Frenchman Jean-Jacques Savin completes journey across Atlantic in a barrel, arrives safely in Martinique

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A 72-year-old Frenchman has completed a trans-Atlantic voyage from the Canary Islands to the Caribbean in a barrel-shaped capsule, using nothing but ocean currents.

Key points:

  • Jean-Jacques Savin’s journey of drifting on the open seas lasted 122 days
  • He arrived on the tiny Dutch island of St Eustatius, before eventually getting transfered to Martinique
  • He survived on freeze-dried supplies and fresh fish, as well as goods dropped off by passing ships

Jean-Jacques Savin, a former military paratrooper, is on the French island of Martinique after a stopover in St Eustatius, completing a journey of more than 4,500 kilometres.

He hit the water in December and declared his trip a success on April 27, when he reached Caribbean waters after 122 days on the open sea.

“It was an exhilarating voyage, but also quite risky,” Mr Savin said.

Mr Savin said on Facebook that a Dutch oil tanker picked him and his barrel up in Caribbean waters before dropping him off on the tiny Dutch island of St Eustatius.

The upper half of Jean-Jacques Savin's body pokes out of an orange barrel vessel in open waters on a sunny day.

While he had hoped to drift directly to Martinique, he remained at the mercy of ocean currents and instead ended up in Dutch territory.

But such was his social media notoriety, a local organisation in St Eustatius offered to rent a hotel room for him.

After a stay of a few days on the island, a French tugboat then took him to Martinique on Thursday.

“Some joked and asked if they were arresting him on arrival for being so crazy,” St Eustatius resident Dorette Courtar told CNN.

“Others, like myself, were fascinated by this journey and technology.”

Mr Savin’s reinforced orange resin-coated plywood capsule, three metres long and 2.1 metres wide, weighed 450 kilograms and included a sleeping bunk, kitchen and storage.

The vessel was specially reinforced to withstand potential attacks by orca whales, and boasted a porthole in the floor, through which Mr Savin was able to watch fish passing beneath him.

He survived on freeze-dried food, freshly caught fish as well as supplies offered to him by passing ships.

His own supplies included foie gras, a bottle of white wine for New Year’s Eve and a bottle of red wine for his 72nd birthday on January 14.

Before setting off, he reckoned he would land on Barbados, but joked: “I would really like it to be a French island like Martinique or Guadeloupe.

“That would be easier for the paperwork and for bringing the barrel back.”

He plans to write a book on his experience, and intends to get it published later this year.

Mr Savin will return to France by plane.