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

Posts tagged ‘weather’

Afro Celts and the Dhol Drummers

Making my way back to the north lands, a beautiful day and stunning countryside flashing by.Travelling solo as Alison is heading south to spend some time with her Dad. I still have the residue of last night’s stunning visual and sound experience which will keep me going through the mundane routines making even them special. Our accommodation was based on price, 50% reasonable reviews and proximity to the centre, but having a little experience of Front of House can be a curse at times. Like in Iceland you cannot help but gauge how you are treated /helped through your day. Had a wee cringe when I heard the French chappie ask for some tabasco for his scrambled eggs, the waitress had never heard of tabasco despite this foreign person spelling it out for her, going for help maybe was on the cards but he never got his tabasco. Place was clean, maybe not Grace/Irena clean but clean enough and served its purpose, but maybe another venue for Celtic Connections. Booked most of the tickets for a five-day venture in January. Had a scare when one of the key concerts, Mandolin Orange was booked out, at least that is what CC said. I went onto their own website and was fortunate to get a couple of tickets so with Lunasa, Bothy Culture, Lau and a couple of others to be confirmed the winter will be less bleak.

Sights that I never see in Applecross bring home to you how fortunate one is in life. Last night I had the “great” misfortune to run out of battery in my camera, having left my backup at the accommodation and not having a second battery to hand. I called in to Jessops on the way to the station this morning and could not help comparing my good fortune in going to buy a back up battery, paying £90 for the privilege, while thinking about the guy who was making his bed up in the same doorway when we passed the night before.Maybe it helps to think it is a beautiful country and day when you have a home, family and structure to ones life. Passing through the lush farmlands of Perthshire, the bleak, snow-covered moors of Dalwhinnie and the the birch woods around Aviemore one can only hope the homeless chap has a couple of good experiences that will see him through his day. If a ticket machine not accepting my card and a camera battery running out is a problem in my life, I think I will settle for that.

The concert from beginning to end was stunning,

colourful

and a rocking good sound. Dhol Drummers, Kora,

 

Bagpipes,

Bodhran,Flute and singing were all top drawer.

All familiar as I have seen the Dhol boys with Shooglenifty and have followed the Afro Celts for some time. The cross over of the Celts with the Asian and African sounds seem very natural and the evening was topped off with Griogair singing a fine Jacobean Gaelic song, aimed I think to get people’s feet back on the ground so they could wend their way home. Met up with other guys from Applecross, Sheildaig, Plockton and South Uist with other musicians spotted, a feeling of Scotland being just the right size of country where huge amounts of talent and camaraderie abound. Been asked to write an article and blog post for another site so going to have to put deadline on myself to get both done. May be away for a couple of days……but then something else may happen.

But get home means a trip over our little hill.

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.

Dolphins,Spiders and Dogs.

Today in itself would take up a full post. Without looking for it, there are so many things to do, get involved in, favours, requests, work and just living, you have to limit oneself otherwise you go into a bit of a tailspin. Today will have to wait for the next post. Since coming back from Lismore it was straight back into catching langoustines. The Inn only ran out on the Thursday evening so not so bad and the Loch Ness Inn is fully stocked. It was a pretty long day on the Friday to catch up  but they are still coming on board despite the fact that more and more of the berried females are coming into the creels. I have been able to ignore the large numbers I am putting back as there are a healthy number of bigger males and females about. I am probably returning around 15/20 kilos on a full days fishing, but knowing the vast majority of them survive it feels as though you are doing the right thing and possibly stopping the decline of the stock even if by a small fraction.

Every now and again a creel comes up and takes you back to when this amount of langoustines in each creel was normal,

 

whether is it is just part of a natural cycle the fishing has been pretty good this year. It may be down to a little less pressure on some parts of the Inner Sound where a fair bit of breeding takes place, I have not seen a prawn trawler this year so a lot less pressure from that direction. The enlarging of the Range will not have kicked in yet so any changes in catch quantities will not be attributed in that direction. Saturday I do not usually go out in a breeze but saw the forecast for the following few days and it was decidedly autumnal so knew that langoustines would be scarce. lovely day ashore but rather up and down at sea. Bright sunshine does not help the staggering across the deck for most of the day. Managed a couple of hundred plus before heading in with enough for the weekend and into next week. Highlight of the day and it was only for a few seconds was on the way in splashing into a southerly force 4/5

a family of dolphins came across for a wee visit. the baby came out of the water several times and spun in the air before swimming off leaving me feeling blessed.

