For Polish paddler Aleksander Doba, the second time was also a charm. At 4:18 p.m., on Saturday, April 19, the 67-year-old Doba completed his second successful trans-Atlantic crossing by sea kayak, paddling up to onlookers – and fellow paddlers – in New Smyrna Beach, Fla., in his custom-built, 23-foot-long kayak named OLO.
Doba, a retired engineer from Poland, left Lisbon, Portugal, in his kayak on October 5, 2013, bound in his hand-propelled boat for New Smyrna Beach, Florida, some 4,700 nautical miles away. In completing his journey 167 days later, he became the first person to kayak between the most distant points located on the coasts of Europe and North America.
Along the 6,000-mile crossing, Doba, of course, suffered, enduring countless obstacles and set-backs. Perhaps the most precarious was disappearing from radio contact for nearly 50 days, leaving followers more worried than he. He also spent a good month or so losing ground, so to speak, while paddling in circles in confounded currents in the Bermuda Triangle. Then came the breaking of his boat’s rudder, requiring a pit stop in Bermuda for repairs. Then, when he was boated back out on the Spirit of Adventure on March 25 to take up where he left off, putting in at the exact location where his original route was interrupted, the wings (roll bar) of his kayak, which were designed to bring it back upright in event of a capsize, accidentally broke off while his kayak was being re-launched into the ocean from the ship. No matter. Doba paddled on anyway, figuring the added speed would offset the non-ability to roll it back upright.
In an exclusive interview with Canoe & Kayak magazine, which monitored his progress the entire way, he said, “The currents and the winds were pushing me the wrong direction on the Intra-Coastal Waterway. Then I saw people waiting for me on the shore and in boats and kayaks, cheering me on. It was like a boost of energy. I forgot I was tired. My sense of euphoria was so high. I was very, very happy.”
After landing, he was greeted by a throng of well-wishers before heading north on a tour up through Washington, D.C, with friend and expedition supporter Piotr Chmielinski.
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