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

Posts tagged ‘fishing’

“Hindsight is an Exact Science”

Feels like a weeks worth has been done and it is only Wednesday, but then when does a week start and finish in Applecross? On Sunday it was one of those days when the door at the Inn opened around 11.30 and stayed open as people came in from all corners of the world, I am pretty sure there was some one from every continent in. I know we had Afrikaans, Chileans, Asians, Aussies and the usual Europeans and North Americans all complimenting the food and service, the weather which was a little wintry did not put anyone off. Kitchen worked well and long and when I sat down at around six it was to a fine shell of hand dived scallops with a rice and salad to go with it. By the end of the day the weather had improved somewhat and Thor appeared over Skye and Raasay to show the visitors that Applecross has at least two seasons a day.

This meant that with the forecast for a breezy Monday morning from the west to settle down later, a relaxed start to the day was appreciated. With it being so busy though I had to get out and a lunch time haul into early evening brought the langoustines back on to the menu board. With a few more berries appearing in the creels another fleet has to be hauled to keep the supplies going. Almost got the long-standing fleet on the Pier repaired so that will go out in the next week.

Monday evening we had a Trading Company meeting and the main topic at the moment is broadband. It is complicated and with so many factors involved, quite a few of them are not in our control. Giving everyone individual addresses before switching over to the new system has thrown up more than a few problems. We have had no internet for about 4 weeks, but is now up and running. Likewise the North Coast although there is a lot of drop off. Today’s problem is a router in Toscaig which is now in the post so that should be sorted fairly quickly. I think that the statement “Hindsight is an exact science” could quite easily be applied to our attempts at providing this service. We all find it very draining and the strong rumour that fibre optic is coming over the Bealach, treated with a fair amount of skepticism admittedly, would be such a boon to our efforts in keeping the system going. Using remote islands to service the more tricky parts of the peninsula, relying on people’s good will, while not having enough expertise in the community to ease the burden of the few who are keeping the system up and running is getting harder and harder. The alternatives are pretty grim, getting a half meg from BT or paying three times as much for a poor satellite service that is constantly being slowed down as they put on too many users restricting width. Maybe we have to go through the fire like we did with the Filling Station before we find a solution to our problems. The latest national solution is certainly not going to work in its current form, loading so much work on community groups so we get the next generation network. We are struggling to get and keep this generation one. However as always you feel better after a meeting like this as you hear everyone’s views, opinions and the actions to be taken. Must be a sign of age or just the fact I have been self-employed my whole life, I accept we are where we are and we have to deal with it, maybe some of the decisions we take will not be to everyone’s individual benefit but will have to be taken.

Going fishing and easing away to some extent from the direct stress of these issues helps although the body comes under a fair bit of pressure hauling over 400 pots. Beautiful sunny/blue sky day,

gannets

and even the seagulls were enjoying.

It was warm but never too much so, it is always too hot or to wet or too windy or too cold for some people, this must be another age thing…it is what it is. Over the Monday/Tuesday I was keeping fish/shellfish and other sea creatures alive for a pick up on Tuesday evening to stock a refurbished sea water tank in Moray. Some boys had been in touch and they were diving in Lochcarron to collect some shallow water animals. Managed some lemon sole, wrasse, codling, feather stars, shrimps, dog whelks, a couple of small octopodes and a big seven finger starfish. Surprised to learn they only live  for about three years, overfeeding on langoustines I reckon. The fact that I was able to keep the various animals alive with relative ease shows how the creels work in our environment, only cropping what we need to sell and returning the other sea life back. Opinions are currently a little tense on the inshore waters fisheries with opinions properly divided between mobile and creel sectors. I find it almost mirrors the political state of the country where you only look at the facts that confirm your views. Classic example of that is a minke whale comes ashore drowned with rope damage and immediately creel men around the coast are to blame for every mammal drowned. There is no doubt that the re are fatalities, I have had two in my forty years at sea and suffice to say these two days to have been my worse days in the job, far worse than losing a boat, which I have managed to do as well. Anecdotal, I know, but these mortalities take place in both fishing methods.

