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

Posts tagged ‘good food’

Three Days

The catch up continues with a pretty daft three days at the end of last week. Thursday went as normal, catching a few langoustines and lots of squat lobsters, then off to work at the Inn. All going well despite the slowing down of the fishing. The edge has been taken off the numbers coming through the door and with three people still on the floor things are so much easier. One or two late arrivals keep cooking going until the nine o’clock deadline  and then the craziness kicked in. Jump into the van and head south for an overnight to Edinburgh for a meeting to review the Marine Plan, three years after its installation. Made it as far as Ralia before disappearing into the back of the van and crashing out on the mattress put there just for the occasion. Arriving in Edinburgh in plenty of time, I had an appointment with an Apple IT chap to see if anything could be done for my iMac. Grim prognosis, but not without a little hope and a sideline I managed to gain a little knowledge in uploading photos to the blog on the MacBook. So not a total waste of time. I do not think I am a soft touch but seeing the homeless on the streets outside the Apple dept and Waverley Station with me passing them carrying a couple of grands worth of IT equipment seemed a touch too incongruous for my comfort. Dropping a pound into a cup did not make me feel any easier.

But time tramps on, getting a little lost and taking a bit longer to park at the Ocean Terminal meant I was slightly late….only to miss out on the coffee.

There was a couple of no shows and my name was missed out so I slotted in to a table with Sally and four others. It was actually far more interesting and productive than I thought and once we got going I had plenty to say. Unfortunately The Marine Plan is a touch too woolly and can be used to justify almost any activity at sea. It included offshore, oil and gas, renewables, as well as inshore fishing and salmon farming. Sally and I had our say about small-scale industries, coastal communities under pressure, population pressures, affordable housing….in fact we had plenty to say. A slightly worrying aspect to the day was the acceptance that one user may always be to the detriment of another. Agreeing that there will be problems in a physical sense it is a pity that this is the case. Surely  species specific fishing should be encouraged as opposed to the all in approach of the mobile sector. I always work on the theory that if you stay silent, or don’t vote then your voice at the Inn when you complain about life’s injustices does not mean so much. Again look at the Catalonians, they spoke and demonstrated peacefully. So that completed it was back in the van, but not before chatting to a couple of co-conspiritors who are trying to help regain some of the degraded marine environment and get some of the ocean life back to a more healthy state. The Marine Plan is aspirational but it will only stay that way until politicians take some brave and in some quarters, unpopular decisions that will improve the health of the inshore waters.

Mallaig and Feis na Mara was the next destination.

Made it over the New Crossing, lots of traffic on the way north.

Did not make the junction turn off on the M90 as it was closed so turned to the west at Dunkeld, going through the Sma Glen, Crieff and Crainlarich. A couple of snooze stops were needed so missed out on Anna and Mairead but enjoyed Mischa and Co followed by Dosca, a Glasgow fast playing trad band who are about to record their first album.

They were full on and the young crowd loved them. Great top see such a lot of young teens out and about. Lots of effort on a spangly look, some of the older ones joining in with lights in their hair and pink wigs. A very huggy crowd, may be due to people not seeing one another for a while with some from the islands and more remote peninsulas meeting up after some time. Then it was the turn of the main man, Griogair,

who arrived on stage with a variety of pipes,

bodran,

beat box and rap, Gaelic at that. This was all backed up with a pretty heavy-duty base beat from the DJ at the back. Wall of sound in Mallaig probably went on for a good while after I had left for the road at 1.00am. I was intending to stay the night but the call of home was too strong. Needed five snooze stops to get back by around six in the morning. Luckily the next gig was late due to the speed limits on the A9.

Next up was filming an advert for Volt ebikes. I have had a Volt Alpine for over 7500 kms and the Co of two brothers are doing a dozen stories of people using the bikes. It seemed to go well with me starting at the Varuna and a drone, coming ashore,

waiting for rain to pass, landing the langoustines, and taking them up the road to the Inn. very few retakes and finally serving the starter portion of langoustines to the boys.

All good positive fun and after riding the new version of the Alpine am certainly going to upgrade in the future. Then it was a simple task to slip back into one of the day jobs and start a shift at the Inn.

Slow Misty Mountain and Big Archie’s Dead Sheep.

The first of the days off involved getting up at half seven, nipping out to the Varuna for the medium langoustines, some to Applecross and the rest to Loch Ness Inn, before sorting out some mussels and seafood for the trip down to the south-west. I have never experienced a trip to Lochcarron such as the one on Monday morning. I picked up the convoy of eight cars at the little spring above the hair pin on the Applecross side of the Bealach and then proceeded to drive at between 5/15 mph through the mist till we came out the other side, increased to around 20mph after that so the fact that, although feeling a little pissed, I restrained from the horn or lights, passed one at Tournapress but not till Kishorn glen did I try to pass another, nipped back in when saw a camper coming the other way. Then got the finger from the car in front, young chaps in convoy, with silly little double exhausts, equally silly prints on back window, Arbath, NC500 2017. So waited until they decided to stop at the golf course before normal driving began and arrived 20 mins late for meeting.

