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

Posts tagged ‘Varuna’

Photogenic Applecross Morning

A wee snippet as I await my heat exchanger part for the Varuna. Perfect day to go to sea but times have changed. Every company seems to have cut its cloth to a bare minimum these days so when one has a break down you can no longer go into either Inverness or any component parts place and get simple parts of the shelf. I have a 7/10 day wait for the heat exchanger for the gear box. No point in fretting as a week over 40 years at sea is nothing. This morning I had serious pangs about being ashore while watching the Grace Anne slide north.

So nothing for it but to enjoy the morning ashore, watching the geese share the field with the Highlands

across the road.

Next it was up the road with the dogs along the Beechwood path.

The weather for the Hydro has been good for most of the summer so a day like today is the perfect antidote.

Trees are wonderful to walk beside, under, through and the colours at this time of year are so vivid and on the ground as well.

Back to the Inn where I was recognised by my calling for Dougal not to bother a wee dog, which turned out to be from Barleyport. Wee chat before seeing another photo at the back door, Lyndsay and Shaun,

who are heading off on their travels tomorrow and I don’t mind saying the Inn will not be quite as bright while they are gone. Pretty sure they will be back though. And then it was off home for a gentle afternoon.



Back after a Technical Break

Been a wee while since posting but there have been technical reasons for this and it feels good to be back. When I was preparing to post a couple of weeks or so ago my iMac bit the dust. I had been warned about a filling start-up disc and had tried to delete various files but to no avail. As I was enjoying an episode on 4oD everything went pear-shaped. Took it to a Dr and it came back, fixed only for a couple of hours, but minus all the files. So now owner of a MacBook and finally with a bit of technical help can post and with photos. Slowly getting used to it as there seems to be techniques to simple things such as scrolling down that I am only finding out on a suck it and see level.

Looking back it is extraordinary what we get up to on the peninsula. Daily life goes on and, although routine, it is never ever boring. Whether it is meeting people at the Inn or going fishing there are always lovely people to make contact with or wonderful things to see

and watch.

The banter with Geoff and Maureen over the last three weeks or meeting the family who just wandered in this morning are part of the daily tooing and froing. Certainly a bit of the English/Scottish involved but all at a banter level, not what I have been seeing on twitter this evening about Catalonians being beaten up by thugs for daring to vote for their Independence. As usual at the Inn we have a direct link to Barca and was told about the underlying current of fascism that exists in certain quarters of power in that country. Our source was quite definite about what has been known and talked about for years and now has been exposed on social media. I had to stop watching scenes of women being beaten up by men who were  wearing balaclavas and full riot gear. And they were the law of the land, makes you question how much you can take before standing up to authority that you believe to be wrong. Justice is an oft used word these days but there appears to be little on view. It was amazing seeing the restraint shown by the Catalonian populace in the face of such brutality.

The family in the morning hailed from Whitworth, N Yorkshire and I was treated to a wonderful word picture from an elderly gentleman who described a community of mills and workshops, neighbourliness and knowing everyone in the community. Very relevant in today’s world and how the Inn operates, unqualified help to anyone who needs it, whether it is simply finding visitors a bed to sleep in or sorting a breakdown. It is probably just me being in a positive frame of mind but for about ten minutes we had a lovely symbiotic and reminiscent conversation comparing the changes over the years in a Yorkshire mill town and a crofting township in Applecross. Sometimes a simple conversation can transport you across the moors to someones community that they are proud of and lets you in for a brief look.

Leaving the specifics aside for another post the fishing catches have remained very good

until the last week where there was a serious dip in the haul. This coupled with poor weather forecast for most of the week means langoustine availability is going to be stretched this week. Only a couple of portions left as I had an early finish today and likely not to be fishing until later in the week. Just being at sea keeps ones sanity in the increasingly crazy world we live in. Making the most of the quiet days

in-between the days of wind. There is a notable change in the air as it is now only after seven and it is wet, dark and windy outside.

Ashore and in tandem withe fishing there’s still plenty to do, cleaning the screen goes on,

sometimes in the dark as the day is shortening,

walking the dogs, although decided the Bay is a little too crowded with birds just now. some however do not seem to mind Dougal careering after them. The heron

has a disdainful look as he surveys the relentless dashing about. Eilidh dives into the river yipping away, unusual, but then I see an otter swimming out to sea. fortunately she comes back on command as she would have stood no chance if the otter had stood its ground. It’s a cliché but there is so much to do and so much to see and so little time to achieve this……..and that is just in Applecross. So I leave you with one of the sunsets of the last fortnight. Feels like a season away.

