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

Posts tagged ‘squat lobsters’

“It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got.”

( Wednesday evening) Every now and again things are in place which either mean all is well in life or there is a spot of trouble to deal with. Today was one of those days when you have to cope with a spot of bother. Early start due to a day off yesterday and the plan to haul extra fleets went well until the last one. Just a wee bit tired, 540 creels hauled and thinking of heading home, turning round to shoot back my final creels, found myself on the wrong side of a creel which wrapped itself round my legs. That would be okay to deal with but I was in gear and going half ahead so the weight of the buoy was trying to pull me over the stern. Adrenalin kicked in and after what felt like an age, but was probably only a minute, I managed to ease myself into a position to fall backwards off the creel and away from the rope that was trying to catch an ankle. Only resulted in a couple of pulled muscles and a little shake. Thinking about it on the way in you accept that was as close as you want to go but no point in dwelling over it or you would pack in the job. Clarity of thought is so distinct and so many people say how time seems to slow when you are in serious trouble, but I reckon it is the mind working through the survival strategy. I am sure there are many incidents that happen every day at sea like this and no amount of regulation can cut them all out. One of the silly thoughts that went through the brain was, “mustn’t spoil the upcoming wedding”, daft, I know, but it gives that bit more of an incentive, if any was needed. So the engine stopping on the way into the moorings turned a good long day at sea into one of those days. Uncertain about why she stopped but got her going quickly and soon was tied up.

( Tuesday, last week) One of the things I love about this life is its unpredictability, slightly later than usual I was getting ready to go fishing last week when I saw an unfamiliar boat heading slowly into the moorings. Turns out Joel with three SNH guys were out on a wee field trip. Unfortunately their gear box was playing up and heading for Lonbain was too risky. After a request for help, equipment and people were put aboard the Varuna,

we steamed north shooting yesterday’s cleaned fleet off in the Bay. We were looking for flame shell reefs and although we were working with gps marks it was not till the last dip with the camera that we came across them.

There was plenty evidence of maerl beds which is good in itself. I am sure this would be described in certain quarters as supping with the devil, but if it helps the environment in any way I am up for it. Passing The Sand Base on the way home one wonders about the 22 million investment…….

Hauled a fleet, on the way in, still trying to hook up my missing one but failed yet again. Lots of squats though so not a total waste of time. Started towing the boat south

to meet Angus who completed the rescue, turning up just south of Saint Island.

Another few broken creels mended and a squat lobster fried rice completes the day. Means an early start tomorrow to make up for the lost time.

( Now Thursday evening) And now taking a bit of time out after a busy night at the Inn, a spot of reflection. With Tarnybackle singing It’s What You Do With What You’ve Got, so true working at the Inn. Introducing the song it sounded like a plea from the heart asking why we do not help each other more instead of just looking out for ourselves. Classic small example of this was Zuzu and I headed over to the Filling Station to try to sort out the lack of receipts over the last week. I had tried on several occasions and Zuzu had a go as well before going off on hols for the last week. Pooled knowledge and we sorted it out in approximately five minutes. Went into the system as the engineer and got the drawer opened with a bit of knowledge I had learned and fixed my earlier mistake. Good feeling of working together for community benefit walking back to the Inn. Where it was one of those special nights, friends made, can see several tables with people deep in conversation with each other they had never met before eating their meals together earlier in the evening. The camaraderie is immense and although the Boss was a bit tense thinking it was going to be a struggle to seat every one nothing went wrong, comments were off the scale about the food and the service. Easy for me to convey a magnificent Highland night of hospitality, food and drink, (Sandy even got his chic chip ice cream with sprigs of mint) and fine appreciated music. Enjoyed Green Fields of France, Caledonia and others of the folk and country tradition. Like the last couple of years working at the Inn with an ever-changing but fantastic team gives you so much satisfaction. It has been very fulfilling despite the numbers over the last few days and regulars keep coming back despite the ten levels of busy. Rob in his dapper tweeds always cuts a fine picture. Asked if he would mind a picture taken but my shift finished before he came down on the Sunday evening. The Boss took an iPad photo.

Asked to take some photos of the new wonderful lobster linguine

and as they were opposite and very photogenic the langoustines were snapped as well.

Did not know it was supposed to be for the Herald or more care on composition would have gone into the shot. The intrepid two arrived back yesterday, pretty knackered, hungry but contented.

( Finish off Friday evening) As ever one day does not lead into the next with any sort of conformity. This morning saw me out on the Varuna but nothing doing when I went to start her, ignition okay but starter motor dead. Ashore, phoned the ever reliable Ewen, luckily in Inverness, new one picked up and now in the van, ready for refitting tomorrow, langoustines in for the day and the old motor off with out the usual one stuck nut problem. That is usually my engineering experience. Lazy sort of day with only activity was spending lots of money on camera equipment, mainly to keep ashore as the marine environment takes its toll on the one I have. Although the weather is a bit broken the langoustines are still going into the creels although the numbers of berries seem to be coming in earlier this year. The days we are out are a joy to be on the water,

still waters and a view to die for

in every direction.

