« I was attacked by pirates in the Caribbean ».

Generation Voyage presents the Odyssey of Daniel, a family man who sailed the world for 17 years, aboard a boat built in his garden! A story marked by many anecdotes, including a pirate attack in the Caribbean one evening in 1996…

The beginning

« When you travel, you experience things you never would have experienced if you’d stayed quietly at home. »

It was this idea that prompted Daniel to start building a boat at the bottom of his garden. Firstly, because he wanted to travel, but above all because he wanted to discover new things. The adventure began in 1978.

As a technician for the Grenoble glaciology laboratory, Daniel had a demanding job, marked by multi-month missions to the Kerguelen Islands and Antarctica. The aim of these missions? To carry out various scientific measurements (speed, accumulation, ablation, etc.) that will enable us to characterize the climate and composition of our atmosphere over tens of thousands of years.

Photo de Daniel lisant son courrier durant la mission aux Îles Kerguelen

Photo of Daniel reading his mail during the mission to the Kerguelen Islands Photo credit: unidentified author/Fonds Lorius/CNRS Photothèque (paternity search)

So it was at the age of 35, after years of working in this laboratory, that Daniel decided to change his life. By the end of the 1970s, boat trips had become a habit for him… This passion led him to build a boat with his own hands at the bottom of his garden!

The project was born when construction began in 1978. It was completed 5 years later, in 1983, after long days working on its construction (a steel boat based on plans by Patrick Van God, the famous Belgian sailor who died at sea in 1977).

The desire to discover the Mediterranean took him out to sea with his boat for the first time in 1983. Little did Daniel imagine the many adventures that awaited him just a few years later…

First sailings in the Mediterranean and Africa: a turning point

Daniel started sailing at a very early age – 14 – at Le Bourget du Lac, so he’s no stranger to this world. He decided to explore the Mediterranean, alongside his partner Christine, to discover new cultures and new horizons.

This trip eventually lasted 7 years. It was an opportunity for him to discover many countries, including Morocco, Tunisia, Turkey and Greece.

Vue sur la Méditerranée depuis la côte tunisienne

View of the Mediterranean from the Tunisian coast Photo credit: Shutterstock – Romas_Photo

These years of traveling with the wind awakened a real passion in Daniel. A passion that drives him to go further. He was faced with two choices: sell his boat, or prepare it for the high seas. In 1989, Daniel chose the second option. He set off again for a year’s work, carrying out numerous modifications on his boat.

The big departure came in 1990, when Daniel set off for Guinea-Bissau. It was a country that left a lasting impression on him, as he spent a few months there working on building sites. He particularly appreciated the beauty of its national parks, and discovered some heavenly islands of rare beauty: the Bijagos Islands.

Guinée-Bissau

Photo of the Bijagos Islands in Guinea-Bissau Photo credit: Shutterstock – Damian Pankowiec

Set apart from the rest of the world, these islands offer exceptional landscapes. Above all, they offer the chance to observe a hitherto untouched natural world, one of Africa’s treasures. Not surprisingly, a few years later, these islands were recognized as a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1996.

This trip, and the one to Gambia, where he stayed for 10 months, prompted Daniel to cross the Atlantic and discover the Caribbean. A new journey began for him and his partner in 1992, when they set sail for Fernando de Noronha, an archipelago close to Brazil. They set off to tackle the Atlantic, where 3 weeks of ocean navigation awaited them before arriving on this superb archipelago.

Fernando de Noronha

The colorful beach of Praia do Sancho in Fernado de Noronha Photo credit: Shutterstock – Marconi Couto

It’s the beginning of a dream, which becomes a reality when they discover this small island, inhabited by less than 3,000 people. A reserve where they enjoy unsuspected and indescribable pleasures, such as swimming with dolphins every evening at the end of the day.

After a month on this island where time seems to stand still, Daniel and Christine had to set sail again, as the archipelago’s reserve status only allowed them to stay for a month. They then multiplied their voyages, sailing with the wind and stopping in exceptional places such as the Bay of Salvador de Bahia, « a magical place » in Daniel’s own words.

The Caribbean and the pirate attack

After visiting some of the region’s most beautiful islands (including Martinique, Guadeloupe and Barbados), the trip was extended when Daniel – who was working on Saint-Martin at the time – was contacted by Didier, a Frenchman also living on the island. Didier was looking for a site manager for the construction of 49 pavilions. Daniel accepted the position, and the long adventure in the Caribbean began!

