Kayak - Ice Fields and March Lights

Îles de la Madeleine, mer, eau, glace, débarris

Living on an island means facing a real ocean boundary. Inevitably, the road ends by a beach, a cliff, a seaside. Some days, this can be restricting, but this is also reassuring. It is like we are protected from something.

During a certain season, the ocean boundary disappears. Once again this March, the Islands are frozen in time — literally. Now, on the West side, we can walk for hours on the sea. We feel like the insularity washed away. We imagine a bridge reaching the continents.

Glace en hiver aux Îles

I have an annual appointment in March. There is always this one day where little pieces of ice drift away. In the sea, dozens of tiny icebergs are wandering around. The Gulf is freezing, calm and flat. I take out my kayaks.

Kayaking in winter requires a little planning - do not get me wrong, you must always be alert and take the necessary precautions before any trip to the sea. These precautions include training and experience, safety equipment, proper clothing and compliance with regulations. The hardest part is setting the crafts free from the snow, and securing them on the roof of the car. The most important thing is finding the perfect spot to explore. The sun is still shining bright.

Time to explore the surroundings of the archipelago as seen by the seals. The view on the Islands is stunning. The cliffs appear to be gigantic. And right below, reflections of the colourful houses meet pieces of the ocean. Lights are everywhere. Hills of broken ice catch the sun. Green and blue shadows reflect the late afternoon rays on the water. The effect of erosion on the red sandstone cliffs is undeniable.

Within a few months, the landscape has already changed.

Falaise, glace, mer, kayak

I paddle among big white pieces of all shapes. The little ones sometimes turn out to be the tip of the iceberg — the underwater part being enormous. We feel small, which gives us a healthy dose of humility!

When kayaking in winter, everything is calm, yet moving quietly. While paddling, sometimes, the ice moves. The channels are closing, and then you need to find another way or climb the ice wall to come back on right side of the shore.

The days are getting longer. Sometimes, a cold breeze rushes through me. As I am moving forward, the sea is expanding. While holding my breath, I feel like I am learning a little more about the Gulf that surrounds my Islands and I can take it in with long, deep breaths. But there is still so much we don't know about the winter Gulf. The St. Lawrence is all about immensity, long journeys and tragedies. It is a lesson in courage. A challenge to tame. 

The day is coming to an end on this adventure. The sun is fading way, naturally. L'Étang-du-Nord wraps itself in a blue light. A blue just like the shade of a blue whale. On the distance, the windows of the houses are warm. As would be the eyes of a great mammal. Shadows are dancing in the village. It's like being in the ocean.

Time to go home!

Par Jean-Étienne Solomon

As a Madelinot, I am one of the many locals who enjoy the archipelago no matter the season and revisit a land that never ceases to amaze and evolve.

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