Interesting vessel moored at the moorings last week,

someone doing some serious open water rowing.

Did not get to chat so have little info about who it was.A wee blast from the past occurred when Willie came over on Saturday evening from Erbusaig to help entertain the Sally Leaving Do. There was only 27 of them and they were great craic. One thing I like in the Highlands is the generation cross over and girls in school with the boys just treat you as anyone else rather than parents. Banter flowed and a fair few vodka and lemonades were consumed, some with ice. The handbag was heavy with tins of cider on the bus for the way home. Back to the blast from the past and it was a photo that appeared on FB of the Curlew being fitted out on the Slip in Kyle, my Dad being on the left of the four, this would be in the seventies and a few memories came back……

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.



Dolphins,Meetings,Massages,Italians and Layoffs…in a Week?

Friday morning and it is a different season from yesterday. This morning after a short doze on the couch it was an early start, mainly to get langoustine away to Loch Ness Inn and with the forecast not very good, a quick look round the remaining creels. Turned out it was very quick. Hauled the first one with lots of berried langoustine, more than a few squats but enough langoustine to go to the next one. Went to pick up the buoy without checking the GPS and turns out it was the south end, meaning I was broadsides to a southerly force 4. Half way through the second fleet, called it a day and was back on the moorings before 8.30am. When I was out there it crosses my mind about why we put ourselves out so much and for what. Pouring rain, grey skies and heaving on a white-capped sea do not make for an easy life, then this happens.


I am surrounded by a small pod of dolphins


with lots of babies


rushing to and fro and all is well again,


not questioning why or where I should be but just living the moment.


I feel a rush of gratitude that these magnificent mammals include me, even for fleeting moments, in their daily meanderings.


This follows on from coming home last night after a shift at the Inn where the staff used the word “carnage” quite a few times to describe the evening. It was n’t really although at times you did wonder about the functionality of the operation. Weather wonderful and the kitchen were going pretty hard to keep the food going out as many of the customers were eating out in the garden enjoying the evening sunshine and the truly magnificent views across the Sound. I had a feeling that it was not going to continue like this as it was perfect midge weather for around about 7.30/8pm. Sure enough by 7.40pm they arrived and with a vengeance resulting in everyone wanting to come inside. Full bar and they kept coming, this time I got the last orders well before everyone were on their tables, but even then this was not enough. The nine Italians  who turned up and were served at 9.30pm as the kitchen were still cooking anyway. The only restrictions we put on at this time of night it is past time for steaks and lamb so the shellfish and fish go out. Not a problem for the Italians, scampi all round, with their kids enjoying the wee person’s menu. You try and keep a handle on it but what’s a langoustine meal more or less and the couple of Dutch girls, coming in at 9.20pm, managed one amongst all the melee. End result is the 21 kilos of langoustine landed this afternoon is now down to one. Despite a couple of rooms of residents getting absolutely pie eyed, one couple disappearing off to their beds before their cranachans came out, the neighbouring table had a nice freebie, it quietened down enough for the staff to have a welcome drink around eleven. With todays early shift in mind I headed home around 11.30pm, tired but pretty content and that was despite being in the dark due to forgetting that my torch was on charge back home. Slow cycle back with some good music on the headphones and coming round the bend passing Alt na Chriche the tumbling water over the rocks caught my attention. With Dougal and Eilidh in attendance I wandered back up the brae and sat on the little stone bridge just listening to the stream gurgling its way under the road and of down past Burnside. After the concentrated application of the previous six hours it was the perfect relaxing, slowing down of an over active mind. It had been a pretty intense day all in all as earlier the morning and indeed all day the conditions were simply awesome,


a word that I use in its proper sense.





Conditions during the day could not have been better, the sky,


a landscape painting with clouds breaking up the blue and keeping the temperature to a reasonable level for the natives.


The langoustine, despite the numbers of berries were still okay and the squats kept coming on board.


Going through gloves at a rapid rate.


It was a day when I honestly wanted to stay on the water till sunset but the people need served and the demands of the market still has a say in my schedule. I was fortunate to see so much during the day from setting out and throughout the day. I reckon the Varuna is a bit like the Inn where it looks and at times feels chaotic but it works and provides for what she was built for.


The first signs of autumn is apparent in the sea when you see cuttlefish


eggs on the creel.


Amongst all the sea life coming up you see the weird and wonderful at times.


