Big Shoes: The Trans Ocean Kayak Club


By Dave Costello
Published: February 3, 2011

Poland’s Aleksander Doba is only the fourth person ever to paddle a kayak across the Atlantic Ocean, and first to do so from Africa (Dakar, Senegal) to South America (Acara, Brazil). The 64-year-old Doba—whose odyssey, 99 days at sea, is the longest in kayaking history—joins an exclusive club of solo kayak adventurers. Here’s a rundown of Doba’s open-ocean forebearers, from the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans and Tasman Sea.

1928 — Franz Romer’s Atlantic Crossing, Portugal to Puerto Rico, 58 days at sea: Romer navigated his 21’ 6” modified Klepper kayak nearly 4,000 miles with nothing more than a compass, sextant and a barometer. After landing in St. Thomas and a brief sail over to San Juan Harbor in Puerto Rico, Romer again took to sea, bound for New York. Unfortunately, Romer missed a hurricane warning by one hour and steered straight into the storm. No trace of him was ever found.

1956 — Hannes Lindemann’s Atlantic Crossing, The Canary Islands to the British Virgin Islands, 72 days at sea: Lindemann subsisted mostly on beer, evaporated milk, rainwater and fish speared from the seat of his 17-foot production Klepper kayak. His mantra? “West…Never give up, never give up, I’ll make it.” Read about Lindemann and his boat from the December 2010 C&K.

1987 — Ed Gillet’s California to Hawaii Crossing, 63 days at sea: Four days after he ran out of food, paddling a production Necky double kayak, suffering from 40 hours of sleep deprivation and subject to winds and currents threatening to push him north of Hawaii, Gillet steered in a hallucinatory daze into Kahului Harbor and landed on Maui Beach. He had been out of radio contact for 8 weeks. Read C&K’s exclusive interview here.

2001 — Peter Bray’s North Atlantic Crossing, 75 days at sea: Englishman Peter Bray was the first to paddle west to east across the Atlantic, without the tropical trade winds to ease his passage. His first attempt nearly cost him his life: Asleep after his first day at sea, he awoke to find his cockpit three-quarters filled with water and his pumping systems inoperable. Bray survived 32 hours submerged in 36-degree seas and spent the next four months learning to walk again. A year later, Bray launched again from St. John’s, Newfoundland, reaching Beldereg, Ireland, 75 days later. Read C&K’s exclusive Unfiltered interview here.

2007 — Andrew McAuley’s Tasman Sea Crossing, Tasmania to New Zealand’s South Island, 29 days at sea: Paddling with a home-made canopy designed to self-right his boat, McAuley was lost at sea 30 miles from Milford Sound, New Zealand. Read C&K editor Jeff Moag’s heartfelt reaction here, and news coverage here. (And moving documentary video here.)

Further reading —
• C&K’s “10 Best Adventure Paddling Books,” including “Alone at Sea,” by Hannes Lindemann.

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