A Mid-Atlantic Holiday at Sea

Checking in on Aleksander Doba's bold trans-Atlantic crossing

sea kayaking

Photo Ricardo Bravo


BY CONOR MIHELL

Somewhere on the Atlantic Ocean, midway between Europe and North America, Polish sea kayaking super hero Aleksander Doba is spending Christmas alone in a 23-foot-long, 39-inch-wide kayak. In October, the tireless 67-year-old departed Portugal. Next stop: Florida. It’s Doba’s second Trans-Atlantic sojourn, a sequel to his impressive 99-day, 3,345-mile crossing from Africa to South America in 2011. In an exclusive Canoe & Kayak interview conducted by text message through his son, Chez, Doba says his current expedition “is about 50 per cent more difficult. On the previous crossing the winds were much lighter.”

According to his Twitter feed, Doba hit the midway point of the estimated 5,200-mile crossing on Dec. 18. He says he’s encountered about 50 tropical storms, each lasting up to seven hours, with storm-force winds and 22-foot waves. Opposing ocean currents that have pushed him backwards have added to the suffering. “In the worst sleepless night I had to let the winds take me east, [back towards Europe],” he says. “Breaking waves were hitting my boat very strongly as if a ram was hitting me.”

Dobamap

Doba couldn’t fit six months worth of food into his kayak, so he strapped some of it to the deck in waterproof containers. Now, 14 weeks into the expedition, he’s managed to free up enough space in his cockpit to fit all his supplies—and repurpose the storage containers for another use. Doba, who worked as an engineer, cut up the boxes and used them to create a cowling for his sleeping cabin. He’s also made three updates to his rudder system.

All the while, Doba has soldiered on, balancing 10 to 12 hours of paddling with catnaps. “I sleep a maximum of six hours [per day] in several stages,” says Doba. “The cabin of my kayak is very small, noisy and has very little ventilation.”

Doba’s daily travails involve updating his website through his satellite phone, a sketchy procedure that involves standing outside the cockpit to ensure reception and “protecting my non-waterproof phone [to] send and receive messages,” he explains. “Large waves bring much excitement as the kayak wobbles a lot.”

Doba insists he’s still on pace to meet his goal of finishing in 120 days. To achieve this, he has one Christmas wish: Easterly tailwinds of 15 knots. “The kayak will survive and so will I,” he says. “Anyway, do I have another choice?”

Photo Ricardo Bravo

Photo Ricardo Bravo

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Add a Comment

  • mithrill

    GL & HF!

  • Rocky Contos

    Aleksander Doba is doing something incredible by paddling across the Atlantic at age 68. He’s an inspiration to all of us – I hope to be as fit and bold as him when I’m at that age!

  • Stefan Danielski

    Doba proves there is no retirement age, if you have passion, drive and stamina.

  • Mike Sikora

    The Alekander Doba’s heroic effort of crossing the Atlantic
    Ocean on kayak at age 67 proofs that even impossible things can be done and we
    should never give up. He is the hero and inspiration not only to the older generation, but for the young too. Olek, thank you again for your determination and proving to the World, that there are things bigger than money.

  • Malgorzata Z.

    I’ve been observing your expeditions since years and I am more and more
    impressed. GOOD LUCK!!!!!!

  • Jay Winters

    That’s that beautiful fighting Polish spirit!! That’s why I just Tomasz Adamek: the greatest boxer since Muhommed Ali!

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