The first part of the week, with the weather at times breezy, meant I finally caught up with the gear ashore and had it washed and back on board to be taken out on Thursday morning. Fitted in a Trading Company meeting on Tuesday and a long discussion about Broadband and its future. There are so many variables to fit people’s needs and wants around. The coming of fibre optic, connecting to the AppleNet system, the communities to the north who may be joining and the BT “promises” meant it was a fairly long evening, always difficult after a day at the creels.

Also managed a return to my Thai masseur as phone numbers were changed in the interim, painful but worth the trip over the Hill.



I am upbeat just now and enjoy the intensity of the challenges I face, but I am sure I will come across a grumpy bad-tempered customer and the Varuna will break down, I just hope I will treat this in a way that will be conducive to keeping my positive outlook on people and the life I lead. Great to welcome a couple of new wee residents to the area, another Oscar and an as yet named Kilbride/McInnes only a few days old. Of course Oscar’s parents,the new teacher and partner have also settled in and great to see the age of the community decrease, a welcome change. Unfortunate incident a couple of evenings ago involving tasers, CID and a bit of a stramash but that story is better left to the courts to sort out. Also there are a few employees or soon to be ex-employees who are not too happy as the Hartfield Hostel is laying of most of its staff. It does make you query how organisations apply for community based grants and use a community to procure monies with lots of promises only for those aims to be so wide of the mark as to be off the scale. Just to leave you with a quote and a link so you can make your own minds up if this is a good use of public funds, bearing in mind the imminent closure and laying off of staff.  http://www.venturetrust.org.uk/news/2014/3/marketing-and-developing-adventure-tourism-applecr/

“The project will leave a legacy of sustainable economic activity in the Applecross area; activity which is socially advantageous, environmentally responsible and ethically grounded. This investment will generate a robust social enterprise local employer, maximizing usage of the hostel facilities as well as developing adventure tourism in Applecross.”

Weather of Every Kind.

Hard to take in it has been over a week since I was listening to and singing along with some of the finest musicians in the country. A week and a bit full of fishing doing shifts at the Inn watching the weather piling into the Bay and a couple of meetings to boot. The fishing has kept going although with the weather breaking at the end of last week there have been little gaps on the menu board where beside the Applecross Bay langoustine the N/A has been evident. Not for more than a day though and visitors staying more than one day get a taste of Applecross eventually. The summer is in its later stages as can been seen by the numbers of berried females appearing in the creels


and the scalders wrapping themselves round the ropes, stinging arms and hands, hours after I forgotten all about them.


Rubbing your eyes or/and having a pee can have disastrous consequences.

Seeing the rig stuck on the shore on the west side of Lewis makes you think the local rumours that it may have been an insurance job. Why any one was at sea with such a well broadcast forecast far less towing a 17,000, 35-year-old rig is for some one else to ponder. We were just fortunate that it had died down before the wind had swung round to the north-west. This is the wind that is the worst for the moorings so although it had decreased it was still too strong for a day at sea. While the rig was coming ashore on Lewis the waves were crashing in on the Bay.


Every seventh roller bigger than the previous one being whipped up by the south westerly.


It is a dramatic backdrop for the Mercedes rally that had arrived after midday.


A jolly group of French, with very little English and good craic. Ate lots of seafood and very very appreciative. When Antony came in at midday he took a double take, every table was taken, and it stayed like that all day. It was busy and it being the first of the month the music from Lochcarron was playing.



Was meant to finish at six but nearer nine when I left. Hard work but very enjoyable.

When the wind was not blowing it was raining and rain it certainly did.


When you get wet then it does not seem to matter as you can not get any wetter


so you just get on with it and rather the rain than the breeze that is strong enough to double the effort you need to haul the creels while bracing against the motion all day.


Like running a marathon without thinking about it. The rest of the week bar Friday was routine with major amounts of squat lobsters coming ashore. There are still langoustine on shallower waters, despite the number of berried females growing, and to catch them the squats are going into the creels in vast numbers this season.


Not sure what these leech type worms are, attached to the creels occasionally and laying eggs on the creel.


And came across a dog fish nursery on some rough ground, mermaid purses both born and ready to go.


New, to me anyway, passing traffic, a Marine Harvest well boat maybe. Interesting how salmon farming has progressed from the idea that it could be an extension of the croft with crofters owning a cage in the lochs at the bottom of the croft. Now a multi national industry no longer in the hands of small producers. seems to be the way of our capitalist society of aggregating commerce, size and profit in a smaller number of hands. Every now and again one has a day to forget. These days they seem few and far between and on reflection if you cram it all into one day then hopefully you get a good run after. Had taken ashore a fleet of creels on Wednesday evening and put them ashore,


