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

Posts tagged ‘St Ayles Skiffs’

“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.


Row, Row, Row Your Boat.

After landing some prawns to the Loch Ness Inn  I went up to the inaugural  St Ayles Skiffs Rowing World Championships at Ullapool. Partly to fight off a little cabin fever and mainly because I wanted to, Ullapool was the place to be. All week there was a display of skiffs rowing, all ages and all abilities. On the way in I noticed an older looking boat with mast and I think she was a replica with sail.


Did not find too much out about her but she drew me back to her after parking up. The pier was filled with stalls and the beach from the pier to the campsite was lined with skiffs and rowers from all round the Scottish coast and from as far afield as America.


Their skiff, the Sephira, was intriguing as they had set up a series of wires from the bow to try to sing to and record the whales. They had built a skiff that doubled as a musical instrument which was going to play to the whales, fantastic imagination.


Lovely carved head at the bow.


That was their main objective as their rowing was not up to the competitive standards of the Coigach and Ullapool boats.

The starts to the races and the whole seemed to go like clockwork and the amount of organising to put on an event like this was well impressive.


One sensed a very strong competitive edge to the days proceedings, and in particular, a couple of close races had the crowd yelling encouragement coming up to the finishing line.This was one of the heats where I think it was the Coigach boat well ahead and looking like they were going to stay that way.


The skiff from Crail were either getting a last minute pep talk or asking their steerswoman where to go.


All the skiffs are from an identical kit and are built as a community project, all self funded. I think lots of potential in Applecross to get at least one on the water.


Walking along the shore every skiff that came back from their row was met with cheers and congratulations no matter how well they had done. It was quite a spectacle and spent the whole morning watching, chatting, and meeting several people I knew along the shoreline. Had a good chat with Joe about how little we know about bees but as always you pick up a little knowledge every time you speak to some one with bees. It is better sometimes to chat with guys that are ahead of you but not too far. Alison had mentioned that there was a chance that the Coigach boat could make its appearance in Applecross to maybe inspire a community build and row. I have only mentioned it to three guys and there was immediate enthusiasm. This is just as well as when I wandered up to Lesley on the Mic she immediately announced Applecross was going to be inline for a skiff. Not the reason why I was there but it is always good to hear Applecross on the “airwaves”.

Early afternoon I wandered down to see if Noel and the Summer Queen were going out in the afternoon but it was called off being a bit quiet, there was too much to do and see for people to take trips out on any boat.


Probably for the best as the journey back to the Inn would have to have been a bit hairy to be on shift at 6pm. And it was just as well as we got absolutely panned. The weather was just on the verge of being uncomfortable outside so demand for tables was way over premium. Warned that friday evening was silly and last night was worse/better whichever way you looked at it.

Stopped for an invited cup of tea at Leckmelm on the way home as I was not on the Queen and had a good chat about fishing etc but wish I had my camera in the house for the robin rescue. Ailsa had told me why she had some pheasants growing in a little”house’ in the garden and as we were chatting away about this and that she noticed the robin that was prancing about around the house nipped inside to see what was doing. Next thing Ailsa shot off saying she had to get the robin out as she/he would not last long in the company of pheasants. And she was right as they had a good go at robin before being rescued by the lady of the house. Ailsa half in half out of the wee house trying to separate robin from pheasants……a fine cup of tea and craic with no biscuits, still doing well and getting down to summer weight at last.

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