National Geographic News
Doba in the middle of Atlantic Ocean on December 23, 2013.

Doba left Portugal, in his kayak on October 6, 2013, bound for Smyrna Beach, Florida.

Photograph courtesy Piotr Chmielinski

Brian Clark Howard

National Geographic

Published February 15, 2014

Aleksander Doba, a 67-year-old kayaker who is attempting a solo, unsupported crossing of the Atlantic Ocean, needs a new rudder.

The rudder on Doba's custom kayak broke in a storm on February 13 in the notorious Bermuda Triangle. That was within days of the estimated completion time for his months-long voyage, according to social media posts by Andrzej Arminski, a kayak designer who built Doba's vessel, called OLO.

Arminski noted on Google+ that Doba is unhurt, but that he will not be able to paddle against the stiff trade winds with a broken rudder.

Since January 1, after three months of steady progress across the Atlantic and 90 percent of his journey complete, Doba has been fighting unexpected storms and paddling in circles.

Communication with Doba has been tricky because he has been unable to contact his support team since December 20 due to a technical glitch with his satellite phone. The connection was reestablished on February 6 with a text from Doba that said, "Finally, after 47 days it is possible not only to receive text messages but also send them too."

He also has been able to broadcast his position to Arminski on a GPS personal tracker device, called SPOT. The AA batteries used by the tracker failed, but Doba rigged up a new connection with AAA batteries, although they must be protected carefully from ocean spray.

Doba, a retired engineer from Poland, left Lisbon, Portugal, in his kayak on October 6, 2013. He was bound for Smyrna Beach, Florida, 4,700 nautical miles away. Doba had been aiming to reach Florida between February 10 and February 20, 2014.

Doba's friend and supporter Piotr Chmielinski, also an adventure kayaker, told National Geographic that he plans to go to Bermuda on Monday, February 17, to assist in repairs to Doba's kayak. The Virginia-based Chmielinski says he hopes to help Doba at sea, if possible, to minimize disruption to the journey. They may need to seek the nearest harbor, most likely Bermuda, to make repairs to the boat.

After that, Chmielinski says he hopes Doba will be able to complete the final leg of his paddle to Florida. He still has five weeks' worth of food left, maybe more if he continues to catch flying fish.

Chmielinski had already been planning a celebration for when Doba arrived in the Sunshine State.

"Strong Kayaker"

The attempt is actually Doba's second Atlantic crossing. In 2010 he paddled from Senegal to Brazil, a distance of 3,400 nautical miles, in 99 days.

According to Arminski, Doba started running into trouble in early January, about 700 miles south of Florida. The kayaker struggled against strong winds that were buffeting him in the wrong direction. At that time, he was effectively spinning in circles as he tried to steer for Florida.

"Let us hope that this incredibly strong kayaker finds good luck again," Arminski wrote on February 6. "Forecasts, however, are rather uncertain and, unfortunately, the expected weather is not forecast to change to a more favorable pattern in the coming days. But we will not give up hope!"

Doba's supporters say he is in good health, although he gets only a few hours of sleep each night, huddled in the cramped and noisy compartment of his kayak. He has been suffering from rashes on his body, and his fingernails and toenails are wearing away from prolonged exposure to saltwater.

False Alarm

In the worst case, Doba does have an emergency button to push for help. And he has used it once before, by accident.

On December 23, the U.S. Coast Guard received a help message from Doba, in the middle of the Atlantic. The agency asked a tanker ship in the area to investigate.

Doba waved the massive ship on, telling them that he pushed his alarm button by mistake. He said he didn't want any help because he was trying to complete the paddle unaided.

The team has retained Global Rescue, a private medical evacuation company, to assist Doba if he gets into serious trouble.

30 comments
J. Sweeney
J. Sweeney

this is a living breathing example of someone re creating themselves......this is the wave of the future........

Pedro C
Pedro C

Tough luck, but the individual ability, courage and effort are admirable. Too bad that the US media doesn't know how to pick up the story of this individual. The ages of individuals and heroes have slowly been reduced to a shopping mandate. Apparently because there are no US corporate sponsors, publicists nor advertisers, there is no event. And we wonder why citizen life is getting cheapened and made empty. What could inspire humans as individuals is ignored and erased from reality by US media corporations. With media being what unites the strands of our common reality, one could say that the corporate world dictates a minions' reality. Serfs for profit.

Malgorzata Borowska Piatek
Malgorzata Borowska Piatek

Hello Olek. It is last day of February. We know you are back on the ocean after compulsive stop on Bermuda to fix your kayak. Hope now everything will be okay.

We still keep our fingers cross for you. You are the best. 

