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

Posts tagged ‘sea life’

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.

 

A Photographic Catchup.

Partly due to time and partly due to internet mishappenings I have to catch up through the camera. There are numerous stories ashore so will leave them for another day, possibly tomorrow. Since coming back from the wedding time has just flown by quicker if that is remotely possible. Everything apart from my book work and CC duties have gone reasonably well, autumnal weather has arrived along with the small gulls heralding a change in the season. As the fishing has held up remarkably well this weather suits me as there is a day off now and again to recover the physically draining summer. I am not complaining as the tiredness is an achieving one, one that results in long and hard hours but satisfying both at sea and ashore. In between the bouts of weather coming in off the Atlantic there have been stunning days at sea,

for me this means calm

and grey as well as the sunny ones,

the creels have now all been washed

with only a few broken bars at sea to attend to now. Some of the long hours have been due to the washing of the creels but even then you are rewarded by some lowering lights on the Sound. The only casualty has been the demise of my iPod, flipping out of my pocket on the end of my headphones and landing in a muddy puddle on the pier. This being hindsight knowledge as I found it two hours after it was posted missing. I get really cheesed off with these accidents not so much for the cost but more for the misuse of resources. I do not enjoy our throwaway get another society. Even if that is exactly what I have done although a refurbished one that has lots of new buttons and applications not needed.

The sun is slipping south and now setting on the north end of Raasay

signalling the onset of colours ashore such as the apple tree

and the resting dragonfly.

The creels keep bringing up new and familiar sights, this colourful but unknown fish,

the wanton destruction of the happy octopdes,

another unknown but regular, he/she never survives the pressure and is always a meal for the bonxie or gull,

and a cuttlefish and octopus getting it together.

Rainbows, jellyfish

and putting out collection bags for scallops completes the picture.

Like I said, a busy week and that does not include the media outlets and the little pub up the road.

Seals and Sunsets.

Listening to John Beattie at lunch time today I was struck by the interview with the guy he met in the street. This guy walked past smoking a spliff and he wanted to hear his story. At the Inn I often get the privilege of doing just that. Sunday lunch and speaking to an Irish couple was such an occasion. They were from Belfast and a very short conversation ensued with me saying I was over there during The Troubles and nipping through from Donegal to Larne at speed. He casually mentioned that he was in a mixed marriage, relevant during the marching season, and he never knew what list they were on, probably on both sides. A quiet statement by him saying they never opened the door after dark unless they knew who it was, was a stark description of a life lived in Belfast 30 odd years ago.

On a brighter note was the Columbian who took to the Inn and left after photos and a hug. I think he was just a very happy and contented fellow who appreciated all around him, if only we were all like that instead of walking down streets banging drums in the name of culture.

On the way out to the Varuna to put last week’s washed creels back on the line I stopped to take a couple of photos of our residents,

generally they were unconcerned with my presence.

There is no need for any seal trips here unlike Plockton where they get the patter as well. https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=calums%20seal%20%26%20dolphin%20trips. 

And finishing off the day after mending a few creels on the Pier and catching up on Designated Survivor, nipped out to watch the sun go down

over the Rona Gap

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.

So Much…..

Siting at the menu table after 4 hours work and just before it all kicks off again you wonder how on earth she runs this place the way she does. I have only been here for the weekend, granted I have also been fishing and washing creels and trying to sort a breakdown in the last couple of days, but running the Applecross Inn takes a phenomenal effort. When things are running okay it is busy, food, accommodation, drink and people all coming in and going out the door. The Dream Machine outside is also ploughing on with haddock, Aron’s ice-cream and coffee all going south as fast as it is being made or fried. As well as all this the roof needs done, the cold store gets put outside to make way for more space in the Prep room, new gas boilers and constant repairs for accommodation. For me, without all the extra stuff, this morning from just after eight it was checking out residents, taking booking for accommodation and meals for anytime this summer, bottling up the bar, cutting lemons, changing the menu board, ordering soft drinks and answering random requests from the phone, redirecting customers to the Walled Garden for breakfasts, sorting the float out for the Dream Machine and finally getting the crashed till system up and running again. Twelve o’clock now so the day starts. That plus another twelve staff, cooking, serving breakfast, servicing rooms, prepping, preparing salads…..

