BY CONOR MIHELL
Trans-Atlantic kayaker Aleksander Doba embraces the motto, "It's better to live one day as a lion than a thousand years as a lamb." And so the 67-year-old Polish sea lion is set to embark on his second crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in three years, a 5,200-mile expedition from Lisbon, Portugal, to Florida. Doba's 3,345-mile, 99-day crossing from Senegal to Brazil in 2011 set a new record for the longest trans-oceanic paddling journey. His current project, which was set to launch yesterday but was rescheduled for Saturday (Oct. 5), will transit the widest portion of the Atlantic Ocean in an estimated four months.
Following his first trans-Atlantic mission and a trip on the Amazon River (which ended after he was robbed twice at gunpoint), Doba proposed an audacious kayak crossing of the Pacific from Ecuador to Australia. After extensive research with his sponsor, expert sailor and yacht-builder Andrzej Arminski, Doba ratcheted back his plans. Starting in Portugal, he'll make the east-to-west crossing using the Canary Islands and British Virgin Islands as landmarks (without actually landing unless he is "forced to") en route to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, just north of Cape Canaveral.
Doba anticipates his greatest challenge to come near the end of the crossing. "The Florida ocean current is one of the strongest," he said in an interview with CanoeKayak.com. "I will travel north between Florida and the Bahamas. There are often strong to very strong winds from the north, opposite to the ocean currents. This forms irregular and strong waves, making it more interesting for smaller vessels."
Doba will paddle the same 23-foot-long, 39-inch-wide sea kayak that was designed by Arminski for the 2011 expedition. Recent improvements to the boat include a new electric desalinator (and two manual backups), larger solar panels and a radar deflector. He also worked with Arminski to flatten the hull profile and add wave-deflectors to the cockpit. His most practical upgrade, however, are improved drip-rings on his paddle to protect his hands from the drying effect of extended exposure to saltwater.
Doba's son, Chez, says a second crossing of the Atlantic fits with his father's personality. "He gets most joy out of doing a new route, a new adventure," said Chez. "If he has an idea for a route that no one has ever done before, that's even better. This gives him the passion to achieve something new, something big, to be a pioneer. The bigger the goal the more passionate he is. After each expedition he picks an even larger goal. I admire his ability for constant improvement."
Meanwhile, Doba insists his 67-year-old body is up to the task. "I try to stay active every day," he said. "I walk, ride a bicycle. I have a garden that needs a lot of physical work. I don't do any specific training for [strength] or stamina.
"I observe my body very carefully," he added. "I am happy to say that my body is generally healthy [and] the doctors say the same. I feel confident that I am physically fit for the challenge."
Follow Doba on Twitter and on his website.
Click HERE to read more about Doba’s historic 2011 crossing,
HERE to read about his paddling travels through Brazil and the U.S.,
And HERE to read a brief history of paddling’s top ocean-crossing expeditions.