Jean-Jacques Savin works on the construction of his barrel at the shipyard in Ares, south-western France, 15 November 2018Image copyright
AFP

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Jean-Jacques Savin spent months constructing the barrel in a shipyard in south-west France

A Frenchman has set off to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a barrel-shaped orange capsule, using ocean currents alone to propel him.

Jean-Jacques Savin, 71, left El Hierro in Spain’s Canary Islands and hopes to reach the Caribbean in as little as three months.

His reinforced capsule contains a sleeping bunk, kitchen and storage.

He will drop markers along the way to help oceanographers study Atlantic currents.

Updates on the journey are being posted on a Facebook page and the latest message said the barrel was “behaving well”.

In a telephone interview with AFP news agency, he said: “The weather is great. I’ve got a swell of one metre (3ft) and I’m moving at 2-3km/h… I’ve got favourable winds forecast until Sunday.”

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AFP

Image caption

The barrel is designed to withstand the constant battering of the waves

Mr Savin is a former military paratrooper and has also worked as a park ranger and a pilot.

He believes ocean currents alone will carry his resin-coated plywood vessel about 4,500km (2,800 miles) to the Caribbean.

The barrel is 3m long and 2.10m wide with six square metres of living space. There is a porthole in the floor through which Mr Savin can watch passing fish.

The capsule has been built to resist waves and potential attacks by orca whales. A solar panel generates power for communications and GPS positioning.

His budget of €60,000 (£54,000; $68,000) was largely raised through crowdfunding.

“Maybe Barbados, although I would really like it to be a French island like Martinique or Guadaloupe,” he joked.

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

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His stores include a block of foie gras and a bottle of Sauternes white wine for New Year’s Eve. He also has a bottle of red wine to celebrate his 72nd birthday on 14 January.

The markers he drops along the way will help oceanographers from the JCOMMOPS international marine observatory to study currents.

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