Hegg Mac

In a bit of mild shock this evening over what could have been earlier. I am well aware of the greater tragedy for many folk after the insanity in Manchester. We have a Manchester connection at the Inn and it brings it home that we are never far away from the actions of madmen. These people have to have a disconnect with the norms of humanity to carry out acts like they do. My own potential mishap pales into insignificance when put against what the people of Barra must be feeling tonight, but life for others goes on.

Tuesday was a hit the wall day and that meant that absolutely nothing got done and resulting in eighteen hour days since, not remotely catching up but at least not falling further behind. The weekend featured the music brought to us by Hegg Mac, a band

that Matthias from Karslruhe,

brought over to play their world tour of Applecross. To be perfectly frank I did not hear as much as I would have liked. Saturday night the tour got underway at the Community Hall but as I was fishing and others were younger and keen to go I stayed on and finished at the Inn. Feeling pretty knackered so the ease on down of the late night suited me fine and the second night of the tour took place at the Inn. Busy old lunch even with the poor weather. Although sold as the “acoustic set” there was a fair amount of setting up.

When they did get to play they rocked and sounded really good. Good food

and great music, what more does one need, Raymond taking the snaps?

Again coming to the end of the shift I did not hear as much as I would have liked but did manage the whole of the first set. They finished up at the Walled Garden but that turned out to be my Wall day.

Monday saw me delivering langoustines to Loch Ness Inn, Alison to Beauly, Aron to Toscaig and racing around Inverness trying to organise passports, Gaelforce, Highland Wholefoods, before picking up wood and herring

on the way home. Light and still at the Shed moorings.

Maybe the Tuesday off was so on the cards although I did not see it on the horizon.

Back on the trolley for Wednesday and it was down to the Pier early to throw off some creels for washing,

before nipping up the road for a badly needed massage from Sarah, back to the Pier to wash the creels and then the shift at the Inn. Busy enough with a table of fourteen booked in at 8pm but as they were the Karlsruhe crowd on their last night all went well with only a short wait for tables for a couple of residents. We then finished the night with a truly acoustic session

but again tiredness takes over and I am off down the road for an early start on Thursday as the weather had quietened down.

Fishing fine and one of the fleets back in operation so just the other to find. Unusually have had five attempts at it so far, beginning to wonder if it has been dragged a little out of position. The well forecast weather arrived this afternoon

and it was a pleasure to be out.

Not a lot of sea life about but the views are fine and quiet waters are the order of the day. The bees are looking very healthy and busy

and the garden is buzzing with bees and colour.

That left today to deal with and all was going well. Varuna beached alongside the Pier, another fleet ashore to be washed along with the bottom of the Varuna. Things going swimmingly, not quite getting the fleet ready for going out in the morning as there were a few bars to repair. Not a good set of creels these ones. Have had a lot of the welds breaking earlier than they should. So with the oil change left to do I floated her off. Decided I would make a really good days work and change the oil at the moorings. Only just decided to do that as it was easily put off for a day or two. Went below and thought just a little more water than there should be, pumped her out and proceeded to empty the sump, then saw water pouring in from the aft compartment, another quick couple of pumps, change of oil and filters, open up the aft hatch to a little fountain of seawater coming in where there should be a bolted on anode. Rotted away and still have a little shake thinking if I had put the oil change off the Varuna would have settled on the bottom in about an hour. Phone to Ewen, who picked up parts on the way home and now ready for another beaching, through the night this time. So close to having my wee world turning upside down.

(2.00am) Ashore again after leaning her against the Pier, waiting for the tide and fitting a new bolt, packing and anode on. The light was fine on the way out,

so now a couple of hours sleep before it all starts again.

Back to Hegg Mac and talking to Matthias it seems the name is taken from a colloquialism with an added Scottish twist, basically meaning de stressing, going with the flow and Scottish, even Applecross style. Thought about that many times this evening when it all could have been so different.

Now 6.00am and all is well after my mini scare, the Varuna is back on her moorings, sitting peacefully as though nothing had happened, and I am going to bed after having an hour and a half sleep. So Hegg Mac works but a wee insight to what goes on behind the scenes in getting some langoustines on the plate.