Today, with a brisk south-easterly wind blowing I was up early to wash the fleet I kept on board,

rather warm for the pooches though,

Dougal for once being more sensible than Eilidh,

before going up for a badly needed massage. Was second in line so took an hour out at the Inn patio with the headphones on and listened to breathing and music while watching the ever-changing light on the Cuillin. Not a bad way to have a break before the ever so painful massage. I register how much I need them by how painful they turn out. These massages are more than just physical manipulations but the chat is holistic as well and having No3 at home over the last couple of weeks there have been a few “in the mind” chats as well to counter the pain of headaches. Sarah also has some great yoga moves which I am hoping to find time to carry out. Actually all this adds to a good feel good factor and having a half hour to ones self is surprisingly regenerative. Now as it is Thursday morning fishing calls.

“It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got.”

( Wednesday evening) Every now and again things are in place which either mean all is well in life or there is a spot of trouble to deal with. Today was one of those days when you have to cope with a spot of bother. Early start due to a day off yesterday and the plan to haul extra fleets went well until the last one. Just a wee bit tired, 540 creels hauled and thinking of heading home, turning round to shoot back my final creels, found myself on the wrong side of a creel which wrapped itself round my legs. That would be okay to deal with but I was in gear and going half ahead so the weight of the buoy was trying to pull me over the stern. Adrenalin kicked in and after what felt like an age, but was probably only a minute, I managed to ease myself into a position to fall backwards off the creel and away from the rope that was trying to catch an ankle. Only resulted in a couple of pulled muscles and a little shake. Thinking about it on the way in you accept that was as close as you want to go but no point in dwelling over it or you would pack in the job. Clarity of thought is so distinct and so many people say how time seems to slow when you are in serious trouble, but I reckon it is the mind working through the survival strategy. I am sure there are many incidents that happen every day at sea like this and no amount of regulation can cut them all out. One of the silly thoughts that went through the brain was, “mustn’t spoil the upcoming wedding”, daft, I know, but it gives that bit more of an incentive, if any was needed. So the engine stopping on the way into the moorings turned a good long day at sea into one of those days. Uncertain about why she stopped but got her going quickly and soon was tied up.

( Tuesday, last week) One of the things I love about this life is its unpredictability, slightly later than usual I was getting ready to go fishing last week when I saw an unfamiliar boat heading slowly into the moorings. Turns out Joel with three SNH guys were out on a wee field trip. Unfortunately their gear box was playing up and heading for Lonbain was too risky. After a request for help, equipment and people were put aboard the Varuna,

we steamed north shooting yesterday’s cleaned fleet off in the Bay. We were looking for flame shell reefs and although we were working with gps marks it was not till the last dip with the camera that we came across them.

There was plenty evidence of maerl beds which is good in itself. I am sure this would be described in certain quarters as supping with the devil, but if it helps the environment in any way I am up for it. Passing The Sand Base on the way home one wonders about the 22 million investment…….

Hauled a fleet, on the way in, still trying to hook up my missing one but failed yet again. Lots of squats though so not a total waste of time. Started towing the boat south

to meet Angus who completed the rescue, turning up just south of Saint Island.

Another few broken creels mended and a squat lobster fried rice completes the day. Means an early start tomorrow to make up for the lost time.

( Now Thursday evening) And now taking a bit of time out after a busy night at the Inn, a spot of reflection. With Tarnybackle singing It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got, so true working at the Inn. Introducing the song it sounded like a plea from the heart asking why we do not help each other more instead of just looking out for ourselves. Classic small example of this was Zuzu and I headed over to the Filling Station to try to sort out the lack of receipts over the last week. I had tried on several occasions and Zuzu had a go as well before going off on hols for the last week. Pooled knowledge and we sorted it out in approximately five minutes. Went into the system as the engineer and got the drawer opened with a bit of knowledge I had learned and fixed my earlier mistake. Good feeling of working together for community benefit walking back to the Inn. Where it was one of those special nights, friends made, can see several tables with people deep in conversation with each other they had never met before eating their meals together earlier in the evening. The camaraderie is immense and although the Boss was a bit tense thinking it was going to be a struggle to seat every one nothing went wrong, comments were off the scale about the food and the service. Easy for me to convey a magnificent Highland night of hospitality, food and drink, (Sandy even got his chic chip ice cream with sprigs of mint) and fine appreciated music. Enjoyed Green Fields of France, Caledonia and others of the folk and country tradition. Like the last couple of years working at the Inn with an ever-changing but fantastic team gives you so much satisfaction. It has been very fulfilling despite the numbers over the last few days and regulars keep coming back despite the ten levels of busy. Rob in his dapper tweeds always cuts a fine picture. Asked if he would mind a picture taken but my shift finished before he came down on the Sunday evening. The Boss took an iPad photo.

