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

Posts tagged ‘kayaking’

Stag Trip with a Difference.

Stag trip began this morning, after a landing of langoustines and watching a dog otter quietly make his way into the water about ten metres away from me. You would not expect anything normal from No3 and No4 when they get together to organise a Stag Do prior to No4’s wedding later this month. No3’s competence in looking after No4 was apparent in the organising

and although they did not have the short wave radio up and running, flares and rescue training were in place along with provisions for a two night trip around Raasay and Rona.  Not too sure about the shades though.

The house is a lot quieter tonight without the discussions revolving around world politics, philosophy and psychology among many other subjects. It was a little fresher in the afternoon than forecast but by that time they should have made landfall on Rona. Prepping, carrying down the heavily laden kayaks,

and setting off all took place at half-tide

and they were heading out of Applecross Bay before twelve.

I had already decided that the weekend had caught up with me and took the day off which involved mending creels and an evening of wood gathering before having a fine meal at Mya’s PopUp Thai Restaurant. The boys may have caught sight of the odd gannet on the way across,

maybe a dolphin or two. There does seem to be a lot in the waters off the west this year. Sightings of Orcas in Loch Broom over the weekend no less.

Rallies in a Strange World.

Good lunch shift yesterday, thinking it was not too busy but by the time i headed home with my strawberry and cream ice cream at four there were over 150 people through the door.This seems to be the normal shift these days. How quickly you get used to it!! There seems to be a trend of guys travelling in groups, today there was a Mitsubishi Evo rally that paid a fleeting visit. We had a group of Porsches for lunch,

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planned, and on saturday morning saw a bunch of Fords calling in for a coffee. There are usually some in these groups with a sense of humour and included in this group was a little Ford Fiesta and even better a wee Fiat Panda racing along trying to keep up. By the time the Panda arrived some of the Capris were already leaving, having had their coffee.

Both on Saturday evening and again on Sunday lunch had a couple of interesting chats with customers. After saying they probably had eaten their best ever steaks got chatting with a couple who had been in the army for 20 years with no regrets. They had been “abroad” and although they did not discuss the details they said the way they joined was through the OTC and not for any other reason than enjoying a good social life. and then became regulars. For me a relevant discussion as No4 is in Glasgow doing just that…..

Second discussion was a good one, one about landowners and how they do or don’t interact with their communities. While at work I always enter these conversations with a little trepidation as the customer is always right!! But the guy was very open and was either the landowner or son of one running an Estate down Loch Lomond way and what he said was very enlightened. Again always pleasantly surprised when your mild prejudices are challenged. He knew our owners and the stramash here last year concerning the Andy Wightman campaign and was asking about the fallout. He did seem to have a completely different attitude to working with communities and suggested that it was only a matter of time and we both agreed the mind sets will change and possibly that is already under way although it is a long road we are on.Bit of wood work in the evening with Dougal and Co before watching some of the football.

This morning, to be honest, was a struggle to get out fishing. The forecast for the rest of the week ended up being the incentive as tomorrow’s ‘cast is really poor. It was hard work today. I do not mind saying this and cannot be bothered with not being a macho fisherman. It was an awkward choppy swell that changed direction a couple of times during the day with an increase of wind in the middle of the day. Being slightly bloody minded hauled the last couple of fleets to make it to 400 for the day. One or two octopi coming up in the creels and despite the destruction they reap I cannot help but put them back over the side. Often wonder if I catch the same one again and again. Looked well cross and was changing colour rapidly, possibly telling me where to go.

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Hard to describe the fishing as good but I am catching enough to keep the Inn going as well as some going to the Loch Ness Inn tomorrow morning and also taking some round for the Spanish market as well. Compared to days of old it is a poor catch but we live in today’s world. Fascinating Start The Week this morning on the radio discussing the future of the planet, always something to keep the mind occupied as you are mechanically hauling creels and nothing unusual happening around you. One startling fact about how we live and use resources is that 4 litres of water are used to get 1 litre of bottled water on the supermarket shelf. On a lighter moment, half listening to a half hour on fake tanning I heard a mother saying that her daughter had decided not to go to a university because the students were not tanned enough!! She ended up going to one in the north of England where there is a higher up take for fake tans. What a strange world we live in.

