Maxime and Jean-Mathieu - Fishing as a Way of Life

Lobster Traps in the Îles de la Madeleine

"We used to play fishermen when we were kids. We were throwing our pots off the porch." They laugh, thinking of those days.
The Poirier brothers welcome me in their workshop - the "shop." Jean-Mathieu is doing the storytelling.

"I still see him in his small pick-up, leaving for another drive around the docks. Maxime the Good Samaritan, on his way to give a hand to a friend, and who ends up helping everyone out."

As a kid, Maxime is always on the docks when his father - fisherman himself - comes back from the sea. He doesn't want to go to school, he doesn't want to stay with his mom; he wants to be with his dad on the boat or at the "shop." He's given a piece of mooring line or a piece of wood, and he "works".

"What do you want to be when you grow up?"

"Captain!"

At 14 years old, Maxime manages to get a job as a fisherman's helper to go scallop fishing for the summer. Both brothers enjoy fishing, but when the time comes to pick a career path, Jean-Mathieu decides to go to university, and Maxime heads for the docks. After graduating from high school, he learns the trade by working as a helper while keeping an eye on how everything gets done.

Fishermen have their secrets

They never tell them, but they still helped me.

At 21 years old, he buys his first boat, the Cap Victor - a tiny thing, far from brand new, that spouts thick black smoke. Oncle Bernard offers his help for the first spring season. Soon after, Maxime gives in and buys himself another boat, one that's better equipped for lobster fishing.

Maxime, captain
Jean-Mathieu
borgot
Maxime
Camion de Maxime
Maxime et Jean-Mathieu
Cages à homard


That's when he convinces his brother to buy the old boat to turn it into a pleasure craft.

They pause in their retelling of the story. Jean-Mathieu's eyes shine with the brightest of blues, and no words are needed for Maxime's wide smile to speak volumes.

"When you start, you don't have to always park your boat in reverse; you can do it the easy way and moor it from the nose. Once you get the hang of it, you can start doing it like everyone else."

It's the first advice Maxime gives to his brother. He goes on:

"And you shouldn't be afraid of scratches. The only boats without a few nicks are the ones that never leave the harbour," he adds. "And the more often you get out there, the faster you'll learn."

Jean-Mathieu quickly gets hooked on this new hobby. In season, he goes have a look at his boat twice a day. Is she moored as she should? Is there water to pump out? This soothing set of habits grows on him. And if there's an issue with the engine or some uncertainty regarding the direction of the winds for the next outing, he knows who to ask.

Maxime grins and looks at his hands.

"With the sea, you're never done learning."

 

Par Suzanne Richard

Suzanne Richard is an author, a speaker and a musician. She published a collection of short stories entitled La mer, trois kilomètres à gauche. Her conference — Les mots et la mer — is about maritime words and expressions commonly used in the French language.

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