Third Time Charmed: Doba leaves Barnegat Inlet, N.J. en route to Europe. Photo courtesy Piotr Chmielinski
Forgive us for not posting the news earlier of Aleksander Doba's latest attempt to escape the gravitational pull of New York. We didn't want to jinx him.
Doba's first try to paddle from New York to Portugal ended last May with his 23-foot oceangoing kayak smashed in the surf just outside New York Harbor. His second attempt was turned back when an unexpected storm threatened to blow him back to New Jersey. Doba decided to return on his own terms, paddling into Barnegat Bay on the Jersey shore May 12 after four days at sea. He tied up to a marina dock and waited for his next chance.
It came Tuesday morning, with an ebbing tide and five days of favorable winds in the forecast. After first pouring a healthy dram of whiskey into the sea—a sacrifice to his doppelganger King Neptune—Doba left Barnegat Inlet May 16 at 6:47 a.m. local time. The offering was the idea of expedition navigator Jacek Pietraszkiewicz, and it seemed to have the desired result. Doba enjoyed four days of favorable winds and put nearly 160 miles between himself and the seemingly magnetic Jersey Shore.
This time, it looks as if he just might make it.
Doba’s track and approximate position Tuesday morning, May 20, 2017. Portugal is 3,000 miles to the right.
At midnight May 21, his position was approximately 150 miles west of Long Beach Island, New Jersey and 105 miles south of Newport, Rhode Island. Portugal was some 3,000 miles ahead if he were to travel in a straight line, which he almost certainly won't. Doba has successfully crossed the Atlantic twice before, from Senegal to Brazil in 2010-2011, and from Portugal to Florida in 2013-14. During both those crossings, storms blew him in circles for weeks. The craft he fondly calls 'Olo' has twice carried him across the Atlantic, but at 1,500 pounds loaded and sporting an ungainly self-righting structure, it's at the mercy of the winds and current.
Doba is now at the edge of the Gulf Stream, which should catapult him toward Europe at the stately rate of 1 or 2 miles per hour. That is, if the wind cooperates. Earlier today it turned, and pushed him about 6 miles west, toward New Jersey.
Doba leaving Barnegat Inlet, N.J. May 16. Photo courtesy Piotr Chmielinski