The Old Man and the Sea, and the Sea, and the Sea

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You would possibly ask what the world’s most intrepid paddler does for 110 days whereas kayaking throughout the Atlantic Ocean solo. He will get bare.

The logic is apparent to 71-year-old Aleksander “Olek” Doba: no chafing, no laundry, and nobody to guage you.

Last month, the perpetually upbeat and decided Polish athlete, who had ignored all kinds of widespread sense and warning, completed his profitable crossing of the Atlantic in a one-man, human-powered boat. Only 3 different kayakers have ever achieved the accomplishment (Franz Romer in 1928; Hannes Lindemann in 1956; and Peter Bray in 2001, according to Canoe and Kayak), and Doba is the one 1 to have accomplished it thrice. Again: The man is in his 8th decade. “It’s not like he’s an older guy who set out to climb a hill,” says Piotr Chmielinski, a supporter and the expedition’s publicist, who himself as soon as kayaked the Amazon River. “Olek decided to cross an ocean.”

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On May 7, Doba pushed his 23-foot lengthy, 39-inch vast, strengthened fiberglass kayak, named Olo, off the New Jersey seaboard and towards Lisbon, Portugal. The mishaps began virtually instantly. First, Olo almost ran aground near the Sandy Hook shoreline. Man and vessel had been towed away from the land, and within the course of, Olo—which weighs 1,600 kilos full and has a tiny compartment for sleeping—almost capsized. Over the following 4 days, Doba superior about 60 miles east beneath his personal energy earlier than retreating to the Jersey coast forward of an approaching storm. Onshore, he grabbed a steak dinner and a few new compasses. He then re-started the journey on May 16.

The seasoned journey kayaker, who during the last 37 years has logged 62,000 water-going miles, together with circumnavigations of Lake Baikal (1,200 miles) and the Baltic Sea (2,600 miles), didn’t anticipate a simple float journey. On his first trans-Atlantic journey—a 99-day journey in 2011 from Dakar, Senegal, to Acala, Brazil—he endured weeks of stormy climate. During his 2d try—167 days at sea, from Lisbon to New Smyrna Beach, Florida, in 2014—he paddled in circles contained in the Bermuda Triangle, then needed to cease on an island for boat restore.

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Doba arrives within the French port city of Le Conquet, France. (Piotr Chmielinski)

Yet Doba, a retired chemical engineer who skydived, flew gliders, and sailed earlier than he began kayaking, by no means misplaced enthusiasm for crossing the Atlantic. “On the water, I never think about dying or that I could die,” Doba later advised me by way of an interpreter. “The kayak is very safe.”

Doba’s group didn’t agree. Polish yacht builder Andrzej Arminski, who overbuilt Olo with a keel and superstructure, nervous that the kayak would possibly come aside in tough northern seas. He characterised Doba’s 3rd trans-Atlantic try as “suicidal.” Doba’s navigation advisor, noting that difficult commerce winds can blow west throughout the ocean, didn’t anticipate the paddler to complete. Yet none of these considerations fazed Doba. “My assumption,” says Chmielinski, “is that Olek would prefer to finish somewhere with the sharks than not to attempt his dream.”

Sponsors, together with Chmielinski, have supported all 3 of Doba’s trans-Atlantic expeditions. Over the course of his adventuring, these patrons have stepped in with a $20,000 kayak repair right here, a $75,000 transport value there. Doba appears to draw sympathy and goodwill exactly as a result of he seems much less like Odysseus and extra like a down-and-out Santa Claus. “If you’re 30-something and stuck in the middle of the ocean, that seems to be your problem,” says Chmielinski. “But at 70, Olek is an example to others.”

Doba first tried his 3rd trans-Atlantic crossing in 2016. That May, he paddled previous the shadow of the Statue of Liberty with media and a documentary crew in tow, solely to come across unkind situations virtually instantly. Within 2 days, he’d washed up at Sandy Hook Park. Breaking waves had left the kayak’s key electronics gear waterlogged and ineffective. A cop—and the proprietor of a Bobcat-type loader—and Chmielinski helped with the rescue Olo and Doba. Thus his 2017 try throughout the Atlantic was all about redemption. He skipped the Big Apple. Media wasn’t invited to the sendoff. “On this trip, I would paddle seven to 12 hours a day,” Doba says.

But even after his profitable, mid-May reboot, Doba encountered imposing hurdles. One night time in early June, Doba tried to sleep by way of a climate spasm of 40-knot winds and two-story waves. Unfortunately, his hermetic, cramped sleeping compartment, nicknamed “the Casket,” lacked correct air flow. Doba was up each 15 minutes opening the hatch for air. By morning Olo’s anchor rigging had badly twisted among the boat’s key rudder . Doba jury-rigged the steering system to remain near course, though he made inconsistent progress for 3 lengthy weeks. On June 30, he remained over 2,000 miles from Lisbon.

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For his 3rd trans-Atlantic expedition, Doba traveled over 25 % farther than the three,000-mile-route would possibly point out. (NavSim)

He wanted assist. Chmielinski checked out rescue efforts costing between $15,000 and $80,000 earlier than the captain of a 600-foot cargo ship certain for Central America took pity on Doba. He plucked the paddler and his boat from the ocean and set his crew to fixing Olo. The captain wished no cash. Instead, he tried to insist that the paddler was too fragile to complete the journey. Doba’s spouse, Gabriela, and different associates agreed. But Doba was insistent. “The ship was sailing to Panama, and I was headed in a different direction,” he says.

Several hours and a sizzling meal later, Doba and Olo had been again within the Atlantic. The help precipitated Doba to lose all hope of setting a Guinness World Record for the longest unassisted journey by kayak or canoe. But he remained constructive, even when an early August storm punished him with 55-knot gusts and white seas. “I’m always a 150 percent optimist,” he says. “Okay, in bad days, I’m 100 percent.”

Dining on rehydrated cabbage stew, rooster tikka masala, and pasta with Bolognese sauce (the Olo was armed with desalinators and photo voltaic panels), and paddling bare each time the climate warmed, Doba was blown northeast. On September 3, after navigating a dicey stretch of the English Channel, Olo landed within the French port city of Le Conquet.

He didn’t get the Guinness report, however Chmielinski contends that Doba, who achieved his continent-to-continent aim, traveled over 25 % farther than the three,000-mile-route would possibly point out. “There were days where he went 100 miles in the wrong direction,” he says. “Two steps forward, one step back.”

Doba says that he now desires to spend time paddling with members of his native Polish kayaking affiliation. He hopes to hang around together with his 3 younger grandchildren.

But Grandpa Olek’s huge adventures might proceed but. “I have 29 years to go before I turn 100,” says Doba. “My body looks a little old. But inside? My heart and mind are all young.”

(Editor references)

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