By Conor Mihell
Published: January 12, 2011
No one said paddling a sea kayak across the full breadth of the Atlantic Ocean would be easy, but then again, few anticipated that 64-year-old Polish adventurer Aleksander Doba's passage from Africa to South America would be so tough.
In the past month, Doba's east to west progress has been stymied by strong ocean currents and a series of powerful storms. His real-time GPS track, posted on AleksanderDoba.pl, has assumed a helix-like shape. The next week will likely prove to be the expedition's crux; but according to Doba’s son, Chez Doba, his father will be successful.
"After going in circles for over a month, being stormed on almost every day, being accompanied by barracuda and sharks, who wouldn't be [tired]?" Chez Doba said in an email interview with C&K. "He never mentioned a word about turning back though. He's much tougher than this!"
As first reported on CanoeKayak.com, Aleksander Doba departed Dakar, Senegal, on the far west coast of Africa, on Oct. 26. He averaged 40 miles per day in his first week of travel, and by mid-November he'd covered an impressive 680 miles—about one-third of the straight-line distance from Africa to Fortaleza, Brazil, his intended destination.
But then his progress slowed to a snail's pace. "Storm by storm," Aleksander Doba said in a satellite phone conversation with his son. "They hit every few hours, all day and night. I can't keep direction." Since then, the unrelenting Equatorial Counter Current has effectively put Doba's forward progress on hold.
Only three other paddlers have completed the crossing—Franz Romer in 1928, Hannes Lindemann in 1956 and Peter Bray in 2001—but none have gone continent to continent; previous attempts crossed to and from offshore islands. Doba is traveling exclusively by paddle power in a 23-foot custom-built sea kayak, following a course that, if successful, will ultimately exceed 2,500 miles and likely be the longest paddling trip ever completed on the open ocean, says Bartosz Sawicki, the editor of a Polish kayaking website, who's maintaining Doba's unofficial blog. (You can also follow Doba on Twitter.)
Besides challenging wind, waves and current, Doba's mid-Atlantic New Years celebrations were marred by the loss of service of his primary water desalinator, forcing him to treat drinking water by hand. He's carrying supplies for about 100 days at sea, meaning that he has approximately 21 days remaining before he runs out of food. However, Chez Doba indicated that his father has already been supplementing his Spartan rations with fresh fish.
After several instances of false hope, yesterday—Jan. 11, Doba's 77th day on the water—was promising. He paddled 70 miles—his longest day yet—putting him within 800 miles of the Brazil coast and suggesting that he's finally entered the friendly east to west-flowing South Equatorial Current. "This will take him straight to Brazil," said an ever-optimistic Chez Doba. "He should be in time for the Carnival."