washed them and mended by Thursday, so ready to take out on the Friday. By the time I was ready to shoot the creels on the ground it felt like a half days work had been done. So with a little more motion than forecast I started hauling creels and went from one to the next, shot over or fouled up in a bunch. Took twice as long to haul five fleets than I normally would. Cut some one’s rope on lost it before retrying but kept the buoy so no damage, just hassle. Could not get another fleet finished as it was shot over at 90 fathoms and my hauler plates were starting to slip. So coming ashore thinking good to get finished, and thinking of what to cook, when my brand new outboard ends up in the water still running. Not really sure how but it did, at least I managed to grab it and a trip to Inverness on Saturday has meant it can be sorted for £200. Bit distressing paying for it and returning it to the workshop at the same time. Don’t let anyone tell you this job is easy. At least I have plenty of strawberries and raspberries, calling in at Black Isle Berries on the way home and getting back in time for the evening shift at the Inn. Busy but went well until 8.15 when 30 people wander in from the growing gale wanting something to eat. Normal night at the Inn I suppose.

There have been little breaks in the weather and taking the dogs out in the late evening you are stopped in your tracks by the view across the Sound.


Living In and Earning From Nature.

Been AWOL this week and just concentrating on sleep when not working. The weather has been mixed but good for being at sea. The fishing has been okay with it being very patchy now, meaning parts of some fleets are empty but other creels are good and making for a reasonable average. And the size of the langoustine is still reasonable. On Tuesday, after a pleasant and guilt free day off on Monday, I almost burst a gasket by trying to do too much. Have in mind that next week is fishing policy and Cambridge music so trying to do two weeks work in the one. All very good in the head but physically difficult. hauled just short of 500 creels and kept one on board meaning to wash it after tea. I did manage that but all in by nine. Took the dogs across by dinghy and Varuna, they are definitely not sea dogs but once ashore they do amuse themselves very well. On the way back I spotted a cormorant on a redundant mooring buoy and on passing with the sun low in the sky he looked very serene on his perch.



The green creels are the newest and need little mending so left till Wednesday to rope up and shoot.


Hauled the gear out on the Middle Bank and up to Sand. Have had a fleet on the edge of the Range for years and decided it is not actually a very good spot. Sometimes very good but over the year it is not worth the effort in keeping the place. Probably the edge of the BUTEC Range is the most heavily fished area of the Sound and although the quality of size is good these creels are very often not that abundant.

Back to the Inn on Wednesday evening and although busy it was fairly easy-going. There is a good change over when you come in for the evening shift as the day staff know what is happening on most tables and where, if any, the residents are sitting. The Boss is taking it a bit easier and have not worked with her for several shifts now. Interesting chat with her the other day with her saying she misses the step back as she has less interaction with the residents and other visitors. For a few of us the monetary incentive is far less than the pleasure of work and achievement. Seeing people enjoying the food and service, meeting new people, passing compliments on to the kitchen are all the positives of the Inn. American and Scottish table of nine in and they were easy to serve and amusing aside. The matriarch said she was paying but knew her son-in-law well and asked me to get her okay for all the potential bottles of wine he may order. It worked for one bottle which was approved with a wink and the other bottle ordered was approved belatedly as she was strolling along the Street when ordered. All good craic. Even the elderly Danish couple who got off to a confused start but managed to seat them in the Dining Room for some oysters and crab. They were effusive in their praise of the curtious service. I smiled when they congratulated us on getting out of Europe and staying in the UK, all part of the job is to hear other opinions and still make people feel welcome.

Back at sea yesterday and little to report apart from catching a rather large octopus


and watching a bonxie on the receiving end of a bombardment by some terns.


Although the prep room at the Inn would disagree as I landed over a dozen kilos of squat lobster tails. I have been fishing a few creels on shallow waters and the squats arrived in huge numbers along with enough langoustine. Every spare minute was used to tail baskets of the little beggars and most of the evening when you went through the prep room some one was peeling the tails. They are not popular on a commercial level as they are so labour intensive but taste wise they are preferred by many to the langoustine. Thursday night at the Inn and each shift is so different, with the weather holding, the Boss out again, and the Inn quiet all was looking peaceful. The rain started falling and the door opened with the hordes coming in for feeding. By this time in the week you are recognising the families who are staying in the holiday houses and quite a few regulars are gathering for the Games weekend. From 7.30pm till after 10 it was pretty manic seating everyone but not a word of complaint from anyone waiting. Ballsed up a room bill and took ages to sort out, had to adjudicate on the ID of a golden eagle, keeping the orders and seating going while chatting and pretending it was not a stress job all part of the night’s work. Nice to see Lizzie, who lived for a brief time in the Schoolhouse. Sold out of sole and monkfish but the breaded cod came on to save the day. Langoustine and squats were still available. The last order from a couple of bikers who finally got a seat at 9pm was two steaks, not something the kitchen wanted to hear, but they were so well cooked judging by the comments from the couple. Second last order the chappie commented that his soup was not what he had ordered….he got tomato and lentil, not broccoli and stilton. unknown to me we had run out of the soups still on the Boards so Soup A was now what he was served…c’est la vie. He did enjoy it but no disguising what it should have been.