Mr Chisholm Accompanies One

Walking back from the Inn on a dark and damp Friday night, I realised that distance and time can be measured in music, especially if you are listening to one of the Duncan Chisholm Trilogy. In this case it was Affric, An Ribhinn Donn get you under way, followed by the cascading Big Archie and before you know it before Night in That Land comes on. It was a perfect way to come home after a very, very enjoyable evening.

The lead up to the show earlier could have been more relaxed as it has turned out to be a very busy week. A gentle start as still recovering from the lurgie on Monday but was out in the evening, initially at the Inn, but ended up at the Community Hall, for a meeting about Out of Hours in Applecross. Only being lightly involved in local politics and finding that hard enough I do not envy those at either Highland or National level. In this case we heard how times have changed and we no longer have as good a supply of GPs as we would like and those new do not have the 24/7 commitment to coverage that those in the past had in the Dr Findlay’s days. Mind you there is probably less alcoholism now as in the old days. We can consider ourselves so very fortunate in our current Situation. Even the managers were suggesting we have as good a service as any where round the Highlands. But Doctors need time off and the cover is going to be still locum but is also going to be a mix of paramedics and nurse practitioners. This has already happened and there seems to be little concerns in the community. The ambulance service were also present and first responders are back on the menu. We were going down this route before but was stalled due to an unresponsive SAS, but that has now been solved and the Health Care Assoc is going to take this on. The defribs are now in town and hope to be in position in the next month or so. Being Applecross it is not one or two but six are going t be installed round the Community, monies all raised within the Community itself. Certainly impressed the managers.

Tuesday saw the CC meeting take place, constructive and frustrating at the same time. Knowing we have little powers and can only keep telling the authorities about the state of the Bealach. However there does seem to be a bit of action, partly as a result of photos of the deterioration of the road that we send in. Newspapers are always looking for angles on the NC500 and when you talk to a journalist giving two sides you leave yourself wide open to editing, but it turned out to be fairly balanced. Some people on the following Facebook steam say exactly the opposite of what you want to put across. Everyone, in my view is welcome, but it is going to put an undoubted strain on our infrastructure. Many communities would wish our problems

Wednesday and my fishing career has restarted.


I had been out to the Varuna on Tuesday afternoon to link up my new batteries and fire her up for the first time this year. Bit suspicious that I have a dead cell in the system so isolate the lighting bank as a reserve. The batteries are new because of one of those little mishaps, perfectly avoidable, but happen anyway and end up with you poorer and with a sore head from hitting it against a wall. Had two ashore, fully charged and back in the van when I was asked to nip over the Hill to pick up a couple of Internet boys from the train. Remembered the batteries in the back, the slidey floor and the insecure back door. The van is not quite a Teuchter wagon but is heading there. I actually stopped, but the hand brake never held so went round the next bend. Big mistake as two £100 batteries shot out the back door and lay smashed on the Bealach. Did not stop hitting the steering wheel until after Kishorn. Fishing went surprisingly well with only one out of the five fouled up. I have realised this week how much I have missed the sea with all its magic,





and life.



Dozen  kilos and a few squats means the year is under way, langoustines and squats now back on, well appreciated on Thursday evening by the regulars, five squat lobster in garlic starters with Isla having chips and salad with hers. Fine food for a young un. These squats were caught on the way back from Rona,


was there with Sean trying to link up the Applenet but did not go all to plan as a bit of kit was forgotten. Shows up how the stretched capacity of the community does break at times. If we had two people involved then a phone call back to Applecross, an instruction for some one on the computer and all would have been sorted. Still some work done


and may be finished through a phone call. This was exactly the chat I had with an MSP who stayed at the Inn on Wednesday evening. Our community capacity is being stretched so thinly, but soldiering on we will continue. Good to chat to a Chair of one of the Committees that have an over view of rural life. You can still give him the difficulties of survival over here even if he is at the opposite end of the spectrum with your political views. Working at the Inn has taught the ability to accept the many faces of human nature and not react adversely. I was being watched by the regulars who were imaging newspaper headlines the next day involving front of house in fracas with landowner

