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'Embrace your passion': Confinement tips from French barrel sailor

Fabienne Faur

Agence France-Presse

Bordeaux, France  /  Sun, March 22, 2020  /  09:07 pm
'Embrace your passion': Confinement tips from French barrel sailor

In this file photo taken on November 15, 2018 Jean-Jacques Savin, 71, a former paratrooper, works on the construction of a ship made from a barrel at the shipyard in Ares, southwestern France. (AFP/Georges Gobet)

Frenchman Jean-Jacques Savin, 73, made a splash last year by crossing the Atlantic alone in a custom-built barrel, a 127-day trip that was followed by thousands via his regular Facebook posts.

In an interview with AFP, the former paratrooper revealed his tactics for fending off cabin fever after France issued strict stay-at-home orders this week to fight the coronavirus outbreak.

Savin spent four months in a barrel with just six square meters of cramped living space. 

So any advice for people confined to their homes?

"Everyone needs to embrace their passion. This time of isolation can be an opportunity for discovery -- start drawing, learn to play the harmonica, if it doesn't bother the neighbors," he said.

"You need to tire yourself out physically, not mentally, and walk as much as you can. Above all, don't zone out in front of the television at night and then sleep until noon."

Savin managed almost half a year of solitude during a trip on which he was just carried along by the currents.

"When you decide to take on a challenge, no matter what difficulties come up -- except for health problems -- you know at one point it will be over. The solitude never bothered me, I actually appreciated it, because I chose it. 

"I wrote my journal, I read a lot, I exercised... I adapted to the solitude, the weather, I emptied my head and accepted that it would be long. I also knew that it was just for a while."

Read also: Kill time, not joy: How to be happy at home during the outbreak

'Mother Nature's message'

He was speaking as France was gritting its teeth at the start of a long confinement period -- with only essential trips out of the house allowed -- that could last several weeks or possibly longer to battle the coronavirus.

"In this case, confinement has been imposed on us and quite quickly. But we're not totally isolated, we all have telephones. I have friends who call and they're often bored. I hate to interrupt them, but I have things to do."

Savin said he felt safe hunkering down in the countryside in southwest France, with the confinement rules imposing no major hardship or change in routine for him.

"I'm lucky, I own 40 hectares of pine and oak forests about 12 kilometers from my house in Ares, on the Arcachon bay. I'm living in a 20-square-meter cabin with candles for light, a stove and a stream nearby for taking baths.

"Like everyone else, I have plenty of pasta, rice, semolina. And I love sardines, I have around 30 tins. I can hold out for 25 days, and if I have to stay six months, I'll stay six months.

"This virus is Mother Nature's way of sending us a message. We'll need to listen to it once this is over," he said.

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