Monique the sailing hen, who famously accompanied French solo skipper Guirec Soudée on a five-year around the world voyage, has died. Soudée posted a tribute to his unique companion today:
Monique, a Rhode Island Red hen who joined solo sailor Guirec Soudée on multiple sailing adventures, even including 130 days icebound in Greenland, has died at the age of 9.
Without doubt the most well travelled chicken in the world, Monique accompanied Soudée on a five year world tour, clocking up (clucking up? sorry… Ed) the kind of sea miles many a professional sailor would be proud of.
Young Breton sailor and adventurer Soudée adopted Monique while on a stopover in the Canary Islands aboard his 38ft steel yacht, Yvinec, on his first solo circumnavigation in 2015.
Monique took to life at sea easily, laying 25 eggs on the pair’s 28-day Atlantic crossing, and swapped pecking at the earth for worms for pecking flying fish that landed on Yvinec’s deck.
“I said to myself: ‘If she annoys me, I can always eat her.’ It feels weird to say that now! We formed a real bond. She was so endearing, she made me laugh so much, it felt as if I had always known her,” Soudée recalled in an interview for The Guardian in 2019.
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Guirec Soudée met Monique during a stopover in the Canary Islands when she joined him on what had been up…
The duo spent time in the Caribbean, where Soudée worked as a watersports instructor to raise funds for his voyage, and his sailing hen Monique became something of a local celebrity, joining Soudée windsurfing, on paddleboards and swimming in the sea.
Icebound in Greenland
Soudée went on to sail north via Bermuda and Halifax to southern Greenland, arriving in late summer. He often visited children in local schools to talk about his voyage, always accompanied by Monique, much to the children’s amusement as there are no hens in Greenland.
Soudée had set himself the challenge of overwintering in ice, unassisted. The pair holed up in Greenland’s vast Disko Bay, provisioned with 40kg of rice for Soudée, 60kg of seeds for Monique, and 2,000lt of fuel for heating and electricity, as Yvinec’s solar panels won’t operate during the polar night.
At one point he prepared to abandon ship, with Monique tucked into his arm, as Yvinec seemed set to be crushed against rocks by the ice. Thankfully the wind changed, and the pair stayed aboard.
To avoid the temptation of calling for help, Soudée disconnected his sat phone and stayed out of communication until the ice melted in the spring, 130 days later.
By the time they emerged, Guirec and Monique were unlikely celebrities back in France, thanks to friends who had shared Soudée’s story on social media while he was off-grid.
World’s most famous sailing hen
For the next three years their adventures continued – through the North West Passage (also making Soudée the youngest solo skipper to complete the passage), down to Antarctica, around Cape Horn, and back across the Atlantic – all captured in spectacular photos and funny videos which built a huge Facebook and Instagram following.
When Soudée returned to France in December 2018, Monique the sailing hen was famous across the country. The pair made numerous television and public appearances, and Soudée wrote two books recounting their adventures, including one for children.
Back home, the pair moved to a small island off the north shore of Brittany, also called Yvinec. Monique ‘retired’ from life at sea, while Soudée went on to complete a double solo Atlantic rowing expedition, crossing from east to west, then west to east in 2021.
In 2022 Soudée took the helm of an IMOCA 60, Freelance, bidding to compete in the pinnacle of solo racing, the Vendée Globe in 2024. His campaign got off to a good start, finishing a very respectable 25th in the 38-boat IMOCA fleet of the Route du Rhum aboard a 2007 daggerboard design.
Farewell to Monique
Today, however, fans of Soudée and Monique were saddened to read that Monnique had passed away. Soudée posted:
“I knew it wasn’t eternal, but it’s hard to bring myself to turn the page on such an important chapter of my life: nine years but especially five years aboard Yvinec, living the craziest and most unforgettable experiences.
“My little Momo, after everything we’ve been through, I don’t even know where to start.
“Without you I would have gone mad during our 130 days of over-wintering in Greenland, including days of polar night. I had the good idea to only take only rice for me, and wasn’t able to fish. But you kept on laying eggs everyday. You knew our lives depended on your eggs.
“You made me laugh so much. Every time we fought to catch flying fish on the deck, when you were sliding from side to side on every wave, when you tried to swim to join me. You scared me; I thought I’d lost you many times.
“You made it much easier to meet people every time we stopped somewhere. In Saqqaq, they had never ever seen a chicken alive !
“I made sacrifices for you too, I went to prison in Canada for you and I gave up on sailing to Tahiti because nobody wanted you there because of the bird flu.
“Together we saw icebergs, bears, narwhals, dozens of whales and thousands of dolphins. We dreamed like children and we shivered with fear. When we were knocked down in the Fifties, after Cape Horn, when we sailed for weeks in storms, cold and fatigued.
“Five years later, we arrived in Brittany and you got to live on my island. At first, you slept in the house, never leaving my side. Then you became the queen of the island, always running outside, digging the soil, the sand and the seaweed.
“That’s when I decided to go for my rowing expedition. Crossing the Atlantic in a tiny sealed box. It was out of question to have you onboard, you would not have survived a day.
“You deserved a nice and quiet retirement. I will never forget you, my little Momo. Thank you for everything.”
If you want to read more about Guirec Soudée and Monique’s adventures, you can buy Soudée’s books:
Buy A Sailor, A Chicken, An Incredible Voyage: The Seafaring Adventures of Guirec and Monique from Amazon
Buy The Hen Who Sailed Around the World: A True Story (kids book) from Amazon
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