The man who sailed round the world with a chicken

At the tip of Brittany’s wild and wet Cotes-d’Armor peninsula lies Plougrescant, a village Plougrescant. Beyond that, jutting out into the ocean, there is Yvinec Island, which is a tiny outcrop that is accessible intermittently based on the tides through a rock-strewn stretch of dunes as well as seaweed. I’ve been on two planes, a train, and a baffling car to get there. It’s been a thrilling trip, but I couldn’t ever claim it with Guirec Soudee when I pick him up at the end of the journey on his four-wheeler. It’s possible that I got lost on the Brest industrial estate around midnight and could not get the headlights of my rental car to work, but 26-year-old Breton traveled the world in a single vessel for over five years. In the course of his voyage, he was encased in Arctic ice for 130 days, fought 15m waves, nearly sank several times, was briefly imprisoned by Canadian coastguards, and was the youngest person to sail the treacherous Northwest Passage between the Pacific and the Atlantic on his own. So, you are a solo. Sole human. He was joined by one chicken, one of them being a Rhode Island Red named Monique.

I thought that if she upset me, I’ll consume her. It’s weird to think of that now! We made a bond.

From January 2014 until they returned to Brittany in December 2018, The pair traveled 45,000 miles. They traversed the Atlantic, their respective North, and the South Poles, across to Cape Horn, back to the Caribbean, and then back home and back, with breaks to fix the vessel, weather the weather, or make money. Every experience, incident, and mishap (there were many of them three) was documented with jaw-dropping images and humorous videos uploaded to their increasingly popular social media pages (they currently have 125k followers on Facebook users along with 42.8k Instagram followers).

It was there that I first met. I fell in love with the couple. A gorgeous young adventurer with a bright smile and his robust brown hen on their spry small boat seemed like a gift, simple sunshine during a time of darkness. Their story is a modern-day Boy’s Adventure: Guirec paddle boarded through icebergs as well as a polar bear, took on giant fish, and even saved the life of a drowning dog.

The chicest chicken in the world: Monique braves the Greenland cold in her jacket. 

In the meantime, Monique shared her breakfast (and even his paddleboard) with a group of bewildered Inuit kids who’d never seen a chicken before sitting on the deck, taking in the vastness of different oceans. It’s no surprise that their child’s novel, The Hen That Traveled across the World, was published. Been published.

Guirec ( sans Monique) greets me at Plougrescant’s parking lot. He is a slim, sexy, and jolly figure clad in a huge jumper. We set to the ferry leisurely over the Bay to Yvinec. It’s a private island (acquired inexpensively following during the conflict through family members from the Soudee family) with a population of four. Alongside Guirec and Monique, There’s Bosco, a big half-husky beast who lingers at the headland, waiting to meet us. (“I bought him in Alaska, and I traded his chainsaw for him.”) My girlfriend Lauren has met Guirec via his Facebook page and is now the fourth part-time resident who helps with his increasingly demanding social media and public appearances. Guirec: “You’re sort of Breton now, though, aren’t you?” Lauren (firmly): “No, I’m Parisienne.”

They live in the beautiful stone farmhouse where Guirec was raised in a beautiful place, with blue doors and shutters in cornflower and massive open flames. The Sea is all around. We embark on a journey, climbing over the rocks to ensure that Guirec can show us coves, inlets, and the most popular crabbing spots on the wind-swept coastline. If there was a location perfect for raising an ocean-loving explorer, it’s this one. It was a wild and adventurous childhood as the youngest of eight children raised by a loving dad who let to entertain himself. “I was more active on the water than I did on land. I bought my first boat when I was seven, and before that, I’d go out to Sea to collect some lobsters in my pots, and fish. This island changed my life.”

Sea always prevailed over the schools: Guirec reached 13 total but left without a qualification; however, he had a strong urge to explore. “When I was 18, I could have had an employment but I always wanted to travel. I longed to travel far and away.” He was the son of Stany and had crossed the Atlantic twice. Guirec was raised on those stories, looking through photos from old albums of photos. He made his way to Australia. However, it was not a holiday for the gap year. In poverty, he slept on the streets and worked as a fruit picker and shrimp fisherman. He commanded tough-drinking sailors of the same age until he had enough money to purchase his vessel when he returned to Brittany and sailed.

I assured my parents that I would be fine. I had a cell phone and an electronic beacon. This was utterly false.

His initial aim was small enough: to travel across the Atlantic solo. He was unaware that the journey would take five years, but initially, he wanted to make it longer. “I already had an idea of heading to the ice,” he claims. “In my head I dreamed of going around the world – who doesn’t?” (Me, I think loudly, even though I acknowledge his words with a smile.) “But I had no idea what I was getting into, I knew nothing about sailing.”

The boat he purchased was an 11.7m craft more than ten years younger than Guirec’s and proved to be a disaster due to corrosion. More skilled sailors counseled him not to go to the Sea. In addition, Guirec had never sailed in a vessel that was this large. He was determined to patch the holes and named the boat Yvinec to honor the island. “I practised for a couple of hours around here, then I left.” Aged 21 with no clearly defined plan, money, or even a working radio. Was his family affected? I inquire, astonished. “My parents were concerned about what would happen if anything happened to be wrong. I said I would be fine as I had a cellphone and a beacon. This was completely false.”