The fact that I did not wake up till 8.10am was a sure sign the body is creaking along with a middle of the night cramp in both legs. I never use an alarm as I want to wake naturally, later when tired and early when keen and fresh. On the water by ten. Only mishap was on the way out when I steamed too close to a buoy when caught under the keel. It was bar tight and could not get to the rope so took a chance and put her astern. the rope cutter did a job, picked up the buoy to be returned to owner in the morning. Maybe not quite awake enough.



Reasonable fishing


again in peaceful weather.


Put on my iPod all day for a bit of music and leaving it to its own devices I ended up with mostly Southern US music for the day. Longish day as I was not in at the Inn till five. I, after a little miscommunication, received my lens back £190 poorer after its dip in the sea, so tried it out. On the way in you can clearly see our Hydro in action after a night of heavy rain.



Bonxies in numbers round the boat and today I was hand feeding some of them.


Not quite taking from hand as I would let go just before she would clamp her beak on the fish. It is a hefty beak and would do the fingers damage if caught. Speaking to customers at the Inn in the late afternoon caught sight os a gannet soaring above the shoreline, I think my favourite sea-bird, a beautiful sight watching it soar back and forth. Tired but fulfilled. Politics will have to wait as that is reaching different levels of absurdity and worry. Two different worlds hearing the chaos on the news and living amongst and earning from nature.

“Ill Fares the Land”

Friday and the intention was to go out and haul some creels but a wee check up on the forecast put some doubt in the mind. There is not too much pressure on at the moment to keep the market happy so an increasing southerly after a poor night’s sleep meant that a bit of wood gathering was on the cards.


One of the things I love about Applecross is you can immerse yourself in the busy hurley burly of the Applecross Inn or you can wander five minutes away and been in complete solitude.


Just you and the dogs out of sight and out of mind of the rest of the busy world. Mind you there is always some watching.


It is similar to the front of house weekend and then single-handed going to sea amongst the sea birds and langoustines. Sometimes when you are gathering the wood you can forget what you are doing and the carrying of the branches just seems to happen. A neat new pile has now made its way home ready for a chop for next winter’s fire. Trying to be Scandinavian and have the winter fuel sorted by the end of the spring.

On Saturday it was back to sea and again not for very long. The catch is holding up well although the composition has changed dramatically. The large and extra-large langoustines have decided they are not coming out any more and the creels are full of smaller ones. They are still of a decent size and good for the Inn. The smaller of the No3 size that we land are tailed and sold at the Inn in 1/2 pint jugs of tails. A popular starter that people share before tucking into the serious main meals. So it was only four fleets of creels hauled and we headed back in with around 35 kilos of langoustines and a few squat lobster tails. I know it is going to get so much harder to keep up with supply as the summer wears on so am going to enjoy this wee spell. The van went through to Inverness during the day as we are now down to a one vehicle family and unfortunately the camera went through with it. I was quite lost as I kept seeing photos through out the day and it made me realise how attached I have become to it. We have become so reliant on all types of technology and take for granted so much…listening to Hamish Napier’s The River, downloaded from iTunes and playing through the Mac. Last evening’s sunset was quite spectacular and I was fretting I did not take a snap of it but then again, so what, if that is all I have to moan about. And anyway this evening was not so bad.




The last couple of shifts at the Inn have been pretty quiet, relatively so, people still waiting for tables but in the full knowledge one will come up in the next 15 minutes or so. Time to chat to customers instead of rushing around making sure their meals were correct and served. Always good to see familiar faces from over the Hill and a couple have turned up over the last two days. A story from Edinburgh days of a party in Clarendon Crescent. A visitor from the north stopped off for a party, had a snooze, woke up and wandered off up town not really knowing where Haymarket was at five in the morning. Saw a nurse heading up the road in front of him and tried asking for directions but only response was she sped up to keep ahead. Eventually she gave up and told him where to go. It was when he got back to the flat he was staying at he saw what the problem was. He glanced at the mirror and could not see his face for all the paint and makeup that everyone had fun painting on him while he was dozing. He reckons the nurse still remembers that night.

It has been a hard week being a politician and glad I have not got this hard-line party allegiance that so many have on social media. Whether one has so much money that you have to squirrel it away from being taxed and spending on the country’s infra structure or you sign contracts to build expensive schools that are so badly built that they fall down in ten years….. Party allegiance seems more important than “doing the right thing” these days. I seem to be more and more drawn to the ideas of the Green Party these days but to extricate ourselves from the way we live to something more sustainable is becoming harder to achieve. Always read the weekly missive from Laurence and the Senscot brief, so often getting quotes from such a well read source that chime with my own instincts. He quotes from a book by Tony Judt, Ill Fares the Land.

