foto: Paweł Smoliński
Aleksander Doba is a Polish traveler and explorer. Recently, just before his 71st birthday, he sailed single-handed across the Atlantic for the third time in his kayak. He talks about his amazing adventures with passion and energy. He is a family man, whose positive attitude to life is contagious. The huge group of his supporters keeps growing - thanks to internet users’ votes he was awarded the title of Traveler of the Year 2015 by National Geographic.
It was not an impulse decision. It had been taking shape in my head for a long time. I have always been curious about new challenges and new routes - always something new. I had tens of thousands of kilometers on the clock of my kayak. I sailed rivers and seas, I circumnavigated our Baltic Sea. I had done a kayak trip behind the Arctic Circle. I live in Police, in the north-west of Poland, from where I reached Narvik after 101 days. Finally, I was ready to go further. I was tempted by the Atlantic Ocean - it is the closest. I am a mechanical engineer and I used to work in the design office of an engineering plant in Police, so I sketched my dream kayak, designed especially for me, on a small A4 sheet of paper. I found someone who would build the design. I convinced Mr. Andrzej Armiński from a shipyard that builds ocean yachts that my design was a good idea. That's how the kayak in which I crossed the Atlantic was made.
Actually, I planned to go across three times right from the start. It was a long-term plan.The first expedition was to sail from Africa to South America at the narrowest point of the ocean. Its aim was to test the kayak. I had not sailed the ocean before, and there were many uncertainties about the performance of the equipment and my well-being. I decided that if I liked it, I would sail between the continents. Next, between South America and North America, and then from North America to Europe. Due to some perturbations, I sailed to North America from Europe, not South America. I was right to assume that the last expedition would be the most difficult and the most interesting stage. The long-term plan was to prepare for that most difficult stage during the two, say, easier trips.
Yes, I knew it would be harder and harder right from the start. The route of the first expedition ran across the narrowest point of the Atlantic, the second one the widest, and the third one across the most difficult one. Objectively looking, it ran through much colder ocean waters, which causes more frequent and stronger storms. These conditions alone predicted it would be more interesting. And it was!
I consider myself a tourist. I don’t go to the gym, I didn’t do any special exercises. Living close to water reservoirs such as the Odra River, Dąbskie Lake and Szczecin Lagoon I can sail as a recreation. A tourist is interested in new places, new routes, rivers and water reservoirs. Unfortunately, they are farther and farther for me. I am generally very active, I walk and ride a bike a lot. My ordinary life activity allows me to stay in good shape. What I trained was smiles - I am an optimist and I knew I would accomplish my expeditions. I wanted to smile nicely at the welcome ceremony! I owe a lot to my wife. We have been together for 42 years and she toughens my nerves, so I won’t be bothered by just anything. I was not on a special diet. I collaborate with a wonderful company that makes lyophilized, light and water-free food. I really loved their dishes. Only with these freeze-dried products was I able to survive for a few months during my ocean expeditions. They are ready-made dishes of such good quality that when I had some left after one expedition, I could take them with me and eat them even after two years from production date. No advertising intended, but I’m sure you can guess I mean LYOFOOD!
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