Ten years during which Daniel alternates between working for 6 months on the island of Saint-Martin and traveling for the other 6 months of the year. He takes the opportunity to discover all the islands in and around the Caribbean. The island of Tourtuga in Venezuela particularly impressed him.

Tortuga au Venezuela

Aerial view of Tortuga Island Photo credit: Shutterstock – Jorge A. Munoz

A desert island, uninhabited, where they meet up with friends to spend a few weeks. These shared moments in the middle of the Caribbean Sea are one of Daniel’s fondest memories. Hunting, lobster fishing and relaxing on heavenly beaches become his daily routine… a dream come true!

However, this dream almost turned into a nightmare one evening in November 1996… Daniel and Christine were on their way to Recife, Brazil, to meet a friend when something unexpected happened to their boat!

In the midst of a peaceful day with a feeling of serenity and tranquility, the wind is the great absentee of the day. They take the opportunity to spend the afternoon reading outside in the sun.

C'était une après-midi paisible

It was a peaceful afternoon – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Dudarev Mikhail

But as the day progresses, Daniel spots the silhouette of a boat in the distance, which appears to be that of a fisherman. As he’s used to coming across other boats, there’s nothing to suggest that anything is amiss.

But Daniel has a bad feeling about this. The fisherman’s boat is heading in exactly the same direction as his own, something that never happens on the high seas. Surprised by the turn of events, he decides to change tack to avoid what appears to be an ambush.

But nothing can be done about it, as the boat keeps coming closer and closer to Daniel and Christine. A tension sets in, plunging them back a few months earlier, when one of their friends was attacked by pirates. The attack was not without consequences, since they had taken everything from him, leaving behind a simple tin can…

L'horizon s'obscurcit

The horizon is darkening – Photo credit: Shutterstock – 1tomm

As night fell, Daniel decided to slow down his cruising speed, seeing that this boat was determined to join them. As it drew closer, he spotted 5 men who looked disconcertingly quiet… and surprisingly good-looking! They’re pirates, and they seem determined to steal the boat!

Seeing these individuals seize their ropes, our 2 travelers became deeply worried. In a burst of courage, Daniel decides to go for broke and pick up an unloaded pellet rifle.

Without missing a beat, Daniel points his gun at the pirates before they tie up to the boat, showing them that he’s not going to take it lying down. Far from being confident, he takes this crazy gamble. But deep down he knows that this deterrent weapon is not loaded… And, surprising as it may seem, these fishermen improvised pirates seem to be panicking and decide to turn back. Perhaps it’s the night that’s unnerved them? Or Daniel’s self-assurance? To tell the truth, we’ll never know!

While some will call it luck, others will salute the courage of one man, who by reflex and pure bluff managed to dissuade these pirates, and get out of a situation that could have turned tragic.

The desire to keep going despite the risks

Fear soon gave way to joy. The joy of having escaped such a situation, but above all the feeling of having a lucky star.

What if these men were armed? What if they weren’t just amateurs? Daniel and Christine have a lot of questions, but one thing’s for sure: their journey won’t end here!

L'horizon s'éclaircit pour Daniel et Christine

The horizon is brightening for Daniel and Christine – Photo credit: Shutterstock – icemanphotos

Firstly, because they were aware of the risks before setting off, but also « because we hadn’t yet come full circle », as Daniel puts it. When you cross so many countries, there’s no such thing as zero risk. But isn’t that the price to pay for such an exceptional adventure?

Their journey continued in the Caribbean, with the feeling that they had avoided the worst and that the best was yet to come. 4 years passed, 4 years of enjoying an extraordinary destiny, 4 years filled with happiness and discovery! Particularly Venezuela, which Daniel particularly appreciates for the diversity of its landscapes.

Le parc national Canaima au Venezuela

Canaima National Park in Venezuela – Photo credit: Shutterstock – Douglas Olivares

Between the mountains, including the famous Pico Bolívar at an altitude of 4,978 metres, the paradisiacal islands and the Venezuelan coast… the beauty of this country remains forever engraved in the memories of our 2 adventurers. In fact, it may well be their fondest travel memory!

After several years of sailing, the circle seems to have come full circle around the year 2000. It’s time for Daniel and Christine to return to France, tired by their hectic lifestyle but fulfilled by 17 years at sea. The 2 adventurers return home to their children, families and loved ones.

Souvenir de voyage de Daniel pêchant un thon

Travel souvenir of Daniel catching a tuna

« They didn’t know it was impossible,
so they did it. » – Mark Twain