Travel responsibly and sustainably

When Martine Goes to Sea

Martine on the Cap-aux-Meules dock

There's a sparkle in Martine's eyes.

- I feel at home when I'm at sea.

Martine Bourque is a captain in the Canadian Coast Guard, in Cap-aux-Meules, Magdalen Islands. But her interest in the sea and the wind has always been there.

She was ten years old when she started taking sailing lessons. Over many summers, she learned the ropes, come rain or come shine, on the small dinghies designed to be used by children or teenagers. No insulated clothing! Two pairs of shoes, a change of clothes and a thick wool sweater were enough. She remembers the "pirates fights" the small boats were waging, trying to board each other and sink the "enemy" ship...

A couple years later, her brother bought a windsurfing board - and it was love at first try. Having just gotten her licence, she challenged herself to learn how to drive stick so she could maneuver the imposing Dodge Ram pickup truck up to the water and go ride the waves. She learned to windsurf by herself and by trying and trying again.

The love of the sea

When came the time to pick a field of study, she hesitated. She knew what she'd hope to be doing, but wanted to be certain that nothing else could tickle her fancy. She spent a year studying marine biology, and then switched to astrology for a year, after which she sent two applications, one to the Institut maritime du Québec, in Rimouski, and another to the Canadian Coast Guard College. When not one but two acceptance letters came back, she truly felt the wind turning in her favour.

Martine looks at the horizon
Sailboat masts
Cap-aux-Meules harbor
Martine on the dock
Sailboat off the Îles de la Madeleine

Seafaring, a family calling

One of Martine's brothers is a sailor, the other is a captain, and her father went from fisherman to boatswain aboard the ferry connecting Cap-aux-Meules to Souris. Strangely enough, he never talked much about his trade with his daughter while she was growing up. Years later, when Martine bought a sailboat, she offered to her father to tag along for the journey up to the Magdalen Islands in her new acquisition. At sea, sailing together, he finally shared with her his nautical memories.

When she thinks about her life sailing the seas, some journeys were more significant than others. She feels blessed to have sailed a ship from Canada to Bermuda, to have crossed the Davis Strait between Greenland and Baffin Island, and to have travelled twice to Antarctica. And of course, sailing the Sedna IV to the Azores, to Brazil and finally to Argentina remains a cherished highlight.
At sea, you need a good forecast and a deep understanding of the weather systems. Even then, some elements can't be controlled - that includes the wind.

- There's no thermostat for that! Martine laughs.

The goal is to learn to love the wind, and get to know the wind, to then feel safe and at ease on the water. In the end, it's the wind that moves us to change and adapt, not the other way around.

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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Les Îles de la Madeleine