He may be living every freedom-loving explorer’s ultimate dream, as he sails singlehanded around the world, but Guirec Soudee is possibly the most hen-packed man on the planet. Because, while the 24-year-old Frenchman might own the only pair of hands aboard his yacht Yvinec, he isn’t travelling solo: he has a pretty companion in the shape of Monique. The world’s most adventurous hen.
The odd couple began their slow-paced ocean-going odyssey in May 2014, leaving the Canary Islands and heading to St Bart’s in the Caribbean before sailing into cooler waters around the top of the globe last August. They spent four freezing months in the freezing gloom of an Arctic winter, and currently they’re exploring the coast of Greenland, where Monique is turning a few heads, not least because the island has no poultry farming, so chickens seem almost exotic.
Monique doesn’t do much of the heavy lifting on deck, but she does deliver the ingredients for a fry up and the occasional omelette, laying on average six eggs a week for the captain’s table, even during the extreme depths of winter, in sub-zero conditions when daylight was a mere memory.
The French media picked up on the pair when Guirec’s Instagram and Facebook feeds began to trend, with people beguiled by tales of their unusual friendship and images of the duo doing everything together from stand-up paddle boarding to wild swimming and iceberg surfing. Guirec says he is delighted with his choice of shipmate, and confessing it was love at first sight when they initially met.
‘I knew she was the one straight away,’ he told the BBC this week. ‘She was only about four or five months old then, and had never left the Canary Islands. I didn’t speak any Spanish and she didn’t speak any French, but we got along.’
The world-wandering adventurer says he had always planned on taking an animal with him for the trip, but hadn’t thought about a chicken until Monique worked her hen magic on him.
‘I thought about a cat, but decided it would be too much effort to look after it,’ he says. ‘The hen was an ideal choice. It doesn’t need that much looking after and I’m able to get eggs at sea. People told me it wouldn’t work, that the hen would be too stressed and wouldn’t lay eggs. But there was no problem, she laid eggs straight away. She adapted to it perfectly—she was very comfortable very quickly.’
Monique found her sea legs pretty quickly, and she roams the deck of the 39ft boat freely, unless the weather becomes stormy, when Guirec places her on the safety of her hutch.
‘At the beginning, I was very worried,’ he admits. ‘There would be huge waves and she might stumble, it would look for a second like she might go overboard, but she would always regain her footing. She’s very brave.’
‘Compared with people, she doesn’t complain at all,’ he continued. ‘She follows me everywhere, and doesn’t create any problems. All I need to do is shout ‘Monique!’ and she will come to me, sit on me, give me company. She is amazing.’
From Greenland the happy couple plan to sail through the legendary Northwest Passage—which eluded explorers for centuries, but is now navigable because of shrinking pack ice caused by climate change—and pass along the Bering Strait towards Nome in Alaska. Guirec will be the youngest sailor to attempt the Northwest Passage, and we believe Monique might the first hen to have a crack at it too.
From there, the route is as yet unknown. ‘We haven’t talked about it yet, but we will,’ Guirec told the BBC. ‘We talk a lot, Monique and I.’