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Frenchman Nears End of Trip Across Atlantic in Barrel


FILE - Jean-Jacques Savin works on the construction of a ship made from a barrel on Nov. 15, 2018, at the shipyard in Ares, France.

A Frenchman who has spent 113 days floating across the Atlantic in a custom-made barrel says he is in high spirits as he approaches the end of his journey.

Earlier this week, Jean-Jacques Savin, 72, posted on his Facebook page that he was just 750 kilometers from the island of St. Martin. But he has traveled only 250 kilometers in the past week because of the lack of wind.

But he does not seem to mind. "There is no hurry, let's leave time to time and now there are a series of favorable days coming to push me towards the South-West," he wrote.

With no engine, sails or paddles, the unusual craft has relied on trade winds and currents to push Savin 4,800 kilometers from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean.

Savin spent months building his bright orange, barrel-shaped capsule of resin-coated plywood that is strong enough to withstand battering waves and other stresses.

The barrel is 3 meters long and 2.10 meters across, has a small galley area, and a mattress with straps to keep him from being tossed out of his bunk by rough seas.

Frenchman Jean-Jacques Savin posted on his Facebook page that he was just 750 kilometers from the island of St. Martin. He set sail for the Caribbean Dec. 26, leaving from El Hierro in Spain's Canary Islands.
Frenchman Jean-Jacques Savin posted on his Facebook page that he was just 750 kilometers from the island of St. Martin. He set sail for the Caribbean Dec. 26, leaving from El Hierro in Spain's Canary Islands.

Portholes on either side of the barrel and another looking into the water provide sunlight and a bit of entertainment. The unique craft also has a solar panel that generates energy for communications and GPS positioning.

As he drifts along, Savin is dropping markers in the ocean to help oceanographers study ocean currents. At the end of the journey, Savin himself will be studied by doctors for effects of solitude in close confinement.

He also posts regular updates, including GPS coordinates that track his journey, on a Facebook page.

He described his journey as a "crossing during which man isn't captain of his ship, but a passenger of the ocean."

Savin's adventure, which will cost a little more than $65,000, was funded by French barrel makers and crowdfunding.

Savin hopes to end his journey on a French island, like Martinique or Guadeloupe. "That would be easier for the paperwork and for bringing the barrel back," he told AFP.

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