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A St. Lawrence Estuary Tradition

Black and white photograph of a shipyard. There is a dock in the foreground, as well as a sailboat with three masts and a second without mast in the center of the image. Large buildings are located on the water's edge on the right. The upper city of Quebec is visible in the background.

Shipyard in Québec City, circa 1866.

The tradition of shipbuilding and navigating on the St. Lawrence River dates back to the 17th century. Master shipwrights who had sailed over from France passed on their knowledge to craftsmen born in New France, with the locals then adapting it to their surroundings.

For more than three centuries, on the islands and along the shores of the St. Lawrence, families and sometimes entire villages came to specialize in the maritime industry. The Lachance family was one of them.

Black and white photograph of a man working to fix the siding of a large boat on pedestals. He is standing on a wooden scaffolding. A young boy is standing at the top of the hold structure.

A schooner being built in Saint-Siméon, in 1943.

As François-Xavier Lachance was settling in Saint-Laurent, the village was already home to a number of families of seasoned sailors and shipwrights, as were Saint-Jean-de-l’Île-d’Orléans, Isle-aux-Grues, L’Islet, Petite-Rivière-Saint-François, Isle-aux-Coudres, and other towns and villages along the St. Lawrence. This was still a time when boats were built with wood, a material that was widely available all along the river, and that local craftsmen were skilled at working with.