LARRY’S RIVER – Sometimes you just happen to meet the right people at the right time. This fall, Stéphane Patoine – an artisan jeweller from Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec – sailed into Canso on his sailboat ‘Trusquin’ and happened upon fellow sailor and Larry’s River native Neil Pellerin, who quickly convinced him to set sail for that community.
Once in Larry’s River, Patoine, who speaks very little English, was welcomed into the heart of the Acadian community – and has decided to shelter in the harbour and comradery of this small but enduring outpost of French culture for the winter months.
In the days before Christmas, The Journal met with Patoine and Jude Avery – local writer and researcher of Acadian culture and history, who served as translator – to talk about Patoine’s reception in Larry’s River, his impression of the people and the place and his plans for the winter.
Last year, Patoine decided there was no time like the present to live his dream; the life he’d wanted for 20 years. Life, he determined, was too short not to pursue such dreams, so he sold his house and car, bought a sailboat and made a plan to travel the world. He had no idea that his life as a solo sailor would be interrupted by the generosity and welcome he’d receive in a small Acadian community he’d never heard of on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia.
The journey began on the St. Lawrence River, with a month-long layover in Caraquet, NB, moving onto Souris, PEI; his longest and most challenging stint of travel yet – 32 hours of solo, non-stop navigation.
Next Patoine sailed to Nova Scotia where he planned to travel along the coast through the fall and winter to pursue another of his passions, photography, and he said, “to practice my English.”
Upon arrival in Nova Scotia, Patoine learned the winter weather could be very dangerous and he decided “to follow the advice of the locals and stay here.”
Before Patoine came to Larry’s River, he had never heard of the area or that there was an Acadian region on the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. He told The Journal that when he arrived in Caraquet, he discovered the Acadians, and they were very welcoming and he was very happy about that. When arriving in Larry’s River on Nov. 1, he found the same thing; “Maybe even better,” he said.
What really surprised Patoine was how isolated Larry’s River was; you must travel for almost every business and service.
But everybody has adapted to that, said Avery, adding, “It became a way of life. And he’s adapting to that too.”
And, Patoine added, he’s also surprised by the warmth of the people.
While it was Patoine’s plan to pursue his passion for photography along the coast this winter, he’s found a way to continue on that path while wintering in Larry’s River with area residents who are also passionate about the art form. He now has plans to share his photography skills with those interested and help them along the way towards developing their passion.
Patoine’s boat is tied up at the Larry’s River wharf, where he plans to weather the winter. He’s carved out a small nook on the 36-foot boat, where he can work on jewelry. He has another area for desk work and a third space serves as the galley and dining room. For one person, the Trusquin is spacious.
However, wintering in Larry’s River will be far from a solo experience. Patoine and Avery agree that the community has adopted him and consider him one of their own. Avery said the community invites Patoine to take part in cultural activities and also extends frequent invitations to dinner, as well as offering whatever he needs that he doesn’t have on the boat, such as hot showers.
Asked what difference he’s found between the French culture in Quebec and what he has experienced in Larry’s River, Patoine said, “The culture wasn’t that much different except when you’re from a large area, big cities or close to them, the attitude is completely different than what you find in small areas. People are more welcoming in the smaller areas and they’re more open.”
As for Acadian French versus French spoken in Quebec, Patoine said, “Here they speak very little French…in Caraquet there is an accent difference and there’s some vocabulary uniqueness among them.”
Avery added that the Tor Bay Acadian region, which includes Larry’s River, was working to increase the French language proficiency in the area as demonstrated by the work currently underway, and reported in this newspaper, to bring a French language school to the area.
When asked to describe Larry’s River, Patoine said, “The bays and coves and inlets are very unique, very rocky.”
As for the people, he pointed to the friendship and fraternity. Those are the qualities that have made a winter home for this traveler; a great beginning to what promises to be an incredible journey.