“We no longer ask of a judicial ruling or a legislative act: is it good? Is it fair? Is it just? Is it right? Will it help bring about a better society or a better world? Those used to be the political questions, even if they invited no easy answers. We must learn once again to pose them. The materialistic and selfish quality of contemporary life is not inherent in the human condition. Much of what appears ‘natural’ today dates from the 1980s: the obsession with wealth creation, the cult of privatization and the private sector, the growing disparities of rich and poor. And above all, the rhetoric which accompanies these: uncritical admiration for unfettered markets, disdain for the public sector, the delusion of endless growth. We cannot go on living like this.”

In my ignorance my only contact with “Ill Fares the Land” was the film mainly set in Applecross about the evacuation of St Kilda. Curiosity has led me to find out, to my shame, that the original quote comes from Oliver Goldsmith’s The Deserted Village.

“Ill fares the land, to hastening ill a prey, where wealth accumulates, and men decay.” All relevant in my life and work as the snap in the last post of what I thought may have been a turbot shows. I have been told it was a Dover Sole and another example of fish moving north in our climatic changing waters. This was certainly not the first I have caught. We should become a little less party orientated and concentrate on how to live within our environment. And finishing with the camera back and the peaceful side of Applecross, before going to the Inn today I took a wander down the road


and enjoyed the stillness of the morning.


Accompanied of course.


Fairly big tides just now


as evidenced in the afternoon on the Bay.



Random Act of Kindness and an Evening of Cousins.

Bit of time off this evening to catch a breath. Saturday, as the people were arriving for Easter, had to make sure they had some local seafood to eat. The fishing is still rather good and although there were not quite so many squats about in the Bay. Lots of rain but it means something different now as the turbine is churning out 90kWs and has been doing for three days now.


As the catch remains decent only three fleets needed hauling to catch for the Inn. Was a little surprised yesterday though as during my break another 30 kilos had to come ashore. Thought that it was good management and they would be ready for today but they started on them last night. After the haul it was a wee break before going up to the Inn for the saturday evening shift. Bit of organising to work out who was to sit where. As usual it worked out fine and starting to see many regulars appearing for the first time this year. It was a busy day and just under 300 meals were produced.

At sea this week the signs of spring are under way.

The gannet, flew before getting the snap, and bonxie


have made their first trips out on to the Sound,


the eiders are preening and cooing, while there is a definite competitive edge for food to build up for breeding season. This morning, although pretty tired after yesterdays marathon, managed to haul close on 300 pots, again for a decent catch but hearing there is a dropping off elsewhere. A pity as the tourists have arrived in numbers, many brought in by the NC500. It is going to be a good problem to deal with but a problem it is going to be. You wonder how many layers of visitors the Inn can cope with, but as long as a smile and a chat is accompanied with the wait it seems to work.

This morning made one forget about all the hassles of other people’s angst and you just got on with living.



The weather stayed quiet


with showers coming down the Sound before a breeze picked up from the north. You can see the change in the weather from the morning, but it did stay quiet, the only motion was from passing traffic.



Was on the way in by that time and tailing squats all the way to the moorings. Not hauling the creels on such a regular basis you just have to accept that there will be some losses but some octopi are smart enough not to go into the creel and eat the langoustine from the outside.


Busy, busy day yesterday and from bottling up around 10am to finishing with a Crabbies around 11pm there was little respite. It was not till 5pm before I managed to get away for a “break” which involved taking the pooches out for a bike ride


and then out to the Varuna for the next batch of langoustines. And then back into it. There was a slight lull before the next wave came input it turned out to be a fine night. I reckoned the big booking of twelve under the name of Eilidh Barr may well be some one I knew as there are probably not too many of that name around. Sure enough the Barrs from Abriachan made up three of the twelve and although the monkfish ran out causing a bit of consternation they did seem to enjoy the night. May say in the passing they are my cousins, not often seen, mainly at funerals, but great company along with their mates from the Borders but practicing speaking with a Drum accent. As I was already serving an Applecross cousin, Sine, on table 11 it was a night of the cousins. The twelve were on the NC500 with their mates and met another table of friends who were also on the NC500. It is, as I have said, going to be busy. They were saying that the campsite at Clachtoll near Achmelvich is full for the summer already.

It is always difficult to write about local disputes and disruptions. I think living here is wonderful and accept what I write will bother more than a few people from time to time but I received enough response from my last post to know that a lot of people care about the future of Applecross. That’s life, and I appreciated the random act of kindness on Saturday afternoon, they tasted good.


