put in // news
doba’s mid-journey tweets via satellite phone nov. 4
At 1:30pm GMT I have started my Transatlantic Kayak Expedition.
I am too far from Africa, I can’t turn back. Next: America.
Big storm has come in, I have gone inside, I felt a bit like a snail in a shell.
Strong currents and winds are pushing me north…
dec. 21 jan. 11
Salty Dog: Weathered hands, fresh dinner and long hours at sea.
Photo: Doba, Arsoba Travel
An hour before sunrise something hit my rudder, a three-meter [10-foot] shark! I hit him a few times with my paddle and he went away.
My main desalinator has broken down! Now it’s up to hand pumping and catching rainwater.
Last night there was a black line across the water! With a bit of speed I went past and patted it with a paddle. I’m on Southern Hemisphere!
I finished in Acarau in Brazil. Now I eat for three people, clean my kayak, modify few things and continue...
The Atlantic Alone
Aleksander Doba’s historic solo ocean crossing By his ninth week on the Atlantic Ocean, stuck in a gyre that
virtually halted his forward progress and left him paddling in circles for well over a month, Aleksander Doba’s automatic water desalinator malfunctioned. It was New Year’s Eve, and there wasn’t much for the 64-year-old Polish sea kayaker to celebrate. At stake was Doba’s claim to the first paddle-powered, continent-to-continent Atlantic crossing, starting on October 26 from Dakar, Senegal, on the west coast of Africa, to the beaches of northeastern Brazil. By this point, Doba was running low on food, requiring double rations to fuel his epic paddling days, and was only sleeping a few hours a night. It seemed doubtful that this kayaker, virtually unknown outside of Poland, would be able to complete the journey. But in a telling post-trip interview, Doba insisted that he never once questioned himself. He likened his lonely experience on the water to being “the captain and the crew.” He constantly battled with the mundane, yet essential elements of trans-Atlantic paddling—like 22
staying tethered to his kayak and keeping his gear well-secured. “Sometimes the captain decided what to do but the crew didn’t want to do it,” he said in the half-coherent fashion of a man long at sea. “When the circumstances were such that I was very tired, I tried procrastinating but the captain’s decision was more important. So as the crew, I had to go out even in terrible weather conditions. The captain gave orders: Put on your belt and go on deck!” Though his self-righting, 23-foot-long custom sea kayak was equipped with a coffin-like cabin for sleeping and shelter, the elements drastically compromised Doba’s sleep schedule. At the start, he shared cabin space with three months’ worth of food supplies (mostly canned and dried food, Nutella, halva, cookies, and other sweets), which forced him to sleep in the fetal position. He hoped to beat the heat of the equatorial Atlantic by paddling at night and sleeping during the days, but the baking sun often impeded good rest. By Day Two he came down with a heat rash that persisted throughout the expedition, and the nails
of his fingers and toes were soon ravaged with fungal infections. Doba did his best to stay clean by taking occasional freshwater showers, but for most of the trip his “whole body was soaked in salt.” He lost 31 pounds in the ordeal. Moral support and a dose of sanity came from regular satellite phone contact with his wife, sons and website administrator. “This gave me the feeling that I wasn’t alone,” he said. “Deep inside, I knew there were many people with me.” The expedition’s turning point came shortly after the desalinator incident. He began supplementing his dwindling freeze-dried fare with fresh-caught fish; he rigged his two backup manual desalinators so that he could pump them with his feet, providing much-needed exercise for his legs during the four hours of daily pumping to make the 1.5 gallons of freshwater he needed each day. Most importantly, he paddled like hell, eventually escaping the formidable Equatorial Counter Current that spun his GPS track into a dizzying helix. With only three weeks of food and 800 miles still to go,
he reached the friendly South Equatorial Current and his daily paddling distances increased to a maximum of 85 miles. Doba’s last challenge came at the end, when offshore winds and a strong coastal current forced him north of Fortaleza, his intended destination. On February 2, after several days of near-continuous paddling, he clawed his way to shore near the fishing village of Acarau. “When I shouted ‘Ziemia!’ [Land!] I really felt like an explorer on a discovery,” he said. Sinewy, bearded and sun-bronzed, Doba was given a hero’s welcome by his friend, Jerzy Arsoba, and the Polish ambassador to Brazil. In all, he had paddled 3,352 miles in 98 days, 23 hours and 42 minutes. It seemed like a storybook ending—until he revealed the epic crossing was only the beginning. “I am now getting ready for the next section,” he said. “I aim to reach Washington, D.C. When and how? I don’t know yet. That’s all ahead of me.” — Conor Mihell canoekayak.com