So we are up to Friday and third day in  row we are off to sea. Bit of a breeze but just a little more than gentle. Again good run with another five up with only one foul and it had been lifted by a neighbour possibly exacerbating the work. Due a wash so took it closer to home. Friday evening was earmarked for a movie showing and to be frank I was not enthusiastic, it being a hard few days and managing to squeeze in a short sharp migraine on Thursday night. However well worth the effort as Postcards from Applecross was a cracking video taking in different aspects around the community. Nick, Stephen and lately Angelica have put together a series of  short videos lasting an hour showing the variety of occupations and life styles on the peninsula.They ranged from the croft to the sea taking in the Inn, wool dyeing, ice-cream making and photography on the way. I found it very touchingly simple, getting to the soul of the community, but not branding it in a tourist sort of way. Regular visitors to the Inn will love a glimpse into how people live in order to stay here. The beauty of the place is shown in the photography of Jack’s, Angelica and Nick, who sadly passed away last year. Had a lot of time for Nick who fell in love with our wee place and he came out on the boat for a day, becoming colder than he had ever been in his life. He was a quiet gentle man and with an eye to his surrounds.

Footnote to the evening; I walked up to the Hall and soon after leaving the house a car passed and then stopped to give me a lift as Fiona saw there were no dogs being walked. Chatting away I was slightly taken aback as we scooted past the Hall. Fiona then commented that she was going up to the Bay as she was slightly early, methinks this is a little unusual but okay. She then mentions she is heading out to dinner and not to the Hall. So half way round Milton Loch we screech to a stop as we both assumed we were heading for different destinations. Me to work and her to the Hall instead of where we were really going…me to the Hall and her to Gordon and Val’s.

Back to Mr Chisholm and this afternoon on the wood run. I had moved onto Cannich and it took all of that album plus the tracks up to the third , Lorient Mornings of  Farrar, to load up what felt like a 3/4 ton of wood,


shifting it 50 metres to the van. It was heavy going but with his beautiful, haunting fiddling playing, the graft on a driech day was minimal. Dougal and Eilidh were in their own world but never far from all the ditches.


Good Company but no Prawns.

Don’t mind if I go fishing. The backdrop to the start of the day takes your mind of the severe lack of langoustines.


The “hired help”, who stacked with little instruction,


made sure the hauler was going at full speed and we were in at sunset.


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.”

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.

Surprise,Surprise, MoD get their Expansion.

Back from the Pier washing the 100 or so creels I took home on Saturday.


The washing did not quite go as planned and a few left for tomorrow.


Arranged to meet up with Eileen, come over from Inverness to chat about the expansion of the BUTEC Range. Seems the Bylaw is being enacted on the 29th of June, assuming the fishermen concerned know that they have to shift the gear from the new enclosed area. As expected this is all going ahead with the repercussions throughout the local fishing fleet dismissed without a thought. The socio/economic survey concluded that around £500,000 would be taken out of the local economy and fishermen would lose employment with fewer boats fishing on the Inner Sound. The survey seems to have been a simple fact-finding mission with no actions intended to mitigate the expansion. It was made patently clear that there was to be no compensation awarded for lose of fishing grounds. An act of compulsory purchase which if carried out ashore would come with some recompense, but the MoD/Qinetic do not follow these rules and comply only with National Security and shareholder profits. The survey steered well clear of added value of the catches which are sold in Applecross and attract large numbers of visitors into the area who want to eat local and sustainably caught seafood. Although I do not know the source but I have read that £1 spent is worth £6 when it is spent locally.  You do not need a calculator to work out the value of the hundreds of kilos of crab, langoustine, lobster and squat lobster sold locally and what they mean to the local economy. I will always support local when I am able as, if we lose services that most people consider a right, then this community is in trouble. While there is absolutely no animosity between the local Qinetic workers and the fishermen, both sectors see the need for the other’s survival, there are only two Applecross jobs directly connected to the BUTEC Range. The other danger I see is the tie in to the Defence machine and the vulnerability of the local economy being so dependent on public funds being made available for the continued operation of the Range. It does not matter if they are left or right-wing politically, a future Government may well decide the operations here will be too expensive to run and may turn off the tap leaving local employment now dependent on this industry high and dry. Applecross has always been a Sanctuary and that has been desecrated to some extent by these actions. I was asked what now but I have always taken the view that we were powerless from the start and whatever the MoD/Qinetic wanted they were going to get. Statements put forward by management saying that the structural work taking place at Sand costing millions was maintenance was being disrespectful at the very least to the fishermen, but this has been the case since the MoD have come into the area in the 1970s. Pleasant to meet Eileen anyway and all went well apart from her camera falling over on the pier, new camera and old tripod, which a bit of tape did not sort out. This was just before the camera tipped over on the slope of the pier.


