Frenchman Sets Off Across Atlantic in a Barrel

Simon Veazey
By Simon Veazey
December 28, 2018Worldshare

Jean-Jacques Savin has no engine, no sail, and no paddle. But he has the currents, the winds, some foie gras, and a bottle of red wine ready for his 72nd birthday, which if all goes to plan he will celebrate in the mid-Atlantic, in his reinforced plywood barrel.

Savin, a former French paratrooper, cast off from the Canary islands on Dec. 26, planning to cross the Atlantic in his custom-made orange 10-foot vessel, relying only on ocean currents and wind to get to the Caribbean.

He believes that the 2,800 mile journey will take him between two and three-and-a-half months, shunted at a speed of around 2 to 3 knots.

Jean-Jacques Savin, a former paratrooper, 71, works on the construction of his barrel at a shipyard in Ares, southwestern France on Nov. 15, 2018. (Georges Gobet/AFP)

Savin , 71, will drop markers along the way to help oceanographers study Atlantic currents, and provide updates on social media to followers.

But with trans-ocean barrel travel still in its infancy, he can’t predict exactly where he will end up.

“Maybe Barbados, although I would really like it to be a French island like Martinique or Guadaloupe,” he told AFP via telephone after setting off.

“That would be easier for the paperwork and for bringing the barrel back.”

Savin will know his exact location the whole time thanks to GPS, powered by a solar panel set up for communications.

“The weather is great. I’ve got a swell of one meter (3 feet) and I’m moving at 2 to 3 kilometers per hour”, he told AFP. “I’ve got favourable winds forecast until Sunday.”

Barrel inside
Jean-Jacques Savin, a former paratrooper, 71, poses aboard his barrel on Nov. 15, 2018(Geroges Gobet/AFP/Getty Images)

The barrel is made from plywood reenforced with resin, designed to resist waves and even potential attacks from killer whales. It is about 7 feet in diameter and 10 feet long, weighs about a thousand pounds, and has portholes on the sides, as well as a glass window sunk into the floor for watching fish swimming below.

Savin funded the construction of the barrel—which cost around $70,000—mostly through crowdfunding. He does however, have a sponsor: a French barrel-making company with a 140-year history of wine storage.

Bags of Onions and 3 Bottles of Wine

A former triathlon champion, Savin is a seasoned adventurer, and in fine health, according to his website.

“His four swims across the Bay of Arcachon and his ascent of Mont Blanc in 2015 attest to his impeccable physical form.”

Savin says he has spent several years on sailboats, crossing the Atlantic four times.

“A sportsman at heart, I am taking advantage of my retirement to launch many challenges,” Savin told Actu.

“During my professional career, I worked as a military paratrooper, private pilot or curator of Central Africa National Park. These trades gave me a taste for risk and adventure,” he said.

Savin’s barrel journey was inspired by French adventurer and physician Alain Bombard, who in October 1952 set off from the Canaries on an inflatable raft to pit his survival skills against the Atlantic ocean.

“He wanted to show that a man can survive on a boat, if his morale is good, without water or food for several weeks thanks to the resources of the sea,” writes Savin on his website.

After more than sixty days at sea, despite setting off with almost no provisions, Bombard reached the coast of Barbados, alive.

He said he survived by fishing with a self-made harpoon and hooks, by harvesting the surface plankton with a small net, and drinking a limited amount of seawater.

Like Bombard, Savin sees his as a scientific and experimental voyage.

But unlike Bombard, Savin is setting off on his journey with supplies. Bags of onions and garlic in string bags hang in the galley section of the barrel, and Savin has stowed a block of foie gras and a bottle of white wine for New Year’s Eve celebrations.

One bottle of red wine is set aside for January 14—Savin’s birthday—and a third bottle is to be left unopened as an experiment to test how several months at sea in a barrel affects a good Bordeaux.

From The Epoch Times

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