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

Posts tagged ‘skuas’

Kirsty Logan comes on Board.

Thursday evening was another lovely cycle home, although at a more sane time. Sunset had just taken place


and the moon was up over Milton Loch



and I got home for Nashville, first time for a few weeks…..and Deacon is back in the picture. Just realised that I have resisted Breaking Bad all week, pretty easy I suppose when it has either been work or too tired. A good week in all and Friday continued in that vein when I took the Varuna ashore for a wee clean up. Copper painted bottom has meant that I do not have to worry too much about the hull but noticing a drop of 3/4 knot decided to have a look.


Always good to check the anodes for replacing anyway. Turned out there was a big growth of mussels on the keel along with German Writing and barnacles on the rudder and propeller.


To get to this stage became strangely difficult. Coming across the Bay on the dingy I have to remember everything before setting off so the key for the shed was important as I wanted the pressure washer. So back I went, then the extension lead had made its way back to the Inn, so it was across the Bay. When I was retrieving the lead the fuel delivery came in, only 500 litres of UL left so got away with that one. And finally on the way back across the Bay I forgot to take the Lead with me. So three hours later after beaching the Varuna I began work. Washed a fleet and most of the hull and scrapped all the mussels and some of the Writing off, mended and reroped the majority of the fleet and landed some langoustine to the Inn. Home pretty knackered as being under the boat you use mussels you do not use for the rest of the year.

Saturday morning began with a minor sleep in but made it to the dingy before my guest arrived, writer Kirsty Logan. http://www.kirstylogan.com. To be perfectly honest I would have struggled to have gone out as the weather and forecast were not inviting. Finished off the fleet and got it shot off on the Middle Bank before hauling 200 pots. Sinister sight off to the West.


And we had a larger than usual complement of skuas around the boat probably due to the lack of other boats out.


Looking back on the day I don’t think we stopped talking all day. Similar lifestyles in that we both spend a lot of time on our own and seem comfortable with it. Kirsty was doing a bit of research in a new project and wanted to find out a bit of the practical side of creel fishing. Good sensible chat about the YES/No debate and is a waiver inching towards YES finding the constant negativity of the BT campaign. We stopped off on the way ashore to watch the seals, some staying on the rocks and others swimming over to tell us we were too close, one calling frantically. Ashore by 2pm but with a slight mishap. Took a couple of photos of some moss just below the tide zone, put the camera back in the back pack, zipped it up, swung it onto my back and plop the camera fell out of the broken zip into the water. Resting without hope in a box of rice and already ordered another second-hand camera. Have Jack’s but really wary of taking out to the boat as that is two in the water now. Managed not to let it affect me too much and after a snooze for ten minutes, power nap to some, the Inn beckoned.

A very busy shift but enough time to make contact with several people, some first timers and many who come back time after time. Pretty hectic hour around eight but every one content by 9.30pm having all been fed. Torrential rain had passed by the time I was on the cycle home after eleven. By the time I had left the Canadians paired with the couple from Fife were getting on like a house on fire. Reminded me of the Waterboys’ lyric I was listening to earlier in the day, “Started off in Fife and ended up in tears” one of the best lyrics of all time from A Bang On the Ear. This morning arriving tired at the Inn I heard that there were one or two absentees for breakfast, maybe doing the job too well for some people’s health. Weather back on and a steady/busy day and a long eight hours before sitting down for a very nice venison burger. Struggling to keep eyes open for the final but will give it a go. A break from the photos as the iPhoto does not recognise the new camera to download, but the good side is that 22 calendars have been sold in the first week with very little effort. Find that somewhat humbling but many thanks to those who have bought them.

Gone Fishing.

And the anti-dote to the weekend at the Inn was to go fishing for a couple of days. Did not manage to go out till around ten, the advantages of being both self employed and single handed.




Was only out to pick up a few fleets as there was a lot of tiredness in the legs and I am too old to be a hero. Managed 250 pots and back in by fourish. The fishing is pretty poor with no size being caught at all but they are back on the menu. Traffic on the Sound has not picked up much yet.


Todays catch, brought in at three, put them back on the menu which means ten kilo of whole prawns sold in less than a day at the Inn. Seems todays lunchtime was packed out. Beautiful weather over the last couple of days, almost glass calm, views supreme, and enjoying the company of bonxies


and gulls.