There are little things like these visitations that let me know that what I do is a way of life worth having and, although tiring, it is not what most people call work.

The Inn, no matter what the weather, keeps going and even if the schools are all back there are plenty people around for it still to be termed busy. It is what you are used to….. if all the tables are used and no one is waiting that is not too busy. What is busy is if all the tables are used, the weather is good and twenty people are eating outside, and twenty more are waiting for tables,…..Last night I was quite tense as I could see we were going to have a logjam around 7.30/8pm and sure enough with the 14 booked taking out a quarter of the bar, most of the residents appearing at that time, ten walking in and the regulars that are up this week meant a stressful hour. And the Boss was having a day off so you just got on with it and as usual it happens like magic, all the prep work pays off again. A weird little side-show was the request to sign one of the calendars which, if not mistaken, was going to be auctioned off. We are definitely in the hunting season as more and more of the tables are being taken up by shooters and fishers. We had a trustee table in and despite what a lot of people misconstrue we get on find with them, they leaving with compliments and calendars.

This week the weather was as expected and although no gales I waited until I had to go out for the Inn as it would have been seriously awkward to work in all week. Yesterday was heavy going and the thought of doing that all week did not appeal. There was plenty to occupy as we had a new customer for diesel at the Pier, the hard grafting Michael from Shieldaig.

Good income for the Pier as the number of diesel users have dropped off. Then it was up to see the Hydro with investors from the community hydro scheme at Balerno

on the outskirts of Edinburgh. Good walk up with the usual interested chat about how we got to where we are and a good exchange of information. The weather this summer has been perfect for the Hydro with it running at almost full capacity for the last two months after a dry Spring.

Dougal enjoying his customary dip,

watch a high altitude spider have a meal,

take a look at the view

and clean the screen after a barefoot slip on the pipe.

Then a day and a half dip, doing nothing and not enjoying it, before kicking into gear again on Wednesday with a badly needed massage and Inn shift. And so it goes on.

Applecross Raft Race.

After a hard day at sea it was off to the Raft Race, three rafts this year. Hard day in that was out not too sharp but the first fleet was hauled in a really awkward motion. When it comes from two directions due to the wind swinging further round to the west it makes for a cork screwing action and slows you up crossing the deck. Uses up a lot more energy and a couple of spasms of cramp during the night is testament on the day. Due to me mentioning the Sand Track earlier I took the pooches up the shoulder before the start of the entertainment began at the Inn. A quick run down the road with the dogs to come back up and pick up Breagh’s harp as she was playing music later in the Inn. The future paddlers were out in force

mainly getting their carbs in

for when it comes round to their turn.

Usual suspects turn up to row the rafts, some disturbingly comfortable in their new outfits,

the unbeaten run continues

with girls in second,

although they did have a ringer on board.

The ringer’s partner waiting for her man to come shore.

There was a serious doubt about the weather for most of the week but good fortune was in place.

Music by now playing away

with the key board player having a sneaky sip between riffs,

and the burgers flying out, the ice cream man being the burger man for the day.

Sorry to have missed the music later but a pesto squat lobster pasta meal and off to bed before ten. The work rate at the moment is very high but taking a bit of a toll due manifesting in severe tiredness and cramps, but still feels healthy. Fishing Competition going on today and although I am in full support a day on board doing nothing does not appeal. When I am on the Varuna I never stop, whether I am steaming to the next fleet or hauling it.

A Photographic Catchup.

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

for me this means calm

and grey as well as the sunny ones,

the creels have now all been washed

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

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

signalling the onset of colours ashore such as the apple tree

and the resting dragonfly.

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

the wanton destruction of the happy octopdes,

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

and a cuttlefish and octopus getting it together.

Rainbows, jellyfish

and putting out collection bags for scallops completes the picture.

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

“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……

In the News

Sometimes there is just a wee bit too much going on. Feels like we are not really living at home just now as our internet is not functioning and sounds like another week is on the cards. We are switching over from ADSL to fibre optic and involves IP addresses and there has not been smooth changeover in any of the community Broadlands up and down the west coast. This is the fundamental problem with the rural economy, there are not enough people living on the lands that the community does not own. We just do not have the numbers to take on all the services that other places take for granted and used to be carried out by the Local Councils. The view from the temporary office is not too bad though.

