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

Posts tagged ‘Inn’

A Grumpy One

Although we are in for a busy weekend there is a definite end of season feel in the air. Maybe not helped by it being Friday and the first day on the water this week and even then it involved a northerly swell and a breeze from the south. By mid afternoon the breeze had developed into a wind, fortunately the fishing had improved from the morning although being in gear you have to watch when you steam past the south end you don’t get the tailing in the prop. Well more than once anyway. This coupled with noticing some spotlets of emulsified oil coming through my wet exhaust adds up to a bit of a grumpy feel to the day. I could have done with a longer visit from the dolphins. They came up very quickly, pirroeted a full 180 degrees out of the water alongside the boat and swam off. The oil problem is a heat exchanger and I have to find out if it is the gearbox or the engine oil I will be losing. It is never all joy and happiness in any job but at this time of year after a full on and busy summer these little things get blown up and exaggerated in the mind. Western world issues so in the grand scheme of life they will be trivial.

Good mood to have a mini rant about how the community is impacted by outside decisions and the little we can do about it. There is a theme across the Highlands that Community Councils are of little import and to some extent I would have to agree. As a region and country our local democracy is in pretty poor shape and to some degree unrepresentative. This is mainly due to most people’s perception that there is little the Council can do other than voice a community opinion. I do not usually post on individuals but the fact that the Inn Chef, Robert, and the School and Fire person, Marion, have to deal with a planning decision that stops their plans in progressing their presence on the Applecross peninsula is frankly incomprehensible. Robert and Marion, holding three jobs down between them, one young un and another imminent, working crofters cannot get planning permission to build a croft house near their croft. They are refused on the grounds that it is not in keeping with the surroundings environs and is too far from other habitations. I find it hard to put into words what I think of these decisions taken on the east coast by people who have no conception of what living on the fragile west is like. Apart from the ludicrous reasons for refusal, I can take you round Applecross and show you houses that have been built with no other houses near them, so as well as being a negative decision in the first place it has no place with any precedence. Ridiculous from which any angle you look at. It is easy to criticise but this and other decisions have little basis in a community’s growing it’s capacity and resilience. Another decision on the Street has been negative on the grounds the living quarters are upstairs. Considering that already happens in Holiday Houses three or four doors along it holds no water anywhere else but the east. You couple this with no land being released for affordable houses you can see we. are going to have problems in the very near future. Do people think it is ok for workers to live in multiple occupancy and caravans, in poor housing where do these issues come into the planning process. I leave the argument that everything is fine and should be left as it is to discuss, that is the rewilding argument in a way, saying that people should not and have not lived here for generations, which is patently untrue. Always change, sometimes the change is rather quick but you have to deal with it as it will not go away.

When, we as a community, are faced with an absentee landlord saying that a site is unsuitable because you can see it from the road you can only shake your head in disbelief. Drive down the road from Ardeslaig to Toscaig and you see every single house, holiday house and empty house from the road. Mind you I have been told of two other reasons for that site, the first being the presence of sink holes, not a good excuse due to the Turbine House being built there, and finally an agricultural reason just to make sure the site will not become available. You get the idea that releasing land is  not on the absentee landlord’s agenda, frustrating when you look at Achintrad, Sheildaig, Lochcarron, Balmacara, where affordable houses are being built and lived in by young folk who send kids to local schools and have employment in their locales. So individual planning decisions taken against this background feel so negative.

I have been to some positive and not so positive meetings lately, great to hear ideas put forward about a Community Hub, increased employment, housing from people who understand the fragility of the community and have  thoughts and plans to reverse the almost imperceptible decline. On the positive side there are more crofts being used now, the decline seems to have bottomed out and younger folk are growing and producing more food locally, building the resilience of the place, it’s a good year for wee ones being born, would be great if this was the norm rather than being unusual and employment must be 120%, more to do than the people living here can cope with. In a way it is a sort of curse when asked what is one’s agenda for the community. I can state that nothing is personal in that my living and employment prospects do not need to be improved so it is purely on a community level. Of course I may be wrong but I can see how a fine community can work in difficult circumstances and that is the one at the Inn. Great team and generally a happy place, building under pressure, workers not in ideal housing, but despite all the problems a fine example how a community can work.

So the consultations go on, there is the launching of a proper community consultation run by the Community Company, while the Trust Working Group continues. I feel I have made the right decision not to keep putting time into this and leave it to more positive minded people. I see no change in the direction the Trust is going in despite different personnel  on the Board. The suggested Chair of the Working Group, someone who is not only not local but is also not “independent”, confirms my decision to spend my time more usefully. I sincerely hope the Group is able to influence Trust policy for the future before more and more people think the  development of Applecross will have to go through new powers of the Community Empowerment Act.

