Alexander Doba back in the Atlantic

95 percent of people die in bed, why should I lie down?” Alexander “Olek” Doba, 70, is off again to continue his Third Transatlantic Kayak Expedition.

Alexander Doba returns to the Atlantic

On Sunday, May 7 2017, Alexander “Olek” Doba, took off from Sandy Hook Bay in New York City in his well-known kayak “OLO”. Hitting the Atlantic ocean the following day, he had waited almost a year for another chance to continue his Third Transatlantic Kayak Expedition, which began on May 29, 2016 in the marina near the Statue of Liberty.

Damned Sandy Hook

It started dramatically. The area around the Sandy Hook Peninsula does not seem to be favorable to Olek, and above all not a safe place. Last year, the opposing winds from the Atlantic pushed him back towards land, throwing the “OLO” onto shore. The kayak was seriously damaged, which forced Olek to stop the expedition.

This time the wind direction was perfect. Blowing from land it helped, and even accelerated, Olek’s exit to the Atlantic.

The problem was that it was an exceptionally strong west wind. I was very surprised on Monday morning to find neither “OLO” or the sleeping Olek on board at the mooring spot!

After a good two hours of searching – using my own kayak first and then with Randy’s fishing mussels boat, and finally guided by Olek, I found him about a mile or so from land. It turned out the strong gusts had broken off the anchored kayak and sent it adrift.

Shortly after start, the rising wind struck the kayak forcefully, bearing it onto the nearby rocks. Under such circumstances the kayaker is defenseless. Aware of the threat, Olek asked for support. Brothers Pete and Jeff Petach, owners of a speedboat, came to the rescue. We reached “OLO” almost at the last minute, dangerously close to the boulders in the water, and took it in tow.

Moving towards the ocean with the help of Adam Rutkiewucz and the brothers, we admired Olek’s seamanship in wind-blown waves, displaying his skill and strength in keeping the kayak tilted sideways so hard it seemed there was no way it would stay up without capsizing.

A few minutes before 1 PM New York time, we reached the point in the Atlantic from which Olek had withdrawn the previous year.

We untied the rope and Olek was on his way on his remarkable journey to Europe.

Dangerous North Atlantic

The route of the Third Transatlantic Kayak Expedition leads from New York to Lisbon. Aleksander Doba will spend most of his travels in the North Atlantic, meaning that this trip can be much more difficult and risky than the previous two.

It is subject to more difficult conditions in this part of the ocean, mainly cold, frequent storms and very high waves. “An inaugural storm force test should take place in about a week,” Olek said just before leaving. “That is the time when the first storm is expected.”

This, however, does not deter the kayaker from achieving the overriding purpose of his transatlantic expedition to close the overall expedition’s loop that runs from east to west and back.

The idea was born during the first ocean kayak expedition at the turn of 2010/2011.

“From the beginning, I was planning my transatlantic expedition to consist of three stages: first, from Africa to South America, second, from South America to North America, and finally, the third, from North America to Europe.”

At that time, Olek traveled the shortest route, starting his journey in Senegal and ending in Brazil. Three years later, Olek paddled to the shores of North America, though the route required much more effort and time than his previous trip to South America. In completing his goal he defeated the Atlantic for the second time, this time along the longest route linking Lisbon with Florida.

So now it was time to close the long-awaited loop, by crossing the Atlantic to the North from the United States to Europe.

Olek assumes that he will spend four months in the Atlantic Ocean. Just like last year with the arrival in Lisbon, he would like to celebrate his seventy first birthday.

The kayaker continues to prove that not age, but determination, spirit of fortune, setting the goals and consistent pursuit of their achievement determine the success of a venture. And he repeats his motto of life:” it is important to act, to be active; 95 percent of people die in bed, why should I lie down?” Therefore, he does not give up the realization of the dream, as his wife and friends concerned about his safety, were trying to persuade him otherwise. Olek invariably invokes the statement: “No one is responsible for my safety, only I.”

On Monday night, at 19:00 New York time, Olek was already about 50 kilometers from the US coast. Let us wish him good winds and waves in the direction of Europe, the least storms and no mishaps. We will keep you updated regularly on the progress of Olek’s expedition.

By Piotr Chmielinski

Highlands, NJ

May 8, 2017

Check additionally a story about Aleksander Doba written by Jeff Moag at C&K:

(Story corrected May 14 to reflect Doba’s age: It’s 70, not 71 as first stated in the introduction)