“I made her a small sled, and we explored. She was awestruck’ by Guirec as well as Monique at Greenland. Photograph: Guirec Soudee

Monique became part of the team for an early trip to Tenerife. “I was aware that I wanted to go on a solo cruise absolutely; however, I also wanted an animal companion. I thought that a chicken would be a great choice since I would have fresh eggs on the Sea.” It was no knowledge of keeping chickens. He was told that a chicken in the ocean would be stressed and unable to lay eggs; however (an idea that is developing), He remained. One of his friends gave Monique a cardboard container before he set off to travel across the Atlantic. Monique was named in honor of the personal Breton breakfast bowl left on the boat by an earlier owner. “That way, we both had our own bowls.” It was an investment. “Honestly, I didn’t think she’d get to the other side; she’d fall in or something.” Guirec constructed a coop on deck to ensure that Monique was in a safe place when the waves threatened to slough her off the deck and another inside the cabin, where she rested and laid eggs while remaining dry, warm, and safe even in the worst weather. In defiance of the advice of experts, Monique laid an egg the first day she was aboard. As time went on, the couple adapted to being a couple.

“I told myself: “If she gets annoyed by me, I could always take her food. It’s a bit strange to think of that now! We made a connection. She was so charming and laughed so much it was as if I’d known her since childhood.” She appeared to be completely unaffected. She was a lover through the deck (when the seas were rough, she would run around the cabin) dodging waves, snatching up floating fish that would land on deck, and then stealing tuna and bream Guirec caught to supplement her diet of grains dried insects, table scraps. “She loves fish,” Guirec declares. “It gave her eggs a salty taste.”

When they stopped for long periods, Guirec brought her off the boat and let her take a bite of grass and play with pebbles or sand. As a long-time chicken farmer and lover, I find it odd, but it’s not the best life for a chicken; aside from the isolation, the chickens I have met are social animals. Monique appears to have accepted Guirec as part of her flock. The two were constantly together and never stayed up late. “I did not want to. Sometimes, it was complicated, I wasn’t able to always achieve all the things I wanted to but I was content to share everything together with Monique.”

Lunchtime on deck Monique and the bowl she was named for. “That way, we all could have each our bowls’. Photograph: Guirec Soudee

Of course, going on a hen’s tour around the world could be a cleverly cynical strategy to establish a USP in the competitive and flush with, crowd-funded area of adventure travel. However, Guirec’s passion for Monique (or Momo as he refers to her) removes any doubt. I love how Guirec refers to “us” when discussing their adventures. It’s not a wealthy we, but rather a man-plus-chicken we. “Once we’d crossed the Atlantic we said to ourselves: ‘We enjoyed that, we can go further.'”

Their most memorable experience – even though it sounds terrifying, was in Greenland in 2015-16. They were willingly frozen in the Polar Ice. It was a childhood fantasy; however, with the cold winds, the temperature was lowered to -60 degrees, and the boat was nearly destroyed by a series of attacks from massive icebergs and pressure between unstable waves of ice. There were several times when they almost had to take the boat off. “I did not really believe I’d die, but I was worried that I’d lose everything that I’d done when I turned 18. I spoke to Monique and she was understanding she could see that the signs that something was wrong.”

Guirec decided not to carry an electronic device or a phone during the trip. “I wanted to be alone with nature, cut off from the world.” Within a couple of days of their stay, an Inuit acquaintance came across him with a cell phone with a message from one of his sisters. Her father had passed away due to an attack of the heart. It was impossible to make it back on time for the funeral. “I had just made a video saying, ‘At last, we’re finally here.’ I was buzzing, it was the best day of my life.” He then showed me a second video of him right after he learned of the news that he was in tears across his face. “My father was very protective of me. He was so kind to me when I was a kid. I was devastated however I decided to turn all the sadness into energy. I was happy to demonstrate to him that I could achieve my goals.”

We can tackle this Guirec along with Monique, who is an expert. 

However, Greenland was “our best trip, our most memorable memories. We experienced The Northern Lights all the time There were Arctic caribou as well as foxes. I built Momo small sledges and we walked around. She was thrilled.” The hen also laid 106 eggs over 130 days, which was a crucial supplement to his declining rice rations when fishing proved impossible. “I lost 12kg, honestly she kind of saved my life.”

Then, following Greenland (and the unscheduled 10-day vacation in France with an appendix that was perforated that gave Guirec a chance to meet Lauren in person finally), followed to the Northwest Passage, an otherworldly location with whales, narwhals, and the midnight sun. Near magnetic north, the autopilot malfunctioned, and Guirec navigated manually for 32 days without sleep. “I experienced hallucinations. I believed that Lauren was aboard.” The remainder of the journey was spent in Canada (and that incident with customs officials: following his ardent pleas, his release, and allowing him to have Monique) and the incredibly turbulent 40th and 50th parallels, Antarctica and South Africa before the long and slow journey back to Brittany with stuttering lousy weather up until the final day.

What can life on the earth be anything more than a shambles? What a strange thought to be doing interviews and coordinating occasions after five years of enchantment as well as danger and isolation. But Guirec was eager to return to his warm home stocked with food and the comfort of a hot shower on his gorgeous island. “I wanted to go home. It was a bit difficult right up until the hour we arrived at Paimpol. Then, there was the crowd screaming, my entire family, and loads of boats waiting to welcome the boaters… The moment was an extremely special moment.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *