By Jeff Moag
Sixty-seven-year-old kayaker Aleksander "Olek" Doba landed at Ely's Harbour, Bermuda early this morning, 142 days after leaving Portugal in a 23-foot kayak. Despite storm winds that pushed him in circles for six weeks, and finally a broken rudder that forced him to divert to Bermuda for repairs, Doba reached the Atlantic island under his own power. The voyage is the longest kayak trip in history, 43 days longer than Doba's first Atlantic crossing in 2011.
"I'm happy to have reached Bermuda without assistance, but I am only 75 percent satisfied until I reach Florida," Doba said through a translator, his friend Piotr Chmielinski. The men were in the restaurant at the St. George's Club in Bermuda, where Doba had devoured the soup-of-the-day, followed by a pork sandwich, French fries and coffee.
The bright yellow ocean-going kayak that has been Doba's home for nearly five months is undergoing repairs at a nearby boatyard. The boat could be ready as soon as tomorrow. It's still loaded with a six-week supply of food, and Doba remains as determined as ever to reach Florida.
The problem, as always, is the weather.
Though remarkably seaworthy, Doba's kayak is at the mercy of the wind. Doba cannot make sustained progress against headwinds of 15 knots or more, which are exactly the conditions he is likely to encounter if he tries to paddle from Bermuda to Florida.
Doba now hopes to find a ship large enough to carry his kayak approximately 250 miles southeast, to resume his Portugal-to-Florida route from a point he reached before he lost his rudder Feb. 13.
"If we can find a ship that is large enough and willing to help, he will unload the kayak at the crossing of his previous trip," Chmielinski says. Another option is to ship the kayak to Puerto Rico, and continue from there.
Doba will take the day to rest, and then begin planning the next leg of his journey.