French Explorer ‘Stayed Sane’ During Barrel Trip Across the Atlantic by Reading, Writing

French adventurer Jean-Jacques Savin made headlines last week when he completed a nautical journey fit for Jules Verne that lasted more than four months — that is, in a ten-foot-long plywood barrel he built himself.

In an interview with The New York Times, Savin cited Alain Bombard, another French explorer who wrote books about his travels across the Atlantic and his experimental efforts to devise solutions for people lost at sea, as his inspiration for the trip. Savin himself spent much of his time reading “a lot of nonfiction adventure books” and spent the trip drafting his own account of the voyage, which he says will be out in August.




Savin’s fans were able to follow his journey through Facebook and his blog, but the seventy-two-year-old voyager himself had no such luxuries. Instead, he found a special, solitary sort of freedom with only a satellite connection that he used to access his GPS coordinates, an assistant on land, and other weather- or current-related minutiae necessary for longterm sea travel.

Savin launched from the Canary Islands (off of Spain) and arrived 120+ days later in the Caribbean Sea off the island of Martinique, southeast of Puerto Rico. He used neither propellers, sail, or motor — just wind and ocean currents, with intermittent help from friendly vessels along the way. When the weather was fair, Savin said, he swam and fished in the ocean. When it was poor, he suffered from within the confines of the barrel.

Savin built his barrel “to resist waves and potential attacks by orca whales,” according to a BBC article.

Savin said he tucked a message in a wine bottle which he then tossed into the sea — as he has done on multiple sailing trips — and he hopes someone will find the bottle someday and get in contact with him.




It is possible, even, that Savin will inspire other generations to travel across the Atlantic in an orange cylinder without proper plumbing.

For more information, follow Savin’s blog here.



Featured Image Via The New York Times.