SAVAR, Bangladesh (Reuters Life!) - A Frenchman is sailing home from Bangladesh in an eco and budget friendly boat partly made from jute, to raise awareness about the natural fiber that was once the mainstay of the poor Asian country's economy.
Coretin de Chatelperron's journey in his small, jute and fiberglass boat will take him across the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean, among other waterways. He expects to reach Paris by mid-August.
The 26-year-old sailor's vessel was designed by French naval architect Marc Van Peteghem and constructed at a shipyard on the banks of the Bangshai river near Dhaka.
The project, funded by non-governmental organizations and wealthy businessmen, hopes to promote jute as a natural, cost-effective alternative to synthetic fibers that can be harmful for the environment.
"It is a very tough adventure without a doubt. But I have a purpose, I want to promote this unique kind of boat," Chatelperron told the crowd of environmentalists, diplomats and well-wishers who saw him off on Saturday.
Jute is considered to be one of the most affordable natural fabrics and is second only to cotton in the amount produced and its variety of uses.
Abul Khair Litu, a leading Bangladeshi industrialist who contributed to the project, said the boat cost just one-third of a wooden boat of a similar size.
"However, the most important feature of this boat is that it has diversified the use of jute. Once jute was the lifeline of our economy, but it virtually lost out in competition with cheap and more durable synthetics," Litu said.
"If we develop this boat and offer it to people around the world who care to protect the environment, it will increase the use of jute," he said, adding that Chatelperron's adventure will help further research on the uses of jute.
Although this will be Chatelperron's first journey, he said he was unfazed by the challenges ahead, although he was taking precautions.
"I have taken a satellite phone, a laptop and a digital camera on my boat. I will also take on a ship in Oman to avoid pirates at the Gulf of Aden," he said.
Writing by Anis Ahmed; Editing by Miral Fahmy