For Jacques Gambrell building a footpath from France to Canada via England, Iceland and Greenland seems less quixotic than practical. The rough seas, the high winds, the passing ships bother him far less than the jeers, the quizzical looks and doubts of family and strangers. He would never deny the cause is difficult.
"I have gotten to one hundred meters now, three times. Nearly one hundred meters at least. I know the problems I face. I am not naïve. But I also know it can be done. I must refine my plans."
So far the main problem Gambrell has faced has been wind. "Each time I stand out there on the causeway I have built and I drive another nail into another plank to extend it that much further toward England I learn more. The wind, it is my enemy, but I am building my newest causeway with spoilers so the wind will hold the construction to the surface of the sea."
The three previous times Gambrell has extended his wooden, floating pathway nearly one hundred meters from the French coast high winds have come and ripped it loose from the shore and pushed the bridge somewhere out to sea. Residents of the tiny seaside village of Gris-Nez where Gambrell is working seem amused by his trials. Paul Delon, owner of a restaurant on the coast says that Gambrell has boosted his business. "Oh yes, people come to eat and watch him work. He works very hard. The nailing is constant. Now, if you ask me if he will make it to Canada, I will have to say, I wonder. Canada is a long way away, and he has not gone even as far as the end of the pier. But I am pleased he is trying. I am not one of the doubters, but I have declined to invest in his project."
If Delon is mildly supportive, others are less so. One woman who refused to give her name said Gambrell was "an embarrassment. People will think we are all insane to build a walking path across the Atlantic. Have you seen the storms?" Others echoed her sentiments using epithets for Gambrell which are far worse than insane.
For his part Gambrell tries to let the criticism slide off, like water off a hiker-across-the-Atlantic's back. He smiles and shrugs when asked about the local reaction. "I hear them, but I have walked ninety meters across the water toward England. How many of them can say that?"
In a possibly related story Scots water skier Jock Campbell's much publicized effort to ski to New Zealand came to an unfortunate end when he collided with "a great bloody mass of lumber" lying low in the water off of Normandy. "It must have been close to a hundred meters of boards all nailed together." Campbell broke both legs in the collision.