(The above was written in the heat of the battle just before twelve last Sunday, cannot believe that it is ten days since last post). Having said that, looking back on the photos there has been a lot packed in. The weather has been immense over the past while, to the extent of having three fires in Applecross in 24 hours. The first one in Toscaig had about ten residents and holiday makers beating out a fire across from the old homestead. The following day I called in one that started on the Coast Road, across the Bay. The opinion was that this was started by a passing car throwing a cigarette out. The Fire Brigade came from over the Hill as well as our beaters. If this had not been tackled, judging by the flames seen across from the Inn, this one had the potential to race up the Hillside behind Cruary. While the Brigade were in another one was called in at the Campsite and seems this was caused by wood worm dust coming down on an extractor fan, over heating, setting off what could have been a serious fire at the Steading. Pure coincidence/luck that the fire men were in Applecross and were diverted from across the Bay. Story is that another ten minutes and there would have been serious damage.

The week has been taken up with some long days, combining the fishing and the Inn. This is what I have been telling myself during the winter that I work the whole year during the summer months and should not feel so bad during the winter wind down. Yesterday, for example, I was up at 6.30am, fishing till around 3.30pm, landed the langoustine and squat tails, a half hour on the couch and shower before going up to the Inn till just before midnight. Finding the Inn very rewarding these days, meeting lots of folk, both regular and new arrivals. The weather makes such a difference to people’s moods and on week’s like these no wonder so many people come for a “get away from it all” holiday. And there are some who get that bit more, speaking to Ian last night and we were talking about the essence of the place, a spiritual peace. The bubble of the Inn can be left behind by walking in any direction for ten minutes and you enter a place of peaceful serenity. At a meeting last week I asked some one to describe the character of Applecross, he could not which I found a little disturbing as he is tasked with conserving it. But more of that later. I love being surrounded by people’s contentedness, happiness, pleasure of visiting such a beautiful part of the world and you try to covey to them what it is like to live here. Despite being hectic, busy, sometimes not enough time to stop and look around, the conversations you have with people like the Walkers or Ian, who obviously connect with the place, reinforce the feeling of pure joy of living in Applecross. Very occasionally there is a spare room available due to late cancellations and one such was filled on Sunday. I showed them the room and left smiling at how excited she was by the room the view and the promise of good food, a Hungarian who had just come of the ferry from one of the Western Isles having the holiday that they will never forget. You meet the world and their dogs at the Inn, so far not a Trump voter in sight, and there are a large number of Americans on the move.

The fishing had taken a bit of a dip last week but seems to have recovered somewhat on the last couple of hauls, catching enough to keep both Inns supplied. This morning there was an early start to get some langoustines over to the east coast with a regular carrier who was heading back with an empty lorry. The sights and sounds on the fishing trips are as varied as ever, some soaring and graceful,

some that jar, who is watching who,

traffic as other marine users ply their trade and make their up the Inner Sound,

natures intriguing creatures,

this being a Rhizostoma octopus floating by, I stopped to take a couple of shots but as the tide was flowing found it quite hard to manoeuvre, but pleased with the effect of the exhaust discharge on the water over it

and just the views of all the different goings on

and weather

fill one up.

Even the blackbacks have a certain beauty.

Still time for Dougal and Co to go for a wander on the mornings I do not go to sea. The advantage of being single-handed was I had time to recover on Monday morning before going out to haul two hundred creels in the afternoon to keep the Inn going. A walk is as good as a rest.

The trips home on the bike from the Inn are as good an example of the contrasts that Applecross throws up. Serving a hundred and fifty folk followed by a serene cycle home in the moonlight.

The rest of today , although the plans have not been set out properly yet, involve most of the rest of the day off with just a stop off at Aird to pick up a half ton of bait for the creels on the way home. The plan is to head north to Ullapool, eventually for a spot of music, possibly an art gallery visit and a dog walk thrown in. And it seems the weather is holding out so looking forward to a busy day off. Again so much has been going on so will try and catch up over the weekend as there was another film crew on board the Varuna and two more Consultation Meetings plus a missed CC Meeting due to tired head. Onwards. Duncan Chisholm on the stereo certainly setting us up for the rest of the day.