Belching for Beer

Although looking out the window just now it does not feel very like Easter, Easter it is. A good day was had and using the weather forecast to carry out the work ashore that badly needs doing. The third raised bed has been prepared for the second early tatties, with the first two already sorted and planted with Duke of Yorks and Arrans. The wood pile is growing the final VAT Return has been completed (my own) and am now up to date for the first time in over a year. Relieved is not the description, more than that. Feel things are levelling out and becoming more under control. Yesterday was much the same plus a badly needed chimney sweep which will end up with a new chimney in a few weeks time. It was certainly needed and has resulted in a major improvement in the efficiency of the fire. Drawing well and the temperature gauge is in the optimum range. This will be completed with the purchase of a new baffle plate and fire wool over the next couple of weeks. Work was carried out very impressively by Angus and Sara https://www.facebook.com/windiesweep/?pnref=lhc, lots of knowledge gained and a warmer house.


The stove is like new tonight and makes you forget the weather outside. Always have thought these small self-employed partnerships are the best fit for the fragile environment of the Highlands. The fishing industry has stayed that way to a greater extent on the west coast and as a result is a better fit.

It would be remiss of me not to mention the latest slightly bizarre take on our Community Company. Due to the last year’s full on activity in the share issue and building the Hydro Scheme a simple administrative error was overlooked and the annual return, the list of directors, nothing more, nothing less, was not entered to Companies House. When this was pointed out and professional advice taken the situation has been rectified and once the holiday period is over everyone can go back on the website to see all is well. I find it fascinating how a local rumour mill can operate, non-members, who have always been against the Company and what it does, come out of the undergrowth and spread ridiculous tales of whatever. Same source as ever, last time this happened was during the LAS campaign, when a petition was organised against the Community Council and the Community Company, and originally it was when they did not want, or understand, the formation of the ACC. I suppose it is inevitable that this happens from time to time and it is quite rare being in the majority considering my views on fishing, environment and politics. Not sure what is to be achieved by them, the fuel keeps selling at close to Inverness levels, the toilets, despite problems surrounding the cleaner stay open and clean, the broadband, as far as I am concerned is great, and going by a conversation in the shop improved in some of the black spots. Just logged onto the Hydro and with the latest burst of rain the energy graph is on a steep upwards curve after a wee dry spell. It was always going to be the case that the transition from volunteer to paid work regarding governance was going to take time and effort but apart from this glitch is going smoothly. Applecross is a wonderful place to live but a thick skin, special social skills and a smile is needed to survive the occasional hostile outbreaks. Honestly I feel sorry for the malcontents, life is for living, helping and doing, not destroying. It is not as though we have to look very far for bad news in the community at the moment.

Back onto the real life here. At the Inn over the last couple of evenings and the Easter weekend is on us. Still we did not need to use the Dinning Room and no one had to wait for tables. It was a bit of a dog night especially as Bertie was in, a 78 kilo St Bernard, beats Merlin from Guernsey, a year younger and only 59 kilos. Bertie is still very playful and there was a bit of messing about….carefully and you knew when he stood on your foot.


Not sure why it came up in a conversation but I mentioned a very respected nurse while training would get tipsy at the end of the night on other people’s drinks, leftovers is better description than dregs. Times were tight while studying, response was “Oh I use to belch for beer”, on occasion one does not have to search for a post title. Served, Basque, Catalan, Lithuanian and Portuguese last night. Sometimes you can just travel by working in the Inn. Caught a lovely and different sunset on Wednesday evening.9Q7Q3112

Going back to Tuesday a day at sea was a welcome break in life’s proceedings. Intend to tie in closely to the Inn’s needs and try to catch just enough langoustine for this very good market. Need a little adjustment but am going to try to catch more squat lobsters as they may well be one of the most popular dishes, served in sweet chilli sauce or garlic butter. Only have a half fleet on the harder ground just now and it is working


but intend to put some older creels on ground where I hope the squats are. Only trouble is that they are renowned for disappearing if you deliberately target them. We will see. Being on the shallower ground and the creels lie a bit longer between hauls it gives the octopi a good opportunity to have a nice meal.


The weather has been pretty broken this week


so the intention is to catch a day at sea tomorrow to get the tails back on the menu for the weekend. Looking at the diary it is going to be a long one.



(Monday evening) Four and a half hours of meetings on a beautiful Spring day.


