

Monday is for something completely different.

Local Coffee Band (Americano)

Sitting at the end of the bar after a call out to help the evening shift through, The Coast Road Truckers playing on T8, when I say table 8 that means shifting T8 to T9 along with 6 guys on it and putting T9 on top of the pool table, small pub, and surrounded by a hum of conversation…a good place to be. Laughed at the post from The Applecross Inn fb page which described the music as Americano, they are good but we just do filtered at the Inn, latte at a push. They can now be known as the local coffee band, although the Shieldaig contingent look as they have come over just for the coffee.IMG_6896 Busy night with three big groups in and all went well with the usual compliments accompanying the great food.  Accommodation is now back under way and the “new year” is long gone. Atrocious weather again, bad enough to stop you working on the wood even. It is just day after day, relentless. Left around eleven, in miserable weather on the bike but with some chocolate chip and golden syrup to be consoled with.

Reports of a very high tide around half eight and some people had to go up through the Estate road to get around the Bay, went up this morning to see what it was like


but as the weather had settled and the pressure had risen a little there was only the seaweed evidence on the road.


Appears you could not get down to Toscaig pier last night for a couple of hours. Even with the weather a bit more settled the tide was high enough and it was just as well I got the wood off the shore as it would have been washed away. Enjoyed the shift last night as you get to know people towards the end of the week as they come in for several meals. After the trip up the road and a visit to the shop with Dougal and Co it was a day of wood blocking.


Fallen behind in keeping the wood dry for burning but that should be sorted over the next week or so once I get this lot under cover. Meanwhile Dougal goes out on his rodent search accompanied by his mother, it does not matter what he does he ends up filthy but you have to admire his zest for life.


Back to minutes, books an bills as I have promised myself a less stressful year and that means doing things on time. Unfortunately am going to have to suffer a few reminders before I catch up but going to use the Celtic Connections as an incentive. Tickets for six concerts are here which include Indian, African, Hindustani, Scottish Contemporary Traditional, The Transatlantics and even Psalm Singers. Holidays in January must be one of the best solutions to SAD.IMG_6906

Storms,a landslip and Trucking harmonies.

Tonight it is dark and windy,last night it was stormy, having to get up at 2.30am, to go down and get some sleep on the couch as it was too noisy upstairs. I would love the wind just a little bit more if I did not have a boat bouncing on the moorings at Pol Creadh. The morning broke with me checking that everything was where it should be. House seems to have survived intact ,the hive is still in place and the Varuna is sitting more peacefully on her mooring.


Even with the grim weather we are having, there are light shows still going on. Earlier this week just looking across to the Cullin, late in the afternoon, the south end of Saint Island is lit up. Christmas passed uneventfully with lots of good food and full complement of boys home plus Jill. Handy having a cook in the family and the rest of the day was spent relaxing and reading. Watched the least telly ever and felt all the better for it. A BBC Alba prog on the Macdonald brothers from Runrig was worth the watch but nothing else. Even with most off the staff away there has been little doing at the Inn until the last couple of days. Always hard to judge what goes on at this time of year but local knowledge helps….knowing very few of the holiday houses are booked. Now they are fully booked and taking a lot of bookings mean the next little spell is going to be full on. A surprising number of Europeans about, Belgians,Italians,French and Dutch in the last couple of days. And the usual flattering compliments about the food were passed on to the kitchen. Applecross is more about the New Year than Christmas.

Another landslip on the Stromeferry Bypass meant an anxious few days to see if trade was going to be affected again like last year. Fortunately it was a minor slip and  unstable rock left hanging had to be brought down totalling about 15/20 tons and it has already been reopened. There is no longer any confidence on this route with buses taking school children along it twice a day. Without being alarmist it will never be safe. HC are going through a process which many residents hope will result in one of two options…..bridge or route round through Attadale. Little story about dynamite found in the woods not far from the Bypass in the press this week reminded me of a summer holiday spent in Toscaig the year they built the Upper Toscaig road. it was left to the local road crew to carry out the task and some blasting at the junction was involved. Making it slightly more efficient they drilled holes enough for two blasts and filled them up with some sticks. They then covered up the intended blast to minimise the spread of rock. Unfortunately due to a wee break in concentration the wrong blast was covered and rock rained down on Upper Toscaig, giving Danny Mor the fright of his life. I ended up with a rusty nail through my foot as we were sheltering in a barn on the croft and were more than a little disturbed by the bang and rock shower. The days of health and safety were in the distant future.