Czesc Olek. Wiem ze wrociles na szerokie wody Atlantyku, po przymusowym przystanku na Bermudach. Mam nadzieje ze teraz wszystko jest okay i szczesliwie doplyniesz do zaplanowanego celu. Trzymamy kciki, pomyslnych wiatrow, pozdrowienia  i do zobaczenia

Malgorzata Borowska Piatek
Malgorzata Borowska Piatek

poniedzialek 24 Luty. Z mapy wynika ze Olek dotarl na Bermudy. Super! Teraz naprawa steru i... trzymamy dalej kciuki.  Olku pozrawiam z zycze  dobrych  wiatrow

Hurra!

Olek is in the harbor on Bermuda. keep my finger cross for quick rudder repair and wish you the best Olek!

Kazimierz Maćkowiak
Kazimierz Maćkowiak

I've known Olek since our study. He has worked towards the goal with great determination. I believe that he do it. I wish him good luck and I ask Neptune be more neighbourly for my friend.

Kazimierz Maćkowiak
Kazimierz Maćkowiak

I've known Olek since our study. He always work towards the goal with great determination. I believe that he do it ! I wish him good luck and ask  Neptune be more neighbourly for my friend.

Malgorzata Borowska Piatek
Malgorzata Borowska Piatek

Olek you are the best! We admire you! Keep going you know you can do it!

Help for your trouble with rudder are coming. Good luck!

Also thank you for big support to Piotr Chmielinski and Andrzej Arminski.

Trzymaj sie Olek.Trzymamy kciuki I pozdrawiamy

Elżbieta Kuczyńska
Elżbieta Kuczyńska

You are geat, Olek! With or without finishing, no matter - you've done the best!

Good luck! Powodzenia :)

Daniel Ebertowski
Daniel Ebertowski

You are amazing man with difficult dreams :D  Good luck Olek !!!

Malgorzata Borowska Piatek
Malgorzata Borowska Piatek

Olek We are very proud of you. Go Olek Go! You are incredible man, you are inspiration to all of us to never give up your dreams. You are gold medalist. We keep our fingers cross for you.Best for you. We will welcome you with open arms .

MAREK GRYSZKO
MAREK GRYSZKO

Olek ,keep going strong ! You inspire all of us on both sides of the Atlantic.

I always thought that Vendee Globe was the Mount Everest of an ocean endeavor but 

 your determination and talent put it in a different perspective..

 PER ASPERA AD ASTRA OLEK !

 I spoke to Piotr Chmielinski a few days ago. I am convinced he is a very strong and

 commited asset to the team and i want to sincerely thank him for that.

 United States will welcome Olek with open arms and a  big hug in Florida , 

 Annapolis ,where i live or anywhere in between!

 GOOD LUCK  !!1

Bill Kilpatrick
Bill Kilpatrick

Please keep the  news coming regarding Olek's epic journey.  Wishing him good luck!

Peter Hall
Peter Hall

So impressed. I'm 60 and would have thought anything like this was a non starter. Good luck!

Roman Łobożewicz
Roman Łobożewicz

Ciągnij Olek, aby na zachód, upragniony brzeg już niedaleko. Pozdrawiam :-))


Luis Muga
Luis Muga

Olek, keep strong, we're with you!
Olek, trzymaj się dzielnie, jesteśmy z Tobą!

Adam Grzegorzewski
Adam Grzegorzewski

Everybody who met Olek knows his enormous drive-in-his-heart to accomplish this project to the end. Even if he finish the journey near Bermuda it would be a great achievement. Hope he will be able to make a rational decision when to stop. He always used to say that the life was most important for him…

Kate Kugo
Kate Kugo

We will be with You, Olek! You have huge strength in you!!!

Kinga Kępa
Kinga Kępa

Olek, you are not alone. In Poland everybody is with you. There are some small troubles now, but we know you can do it!. So!
Go Olek!!! Go! Go!

Stefan Danielski
Stefan Danielski

This is an epic struggle. Unusual winter storms batter the continent and despite of this Olek doesn't give up. 

It's hard not  to admire his spirit and determination. 

Penguin Assange
Penguin Assange

Excuse me, but you've got the name of the town wrong. It's NEW Smyrna Beach. The area was settled by Greeks and they named it after their home town. Please correct your copy.

Malgorzata Borowska Piatek
Malgorzata Borowska Piatek

@Elżbieta Kuczyńska Dzieki Elu za wspieranie Olka. Miejmy nadzieje ze uda mu sie dokonczyc swoja wyprawe, jest to niesamowity czlowiek.Niestety nie widze  wiecej komentarzy naszych i znajomych Olka zeby mu dodac sily.

a szkoda.pozdrowienia Malgosia 

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