Balanced out a bit by taking the dogs out just now. Looking up to the sky, seeing Orion’s Belt along with a fat finger nail moon and listening to an owl calling puts things into perspective. The ill-informed tweets I’ve been getting from the mobile sector, the long three hours with Marine Scotland trying to close off The Inner Sound to the mobile sector to mitigate the actions of the MoD need a balance. By keeping the trawlers out it may make a bit of room for the displaced creels. Not just about banning mobile sector but instigating our own conservation ideas. Some good intelligent debate and all positive apart from coming up against the slow machinations of government. Nowadays the negative “Whatabout my rights” when you try to instigate some measures that will help the long-term sustainability of the fishery against the short-term lose of livelihood using unsustainable methods. It seems to be a mantra both at sea and on land from those that have so much and have their environments at the bottom of their priorities. More the defence of their positions and the continuation of supremacy is more important. Ended with a quick trip down to the Ironworks to drop a couple of photos off and a Highland Wholefoods shop. Good craic there although had trouble writing the cheque….still recovering from the Marine Meeting. Beautiful drive back through Torridon as  I picked up some bait and salt at Aird. (Would have been back later if I had not forgotten the camera.) This along with dropping prawns at Loch Ness Inn meant more than just a meeting. Home in time for a plate of soup and back out to Community Council. Good meeting and MoD features along with an organised Independence Convoy of around 250 cars. We are taking the opinion that we cannot cope with this number of cars on top of a busy summers day in May.

(Tuesday evening) busy old day involving, fuelling up,


bit of fishing on a stunning quiet day,


salting a quarter tonne of herring, landing the langoustines, an hour at the wood after checking dips at the Filling Station, tea cooked (Thai squat lobsters), and then Fortnight invoice to the Inn followed by an on time Fishing Return and a last but one (late) VAT Return. Managed a few tweets in favour of MPAs and had a couple of discussions with the mobile sector about what is sustainable and what may not be. As pointed out in Inverness where is the inshore mobile fleet now? two draggers left in Kyle now, one gone to the twin rig and the other up for sale…..not a great sign of sustainability. Hopefully the creel sector will try to get their own house in order in reducing their fishing effort. We are having a good spell just now and I only needed to haul 200 creels for my own little market. Fishing and catching the langoustine is only part of a day at sea, looking around and taking in the beauty that surrounds us


is the best part of the deal, keeps the tiredness at bay. The solitary seagull


or the very happy female eider


and the basking seals.


Caught my first mackerel in the creels, a little unusual at this time of year.


Summer has arrived,


for a week anyway, and is to be enjoyed with lots to do. Have not even thought of the croft and garden.

Regeneration at Sea and Ashore.

(Thursday) Waiting for today’s weather. A quiet day to work through some gear that has not been hauled for a wee while. Just as well it was quiet as there was quite a bit of sorting to do. Started off gently on the Bay, catching squats to order for the Mothers Day rush on Sunday. The posh fish like turbot, halibut and sole sell so much better when they have squats with them. Thought I would take a few shots of what comes up. Shallower water brings up far more variety than further out in the deeper mud prairies.


Quite a few octopi about just now,


unfortunately they prefer the prawns as a nice snack. They will take squats if they are all on offer. Back to sea though.


The only species I “manage” are starfish. That is they do not go back especially the occasional thorn starfish.


A throw back to the days when I farmed scallops and saw the destruction they left behind. They are pretty amazing at regenerating though.


Gives you a bit of hope when we sort out a little conservation on the west coast waters nature will recover from what we have done to her.Sort of forgot when I went out to the deeper waters. Out in the middle it was a different story. Managed to have two of my fleets plus some one else’s in a bit of a tangle. Ended up going for the North end of the one on top. Hauled it until it broke and then hauled the second one which pulled up the bundle of creels on the broken end. Towards the end of the afternoon I was joined by a cheeky cormorant. Some have no inhibitions and come right up to the boat demanding fish. This was one of them.


I was hoping to go up to the Intake to check out the screen, but hauled a fleet trying to catch the “lost fleet”. Did not catch it and not really surprising as I had not put the right readings in so it was not really lost. Maybe a fishing version of Schrödinger’s Cat, where the cat is both dead and alive, my fleet being both lost and not lost. The North end bouy was gone so hauled it from the other bouy and in just in time to land the prawns before starting the shift at the Inn.

The last two shifts were good and even now plenty of people about. A Volvo filming advert group, archeologists from Bradford, nurses who trained in Edinburgh, one living in London but having to leave because of cost of living. Makes you wonder how London is going to be serviced when people working in the public services can no longer afford to live there. Bankers from Herts, even a couple from Penzance, they are coming from all over. Hard to believe the “season” has not started yet.

(Friday evening) Closed up last night and woke up under the weather. Unfortunately getting a head cold invariably ends up with headaches. North wind blowing down the Sound so was not interested in a day’s fishing. Came round a bit and went up to the Intake to check things over but all was well


with the physical side of things all okay.


The glitch may need another visit from the experts. Dougal and Eilidh always like these little jaunts up the hill.


Eilidh has recovered from her bad hip and ambled after a scent. Was not away long  and we were back before the weather changed.


Blow from the north coupled with a wintry shower meant the Intake was not a place to be.

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