Last night The Coast Road Truckers were at the Inn and played a really good selection of Americana. Great harmonies and a good night. Meant I missed the 2nd part of William Boyd’s Restless and the Michael Mara Tribute, but iplayer to rescue this evening. The storm of last night left most unscathed although there were a few unusual sights such as the fence at the Hall being covered in dead grass.


Pleasant shift to work today and there were plenty customers about and with the conditions outside pretty grim there were a number of lesuirely lunches. Before heading home Steve and I headed down to Milton to tuck Robert’s dingy up by the shed as tonight’s forecast is pretty severe. Despite the seemingly unremitting gales there are little breaks where you have to stop and take a little time out. Looking south on Milton pier was one such moment.



Yet another Funeral,the Pantomime and a Brioche.

As well as the beautiful mornings we had at the start of the week the sunsets were spectacular as well.


It is so beautiful when the sun goes down behind the Cullin at this time of year. There is a totally different kind of light on the Sound.


On Wednesday after a few jobs it was off to Balmacara to see off my aunt Eilidh who was my mum’s sister-in law and from Plockton herself. The weather was fairly unpleasant and after the internment it was off to the Plockton Inn where a small gathering of cousins met up. It is always good to catch up with relatives you have not seen for a few years and reminisce about growing up in Plockton, messing about on the water,playing football,cricket…yes we do that in the Highlands and going to church of course. As my granny’s house was the stopping off point for all the travelling FP ministers who preached at the communions held in the communities across the highlands. These communions were held annually and began on the thursday and went on till monday morning, with lots of time in church which was not the best appreciated by us young kids. Strong shinty influence from the Abriachan part of the family and had a reminisce about playing shinty in San Fransisco in 1980 and joking we were the fore- runners of the 4 teams that are over there now. Trail blazing again…. So not many left of that generation of our family, my mum and 2 aunts.

When you go out of Applecross word gets around and you do what is natural here, that is picking things up and dropping stuff off. Half a hind was loaded up to be dropped off in Lochcarron, then the phone rings so it was a stop of in Kishorn to drop off some money and to pick up picture frames. At Plockton Catherine came up to me at the hotel and asked if it was ok to take a couple of kegs af Plockton Bay ale back to the Inn. Really like this part of living here and some people who come to live here are always very grateful for these favours and want to pay you for them. They take a while to understand that it just goes around and you do not have to do a “favour” back but you do one for some else and it just goes round and keeps a community together. I know I owe so many people but if you keep it going it always comes back and it great and rewarding when it comes from an unexpected source.

Yesterday was time out with a visit to our primary school pantomime and to be frank the kids were brilliant. Obviously a lot of work went in to it against all circumstances of colds,flus and only one managed dress rehearsal. You would never have known. There was a big girl, called Marion who keeps repeating primary 7, She is the one wielding the axe.


The scenery and background work, lighting and sound were all great, one amusing aside was the official film crew took the wrong attachment to his tripod and the start of the opening scene was drowned out by the sound of packing tape being wrapped around the camera to try to keep it steady on its base.


The other major event of the day was the eagerly anticipated launch of the Coast Road Trucker’s first album, Rolling. Well the box of 150 CDs arrived as we were standing out the back of the Inn, so it was a fairly low-key event. On sale at Nanny’s today, I believe and it is good.The Inn in the evening was busy with the VT coming down for their Christmas dinner, a couple of residents and a trial run for tonight’s Brioche which was quite extra ordinary.Had some myself at the end of shift, unfortunate for Aron, as he had a piece booked if any was left over. But he was “content” to watch me eat mine. So many chefs,so many things to eat…what a place this is at the moment. So the solstice has passed as I write this and the days will begin to stretch out, always remember a neighbour who stayed beside us in Toscaig and every June 21st would comment “the nights are drawing in now”, a slightly gloomier way of looking at the world. Of all the politics and ups and downs over the past year was met with this attitude I would be in a spot of bother by now. Maybe its a just a part of growing older but when people who disagree with you personalise an argument you don’t take umbrage as much as you used to and as many people have said recently when some one goes down that path they have very little of import to say.

CHAS annual fund raiser at the Inn.

The annual CHAS fund raiser took place at the Inn on Sunday. Busy barbecue fed lots of bikers coming from all over Scotland to raise monies for a very worthy charity.

A little dancing took place on the street.

The music was provided by the harmonious local band Coast Road Truckers, Frostie being one of their, sometimes, four harmonies. Transport links from Oban meant percussion was delayed.


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