On the way in due to the weather Chris had a group of kayakers out around the moorings. The closeness to the shore of the houses has a bit of an historical context. Firstly there was very little good land so the houses were built on the edges of the croft ground and the crofts were there because the people were cleared from the better ground on the peninsula. Almost paddling in the garden.

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Just Me and the Skuas.

Although waking early this morning did not feel a great desire to go to sea but a wee look at the forecast persuaded me that it would be a good move. But not before finishing the last of the Peter May trilogy, The Chessmen. This took me to after nine before I left the moorings but all I needed to do was to phone the kitchen at the Inn to let them know I would be a little later in landing the prawns and squats. The breeze dropped off to flat calm in the afternoon and I managed to haul 400 creels. Although the fishing is very poor at the moment, there was enough squats and prawns aboard at the end of the day to pay a few bills.

Had twelve skuas round the boat on one day last year, having six today has been the most this year and so got the camera out and they were very obliging.

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A couple of fulmars turned up and they do not seem at phased by the bonxies, I have heard stories of them ganging up on golden eagles and covering them with oil that they quirt from ducts on their beaks. The oil laden eagles cannot then fly.

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On the way in passed Mike with a number of kayakers in tow, it is the sort of thing I would do if I did not live here!!

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Landed the tails and prawns at the Inn and although they had a fairly quiet day there seemed to be a lot of people milling about, busy evening in prospect but not on till tomorrow evening and possibly all day thursday. Certainly going by the northerlies forecast I will not be fishing. On the way into the house the two sycamores are now buzzing. Spring is definitely here…..it is almost June so one would hope so.

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Yesterday was a day ashore and was filled with a bit of variety, walking the dogs and stopping at the Filling Station to reboot yet again, three days in a row, shifting some left over booze to the Walled Garden, some wood home and a bit of cutting and chopping in the evening. Days off are few and far between.

Down, but weather saves the Day.

It is just as well the weather is amazing as it feels most things I touch or am involved in either fall apart or are difficult to deal with. Feel a real need to take time out but so much to do and with Spring not far away everything is going to go into overdrive. The weather is making the “problems” not quite so bad, in fact there is not too much harm in a little exaggeration to get it off your chest.
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Health still rubbish up to the end of the week but turned out for the Community Company Board Meeting on Saturday evening. I find these employment decisions very hard as you know more than one good candidate for each of the jobs, the main reason for setting up an independent recruiting panel, still stressful. That is the Community Company employing four people on a full and part-time basis. Although this is bound to fluctuate over time these stats for a new and small Company in a fragile Community is pretty impressive. Continuing downside is we are being let down badly by our Filling Station software and I am expecting a complete crash if the rate of failure keeps on the current course.

Good turn out of customers for the Sunday lunch shift, at one stage the reserve ticket was out keeping a table for the group having a pre-food bottle of wine in the Garden. Good to get talking to visitors again, takes your mind of your own “woes”, the Kiltarlity joiner/crofter, the fisherman from the North of Skye and the couple from Strathpeffer meeting the couple from Findhorn. Although it happens on practically every shift it is great to see it happen. Chatting about anything from the price of prawns to the state of shinty in the North, good to work with Jill again, back from South Africa, both behind the bar and both out front with one end …to serve the guests. Judith having headed off to Edinburgh it was us in charge for a few hours. Watched an astonishing rugby match in the evening when I saw Scotland well beaten in just about everything except spirit and the score. Almost felt sorry for the Irish.

Today, it was off fishing, if not for me leaving the engine room light on last week. Off with the batteries yet again,back on charge, but since then although not feeling in the best of form managed a better end to the day. A constructive chat with the sparky , followed by resurrecting our sick car which has been sitting outside the church for a couple of days,  Ruairidh headed off with Chris on his three-day Inner Hebrides kayak trip, taking in Rona, Raasay and Scalpay,

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and then it was down to Toscaig to pickup a falling apart armchair for a reupholster in Inverness tomorrow. Dougal came down for a wee wander and there are sick people down here as well. Before Dougal jumped out and tried to make friends with them, the Soay sheep were lazing about on the grass.

