By Jeff Moag
Four months and a day after leaving Portugal in a 21-foot kayak, and 47 days after losing contact with the outside world, trans-Atlantic paddler Aleksander “Olek” Doba has made contact with his support team.
The 23-word text reveals that the 67-year-old Polish explorer remains fit and determined to reach Florida, despite contrary winds that have pushed him in circles for three weeks. Doba is attempting to paddle 5,400 miles from Portugal to Florida.
Though unable to send messages since Dec. 20 last year, Doba has been receiving steady weather and news updates, according to Polish-American explorer Piotr Chmielinski, who received Doba's first text yesterday, Feb. 6.
“Even if we were not convinced that our texts were reaching Olek, consistently we were informing him about matters of his interest: [expedition coordinator] Andrzej Arminski on weather forecasts and navigational guidance, and I on current events as well as the increasing interest in his expedition on both sides of the ocean,” Chmielinski reports.
"As for now, it is known that the physical condition of the kayaker is very good and he has a supply of food that should be enough for at least six weeks."
Doba already has been at sea 125 days, longer than any kayaker in history. Even if the weather turns in his favor he will need three weeks or more to reach his intended landfall in New Smyrna Beach, Florida about 800 miles west of his current location.
Since January 15, Doba has made no appreciable progress, as a series of storms have pushed him in circles in the Bermuda triangle.
In the third week of January, unfavorable winds and currents south of Bermuda pushed Doba and the large yellow kayak he calls "Olo" about 130 miles back toward Europe. When it seemed that the worst had passed and Doba was again on course for Florida, another unexpected storm pushed him to the north and northeast. After a brief break in the weather allowed the kayaker to regain much of his lost ground, yet another round of contrary winds sent him reeling backwards.
Judging from the tone of his brief text, Doba remains determined to finish his epic journey, despite a forecast that calls for yet another week of strong headwinds.
Doba's last communication with the outside world came on Dec. 23, when he declined an offer of help from a commercial tanker after triggering a non-emergency 'help' signal on his Spot Satellite tracker. Chmielinski believes Doba sent the signal inadvertently. When the tanker found him in the middle of the Atlantic, Doba politely but emphatically declined assistance. He is determined to finish the voyage under his own power, without any outside assistance.
In 2011, the Polish adventurer completed the longest open-water kayaking voyage in history, a 99-day crossing from Senegal in West Africa to the coast of Brazil.
Those who know Doba best remain convinced that he will reach Florida unassisted. "Alexander Doba is alone, but not lonely," Chmielinski reports. "Numerous comments to the articles about his expedition and on his website are the evidence for how many people accompany him on this trip."
Doba's wife, Gabriela Doba, told Chmielinski that although she fears for her husband in the cold Atlantic, she has "no doubt that Olek reaches his goal, just because this is Olek."