Being out in the countryside with my dogs gives me time to think. I’ve learnt the pleasure of solitude without being lonely, and that’s a good feeling for me.

Welcome to "Man with two dogs" - the family website for dog owners and dog walkers.

This is my countryside diary which appears each Saturday in the Dundee Courier newspaper.

Maritime matters and fine foods

July 1st, 2017

Portsoy Boat Festival 004REGULAR READERS of this column will know of my fascination with the small boats I find tied up in small harbours all round our Scottish coast. It drives the Doyenne near demented when we’re on holiday and I take an unannounced turn down a minor road in response to the siren call of a roadside finger post beckoning me in the direction of a pier – an invitation I rarely can resist.

Sometimes there’s more interest to be found in elderly boats pulled out of the water above the high water mark, the gear and the engine removed, and the abandoned hull left to rot – sad relics of a once useful, working life. As often as not they are small, inshore fishing boats and I ponder on what brought about their demise, for they would have been the means of putting food on the table and siller in the pooch of two, maybe even three families.

The Portsoy Scottish Traditional Boat Festival revives these lost days and after several years of promising myself that we would visit the event, last Saturday we actually did.

The road north was familiar, for our son Robert and his family had a holiday cottage at Portknockie, along the Moray coast, for several years and we took advantage of the opportunity to get away for short holidays to a part of the north-east coast with a character and culture very much its own. It’s a bonny road and we’re always surprised how quiet it is, but it adds to the pleasure of the journey.

Pull of the sea
What was intended as a one-off event in 1993 to celebrate the 300th anniversary of Portsoy’s harbour has grown into the annual Scottish Traditional Boat Festival, developing from just boats and their historical contribution to the area, to a showcase of local produce, crafts and culture, activities and entertainment and attracting thousands of visitors.

The north-east produces the finest of fresh meat, fish, vegetables and fruit and there was traditional as well as an innovative variety of locally produced food and drink in the Food Fair tent.

I saw Affaefine Sausages on one of the butchers stands – I don’t suppose they come any better. JG Ross the Bakers have taken the traditional buttery – rowies, they call them up there – to new gastronomic heights, offering haggis rowies, choc and orange, choc and chilli, black pudding and Aberdeen Angus, just some of the variations on a familiar theme. It’s maybe a generational thing but I began to think you could have too much excitement with rowies.

It’s the land of the Doric, a different accent from The Mearns or north Angus where I grew up and they have a vocabulary of words that are unfamiliar to the incomer’s ear.

Cosy bosie
In the queue for beefburger rolls I got talking to a man with a puppy on a lead. It was a Patterdale Jack Russell cross – a Patterjack, I suppose. It was very affectionate and no sooner was he in the door after his work than the puppy was up on his lap for a bosie, or a cuddle. I told him it was many years since I’d heard the expression and he assured me I’d hear many more like it – he was right.

Charles Maclean, in his book The Fringe of Gold, The Fishing Villages of Scotland’s East Coast, describes Portsoy as the safest (harbour) on the north-east coast of Scotland. He refers to the many excellent vernacular buildings in the town, particularly the warehouses round the harbour such as the restored boat house, sail loft and salmon house, now a museum, all of which are community assets.

Ladies old and new
Boats are the primary focus of the Festival. Boat building has been revived in the town and is a busy undertaking throughout the year. As the white fishing declined salmon fishing took on an added importance to the town’s economy, and I was particularly interested in meeting Peter Aikman and seeing the salmon coble, Soy Lady, which had been built by volunteers – the first wooden coble built at Portsoy for forty years.

The Arbroath-built (1890) Isabella Fortuna, a traditional Fifie originally engaged in line and drift net fishing was moored in the inner Old Harbour. She was acquired and restored by the Wick Society and is a regular visitor at festivals and other sea-based events.

As we chatted with Peter the Montrose registered ME 113 White Wing nosed her way into the inner harbour. A Baldie, a smaller, lighter version of a Fifie, she is part of the Scottish Fisheries Museum collection at Anstruther where she had sailed from to be part of the Festival. She was still actively fishing out of Gourdon in the early 1980s.

Skiff (4 rowers, 4 oars) and yole (6 rowers sitting two abreast and 6 oars) racing has become a feature of the Festival. We watched the colourful boats practising in the choppy waters of the outer harbour but we had to leave before they raced – we had a dog at home needing to be walked.

Written on Saturday, July 1st, 2017 at 2:35 pm for Weekly.