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Last job of the day was the most apprehensive as it was another first and this was following Audrey’s instructions to treat the hive for varroa mites, a task that was not expected when I picked up the bees last September. Audrey had been so careful not to go outside the area for any bee contact but as the varroa arrived in Plockton she was no longer optimistic that she could escape infestation and last week found that she had some. So today it was my turn to use oxalic acid down the seams of the brood box. This is a derivative of the rhubarb plant and does not build up any resistance in the mites and this seemingly is perfect weather to treat. I am still not used to having bees and was nervous that I had not seen them for weeks on end although knowing they would have been silly to come out in some of the weather we have had. It was great and not a little relieving to see a full, healthy and in the end a quite cross hive. Used up 30 ml on 6 seams so hopefully if there are mites this will control the outbreak. Paper was pushed under the box to see if any mites drop, giving an indication how many are in the hive. When you go through what has happened it turns out it was not a nothing weekend…I just fish a lot less than I used to and am not used to that yet.

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I still get a disturbed feel to a few events that are taking place. The selling of the Raasay shooting and fishing rights from under the noses of the crofters for a mere £2,000 extra “profit”. Now some one from Aryshire comes to the island to shoot deer, an activity built up by the crofters over a couple of decades….not progress in my eyes. Good news from The Coigach as we hear they have been awarded funding to buy the Summer Isles Smoke House. But even there is an element of discontent that seems to personalise the discussions and must take the edge of the achievement for the guys working on the project, but we all have elements in every community that seem to react to change. Possibly fear of change itself is a factor and if it was okay to do it a certain way in the past why change it? Also the new Creel Federation is having some fairly major teething issues that desperately need a meeting round a table to sort out…inevitable due to the stroppy nature of inshore fishermen. So an unsettled time but the weather saves the day yet again.IMG_1652

Vancouver, the visit of a lifetime

Sunday lunch began with Sam and Carolyn  in for a quick drink after a bit of sledging on the Hill and it was part of that conversation that has initiated this post. I have always picked up on environmental issues and one that surprised me last week was the plight of sea lions. I heard in the passing an article on radio4 about a Canadian research programme which is going to try to find the reason why the sea-lion population has declined to its last 10%. As they are specific to the pacific rim and I was lucky enough to see them first hand it got me reminiscing about a trip with Mike and his group into the Broughton archipelago of the NE of Vancouver Island a couple of years ago. The trip was organised by Mike as part of his business of kayaking and mountaineering. Great to benefit from some one’s very impressive organising and also to have a feeling of safety being in the company of a skilled rescuer. Although you had a certain amount of personal responsibility it was not like going fishing where you had to plan for everything. His company runs from just across the road from the Inn.Being interested in the local fishing industry I was fascinated to see the chinook salmon season in full cry. I counted 38 lights of boats after the fish on our first night camping on Kylash beach. From there we headed into the islands across the strait and away from most human activity coming across just a few other kayakers.When we went into the islands we traveled using the First Nation beach middens as the shore line was generally inhospitable for beaching kayaks. These beaches were built up over thousands of years with the discarded shells the First Nations used as part of their diet. We have a site in Applecross that was dug and recorded back in 2000. Sam would have enjoyed some of the lichens, flora and fauna.The scenery was spectacular and although there were ‘interesting’ moments paddling in tide rips and a couple of breezy days the weather was mainly calm and not too sunny, I am a fair skinned west coaster.We had a hard day’s paddling against the tide to get to a water fall. We actually thought it was a lot closer and from there Mike showed us the spectacular sea world of sea lions, humpbacks and back to Johnson Strait where we had a baby orca swim in amongst the group. It leaves you with  indescribable emotions that always stay with you.


The evenings were spent round the camp fire, sounds a bit naff but it was good craic and every one slipped into doing a routine mine being gathering of firewood and the lighting of fires. The trip ended up in Vancouver but after the trip it was a little anti climactic. Brilliant city but still a city. Living in Applecross going away somewhere it has to be special and this was. I hope the sea lions will recover and the orcas which were also having problems.

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