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A 71-Year-Old French Dude Is Going to Try to Cross the Atlantic in a Barrel

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I’m really not sure why, but something about what 71-year old Jean-Jaques Savin is doing seems really appealing to me, despite all rational judgement. Savin has built himself a big barrel, complete with a bunk and a little kitchen and some portholes, and he’s going to crawl in it at one end of the Atlantic and, hopefully, end up at the other end. There’s no engine, he’ll just be using ocean currents and a lot of patience.

Savin built the mostly wooden barrel—I guess it’s more of a cylindrical sea-faring capsule of some kind, but, really, it’s still just basically a glorified barrel—himself, and set off from the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa yesterday.


When asked by the news agency AFP why he’s doing this, Savin replied

“Maybe to prove that I’ve still got it.”

I’m not exactly sure what “it” is in this context, but if he pulls this off, I’m more than willing to consider that proven.


The vessel appears to have some solar panels for electrical equipment, but appears fairly minimal otherwise. I suspect it must be weighted heavily on its “bottom” to try and keep it upright and not rolling around in the waves like a, well, barrel. The interior seems to have a lot of projecting parts and minimal padding, so I’m hoping some provision has been taken to try and minimize rolling.

You can track his progress on a website, and as of 11 hours ago, it appears he’s at Latitude 27.54474 and Longitude -18.24261, around 20 miles or so from where he set off. Here’s a zoomed-out view so you can get a sense of where he is, globally:

He’s got quite a ways to go, but he’s at least heading in the right direction.

Savin, a retired military parachutist, expects to progress about one or two miles per hour, which means that his trip can be reasonably expected to take at least about, oh, two or three months?


In addition to the usual assortment of food and supplies, Savin has also stashed away a block of fois gras and two bottles of wine, a white for New Year’s and a red for his birthday.


You can also track Savin’s progress on his Facebook page; so far, he looks pretty good:


I like the jaunty red-and-white color scheme he has going there, though I may have wanted some blacklight posters or something on those white walls.

Along the way, Savin will be dropping markers so the French oceanographic organization JCOMMOPS can study ocean currents, and he’ll be able to exit the barrel to swim, and spear fish.


Why does this all sound strangely soothing to me? I suspect the reality will be long and boring pretty often. But also exciting? Either way, let’s wish this crazy, adventurous old dude the best of luck!