Jean-Jacques Savin, 71, set sail from El Hierro in the Canary Islands in Spain in an orange barrel. The Frenchman hopes to cross the Atlantic and reach the waters of the Caribbean in three months, relying on the ocean currents. He hopes to eventually land in Barbados, Martinique or Guadaloupe.
A former paratrooper, Savin designed his unique vessel in a small shipyard in Ares on the southwest coast of France. The capsule measures 10 feet in length and almost 7 feet across and has been built from resin-coated plywood. The vessel is built to withstand waves and potential whale attacks.
Inside the capsule, which weighs approximately 990 lbs. when unoccupied, Savin has a six-square-meter living area that includes a kitchen, sleeping quarters and storage. The sailor can also observe passing fish through a porthole on the bottom of the barrel. The vessel includes a solar panel that produces energy for communication and GPS positioning. He is expected to post daily updates as well as his GPS coordinates on his Facebook page.
“The weather is great - I've got a swell of one meter and I'm moving at two or three kilometers an hour,” he told the AFP after leaving El Hierro. “For the time being my capsule is behaving very, very well and I've got favorable winds forecast until Sunday.”
Savin, who served as a military parachutist in Africa, has also been a pilot and a national park ranger. Aboard his capsule, he stocked a block of foie gras and a bottle of Sauternes white wine for New Year's Eve, as well as a bottle of red Saint-Emilion to celebrate his 72nd birthday on January 14. The adventurer hopes the currents carry him to the Caribbean. He expects to land in Barbados, though he’d prefer to reach one of the French islands, like Martinique or Guadaloupe. In addition, landing on a French island would involve less bureaucracy when it came time to bring the barrel back.
As he floats across the Atlantic, Savin will be placing markers so the JCOMMOPS international marine observatory can study the ocean currents. He also hopes to gain insight into the effects of solitude on human beings confined in close quarters. Furthermore, the wine, a Bordeaux he has brought on board, will be examined in order to compare the effects of the waves on the wine.
Savin has spent 60,000 euros on his trip, part of which has been covered by several barrel makers and a crowdfunding campaign.