With mid air collisions in the chase for food.


Could not resist taking a snap of these guys in the early morning sun.


Starting to notice some fairly big marks on the sounder which holds hope for  both a good year for mackerel and mage dolphins. There have been sightings but too vague in description to know what they are.


I am sure that I can interact better with all the folk who come to Applecross by going to sea and being as much part of nature as it is possible to be. In the middle of a thunder and lightening plump just now so hope nothing gets hit on the power front. The late afternoon the garden was alive with the sound of bees, bumble bees as well as the honey bees all working away collecting and distributing, nice to be helping.

Sean and RNB have been investigating Applenet’s broadband issues. The net had slowed down over the weekend and after lots of investigating, and going through the system, trips up the Tor Mor site speeds are back up again, in fact as fast as they have been. Great having the skills locally based to fix the problems, this time it appears that a firewall may have been the problem. Although I can have patience in slow network it was interesting to see how slow it was and remember this was normal a couple of years ago. Speeds are still unpredictable but going in the right direction.

Had a call out fairly late on from the Inn. Noticed a yacht coming in late afternoon and unbeknown to me it was John Fleming on a “last trip” to see Pier Cottage where his daughter, Julliet, lived with her family. When they came ashore things did not go to plan as their out board packed in. Bit late when I got the call but when down at the Pier it was a relatively easy job to get them all back on board and John handed over some dosh as an appreciation. I always try not to take it but now just donate to the Community Company and when I told him he lit up and said “excellent”. Anyone I speak to about the Company I always find it is well received and thought of. Rumours BBC coming in next week to do a piece on the environmental side of ACCs work through AEE.The upside of being called out late was the stunning scenes at around eleven in the evening. My “blue period”.




Little note on the lilac tree in the garden, not as old as thought but only planted in 1972 by Margaret seen here entertaining the Flensburg students earlier this year.

A Good 500 Day

Southerly breeze on thursday put the fishing plan back a day. Wednesday’s community meetings and evening at the Inn meant that I was not able to get down to the boat and do some creel work. Meant this morning a bit more to do before starting the day’s haul. As it turned out the southerly was just a touch too much and after putting the fleet together I just headed north, shot it away and headed back in. So no squats until friday, but that was remedied today with my 500 haul.

Was at the pier doing a bit of extra cleaning as I had two guests on board for the day. Known John, as he is a regular Applecross man, over the years and met Ian this week. So the chef and optician jumped on board and off we went with the warning I would be hauling a couple of extra fleets to make up for the missing days in the week so far. Again the slight improvement continues and there a little hope that there may be an autumn fishing this year. The last 4/5 years taking out the berried prawns it was hardly worth going out after October came in. Very efficient day with everything going to plan, some large prawns were caught. The cd was for a Facebook posting seeing it looks a bit random.


In the afternoon John noticed a couple of skuas giving a gull a hard time. It has been a while since I have seen  skuas chasing the gulls for bait. They now bypass the gulls and just take the old bait straight from me. A couple of minutes later John saw the skua on the water pecking at the dead gull. It looked like this year’s black back, one that never made it.IMG_5128 These skuas are fascinating birds but vicious. Called pirates for a reason. The guys seemed to enjoy themselves, maybe a dip in enthusiasm about fleets 7 to 9 but recovered well and some langoustine are heading down to the Sun Inn tomorrow.http://thesuninnedinburgh.co.uk/

Nice and quiet by the late afternoon and seems to be the calm before the storm.


Nasty weather forecast for the weekend, coming in on Saturday evening and supposed to be blowing hard on Sunday and Monday.http://www.xcweather.co.uk/forecast/IV54_8LU Direction seems to be just ok as there is quite a lot of west rather than northwest in the prediction. Had a nice chat with the neighbours, here for the fortnight. Been a couple of years since the Les and Brian have been up and good to catch up despite sitting in the conservatoire smelling of fish. Dougal was at his most charming and won a couple of fans. Relaxed chat and as they are really interested about what goes on here Les asked how the affordable house sites were getting on. When you live in a place like Applecross time tramps on and you realise that absolutely nothing has been progressed since they were last here. Makes you aware that patience is so necessary living here if you want to get anything done. So all that needed to be done was to cook off the mussels garnered from the hull of the dinghy. and watch Glasgow score a last-minute try to beat Ulster in the Celtic League.  Early night as it will be around the 500 tomorrow with a busy shift as Gerry’s Duathlon is taking place and the Inn will be busy. Mind you when is it not?http://applecrossduathlon.com/

Games Day without the Games.