Another meeting attended this week concerned the laying of fibre optic cable from Sheildaig to Lochcarron. Wonderful one may think but we came away from the meeting thinking little or no benefit to the community. There will be empty chambers for a licensed provider to build cabinets to deliver superfast broadband but that is unlikely to happen as cabinets cost around £65,000 and does not make economic sense to supply to a half-dozen houses. There was more unsaid than we were told, i.e. the contractor, the huge expense of laying a cable that is not going to be used locally. SSE backhaul does not really hold water and we all came away with the strong suspicion that the customer is based on the North Coast and has little to do with the local community and decisions are taken far far away. Meanwhile some residents are being promised 50/70 meg speeds from BT as they take in broadband by radio. Very puzzling and can only wait and see if this is true.

Now that feels better and life goes on. As said before the fishing was better than expected and the tea was good, it being these shrimps, all eyes

trying to make me feel guilty, some squats in mayo, and mussels increase,garlic and wine sauce, good accompaniments to baked Tatties.  This chappie was released after the photo and swam away happily in a flash of colour.

In-between the grumps the dolphin visits, they were too quick for me,


and the occasional calm days with lots of activities on and in the water,

a Thai massage and good chats with good people keeps you on a level, although maybe reading this I may need a lot more therapy.And to finish with a light show

or two.

 

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.

Back after a Technical Break

Been a wee while since posting but there have been technical reasons for this and it feels good to be back. When I was preparing to post a couple of weeks or so ago my iMac bit the dust. I had been warned about a filling start-up disc and had tried to delete various files but to no avail. As I was enjoying an episode on 4oD everything went pear-shaped. Took it to a Dr and it came back, fixed only for a couple of hours, but minus all the files. So now owner of a MacBook and finally with a bit of technical help can post and with photos. Slowly getting used to it as there seems to be techniques to simple things such as scrolling down that I am only finding out on a suck it and see level.

Looking back it is extraordinary what we get up to on the peninsula. Daily life goes on and, although routine, it is never ever boring. Whether it is meeting people at the Inn or going fishing there are always lovely people to make contact with or wonderful things to see

and watch.

The banter with Geoff and Maureen over the last three weeks or meeting the family who just wandered in this morning are part of the daily tooing and froing. Certainly a bit of the English/Scottish involved but all at a banter level, not what I have been seeing on twitter this evening about Catalonians being beaten up by thugs for daring to vote for their Independence. As usual at the Inn we have a direct link to Barca and was told about the underlying current of fascism that exists in certain quarters of power in that country. Our source was quite definite about what has been known and talked about for years and now has been exposed on social media. I had to stop watching scenes of women being beaten up by men who were  wearing balaclavas and full riot gear. And they were the law of the land, makes you question how much you can take before standing up to authority that you believe to be wrong. Justice is an oft used word these days but there appears to be little on view. It was amazing seeing the restraint shown by the Catalonian populace in the face of such brutality.

The family in the morning hailed from Whitworth, N Yorkshire and I was treated to a wonderful word picture from an elderly gentleman who described a community of mills and workshops, neighbourliness and knowing everyone in the community. Very relevant in today’s world and how the Inn operates, unqualified help to anyone who needs it, whether it is simply finding visitors a bed to sleep in or sorting a breakdown. It is probably just me being in a positive frame of mind but for about ten minutes we had a lovely symbiotic and reminiscent conversation comparing the changes over the years in a Yorkshire mill town and a crofting township in Applecross. Sometimes a simple conversation can transport you across the moors to someones community that they are proud of and lets you in for a brief look.

Leaving the specifics aside for another post the fishing catches have remained very good

until the last week where there was a serious dip in the haul. This coupled with poor weather forecast for most of the week means langoustine availability is going to be stretched this week. Only a couple of portions left as I had an early finish today and likely not to be fishing until later in the week. Just being at sea keeps ones sanity in the increasingly crazy world we live in. Making the most of the quiet days

in-between the days of wind. There is a notable change in the air as it is now only after seven and it is wet, dark and windy outside.

Ashore and in tandem withe fishing there’s still plenty to do, cleaning the screen goes on,

sometimes in the dark as the day is shortening,

walking the dogs, although decided the Bay is a little too crowded with birds just now. some however do not seem to mind Dougal careering after them. The heron

has a disdainful look as he surveys the relentless dashing about. Eilidh dives into the river yipping away, unusual, but then I see an otter swimming out to sea. fortunately she comes back on command as she would have stood no chance if the otter had stood its ground. It’s a cliché but there is so much to do and so much to see and so little time to achieve this……..and that is just in Applecross. So I leave you with one of the sunsets of the last fortnight. Feels like a season away.

The Applecross Games Weekend.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Clip #1

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

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

“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.

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.

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.

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