Asked to take some photos of the new wonderful lobster linguine

and as they were opposite and very photogenic the langoustines were snapped as well.

Did not know it was supposed to be for the Herald or more care on composition would have gone into the shot. The intrepid two arrived back yesterday, pretty knackered, hungry but contented.

( Finish off Friday evening) As ever one day does not lead into the next with any sort of conformity. This morning saw me out on the Varuna but nothing doing when I went to start her, ignition okay but starter motor dead. Ashore, phoned the ever reliable Ewen, luckily in Inverness, new one picked up and now in the van, ready for refitting tomorrow, langoustines in for the day and the old motor off with out the usual one stuck nut problem. That is usually my engineering experience. Lazy sort of day with only activity was spending lots of money on camera equipment, mainly to keep ashore as the marine environment takes its toll on the one I have. Although the weather is a bit broken the langoustines are still going into the creels although the numbers of berries seem to be coming in earlier this year. The days we are out are a joy to be on the water,

still waters and a view to die for

in every direction.

Interesting vessel moored at the moorings last week,

someone doing some serious open water rowing.

Did not get to chat so have little info about who it was.A wee blast from the past occurred when Willie came over on Saturday evening from Erbusaig to help entertain the Sally Leaving Do. There was only 27 of them and they were great craic. One thing I like in the Highlands is the generation cross over and girls in school with the boys just treat you as anyone else rather than parents. Banter flowed and a fair few vodka and lemonades were consumed, some with ice. The handbag was heavy with tins of cider on the bus for the way home. Back to the blast from the past and it was a photo that appeared on FB of the Curlew being fitted out on the Slip in Kyle, my Dad being on the left of the four, this would be in the seventies and a few memories came back……

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.

 

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.

In the News Followup

Interesting the reaction when you put your head over the parapet. Briefly went onto a forum but it was brief. As regards the creel verses trawl for langoustines I follow the Calum Roberts line of a degraded environmental baseline. It is a generational degradation of the marine environment. Some of the best ways to tell the story is to talk to older members of the community, your parents and grandparents, elderly neighbours. I remember Danny Mor telling me about foul hooking salmon as they ran past Ardban. Foul hooking is just putting lines and hooks in the water and the fish running into them as they are swimming toward the rivers. Almost incredible to think that there were so many salmon and not that long ago. The 90-year-old who went out to get the cod for the village before lunch time. The herring nights stacked on Camusteel pier, falling over the edge from a high tide and northerly swell and so much herring about that there were some caught in the nets hanging over the edge of the pier. My grandfather would think there had been a disaster if he saw what is not in the waters off the Applecross shores now. We are reduced to catching bottom scavengers. Lovely tasting crustaceans but beasts that crawl over the seabed and eat the detritus that falls through the marine food column. If a young fellow starts up and catches enough for a decent wage he thinks all is well. What he should do is talk to the spirits of those who have lived and fished these waters to learn what we have fished out in the last 100 years. The forum shows up the same old, same old and just ends up getting very personal, best to stay clear for health reasons. The main objection I have to all the stuff thrown my way is that it is a positive decision to stay small, to earn enough and a little more, to leave some behind for the next generation. To stay small-scale and earn a decent living fits the environment I live in. It is not just about langoustines it is about a healthy marine environment. MPA type fish protection areas are being introduced around the world as other seafaring nations are seeing that the status quo is unsustainable. The fish marks around the Inner Sound are historic, of a time past, whether they are the haddie bank off Lonbain, the cod peaks to the south of the Crowlins or the hake hole off Rona. The argument raging at the moment is centred round the viability of each method, accusations and counter accusations of putting fishermen out of business, it is far bigger than that. There are not many current photos taken in Applecross Bay like this.

Where I would diverge from the mobile fleets opinion is the degradation was greatly accelerated just before the Inshore Fisheries Act of 1984 when the trawl poaching for prawns really took off. I went fishing a few times with my dad at the back of Kyle in the early 70s but already by that time the waters were getting such a hammering that it was only dog-fish that we were catching. Mackerel is the only catch of the day these days. It is not about division, about not working together, it is about treating the marine environment with more respect than we have done in the past. The west coast herring fishery was a classic case of mismanagement, boom and terminal crash as technology overtook stock regeneration. I have always thought the Highland environment is only able to cope with small-scale exploitation.Sticking with the small-scale unit, sometimes you feel you have to justify staying small. I have had the crewman and the 32 ft Cygnus and decided I am better suited to single-handed and have built the Varuna, locally, for that purpose. Said it so many times before that the best fishermen are not the ones catching the most or earning the top dollar but those that can leave for the next generation.

Back to Friday and a day at sea that now and again you have to suffer to keep the langoustines on the menu. The wind was a steady 4/5 and managed a 300 creel haul with a decent catch, stopping only to retie the vivier tank to stop it sliding across the deck. Hard work but satisfying although on the way home the engine raced a little. Hope it is dirty filter and not drawing air. This morning spent a couple of hours on board changing three filters and giving the deck a good scrub down. Dropped of some fine langoustine to keep the Inn going over the weekend.

Advantage of my creel fishing and marketing is I can keep a steady supply of live good quality langoustines for almost ten months of the year.Sticking to the small-scale operation, after checking I was not taking up ground I shot a long-line with the intention of growing some queen scallops and mussels for home consumption.

It will not be a permanent feature. I hope to resurrect some of my latent knowledge when I had my own scallop farm in the 90s. we found the king scallop spawning changed somewhat and we did not catch the spate in commercial quantities so stopped production and concentrated on fishing. It was probably the greenest way I have worked the sea, catching spat that would have rarely survived in the wild and by the time the scallops were sold/eaten they had spawned at least twice so adding to the marine environment while taking a wage and enjoying good, healthy food. Plan to try to catch some spat this summer but meantime take spat

off the creels

and put them into trays for on growing.

Fishing, Goodbyes and a bit of the Inn.

What a strange couple of days. Saturday I had planned an early fishing before going over to Plockton to see Bruce off, but that never happened as the Friday fishing was good enough to see through the weekend. Took at leisurely drive over calling in at Erbusaig for a wee catch up with a couple of mates before heading down to Plockton Hall. As some one said after, the bar was set high on how to see some one off. Although a sad occasion there were stories of his life, his skills, motor bikes (managing to blow two pistons on his mates bike), fishing tales alongside his innate knowledge of the waters around the Inner Sound, helpfulness with the Plockton Sailing Club in particular the safety boat. Always interested in the other side of people, the knowledge and interest he had in science and technology, so much more to Bruce than met the eye. And you meet many people you have n’t seen for a few years and more, “always at weddings and funerals”. Unfortunately there were more funerals than one could go to this week, but I always think if you think that some one is in your thoughts and life keeps you away from attending there are many ways in which you can show respect. These are not necessarily in the public eye but satisfy yourself in saying goodbye in other ways, this was the case regarding John and neighbour, Janet.

So back to the Inn and a surprisingly quieter evening, still people waiting for tables and a couple of late entrants but went calmly through service and home before eleven. Internet difficulties currently as we are switching over from ADSL lines to fibre optic and is being done remotely. Causing a fair few problems as our communication links with the remote operator could be better. Our man on the ground, Sean could not get into the system as the management set up had been changed but relevant info had not been passed on. Result being we have not had a connection for a week. A small problem as you wake up to the insanity in London. It’s with a sense of disbelief that some people can lose their humanity to such an extent of such indiscriminate life taking. And again with Applecross connections two messages on FB saying they were safe from current and previous staff at the Inn.

So you go to the Inn with a heavy feeling and although it sounds trivial one of the first orders goes wrong, but not. To explain, Rabbies bus came in and there were ten, that’s fine, and the drinks order and food order completed, wandered off to other tables. Went back to check everyone had their food and one guy had not. He said he ordered a Chicken Breast, nervously went back to the order and nothing on it so went to kitchen apologised for mistake, same at table, and spent next fifteen minutes off kilter as meal was cooked. Finally got back to table with meal only to find an empty plate in front of him. He had ordered Duck Breast and this had come out while I was faffing about trying to organise his Chicken Breast. Duck was lost in translation and had become Chicken, he was Italian. Customers are oblivious to what goes on behind the scenes. Busy but enjoyable lunch, with locals and visitors loving the good food and also the impromptu music session provided by a batch of guys and girl from around the Invermorriston area. Fine music and they were appreciative of the Inn as we were of their music, covers, Scottish and blues. Left around seven as no longer needed, heading home in the rain, but knowing there is a busy day ahead with an early morning fish coupled with a BBC chap coming to town to talk about inshore fishing.

The fishing goes on and even with the broken weather there is enough time to get out to sea and haul some creels. In between the breaks though…

The weather ashore was not too bad either.

Think I will try to split bees in a week or so if the weather settles down again.

A little changeable though.

Only need to haul 300 or so just now as there are quite a few small and medium langoustines on the grounds despite the attentions of all the Ollies.

A little unusual as this time of year used to be fairly lean as casting shells and breeding takes place. Little interest in food so creels are often empty. The broken bar creels are taking up a little time to mend but will get another year or two out of them. Recycling.

Caught my first skate , the first for a long time.

Reminds me of the girl at the Inn  who was making the flying motion (she had had a couple) and was asking was that a lemon sole. Worked out that possibly it was a skate but the next question was did have it a sting ray. When I suggested that a sting ray had that she disappeared out the door in double time. Unfortunately named passing traffic earlier in the week.

Had a couple of additions on board for Friday and although it was “a fine day ashore” a bit of a breezy day. Again the 300 hauled came up with the goods and the Cobley table were tucking into the results of the day’s endeavours by the time I caught up with them in the evening. Always interesting for reaction to what one does and they seemed impressed with the work rate on board. But it was an easy day as Dave changed over the buckets as they filled up with smaller prawns. Finish up with a picture of the Varuna, still floating.

Hegg Mac

In a bit of mild shock this evening over what could have been earlier. I am well aware of the greater tragedy for many folk after the insanity in Manchester. We have a Manchester connection at the Inn and it brings it home that we are never far away from the actions of madmen. These people have to have a disconnect with the norms of humanity to carry out acts like they do. My own potential mishap pales into insignificance when put against what the people of Barra must be feeling tonight, but life for others goes on.

Tuesday was a hit the wall day and that meant that absolutely nothing got done and resulting in eighteen hour days since, not remotely catching up but at least not falling further behind. The weekend featured the music brought to us by Hegg Mac, a band

that Matthias from Karslruhe,

brought over to play their world tour of Applecross. To be perfectly frank I did not hear as much as I would have liked. Saturday night the tour got underway at the Community Hall but as I was fishing and others were younger and keen to go I stayed on and finished at the Inn. Feeling pretty knackered so the ease on down of the late night suited me fine and the second night of the tour took place at the Inn. Busy old lunch even with the poor weather. Although sold as the “acoustic set” there was a fair amount of setting up.

When they did get to play they rocked and sounded really good. Good food

and great music, what more does one need, Raymond taking the snaps?

Again coming to the end of the shift I did not hear as much as I would have liked but did manage the whole of the first set. They finished up at the Walled Garden but that turned out to be my Wall day.

Monday saw me delivering langoustines to Loch Ness Inn, Alison to Beauly, Aron to Toscaig and racing around Inverness trying to organise passports, Gaelforce, Highland Wholefoods, before picking up wood and herring

on the way home. Light and still at the Shed moorings.

Maybe the Tuesday off was so on the cards although I did not see it on the horizon.

Back on the trolley for Wednesday and it was down to the Pier early to throw off some creels for washing,

before nipping up the road for a badly needed massage from Sarah, back to the Pier to wash the creels and then the shift at the Inn. Busy enough with a table of fourteen booked in at 8pm but as they were the Karlsruhe crowd on their last night all went well with only a short wait for tables for a couple of residents. We then finished the night with a truly acoustic session

but again tiredness takes over and I am off down the road for an early start on Thursday as the weather had quietened down.

Fishing fine and one of the fleets back in operation so just the other to find. Unusually have had five attempts at it so far, beginning to wonder if it has been dragged a little out of position. The well forecast weather arrived this afternoon

and it was a pleasure to be out.