She was doing a long shot of the moorings with the Varuna sitting peacefully there.


The interview was finished off on her iPhone, now a lot seemingly are. On the way down to the pier there are lots of scenes telling us that conditions this Spring have been conducive to reproduction.


With more up on the Bay yesterday.


The weekend began early but fortunately finished reasonably early as it was a lot quieter than expected on Sunday evening. Half past four start on Saturday but again only had to haul seven fleets as the fishing is still holding up. The weather is forecast to deteriorate at the beginning of the week so hopefully have enough in tubes hanging over the side of the Varuna for the bad weather days. On the way out I passed the Suilven at anchor in the moorings.


I saw her the previous evening bouncing her way north but obviously deciding that it was a little too choppy. The passage on Saturday was fine.


The Boss was away at an old man’s concert at the Caley stadium, we got a couple of fairly incomprehensible phone calls late on so assume she was enjoying herself. Sunday was very enjoyable , starting with a couple of car rallies, the Porches are regulars and although parked neatly along the side of the road they managed to upset a passing local.


There is always going to be little upsets. As I keep saying there are a lot of people wanting to experience the Sanctuary and who are we to deny them, it means going with the flow a little and when you pass the Inn it will take half a minute longer. The Aussies from Sydney, the Americans from Louisiana, Miami and Oregon along with the Europeans from Romania, Germany and all other parts seemed to leave very happy. I have been in need of a shift like that and even better when I get home early as well. When the weather is fine it makes front of house so much easier.


This evening I had Eileen back on the phone, seems that the interview done on her phone was causing problems for the technical staff. A telephone interview follows and the spag bolls takes a little longer to cook. Foxgloves always seem to find the hardest, poorest ground to grow on.


NC500 (again) and Soaring Bonxies.

Caught a little bit by surprise when the last post did the rounds. Did not think there was anything out of the ordinary but the comments about the NC500 certainly struck a chord with one or two people. Maybe worth adding a comment or two regarding this. I live, work and enjoy a part of the world that is simple and awesome. Today for example I’ve been catching langoustine in a stiff northerly with bonxies circling around me and in a couple of hours I am heading for the maelstrom which is Applecross Inn. There is no wonder that so many people head this way and eat local seafood that is so well cooked and presented. I have regarded living here a privilege and welcome people who make the effort to come here. Whether they be Tweeds or Neds I would welcome all without prejudice. If misbehaving then that is different and to be honest there is more bad behaviour amongst the Tweeds. What we have tried to do with NC500 is to upload a bit of education for the drivers now on our single track roads, the genie is out of the bottle. We need the NC500 to put info up on their website that should alert drivers to the etiquette of single track drivers. So far for some unknown reason they are reluctant to do this. The info is out there in Road Safety Scotland leaflets, also,http://www.scotlandinfo.eu/driving-single-track-roads-in-scotland/ videos on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BQZownCGnYg plus info regards lambing season etc. Additional info in not putting stickers on road signs, obscuring vital directions and conditions can be easily added. Unfortunately the NC500 seems to be tied into another 500 and we have seen a huge increase in high performance cars. Again welcome but they should remember they are not on the Indy500, not travelling in close order convoys and generally should try to behave like most other members of the driving public. Back to the tweeds again. Really does not help that the headline picture on the website is of a close-knit convoy of high performance cars crossing the Kylesku Bridge. Such a fine balance welcoming visitors to your homeland to eat your produce allowing you to live here in comfort and realising there is an outside influence that is in danger of upsetting the current equilibrium.

The whole week has been taken up with work at sea and surviving the migraine, today back at sea, early start trying to avoid the north wind,


and as the weather fairly poor meaning fewer boats out on the water


I was surrounded by many more bonxies fighting for the bait. I had taken a fleet back on board yesterday and finished it off this morning before battering up the Sound hauling three fleets on the way. Fortunate that the fishing is still okay with plenty smaller langoustine still around. As I am heading down the road on Monday/Tuesday for a bit of fishing politics/environmentalism in Edinburgh it was good to land at the Inn which should keep them on the menu till I come back. Good to see several flatties coming up and may be getting a little bigger.