Least said about Friday as it was a migraine day, three in about seven weeks is not good but in terms of pain and nausea it could have been worse. Lasted twelve hours and did not have too many after effects as I managed to haul 400 creels and six and a half hour shift at the Inn yesterday. Early start to try to get the prawns in before the evening rush. Unfortunately the evening rush started about 3.30pm and did not stop till after 9pm. Also when landing the prawns had a wee look at the Inn rota and seems I was working there since 12 pm. So it was home for a rapid shower and straight into the organised mayhem. It actually was not too bad although very, very busy. People coming down from the Games field wanting fed. Last night the kitchen were brilliant. 10s,11s,18s,6s and all the rest were going through at the same time and the food kept coming out. You knew how much every one enjoyed it by the compliments that came your way over the evening. I go on about the contrast in Applecross all the time and despite all these people in “town” I was in the middle of a mist bank for most of the day, on my own with the skuas,gulls and fulmars, I suppose they were getting fed as well come to think about it.


The morning mist came and went most of the early part of the day.





This has been the first time in 30 years that I have never made it to any part of the Applecross Games, but I do have a couple of excuses. Sounds like there were a lot of people there so the efforts of the organisers would have been well rewarded. As with all events they do not just happen.

Good shift today and not too many hangovers evident, possibly went home as opposed to putting it off for another day. Spent quite a bit of time with a farming family who had steamed over from Plockton and chatted about community work.


It is always so positive when I talk to outside people and they are very interested/impressed with the amount of work that goes on. It seems different when you see the practical problems on the ground and you know the reasons why events do not run as smooth as they could. With the Filling Station, the ongoing software crashes tend not to affect me so much as I can always access fuel and the constant callouts are merely irritating at worst. Annie, our software guru, is going to try to address the problem, assuming Gilbarco will let us deal with it ourselves. We have tried MD level with little progress and are, after today, going down the political route. It is not through lack of trying and we will solve it and most people will forget the initial teething problems. Always the problem of being a pioneer. It is the same with the broadband installation. On one level it is going ok but the BT lines are causing us issues. We have three lines up and running and for some reason unknown to us two of the lines keep dropping from 6 to 2 mgbs and when that is sorted out they drop them back down 10 days later. This coupled with CBS not being as quick as we expected in releasing monies so we could set up the relay from Portree. One week has evolved into six and everything is in place apart from the finance.Unfortunately the customer is not interested in all these “reasons” for a system not working, they just want fuel and faster internet connections. One of the keys to the problems seems to be Gilbarco, Datacash,CBS do not live in the community where there are stresses and strains put on the community company when it tries to provide a service but find outside influences adversely affect the service. In a positive light these are teething problems and while they are happening you have to take the long view and keep going. Although the devil is in the detail you keep positive when you talk to visitors who are interested in the work of the community and without fail they are really encouraging and want you to succeed. Leaving the Inn pretty exhausted after 26 hours solid work and little food in the last two days, stopped to take a couple of photos of the now rampant meadow sweet and the tranquil scene south across Ardban.



All seems ok again and its all worth it.

“Do you want a shot in the boat hen?”

About 9am looked up and watched a pod of porpoises feeding about 400 metres away on a glass calm, hot morning. 9pm we were just coming to the end of an hour and a quarter where 125 main meals were put out by the kitchen in searing heat at the Inn. Sometimes it is hard to believe it was the same day.


On the way to the tranquility of the pier I was listening to Mark Stephens magazine program, most of which was from Ullapool’ St Ayles Championship. Loved the story from Port Seton. Three years ago one of the women rowers who had won a medal, saying that she did not exercise and one morning as she was on the way to the shops passed an elderly man by a boat who called across to her “Do you want a shot in the boat hen?”….the start of her road to Ullapool. Such a peaceful day at sea with lots of bird activity around the Varuna all day, a result of not many other boats out.


Although it looks photo shopped this gull was just having a bath.


Young black backs have no fear and take on the skuas.


Always impressive watching the skuas in flight.

Mid day saw a little flotilla of Drascombe Luggers who make an annual trip up the west coast. Engines were on as they passed by.



