Guirec Soudée, 24, has spent much of the last 2.5 years on a sailboat with only his chicken, Monique, to keep him company.
Soudée arrived on Vancouver Island a few weeks ago. Unable to land in Port Hardy because of the weather, he went around Cape Scott and docked in Winter Harbour. He was stuck there for 10 days. When he was able to leave, he made his way to Campbell River.
“My next plan is to cross the Pacific,” Soudée said. “To cross the Pacific you need to wait for the good season, it’s not before April.”
Luckily, Soudée has a lot of practice waiting for the weather.
He left France in January, 2014 on his boat, Yvinec. Though familiar with the ocean after working on a fishing boat in Australia and growing up on the coast, Soudée had no experience sailing. On top of that, his boat wasn’t in the best condition.
“When I bought this boat I had some trouble with rust,” he said.
But he didn’t have the time, or the money, to do any major repairs. So he patched up a few holes and made his way south to Spain.
It was on the Canary Islands that he met Monique. He said that it was always his intention to have a chicken on board for the eggs, as well as the entertainment factor, but a farmer in France had discouraged him, saying a boat would be too high stress and the hen wouldn’t lay any eggs.
Monique laid an egg her first day on the boat. The next day the duo started their journey across the Atlantic ocean.
“In 28 days she gave me 25 eggs,” Soudée said.
During that crossing Soudée also learned that Monique could swim.
On this side of the Atlantic, Soudée and Monique landed on St. Barthélemy, a French Island in the Caribbean. They spent a year in the area, teaching surfing to make money and fixing up the boat for the journey north.
Monique even joined Soudée on the surfboard.
Once everything was ship shape, Soudée and Monique made their way up the east coast to Greenland. It was there he learned that his father, back in France, had passed away. Soudée was unable to return to France for the funeral.
The next day he and Monique got stuck in a passage called Disko Bay off the west coast of Greenland, not far from a little village called Saqqaq.
At first the waves were too much for them to continue and when the wind stopped, Soudée watched the water freeze within seconds. They were trapped for 130 days in temperatures lower than -30 C degrees.
“I said ‘okay I need to stay positive. I am not on my own, I have my dad with me in some way watching me. So I need to fight’,” Soudée remembers.
Soudée had his fuel tanks resting on the ice around the boat, and the wind came back, breaking the ice, and with it the fuel tanks.
“I remember my boat was deforming because of the pressure,” Soudée said.
At one point Soudée was ready to bail. He remembers thinking it was the end, not for him but for his boat.
He was going to take Monique and some supplies, salvage some wood from the boat and build a cabin on the shore until warmer weather returned.
But after 130 days of eating nothing but rice and fresh eggs, everything turned around and he was able to make his way to the mainland and prepare for his Northwest Passage trip.
There was a minor delay in his plans when he had to return to France to have his appendix removed. But soon he was back and on his way to Pond Inlet, which is on the north end of Baffin Island, Nunavut.
Acting on some bad advice from a friend in Greenland, Soudée did not tell the customs officers about Monique, or about the rifle he had to scare away polar bears.
When the officers came on board they found Monique on the deck and the rifle on the table. Soudée was put in a holding cell for six hours. He took that opportunity to catch up on his sleep. The trip from Greenland to Canada had taken 150 hours, and his autopilot was broken. He was exhausted. After customs checked up on him and his story, he was released and he set off through the Northwest Passage. He left on Aug. 1 and arrived in Nome, Alaska, on Sept. 2. Soudée said he is glad he did the passage now. Soon, because of global warming, people will be able to do the trip any time of year.
Soudée plans on working in Campbell River for a couple months.
He has visitors coming from France, and he plans on returning home for a month before coming back and making sure his boat is ready for the next part of the adventure.
He is living the dream, and he hopes that other young people will follow his example.
“It’s a dream because it is difficult,” he said. “Life is a challenge, you have to fight.”
One of the best and worst things so far? Meeting amazing people everywhere he goes.
“It’s the trouble because when you meet some people it is always hard to leave, because you make some good relationships,” he said.
To follow Soudée’s trip find him on Facebook at Guirec Soudée Adventure or on his website at http://voyagedyvinec.com/-