Not a lot of sea life about but the views are fine and quiet waters are the order of the day. The bees are looking very healthy and busy

and the garden is buzzing with bees and colour.

That left today to deal with and all was going well. Varuna beached alongside the Pier, another fleet ashore to be washed along with the bottom of the Varuna. Things going swimmingly, not quite getting the fleet ready for going out in the morning as there were a few bars to repair. Not a good set of creels these ones. Have had a lot of the welds breaking earlier than they should. So with the oil change left to do I floated her off. Decided I would make a really good days work and change the oil at the moorings. Only just decided to do that as it was easily put off for a day or two. Went below and thought just a little more water than there should be, pumped her out and proceeded to empty the sump, then saw water pouring in from the aft compartment, another quick couple of pumps, change of oil and filters, open up the aft hatch to a little fountain of seawater coming in where there should be a bolted on anode. Rotted away and still have a little shake thinking if I had put the oil change off the Varuna would have settled on the bottom in about an hour. Phone to Ewen, who picked up parts on the way home and now ready for another beaching, through the night this time. So close to having my wee world turning upside down.

(2.00am) Ashore again after leaning her against the Pier, waiting for the tide and fitting a new bolt, packing and anode on. The light was fine on the way out,

so now a couple of hours sleep before it all starts again.

Back to Hegg Mac and talking to Matthias it seems the name is taken from a colloquialism with an added Scottish twist, basically meaning de stressing, going with the flow and Scottish, even Applecross style. Thought about that many times this evening when it all could have been so different.

Now 6.00am and all is well after my mini scare, the Varuna is back on her moorings, sitting peacefully as though nothing had happened, and I am going to bed after having an hour and a half sleep. So Hegg Mac works but a wee insight to what goes on behind the scenes in getting some langoustines on the plate.

Hydro Walk and Local Colour.

(Friday evening) Down from a trip up to the Head of the Community Hydro to show Rosslyn and brother Gordon the set up.

We had gone to the Turbine House where Owen joined us but he had band practice so did not head up the track. The view on the way down was worth the trip up on its own. Sights, sounds and chat all contributed to affine evenings walk. Having hauled 360 creels earlier in the day did not lessen the enjoyment although the legs felt it a little. Gordon is well versed in the industry, being involved in geotech in Norway, and may well come up with some new ideas to use the energy locally.

Lots of questions about generation, best times for usage, how much etc. Always good to see things from an outside perspective, learnt that early on in the volunteering scene. On the way up there are always colours

and nature to see and I was always being left behind both on the way up and back down. With the unusual dry spell we are in the 52% down spell included in the business plan.

(Saturday evening) Finishing up at the Inn tonight as have not the energy to go down to the Community Hall to hear the Band of Matthias. Germans playing rock covers. Busy enough evening but little contact, maybe a wee bit too tired but as long as no one knows. Coming up to eighteen hours since work began, earlier start with lambs calling and the rain falling, an unusual occurrence over the last three weeks. Not a fan of dozing so got up and used the forecast for the beginning of the week to get out. Bit of wind on the way so next week not expected to start before Thursday. There was a bit of a change in the blue skies we have had over the last few days.

Was fortunate to only have to haul four fleets as the fishing was fairly good. Despite having a fleet cut and not retired and losing a fleet, suspect some of the buoys the pile barge had wrapped around it was two of mine.

Two fleets down just now having lost one to the north, failing to recover that one after three tries. Not to panic as I will get it back eventually. That is fishing, plan a boat drying out and pressure wash, oil change and a trip to Inverness via Loch Ness Inn when it is windy. No end to the hours of activity. But in amongst it all I enjoy the chats with the elders of the community, random craic about sheep, peat cutting and had a visit from the south end of Raasay. A chap, Willie, who fished on the Mary Ann with my Dad no less. These little dips into the past are good for keeping the older folk alive, the oral history of the area will become harder to maintain in another generation as the world becomes more mobile. Well it is now kicking out time………. and done in the best possible taste.

The colours at sea

and on the shore

are equal to those on land, mostly they are out of sight and mind so tend not to be looked after as well but more of that next.

The light on the way down from the hydro did take the breath away though.

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.

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