Indifferent fishing and asked in the evening ” How is the fishing?” I find it needs an explanation of how I enjoy it, make a “wage” but compared to 30 years ago the waters of Applecross are in a perilous state with not a lot left, but a few bottom feeders. It is such a good way to make a living, cropping what nature provides, but quite sad we cannot regulate ourselves. What is going to happen more and more are the new regulations that have been brought into force on the Barra Sound. There is the usual out cry about how it will adversely affect the local fishermen and how we look after our stocks by our “traditional” way of fishing. This was the mantra put out by the west coast prawn trawl feet when the large east coast fleet came over. No one answers when you ask about the west coast herring fishery, cod, hake, haddock, whiting…..silence and that sums up the last 50 years of traditional west coast fishing. I do not have enough knowledge of the Barra situation but this may be the start of a trend where outside forces take charge of our declining fishery in the “national”interest. And no one to blame but the fishermen themselves. Chatting this morning to a chef on a cruise boat working off the west coast and she was telling me how, at the last-minute bought some shellfish and fish for a slap up meal on their cruise. They headed out before discovering that the langoustines she had bought were half the size of her pinky. Having worked at the Inn she had never come across prawns that size and was disgusted being used to the langoustine that Judith sells in Applecross. They got their money refunded but the fact that one, the buyer sold them the prawns and two, he bought them from the fishing boat does not fill you with much confidence in the future. On the bright side lots of visitors enjoying decent sized, creel caught prawns all day and many for the first time. Demonstrations how to tail, shell and get into the claws are appreciated. They always get some background on the creel industry and the berried prawn returns with a little of the other type of fishery that is not so healthy for the sea environment.

The day was pretty full on as the Chas get together brought in quite a few bikes although not as many as usual. Seems internal politics disrupted the event some what, but every one who came enjoyed the weather food and a fine set played by the Coast Road Truckers. Loved watching an elderly lady eating her grilled haddock while swaying to one of Frosty’ s numbers. No idea what this is but interesting machine and not your average run of the mill Honda Gold Wing.


Whitsun Weekend.

The deal for last night was that I would go home for my break and be on call for later. Why it even crossed any one’s mind that I would not be called out…… 6.10 and the phone rang with a slightly panicky Judith at the other end. This Inn we have never ceases to amaze me. Judith at the door with the clip board and Jill and I working the tables along with Ruaraidh M, Jess, Miranda, Jamie and Kenny G all coming out with plates of food till 9.30. I fished for two days and we were sold out of prawns by 8.30. Weather is bad for tomorrow so mediums and what we now call splitters are coming ashore in the morning. Tonight there were 64 booked plus the usual passing trade, last night it was 84. I really do not know how it happens but it does. During the day there must have been over 100 bikers passing through.

Yesterday morning did not start well as I got a phone call at 9 saying the Filling station was down again, this after it was supposed to have been fixed on Wednesday. It has been rebooted every day since!! I still think it has been one of the better things that has happened here in quite a while and I have said it before without the pumps we would be in a fair bit of trouble by now as a community. We will get them fixed and it will be an even bigger achievement when we do as we have had little or no support in trying to fix the problems. I always remember the shopkeeper telling me that when we cleaned the tanks,shutting them down in the process he lost 20% of his turnover. So no pumps would lead to possibly no shop and from there who knows. We just find it so frustrating that we are losing so many sales, the visitors are very understanding and appreciative but sometimes that is not enough.


Had an hour planned with the Guardian before work so that went out the window. One car that will not be getting petrol from any pumps again is Tom’s, a regular who comes up to Applecross to chill out for a week enabling him to carry on working with disadvantaged kids. Above Keppoch his attention was turning to the Bay where he planned to put his tent up. Back to the road and there was the stag, Automatic quick swerve and after a few end overs he used up one of his lives. Judging by where his car ended up his is a very lucky man with just a few cuts and bruises.You have to go back to the 60s for the last fatality on the Hill although there are numerous bumps and scrapes. Tom’s was a little more spectacular.


Saturday’s busy shift was preceded by another day’s fishing for the Inn and very poor it continues to be. The morning was lovely despite a breeze forecast and the surrounds coming out of the moorings as always worth a look.



My friendly gannet came alongside again along with the cohort of skuas. The big advantage of poor fishing is there are very few other boats out on the Sound so I am getting a lot of the birds around me.


