Bon Voyage; Rower Departs For France

By: Alan Pollock

Adventurer Guirec Soudée gives the thumbs-up as his boat is towed down the Mitchell River. ALAN POLLOCK PHOTO

CHATHAM Under squally skies Tuesday afternoon, with a tropical storm churning offshore, French adventurer Guirec Soudée pulled the first of thousands of oar-strokes that he hopes will deliver him back home.

Soudée grinned and waved to well-wishers as the launch from First Light Boatworks towed his ocean rowboat down the Mitchell River, through Stage Harbor and out the South Cut to a starting location about a mile east of Monomoy Island. At 3:43 p.m., he started rowing, with his bright red boat and the black-and-white flag of Brittany gradually fading into a fog bank.

In February, Soudée completed a solo transatlantic row from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean, but he knows that the northern crossing from Chatham to Brittany will present more challenging weather. In the near term, he was expected to face large ocean swells generated by Tropical Storm Bill, which raced well ahead of him on its way to the Canadian Maritimes. In the weeks and months ahead, he will struggle to make progress in the Gulf Stream, with the goal of reaching Europe before the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season in September.

Inspired by Gerard d’Aboville, the French adventurer who rowed the same route in 72 days in 1980, Soudée has many technological advantages. His high-tech boat has solar-powered navigational equipment and a satellite phone and data link, allowing him to post his position regularly on his website and share his adventures with his estimated 200,000 social media followers.

Follow Soudée’s progress at www.GuirecSoudee.com.