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Les Goélettes

Accession number: 
Production Years: 
1959 to 1960


Film Properties: 
Length (feet): 
1059 (16mm)
Length (minutes): 
Holding Institutions: 

Library and Archives Canada: 16mm, Beta.
"Follows the story of the goélettes, wooden ships that continue a 400 year tradition of sailing the coastal waters of the St. Lawrence, part of the lifestyle of the people along the north shore in the villages between Quebec City and the strait of Belles Isles. Goélettes sail for eight months negotiating the hazards of winds, rocks, tides and currents until the freeze in winter grounds them for the next four months. Part of a family business, the ship's captain is also the owner and either father or eldest brother of the whole crew. At the start of the season after the thaw, the master of the shipyard launches the ships twice daily at high tide, an event for which the village communities gather. The chief cargo during their travels will be pulpwood gathered from the leftovers of barges and other larger ships since only goélettes, with their flat bottoms, can load from beaches or shallow wharfs. Some of the larger, more modern ships carry other cargo, freight carried between the strait of Belles Isles and the Great Lakes. The captain of one ship, the Mont St. Marie, has remodelled the steel hull of another ship to resemble a goélette with the intention of staying on the sea through the next winter - now feasable with modern navigational aids. As the narrator notes this unforeseen end of an era, '... it may be that never again will a captain dream of building a goélette of wood to weather the dangers of the coast, the beachings and the gales.' One of the captains speaks on camera of the hazards the weather presents providing some interesting analogies - including one in which storms are compared to women. He reflects on the disappearance of some boats and the discovery of others without the crew. It is acknowledged that part of life on the sea involves an acceptance of these dangers."


Online database National Film Board of Canada.
"Dans les années 50, la navigation sur le fleuve dépendait de 150 goélettes de bois qu'ils ont nommées voitures d'eau."

"Three communities at the foot of the Charlevoix cliffs, Petite-Rivière, île-aux-Coudres and Les Éboulements, practise the myriad trades of the sea. Its men are sailors, stevedores, longshoremen for the coasting trade. In winter, they becomes caulkers, carpenters and timer-cutters who will build a new vessel if required, or repair, caulk and paint the over 150 wooden schooners that ply the St. Lawrence River."