Great to see the wee terns having a go at the skua tanks.


Breeze was from the south today and perfect for sailing. This yacht came out from Poll Domhain, a great little anchorage to the east of Ardban. Although open to the north no swell seems to enter the bay and provides a stopping off point for sailors heading up and down the Sound.IMG_3184

Heard a great story a couple of nights ago about a couple of wee boys who were very excited about a rare cold winter’s day where they used the main road to create a slide. They had borrowed a pair of oilskins and went up and down the road until it was a sheet of ice and they were exhausted. They retired very happy and tired at 10pm to bed. Next day on discovering one of the local worthies car was upside down on its roof at the bottom of the slide, coupled with a pair of ruined oilskins there were two little boys from Milton who kept very quiet for the next few days.

In Flight.


Although it was a little breezy from the south hauled 300 creels and there is no disguising it, the fishing is very poor. Only out because I am working the weekend at the Inn and it would be embarrassing to run out of prawns and squats. The beautiful seabirds kept my mind of how poor the fishing was and I had a go at catching them in flight. Another first today with me feeding a gannet by hand, skua yesterday, who cares if the fishing is awful.


Surrounded by Seabirds

Yesterday began with a bumpy ride out to the Varuna to keep the Inn’s prawn supply going and this was followed up by a full day’s work there.


Weather was a major topic of conversation with wind sweeping down from the north and frequent hail showers. Felt so sorry for the young plants and the trees with their blossoms being stripped off. The sycamores out side took a bit of a pasting.


Unfortunately had a progressively bad headache all day and that took the edge of enjoying the shift. Despite a kip on my break could not shake it of. Vaguely heard Bertie explaining away why we are not catching any prawns, lobster and crab, saying they are there but the cod are eating them. It sounded a bit confused but I was dozing at the time so may have missed the gist of his explanation of why the shellfish fishery is going tits up.

Very late start as felt hung over from yesterday’s head. managed to get out by eleven and hauled 350 pots so not too bad a day. Dougal, being out for the first two hours of the day decided that he wanted to stay out and hid behind his favourite tree.


Knew that half pints and squats were sold out so had to try to get some for the kitchen. prawn tails take the pressure off as there is little preparation for this starter dish. On the way round to the pier the gorse was showing particularly well, good early bee food.


Gorse has it’s detractors in Applecross but I think it has its place and the war waged against it is very misplaced. Effective in the grand scheme of things and wonderful colouring as well. Was told once by an elderly crofter that it is compared to love as it blossoms on every month of the year. Passed other water users on the way out of the moorings.


Although there was still a northerly breeze and hard work hauling I found myself surrounded by ten skuas and for the first time a couple of gannets were alongside.


Another first was a skua taking a fish from my hand, tried it with the gannets but not quite. Fulmar and some tern were about as well. Had a wonderful time and takes your mind of everything. Gannets are probably my favourite seabird.


They are beautiful, sleek arrows, very mobile and are etchings of the sea. There have been gannets working in Applecross Bay for three or four weeks now.


Managed to get the catch to Robert just before six and as there was a lull front of house the pans went straight on the cooker. Fried off a few prawn tails for tea this evening with some sea salt and wild garlic leaves from the garden. Bit frustrated with the broadband this evening having difficulty uploading but in the grand scheme of things ….fairly insignificant.

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.




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.


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!!


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.


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.

Changeable Weather.

Lovely morning for a bit of fishing but poor forecast. Went out anyway as supplies of prawns at the Inn are running low and tomorrow’s ‘cast is pretty poor again. Looking back to the moorings and over to Camusterrach, both looking fresh and bright in the morning sun.




As well as hearing the cuckoo a couple of days ago the skuas are back and this one did not seem at all bothered how close to the boat he came. They used to be a little bit timid, not with the gulls which they bully out of the way for the bait.


After three fleets and enough prawns on board it was off back in. Gone are the days I battle out the weather so leaving the Mairead M to it I headed east and home.


On the way up the road watched the Kingfisher racing in past St Island.


Threatened to cloud over and rain but cleared up and turned out to be a nice day ashore. Landed prawns for the Inn and Loch Ness Inn and home for an afternoon snooze. Inn heaving this lunchtime with people and cars every where. If any indication of the summer to come then it is going to be a busy one.

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