Adventurer Guirec Soudée to depart Chatham for 80-day solo rowing trip across Atlantic

"The adventure starts when the trouble arrives."

Guirec Soudée will spend 80 days alone on this 26-foot rowing boat.

In December, French adventurer Guirec Soudée left the Canary Islands on his 26-foot-long rowing boat for a 74-day journey to the Caribbean. After a little down time, he will depart Chatham this week for his 80-day solo return trip to Brest in Brittany, France.

Soudée, 29, has already sailed around the world. He was the youngest solo sailor to cross the Northwest passage through the Arctic Islands, and was awarded for his circumnavigation of the poles with his hen, Monique. Together they survived four months floating in ice without communication and with only rice for Soudée and seeds for Monique, an adventure documented in a book to be released in October, “The Seafaring Adventures of Guirec and Monique.”

So, this rowing journey is just the most recent seafaring challenge he’s taken on.

It was a tough journey here, but the journey home from Chatham will be even more difficult, as the North Atlantic ocean is rougher. Soudée faced several tests traveling west.

“It was quite hard at the beginning – for a few days after I left the wind was good, but after I had a big depression with the wind on my nose,” he said. “My boat is very heavy…so if the wind is too strong on my nose it’s just not possible for me to row; I’m just not strong enough.”

When that happens, Soudée is stuck inside the 16 square foot living space on the boat. It’s so small that he can’t sit up straight, and when it’s completely sealed to water it only contains 15 minutes of air. That means Soudée always has to keep a small hatch open, but with one big wave his tiny living space could get very wet.


“It was very hard, I’d row for days and then drift in the opposite direction,” he said. “But this is the game.”

Armed with 100 days worth of food, Soudée is ready for the return journey. He’ll depart sometime this week; he’s just waiting on a good wind to push him far from the coast.

“The crossing from west to east will be much more difficult because the wind will be much stronger, it’s possible to have big depressions, some big waves and swells,” he said. “I know that, but this is just adventure for me. The adventure starts when the trouble arrives – a different kind of trouble. Sometimes it’s hard, but after I see a big whale coming under the boat I say, ‘ah, I know why I’m here.’”

The crew at Chatham’s First Light Boatworks helped Guirec Soudée get ready for his trip. – Guirec Soudée

It’s his first time in Massachusetts, and Soudée shared his thanks for everyone who welcomed him to Chatham and helped him get ready for his return journey. This adventure is realizing a dream, and he advised young people to go after what they want.

“If you want to do something, just do it, just believe in you,” he said. “For me there’s always a good excuse to say it’s not a good time – no – just do it. That’s it.”

For those interested in seeing Soudée off from Chatham in the next few days, check his Facebook and Instagram.

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