The history of Croisières Lachance
The epic story began in 1826
Since the beginning of the 19th century, Lachance family’s story is intimately linked with the Isle-Aux-Grues archipelago. It was in 1826 that Michel-Olivier Pépin, also known as ‘’Lachance’’, a farmer from Île d’Orléans, became the owner of Île-au-Canot, located at the north of Ile-Aux-Grues. He then built his house and stable and settled there with his family.
For more than a century, from 1826 to the middle of the 20th century, five generations of the Lachance family lived on Île-au-Canot, so named because in 1633, one of Père Le Jeune’s canoes ran aground there. The island will pass down from father to son: Michel-Olivier, Gabriel, Liguori, Joseph Liguori and finally Joseph.
Life on the island
Owning and residing on an island may sounds to be an extraordinary idea for any romantic! But during the 19th century, when there are more than twelve children in the family, when there is no electricity or telephone, when all services and shops are not accessible nearby, it’s not exactly like paradise every day. They had to learn to grow, build, repair and do everything themselves! And despite this, they had to leave regularly, by canoe and in all weathers, to go to Île-aux-Grues and Montmagny to stock up on items and food that the island and the family’s work could not provide.
In winter, until the ice bridge was formed between the Île-au-Canot and Île-aux-Grues, which enabled children to go to school, among other things, they had to use their canoes on the cold waters of the river. With such a rich tradition of winter sailing, it’s hardly surprising that the Lachances have been so successful in the traditional Québec Winter Carnival canoe race, winning the first eight editions!
This expertise in ice navigation also enabled them to design the UMA 17MC, the lifeboat that all public and maritime safety services were waiting for to carry out rapid and safe rescues in winter conditions.
From islanders to riverside residents…
As the solitary life on Île-au-Canot became increasingly difficult, mainly because the advantages of modern life could be enjoyed elsewhere, Joseph Lachance decided to leave the island for Montmagny to establish his family.
Even though Joseph Lachance is now on land, he will continue the family tradition of sailing, or having others sail, on the St. Lawrence River.
Around 1950, Jos Lachance ran a dual business, commercial fishing, and outfitting. He went on to found a small shipyard specialising in the construction of commercial fishing boats and pleasure crafts.
The Beginning of the Cruises
A good captain needs to feel when the wind is changing and change course at the right moment. When he became the president of the family business in 1982, François Lachance was well aware that both the decline of commercial fishing, which was leading to the reduction in the construction of new boats, and the burgeoning development of the touristic industry in both Charlevoix and the Côte-du-Sud.
In the early 1980s, François Lachance, a true visionary, was the first to offer whale-watching cruises departing from Tadoussac or Baie-Sainte-Catherine. It would be a few years before the cruise industry really took off on the Côte-du-Sud, due to a lack of appropriate infrastructure and tourism offerings. But events such as the dredging of the Berthier-sur-Mer harbor and the development of the Grosse-Île quarantine station provided the impetus needed to launch the cruise industry on the Côte-du-Sud.
In 1990, to mark its change of vocation, ‘’Jos Lachance and Fils’’ became ‘’Les Croisières Lachance’’. The first years of cruising were modest, but the Lachance family remained optimistic about the future. Their patience was rewarded in 1997, when the 150th anniversary of Grosse-Île brought a 25% increase in the number of cruise passengers and, more importantly, established cruises as an essential part of any visit to the Côte-du-Sud region.
‘'Setting off on the river in the company of one of our captains means reliving almost two centuries of history with us. We hope to charm you with our storytelling skills, our knowledge of island life and, above all, our passion for the river and its islands. Weigh anchor with us!’’
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