nancy mark
Krill Roye
The southern portion of the west side of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence is part of the province of Quebec. It's what Québécois call the Lower North Shore or Cote'-Nord region. Yet due to its proximity to Newfoundland, just across the Straits of Belle Isle, the region more resembles The Rock. Over the centuries French Québécois married English, Irish, Scotch and Welsh Newfoundlanders, sometimes having to learn each other's language as they came to know one another.

In 2002 we opted to return from the far north of Labrador via Quebec's North Shore. And our favorite stopover was the small fishing village of Harrington Harbour. As you'll note from the photographs, Harrington Harbour is exceptionally picturesque, and more resembles a Newfoundland village than it does one in Quebec. What makes Harrington Harbour unique today is that it has taken great pains to retain the charm that it has had for generations. No roads cross the island on which it sits, only boardwalks. The only motor vehicles are a few ATVs that stick to the boardwalks. Most residents happily walk about town.

Settled by Newfoundland fishing families in the second half of the 19th century, Harrington Harbour remains a fishing community today. Even after a century and a half of interaction and intermarriage,70% list their first language as English, 29% as French, and the final 1% consider their first language both English and French-or is it French and English?

We were welcomed to Harrington Harbor before we even entered the bay by lifelong-residents Bill and Lillian Cox. Tipped off that we might visit, Bill used the marine VHF radio on his boat to welcome us, and arrange a berth for Tamara alongside the town wharf. As we spent over a week awaiting the passage of the effects of a late season hurricane, Bill and Lillian were our benefactors. Aside from walking about this delightful village, shopping at the small but well stocked store, and being welcomed by curious villagers, as sailing yachts seldom visit, there was a great deal to keep us entertained.

While we remained in Harrington Harbour waiting for the weather to turn favorable to cross the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, a feature film was in production. Winner of the Sundance Film Festival 2004 Audience Award, the delightful "Seducing Doctor Lewis", or in its original French language version, "La Grande Seduction" not only featured the picturesque scenes afforded by the village and used many residents as extras, but the script only half humorously portrayed many of the sometimes farcical aspects of life in a beautiful, but remote and challenging location.

Needing to lure the services of a medical doctor to the village in order to persuade a small manufacturer to locate and bring desperately needed employment, the village uses every subterfuge possible. Of course, in the end none of their machinations proved necessary, as the English-speaking doctor finds the charms of a French-speaking villager irresistible. Released by Wellspring Media in the USA, the film is a wonderful look at the many charms which, in fact, are part of life in Harrington Harbour.

From Harrington Harbour, it's about 200 nautical miles south, across the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, to the small archipelago known as Iles de la Madeleine. Though closer to Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia, the islands are politically part of the province of Quebec.

Mi'kmaq Indian peoples had visited the islands for centuries, seasonally hunting the walrus that were once abundant. Today numerous archeological sites document this history. European influence on the islands began in 1663 when the French seigneur named them after his wife, but little settlement occurred until 1755 when Acadians fleeing the British expulsions in Cape Breton found their way to the archipelago.

Much of the current population is descendant of the survivors of the more than 400 shipwrecks that occurred on the low lying, fog bound islands. Fishing, tourism and salt production sustain them today. An underground salt mine produces more than a million tons annually.

The same late season hurricane that kept us in port at Harrington Harbour had damaged much of the protected small boat harbor prior to our arrival, and most of the remaining portion of the marina was too shallow to accommodate Tamara. However we were able to find enough room near the harbor entrance to get secure with just enough protection from the remaining storm surge. The island group enjoys a short summer season, catering to mainly to the Québécois. Being late September, the locals were enjoying their solitude.

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