 

 

There Has to be a Better Way

Sometimes the law really is an ass, especially when it does not protect the environment from people who believe they can act with impunity just because it is legal. That was the response from the skipper when it was suggested that he was destroying a flame shell reef where no one had towed dredges for over twenty years. “Its legal until September”, Bertie’s response was “we can’t protect all the flame shell reefs” It is an attitude that is going to have to change or we will be left with nothing to protect. The ploughed field and the I’ve dredged for scallops for 50 years there no longer are arguments that hold much water. The towing of dredges over ground reduces it to sand and gravel and yes if it is left for a year or two there will be a few scallops back on the ground but little else. A couple of videos taken before and after shows the beauty of an underwater eco system where flame shells build nest and literally hundreds of organism live in and around this naturally built reef. https://www.facebook.com/subseatv/?fref=nf&pnref=story “With one sweep of a bottom trawl all this would be gone”. And that is what happened last week. The video showing the stunning sea life that we all depend on is now devastated. I am not exaggerating as this is what it looks like now. https://www.facebook.com/george.brown.9822/posts/10211469161757411?pnref=story As you can see there is a huge argument going on with dredgers comparing the damage to ploughing up a field of grass to grow wheat. Also suggesting the veracity to the videos are to be questioned. Knowing the people involved that is a non starter. Mono cultures do not work too well on land either. I will be sticking to creeling for the rest of my days as I could not go through the Thin Red Line of accepting and getting used to the destruction of the environment to “make a pound”.

Every where you haul creels you haul live fish, crabs, shrimps, starfish, octopodes, cuttle fish and even the occasional lobster to the surface. You are surrounded by sea birds and occasionally by dolphins and see the odd whale in the distance. The live unwanted life is put back over the side. I cannot imagine sorting through a deck full of writhing sea life that comes up from a dredge or trawl just to land a few inferior langoustines, throwing dead, dying or crippled animals back over the side. I have been fortunate to have only done this for two weeks of my fishing life way back in the early eighties. The sooner we understand that we cannot keep degrading the marine eco system to such an extent that only a few inshore trawlers and dredgers can survive the better for all of our coastal communities. MPAs have been set up and seemingly the ones to the south have already been dredged through as there is little Marine Scotland Compliance can do to protect them. They have been set up to protect features but I would recommend that far bigger areas be set aside from mobile fisheries and only allow static or passive fishing methods in these fragile inshore breeding waters. These waters have only been trawled for one generation so calling this a traditional fishery is stretching that definition too far. All fisheries have to be heavily regulated to fit what the environment can give, not what we can take.  I am only talking about inshore waters and have no knowledge of how the shoals function offshore. Only note that fish numbers in the creels dramatically decreased from the 90s onwards and I do not think the creels fishery is the cause of that.

On a happier note signs of a renewal of crofting in Toscaig continues apace with several crofts now being worked. Maybe this autumn my own will finally restart.Made it down the road with a few willow which went into the ground to replace a broken fence. While I was down I took a wander onto one of the latest ventures https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=applecross%20croft from which these fantastic tulips came from.

The byre which used to have hens and cows with a couple of lambing ewes in it has been completely restored, now with a little stove in

while Sara weaves away.

Changed days on the croft.

Back to the fishing and on a more cautionary note I am seeing more and more langoustines with new eggs

 

and now believe that they spawn at different times of the year, whether that is due to warmer waters or a stock mentality of trying to reproduce as they are under pressure who knows. They still go back over. But one of the pleasures I have is seeing tiny life on the ropes or seeing minuscule squats on the deck having fallen through the creels mesh, seeing mermaid purses

on the creels or squid eggs, just seeing the continuation of the cycle of life while hopefully not disrupting it too much to make a living.

 

 

The Spring Winter Battle.

Was going to post this a little earlier today but Dougal was looking a little sad

so brought that part of the day forward. He is now suitably filthy after a wee trip down to Toscaig where he went digging for rodents and tried to consume some afterbirths. The walk always includes other activities such as the wood gathering and the odd shore retrieval. Last winter I was alerted to some salmon farm floats coming ashore just out from Cruary. Had my eye on them and planned a salvage with the Varuna on a high tide and north wind. One however came a floating into the Bay and is now in the garden to be used as a raised bed after having the top cut off and the polystyrene disposed off. Garden is very unkempt but my excuse is I am waiting for the dandelions to seed as there are no end of bees and other pollinators on them.

It being Spring there are signs of growth everywhere.