The consultation that is going on just now is extremely frustrating in that it is a visionary/wish list but if things went ahead my question is who is going to run all the ideas. Keep saying it but we need 100 more people who want this life style to live here. It is hard work doing one, two or even three jobs, raise a family and then volunteer to keep essential services going. It is the nature of the modern world that consultations have to take place at all but for funding applications one does need to show community support of some kind, but there is always a danger of misuse of these for ulterior purposes. Can only hope that this one is not one of these. I have hung in but find doing practical stuff, Filling Station, Hydro etc is more rewarding than a talk shop and have dropped out. I can go to the Inn for that.

So on Monday last it was a 3.50am start as I was told the Beeb were coming in to do a wee news item on creel fishing and the obvious benefits as opposed to the prawn trawl but more of that later. Fished well and spent a couple of hours trying to retrieve one of my lost fleets with no success. Was alongside the pier by 1.00pm but camera did not turn up on time and it was 3.30pm before I was cycling up the road with the catch to the Inn. What I did not know and often happens when the routine is broken and just a little bit more tired I headed ashore leaving all the electronics switched on. So Thursday morning saw us back out but nought in the batteries so no fish. Two day trickle charge but weather poor on Saturday so lucky with good fishing the langoustines lasted until Sunday lunch. The Inn was a little strange in that Friday and Saturday evenings were a wee bit quieter than normal but both Thursday and Sunday certainly made up for it. Long long and very busy shifts with lots of people stories and great comments from happy people heading off north. Back on the horse this week and it is a hard week working this weather on your own. It is not settled but not too windy, Took today off mind you as it was a 5/7 southerly forecast and it turned out to be a white horse day. Managed a bit of work considering it was my “hit the wall” day. The night at the Inn was full on again and still here as the boss is away having a curry next door to the schoolhouse.

So in between the work and the Beeb there was a wee gathering of greens at Achnasheen where a lot of interest was shown about sustainable fishing. Very direct questioning and a good receptive audience. Fine lunch and company and as usual the connections are everywhere when I met one of the group. Plan B were in Applecross many years ago and at the end of the summer put on a play/music involving some fine musicians and acting. Anne Woods was on the fiddle and here she was, only just recognised her but good to meet up again after so long. Really sorry to see Topher not making it through to the HC, he would have been a good councillor. I never miss a chance to describe the fishery and compare how it was to how it is now to show that although we can make a good living still we should have a far healthier sea than we have. And then it was the Community Council AGM and a Chair Report to do. It is only when you look back over the year you realise all the things that have gone on, from defribulators to keeping the HC up to date on the hammering the Bealach is getting because of the NC500. There are now a couple of places where it will be dangerous soon. One wonders what a Bealach closure will do to the local economy, but if we do not get some remedial work on the Hill then this is bound to happen.

Fishing this week continues to produce plenty of langoustines, no squats but one cannot have everything. Interesting day yesterday when we hauled the three fleets and then went to see if I could recover the missing one. Had an older fleet shot where I had lost it and picked up the creels in almost the perfect position, the third last creel picked up the last creel of the missing fleet. Only problem was I now had two ends wrapped round the south-east can and after buoying off the missing fleet I managed to get a finger trapped under a bar tight rope. Possibly cracking a bone going by the size of ring finger today. But all is well as after a bit of organising I have more creels to catch langoustines again. All with the loss of one old creel and 50 metres of rope. Ended up a little too close to the can

and it’s resident who was using it as a fishing post was getting a little nervous too.

The news item has been broadcast and generally well received by the public with the inevitable backlash from the trawl sector, but more of that next time.

The weather over the last week and a half has been mixed

but summer is showing its full green coat

with the sea scenes more changeable, greyer

and more in tune for sail boats.

A few less photos about just now as one of my lenses has made its way to Edinburgh for a revamp due mainly to the harsh conditions on board. The contact between body and lens seems to have given up. Thinking of treating myself to a shore camera.

As well as Broadband the Hydro has been acting up a little. Remote access has kept it going but a visit from Mick was required this week and the classic IT solution was carried out to over ride a software glitch and with the more unpredictable weather it is back up to maximum out put after our very dry spell. A bit more investigation is going to be carried out to find initial cause.As a whole it is going really well and after rents, investor interest payments and building up capital reserves there should be monies coming to the Community soon.

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