Jean-Jacques Savin set off from the Canary Islands in December 2018 with no sail, oars, or motor to aid him.

By Skye Sherman
May 09, 2019
GEORGES GOBET/Getty Images

Remember the septuagenarian who set sail in an oversized orange barrel with high hopes of hitting the Caribbean? Well, thanks to ocean currents and whatever guiding hand was behind his endeavor across the Atlantic, he made it.

Jean-Jacques Savin, 72, washed ashore last week, setting foot on land for the first time in over four months in Sint Eustatius, a tiny Dutch-Caribbean island between St. Kitts and Anguilla. He was welcomed by Scubaqua Dive Center and The Old Gin House hotel, who gifted him an oceanview room (though he probably would’ve preferred anything but).

He was also provided a meal of savory Swiss raclette, according to a Facebook post by the dive shop.

When he set off from the Canary Islands in December 2018, Savin expressed hopes of hitting either Barbados or the French islands of Martinique or Guadeloupe by March. With no sail, oars, or motor, however, his fate lay with the capricious winds and tides.

Fortunately, Savin is no stranger to high-risk situations or tests of fortitude: he’s a pilot, park ranger, triathlon champion, and even served as a parachutist in Africa. He had sailed across the Atlantic four times before, according to his website.

Savin’s mission in the barrel was multi-faceted, he told the Daily Mail. Besides the sake of the challenge and the exhilaration of attempting an unheard-of feat, Savin dropped markers along the way to assist with scientists’ study of ocean currents, and also brought along a bottle of Bordeaux to see how it fared being stored on water rather than on land.

Inside his homemade 10-foot by 7-foot capsule, Savin fit the basics: space for storage, sleeping, and a kitchen. He fed only on fish he caught himself, though he also brought along a stash of foie gras and wine for special occasions — he is a Frenchman, after all. Watching fish pass by through his vessel’s built-in portholes was his primary form of entertainment during the journey.

Next, he’ll take a boat to the French island of Guadeloupe before flying home to France, according to CNN.

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