Aleksander Doba, Who Kayaked Across the Atlantic, Dies at 74

Aleksander Doba, a Polish adventurer who kayaked alone throughout the Atlantic at the age of 70 whereas subsisting on his spouse’s fortifying plum jam — after having twice paddled solo throughout the Atlantic when he was in his 60s — died on Feb. 22 on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro in Tanzania, Africa. He was 74.

His son Czeslaw mentioned the trigger was asphyxia ensuing from high-altitude pulmonary edema.

Mr. Doba’s three daring voyages earned him Guinness World Records titles, and in 2017 he became the oldest particular person to kayak throughout the Atlantic. His feats made him a nationwide hero in Poland.

A former chemical plant engineer who lived in a bit of river city, Mr. Doba had lengthy been the most achieved kayaker in his nation. His need to beat the ocean grew from an harmless concept that steadily consumed him: He had kayaked the whole lot else, so why not the Atlantic Ocean?

As a younger man in Communist Poland, he had joined a neighborhood kayaking membership, and he took to the sport avidly. In 1989, he surpassed the document for the most days paddled by a Polish man in a single yr. He later spent 100 days paddling the circumference of the Baltic Sea. He additionally kayaked the coast of Norway to the Arctic Circle; on that journey, he was thrown from his boat throughout a storm and woke as much as the sound of his personal screaming after washing ashore.

But Mr. Doba hungered to cross an ocean so huge that it appeared infinite, and he started plotting to kayak the Atlantic.

“With my hand on my heart, it wasn’t my idea,” Mr. Doba told The New York Times Magazine in 2018. “I was infected with a virus.”

In the spring of 2017, he started his third trans-Atlantic crossing — the one which garnered the most media consideration — when he paddled out from New Jersey. After clearing Barnegat Bay and heading for the horizon, he was quickly a floating blip in the ocean.

For 110 days, Mr. Doba paddled eastward on his specifically designed fiberglass kayak, Olo. Along with jars of his spouse’s plum jam, he subsisted on freeze-dried goulash and porridge, chocolate bars and selfmade wine. After his salt-water-drenched garments turned too irritating, he navigated the remainder of his journey buck bare. He slept in a tiny coffin-shaped cabin that he entered by sliding by means of a portal, and when flying fish landed on his deck he snacked on them alive. (“Very fine,” he mentioned. “Better than sushi.”)

During the voyage, Mr. Doba endured a violent two-day storm that almost swallowed him entire. As he braced for his life, the rope tethering his sea anchor (the solely factor holding his kayak secure) broke off. Realizing that Olo may momentarily shatter into items, he strapped on a harness and scrambled throughout the deck to tie on a brand new anchor earlier than crawling again to his nook.

After one other storm, Olo’s rudder was significantly broken, so he reluctantly contacted his staff through satellite tv for pc telephone in search of assist. A freighter picked him up, and its Filipino crew repaired the rudder. The ship’s captain was hesitant to let the raveled man again into the ocean alone. But Mr. Doba insisted, and he turned a blip in the ocean yet again.

His odyssey concluded that September when he paddled into the port in Le Conquet, France.

“I came very close to the line of my possibility and human possibility,” he told The Times.

But Mr. Doba had examined the limits of risk throughout his two earlier Atlantic crossings.

In 2010, when he kayaked from Senegal to Brazil, his pores and skin broke out in salt-induced rashes, his fingernails practically peeled off, and his eyes suffered from conjunctivitis. In 2013, when he paddled from Portugal to Florida, a Greek tanker made the mistake of attempting to rescue him.

“Me, fine,” Mr. Doba shouted in English to the ship’s crew, giving a thumbs-up.

They supplied to throw him ropes. He refused.

When the ship circled again to him once more, Mr. Doba shouted a vulgarity in Polish, they usually left for good.

During his voyages he admired the majesty of the sea and relished wonders that he alone was aware about. When he noticed capturing stars at evening, he made needs that, he mentioned, later got here true. He playfully tapped the shells of turtles that swam alongside him. He witnessed the formation of storm clouds and the deafening calm that accompanied them.

He as soon as turned satisfied that somebody was watching him. He studied the water intently.

“Then I saw it: a huge head, sticking out of the ocean,” he told Canoe & Kayak journal in 2014. “The whale swam here, and there, all around my kayak. Its 20-meter-long tail was wagging. And then, suddenly, the whale went down and disappeared into the ocean.”

Aleksander Ludwik Doba was born on Sept. 9, 1946, in (*74*), Poland. His father, Wincenty, was a mechanic. His mom, Eugenia (Ilijna) Doba, was a homemaker.

He grew up ice skating on ponds and snowboarding by means of forests. His father constructed him a bicycle from scrap elements, and when he was 15 he rode it throughout the nation.

In the early Seventies, Mr. Doba graduated from Poznan University of Technology, the place he studied mechanical engineering. He married Gabriela Stucka in 1975, they usually settled in a city referred to as Police, the place he acquired a job at a chemical plant. In 1980, his co-workers requested him if he wished to hitch their kayaking membership, and shortly he was spending all his weekends out on the water.

An early escapade concerned kayaking on the Baltic Sea at a time when the Communist Party, to discourage defectors, had declared it unlawful. When Mr. Doba encountered border patrol troopers, they advised him that he was in critical breach of the legislation.

“I was just paddling down the river,” he explained. “I don’t know how I ended up here.”

He stored chasing journey. He explored numerous Polish rivers, and he amassed data and firsts.

It was in 2010 that he began significantly planning to cross the Atlantic. He designed an unsinkable kayak that contained meals lockers and a cabin to sleep in. That October, he paddled from Senegal to Brazil in 99 days.

“He wasn’t a man who necessarily looked forward to spending Christmas with the family,” his son Czeslaw mentioned. “On the way to my grandmother’s house for the holidays, he wanted to be dropped off on a river and asked us to pick him up on the way back.

“A normal person wants to sit by the fire with their family for Christmas,” his son added. “He preferred to be dropped off on a cold river in the middle of the snow.”

In addition to Czeslaw, Mr. Doba is survived by his spouse; one other son, Bartek; a sister, Wanda Kedzia; and three grandchildren.

In current years, Mr. Doba enjoyed celeb standing in Poland. People stopped him on the avenue to take selfies. An elementary college honored him with a statue in his scruffy, bearded likeness. And he started making ready to climb Mount Kilimanjaro, an expedition that had lengthy been on his bucket checklist. He skilled by jogging up and down the stairs of a high-rise constructing with a heavy backpack, and he took lengthy each day hikes.

He arrived in Tanzania final month. On the morning of Feb. 22, he reached Kilimanjaro’s summit with two guides. After taking in the view, he sat on a rock to relaxation.

“He said many times that he didn’t want to die in his bed,” his son mentioned. “From what we gather, he was euphoric to reach the summit. Then he sat down and fell asleep.”

One of the final folks to see Mr. Doba alive was a Polish climber named Boguslaw Wawrzyniak, who was additionally summiting Kilimanjaro that day. When he encountered Mr. Doba at 18,700 toes, he was excited to come across one among his homeland’s heroes, and he took a selfie with him on the mountain.

“I wished him luck in reaching the summit,” Mr. Wawrzyniak mentioned in a telephone interview. “Then I asked the local guides with him, ‘Do you know who this man is?’ And they said: ‘Yes. We know who this is. He is the king of the ocean.’”


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