Where does one start with all the political turn arounds, swings both local and national. Another election which closely follows our local Highland Council elections. I probably would have done anyway but certain that my number 1 vote is going to Topher Dawson, who resides in the west just up the coast, is standing for the Green Party and so far has been the only candidate to visit Applecross. He is a very self-effacing chap who has visited 15 community councils and not once asked for anyone to vote for him. (One of those weird co-incidences has just occurred, a second candidate, Biz, has just been to the door with a leaflet!!) Topher, as well as attending our CC, came up the next day to the Hydro Scheme and up to the Head where he gave me a hand in cleaning the screen, this can be seen in his election leaflet. Then we have Andy Wightman contesting a defamation case in the courts and having to crowd fund for his appeal. http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk/awdefamation This is an appeal that we have contributed to, on two counts, if he goes broke as a result he loses his seat and would be a great lose to the Scottish Parliament, and we need people like him to speak up and out for the many issues that affect us all locally. And finally our neighbouring country has decided to call yet another election, but new UK immigration laws are already having an effect in the Highlands as is seen in Lagan. A family who emigrated to Scotland from Canada in 2008, were running a local shop and coffee shop, are being deported despite petitions, letters, MPs protesting. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-highlands-islands-39657447?ns_mchannel=social&ns_campaign=bbc_scotland_news&ns_source=twitter&ns_linkname=scotland People wonder why we want to have our own country, well not deporting residents who are part of a rural community and not having our MSPs taken through court by directors from a company based in an offshore tax haven would be a start. The local news just broken today is that the Kishorn Yard is now going to be used for building a floating offshore wind farm. Two hundred jobs for a worthwhile cause and all appears well locally. Hopefully it will fit in well with the local economy providing orders and employment for existing local businesses. I am sure there will be unintended consequences in the future but we will wait and see. http://www.kishornport.co.uk/2017/04/floating-wind-farm-to-create-up-to-200-jobs-at-kishorn-port/

The season is well underway although it appears that there is still a battle going on between Winter and Spring. Winter is forecast to win back some more time at the start of next week, but there are days, like today, when the bees are loading up with pollen.

We are caught a bit in the middle of it as we are not getting to sea as much as we would like to. Last week and again earlier this week the catches have not been too bad and for the most part the Inns I supply have them on the menus. The gear mending and washing season is already upon us and yesterday I was along-side the Pier loading up creels that have been clogging up the jetty for the last few months. A bit more activity around the Pier and had to wait while other users landed scallops and the Marine Scotland boat which is working on salmon smolt research.

Cleaned, baited and stacked on board for tomorrow. Getting a little busier on the water

although I am as far west as I have been for quite some time. The bonxies are arriving in ever-increasing numbers

and one or two are looking particularly bright

with a variant of colours on their feathers.

The Inn is busy but apart from Good Friday, when it was off the scale with 534 meals served throughout the day, it has been manageable. The Dream Machine also in operation would have put the figure over 650. I do not work Fridays but the rest of the shifts have been busy enough. Only when people like the Truckers come in from Sheildaig for their weekly band practice do you realise how busy it is. You are just doing the normal job of finding tables for people to sit at and eat the great food. They just shake there heads at how busy it all is. Last week and it could only happen in Applecross Inn but when you have to deal with a booking for seven that was not written down, you take emergency action. Hopefully Geoff and Maureen did not mind too much when I moved their table, yes their table, with their half eaten meal on it to make way for the seven. Knowing the regular customers really well has its benefits as I would not have done that with 99% of the other visitors to the Inn. The Good Friday session was topped off with a three coming in at 10.15pm and looking at the menu.They were told it was all over but checked the fryers were still on they asked if they could have their own chicken nuggets cooked. Okay was the reluctant reply so out one went to come back with nuggets and drumsticks. the kitchen staff duly obliged and as a wee something arranged the drumsticks very artistically in lines like a rack of lamb. Was looking good until the next request was can we make it a takeaway. There is no real answer to this and so off they went, more happy Applecross customers, the Inn caters for all. Last night was a little different as there were lots of twos coming in and we have a limited supply of tables for two. The Boss was getting a well-earned rest so I was on the mix and match. Managed four tables and it gives extra pleasure seeing two couples leaves the table and saying sincere Cheerios outside with handshakes and hugs. Three hours before they had never met. Some people prefer not to share and if they are prepared to wait just a little longer then that is perfectly okay as well. Good food is not exclusive to the Inn and when convenience food is needed to assuage a fierce hunger there is nothing better than hot fried langoustine tails in sea salt and wild garlic leaves from the garden.

The brown bread should be home-baked but the day is not long enough.

To finish I managed a trip to Inverness with langoustines for the Loch Ness Inn and coming back through Glen Torridon on a wood scouting mission by our local tree surgeon, the view looking down on Loch Maree is often worth the stop. One of the iconic views in Scotland.

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