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A, B, Sea

In Quebec’s Magdalen Islands, locals have shored up a distinctive lingo along the rolling sand dunes. Here are five spots on the archipelago with a language all their own.


The Ocean

Madelinien : "Arrive sul botte !"

Meaning: “Get on board!” The area’s unpredictable weather makes boat trips spur of the moment. Madelinots welcome old (and new) friends aboard – the more the merrier (and extra hands on deck make for light work).

A mere hour after I meet Gaston Gaudet at Café de la Grave, he’s already inviting me over for a beer to meet a few of his friends. Pointing to an orange house on the water right across from the Havre-Aubert marina, he says, “You can leave your car here; we’re going by rowboat.”

It turns out this is nothing unusual. While strolling along that same marina later in the week, I’m offered another tempting “sails” pitch by Captain Stéphane Vigneau, who invites me aboard the Pistorlet with typical Madelinot hospitality. Visitors here are welcomed to set sail in the same way they would be asked to come for dinner by an Italian mamma.

As we drift along the Sandy Hook dunes, a long sandbank on Havre Aubert Island, Vigneau lets me take the helm. (Con­sidering how hard it was for me to get my mom’s car keys, I’m taken aback.) For Madelinots, boating is a way of life – whether for work, getting around or having fun. But right now, going with the flow is becoming a challenge. I push the tiller a little too much to the left, and the Pistorlet veers into a wave that splashes salt water right up into my face. Vigneau suggests I switch sides to stay dry, but I prefer to (literally) soak in the scenery, like any sailor worth her salt.

As Vigneau navigates the shallow waters practically with his eyes closed, I start to understand: For locals, home doesn’t stop where the ocean meets the shore; it extends all the way out to the horizon.

Marina de Havre-Aubert Havre-Aubert

Photo: The winds that almost always blow over the archipelago make sailing trips a breeze.




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