Meeting went well and after a couple of hours, a quick shop, adding to the stack of seafood I left Applecross with, it was the road south to a hoped for break of two days of peace and bliss on the island. Taking the road down to Port Appin I was in unknown territory. Came down to the pier, unloaded and after local info parked van in right place. Peace was already descending and watched a fisherman catch a large mackerel of the jetty in the lowering sun.

Ferry appeared back from the island and was soon loaded up and on board for the short ten minute trip across.

We left the Pier House, a well known restaurant behind and were soon on the island.

It was apparent that all was going to be well as an elderly gentleman offered to take the bags and punnets of food down to the house. A fine plan as my two miles turned out to be a good four and carrying mayo buckets and bags would have meant two trips. As I was first to arrive the mussels were prepared and when the last ferry brought the others over we tucked into Andy’s suggested recipe of coconut milk and Thai paste to cook the mussels in was greeted with thumbs up all round. Simple meals are the best.

On Lismore and sitting round the table listening to the story of Archie, the film crew from Cologne, and the final scene of the dead sheep. Seems a group of film students from Germany came to the island for the purposes of making a film about a daughter finding her father but a sheep was killed before this happened by the daughter and it turns out the sheep was a particular favourite of the father. So to do the final scene. Big Erchie was asked for a dead sheep, one that had recently passed away. Well this was not available so Erchie dispatched one of his own and duly delivered the carcass to the film crew. They then began filming the final scene but they chose the only and busiest crossroads on the island, much to the chagrin of the residents. Not only that but it was around ferry time so a double whammy. To make matters worse Erchie’s partner discovered her pet/favourite sheep had made it into the other world so she arrived extremely irate at the film set. She soon had the film crew on their knees begging for a bit of peace and quiet to conclude their project. Tuesday morning saw the story embellished even further as Erchie had prior to delivering the “pet” tried to make use of a rather large and very dead tup, two weeks dead in fact, and having a blue tinge to it. With the help of a neighbour, tow ropes they attempted to use the tup but we’re overcome by the gasses that were emitting from the now mobile tup. So plan B was put into place and £70 changed hands to pay for the delivery of the dead sheep. Sounds as though the island was greatly affected by this German visitation to the extent that cars and water courses have still to recover.

So a couple of days of cycling, talking, meditating and walking are planned for the days ahead.

Life’s Rythms and Flows.

Autumn is officially in the air. Two observations back up that direct statement, the first was seeing the first batch of cuttlefish eggs on a creel hauled Friday

and the second was the first sighting of tweeds at the Inn on Sunday. Both nature and human indicators that we have moved into the season where the heather and bracken show their best colours across the bare hillsides.

Just a short catch up post as I am off out to the Varuna to yet again empty my stock of langoustines. At this time of year, generally speaking, with either not having kids, yet to have them or now have them flying freely themselves they come to Applecross with a little more disposable income. This means although the numbers coming through the door are slightly down (not much) they are eating even more of the top class seafood that the Inn buys in and cooks so well. Over the last couple of days the plates of langoustine, scallops, crab and lobsters just kept coming out of the kitchen. Yesterday lunch time we took a bit of a pummeling, possibly due to the English Bank Holiday, with big groups in all day. Rough count of over 200 covers and not many of them burgers. Love the variety of people coming through the door. The Rabbies bus kicks it all off with passengers from across the world coming on their day tour of the Highlands, groups from across the Highlands to Europe, a group who had cycled across Scotland from Aberdeen raising monies for Charities They were NHS Grampian Doctors) for a while it seemed that  the Landowners and Estates had taken over the floor for the afternoon with three big estates represented, finish off the evening with a group of Hungarian NHS workers from Bristol and both ex and current BBC Radio Scotland presenters in.

Struck by a strong feeling of the flows of life and living throughout the last few days. Have looked out the window,  we are now seamlessly into autumn and all the annual events run by the different groups take place, are catered for, and we move onto the next group of money raisers or revellers. Meanwhile the flow of seasons continue as the brambles appear, the leaves on the willow changes colour and the first few are blown off, the apples, a huge crop this year, are red and falling. Beneath all that the flow of the Inn, where people come in, find a seat, eat good food and are sent contentedly on their way is like the flow of a stream wending its way through a woodland. There is sometimes a feeling like that on board when you are hauling creels, you arrive back at the hauler as the next creel comes up out of the water and you start the opening, emptying, rebaiting and stacking over again. Behind these rhythms is the hard work of the unseen and they would not exist without the factory of thought and organisation the takes place behind the Front. That is not to say you ignore all the variety that makes up such a rich flow, the colours of the strange and beautiful sea life

that comes up in the creels

and when the office has been given a make over

you just have to stop to absorb the beauty of the environment

you are fortunate to live in and have the ability to appreciate. Whether it is eiders or octopuses you have to accept that what makes it all so beautiful is all the nature that is existing and in some cases competing with your attempts at making a pound., catching langoustines

or growing mussels.

Now Lismore is calling after a meeting in Inverness with neighbouring fishermen and Marine Scotland.

 

“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……

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.

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.

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.

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