Drifting across the pond

Pond
Courtesy AFP/Georges Gobet
French barrel rider Savin readying his vessel before departure from the Canary Islands.

Riding a barrel over Niagara Falls may not be your idea of fun, but at least it’s over quickly. Recently, 72-year-old Frenchman Jean-Jacques Savin took a slightly longer trip in a barrel. Floating in a big orange capsule, he crossed the Atlantic from the Canary Islands to the French island of Martinique, a distance of roughly 2,800 miles. He spent 122 days at sea in his 10-foot-long and 7-foot-wide vessel built from resin-coated plywood and painted orange. The barrel was equipped with several portholes, including one in the bottom of the barrel that gave Savin a view of fish and other sea life during the trip. The former French army paratrooper survived on a diet of freeze-dried food and some fish he caught while en route. He reportedly lost 9 pounds during the drift.

While the barrel is certainly a novel approach to crossing an ocean, it seems unlikely to start a trend of barrel voyaging. Most ocean voyagers will probably stick to steerable vessels with some sort of propulsion gear, like sails, diesel or electric motor.