By Jeff Moag
When supporters of transatlantic kayaker Aleksander Doba greeted him at sea yesterday, about 95 miles southwest of Bermuda, the 67-year-old Polish adventurer did not ask for assistance.
Instead, he offered his visitors chocolates.
"Olek did not accept anything from us," says Piotr Chmielinski, the Polish-American explorer who chartered a small fishing boat in Bermuda to search for his friend in the Atlantic.
"He has not taken even fruit. He says he still has food for four to six weeks," Chmielinski says. If the bearded adventurer is missing anything, Chmielinski adds, it is contact with people.
Doba left Portugal 139 days ago, bound for Florida in a 23-foot ocean-going kayak. His satellite phone was broken for 47 days, and except for declining assistance from a passing tanker two days before Christmas last year, he has had no human contact.
Yesterday, as a reporter and cameraman from Polish television looked on, Doba spoke by telephone with his wife for the first time in months.
Doba spent much of January and February traveling in circles in the Bermuda Triangle, battling persistent storms. For nearly four weeks powerful winds pushed him in every direction but one—west toward his planned destination of New Smyrna Beach, on Florida's Atlantic coast.
Then, on February 13, Doba lost his rudder approximately 800 miles from Florida. Without the ability to steer his craft into the wind, Doba reluctantly turned downwind, toward Bermuda to make repairs. In the last eight days he's moved about 125 nautical miles toward Bermuda. He has 95 miles still to go, and a tricky landing to negotiate.
Chmielinski reports that Doba has fashioned a crude replacement rudder using plastic from a food box. It provides limited control and breaks frequently.
"Olek categorically said the he will paddle alone, unsupported until he gets to Bermuda," Chmielinski says. "I will be waiting in Bermuda until Olek gets here, and we will repair the rudder.”
"When in Bermuda port, Olek will make decision what he will do next."
Doba already holds the record for the longest completed kayak voyage, a 99-day crossing from Senegal to Brazil in 2011. If he makes port in Bermuda, he'll add at least 40 days to that mark.
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