Ashore despite the northerly breezes the spring has definitely sprung with the bees flying and the trees are showing their buds, apple,


pear, cherry


and plum are all out. They were out last year but were caught out by a blast from the east with shifted many buds of the trees making for a poor harvest. One year I may beat the birds to the cherries. On Thursday evening there was a fine end to the evening out west,


the other side of the NC500 were the seven on the Big Table….cyclists doing the 500 and had 6x oysters and 7x langoustine. What we will never know is would the Inn be full without this advertising, I suspect it would. I hope the less well served communities who will benefit from more business will appreciate just that and also appreciate our predicament. I was followed all the way into the moorings this morning by the soaring bonxies,


although fairly harsh predators in their world I love watching them soar


round the Varuna keeping an eye out for any potential snacks.



Smolt Tagging among other Things.

It’s been a full on few days, might as well get used to it and enjoy the tiredness. It will mean you have done something at least. Sunday we were left in charge as the boss was away to celebrate a fortieth anniversary and a, let’s just call it a birthday. It was a bitter-sweet get together over on Skye. Must admit I was just a wee bit nervous about the day as I knew we were slightly understaffed. Turned out it was. Fine day with lots of happy customers. Always good to dip in and out of people’s stories and every one has one. Knowing some one from Arklow meant a craic about Ship agents and Ship builders from county Wicklow. Still going okay, the musicians arrive set up, takes a little longer as they are now miked up, and play for the afternoon. All was smooth until about sevenish when a few wandered in to grab seats whether they were reserved or not. Ten minutes to sort people out without upsetting anyone too much. Made it through the shift and still kept sane, in fact very satisfying, finishing the evening chatting to some Skye hoteliers. Do not usually chat about the hotel business but it was good craic. I suppose one gets used to all these different views and conversations, after all I was chatting to a twinrig  trawlerman the night before and I suspect he knew my take on the fishing as I knew his. We can be very civilised. I know the best bit about this part of the job is that on Monday I am on board the Varuna,


on my own, in nature, trying to be close to it and not taking too much.

The first couple of days this week have been at sea although I did a couple of hours filling in at the Inn on Tuesday evening. Lovely and peaceful at sea and the fishing still is not too bad. The extra-large are not so plenty full but that suits my market as they are almost a lose leader to the Inn. Look very impressive on the plate but the margin is a lot less than the smaller sizes. Seeing a fair number of small flat fish, very unsure despite having a look for them on the net, but may be halibut or turbot.


The images do not quite fit but it would be nice if they were. In an area that has not been trawled or dredged for years so may be regenerating well for some lines in the future. Very pleasant being out on days like these,


still and calm with only the cormorants, gulls and bonxies around.


Plenty of seals around both leaving and returning to the moorings.


On the way in on Tuesday we passed the small Cheetah Cat out on the Bay.


Around from Shieldaig and up from Pitlochry they are carrying out a tagging and monitoring program on the smolts coming down the main river in Applecross. A project conducted by Marine Scotland Science. Not sure to call it the river Crossan or Applecross river. After weighing and boxing the Inn’s langoustine went into the pier to see how they were getting on. They were loading up anchors to which receivers and buoys were attached,


to be laid in screens around the Bay.



The next step, next week, is to set up a screw trap on the river and tag the bigger smolts with transmitters and as they head done the river their progress will be picked up in the Bay.

The Inn is busy as ever and suddenly too many langoustines are not a problem. Not been out the last couple of days as it has been breezy and used up some of the held langoustines to keep things going. Nothing of note at the Inn except the many happy customers, whether from Belarus or Inverness. The founder of the Traditional School of Excellence was over staying for a few nights with his family. Must be very satisfying to have an achievement like that in your life’s work. On the way home on Tuesday evening there was a slightly different sunset


worth a stop off and snap.


That plus starting the creel washing for the season in the rain is all for now.


Back up to the Inn now and some hard fishing to do in the next couple of days as there may be some North winds next week limiting time at sea. Unfortunately we are existing on a few painkillers to keep the earache and toothache at bay. Just the usual rush of bugs around Easter time as people come here in large numbers. Many others are going down with other ailments and I will settle for what I have.

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