Weather Detours New York-to-Portugal Paddler Into Barnegat Light

70-Year-Old Record-Breaker Takes a Break
By MARIA SCANDALE | May 17, 2017
Photo by: Timothy Brindley

In contentious weather, a 70-year-old record-breaker in trans-Atlantic kayaking made the best choice he could – and took refuge in Barnegat Light last weekend.

Townspeople at the dock spotted the scrappy, tanned paddler in a custom-built, 23-foot fiberglass kayak at Bobbie’s Boats on the bay side. They were soon to be amazed at who they were talking to.

Oleg Aleksander Doba, of Police, Poland, has a claim to fame of long voyages powering across oceans by himself.

“In 2010 and again in 2013 he kayaked across the Atlantic Ocean under his own power. The two voyages were the longest open-water kayak voyages ever made. He was named 2014 Adventurer of the Year by National Geographic,” sums up Wikipedia.

A writer for Canoe and Kayak magazine reported that winds forced the voyager to at least temporarily scuttle his latest trip, from New York to Portugal, for the second time.

“The Polish adventurer made it about 30 miles offshore before the wind shifted and strengthened, threatening to drive his fragile craft into the barrier islands of New Jersey,” wrote Piotr Chmielinski, a friend from Poland who helps the explorer with logistics.

“The forecast called for several days of moderate northwest winds, building to near gale-force at the weekend. That would have been fine if the heavy winds had continued from the northwest, pushing Doba farther out to sea. Instead they shifted 180 degrees and the storm began pushing him back towards another New Jersey sandbar. Barnegat Inlet was his only chance to make it to the sheltered water, and it was something of a trick to hit the quarter-mile-wide channel from 30 miles out, in a 1,500-pound kayak that’s not exactly nimble in high winds. Doba managed it without incident.”

The people at Bobbie’s got a call that he was coming in the inlet, and they gave the craft dockage.

Someone had called The SandPaper Friday to relay Doba’s message: Please don’t come interview him because “I need to get some rest.” He added that he didn’t care if this latest episode got in the paper.

“He hadn’t slept from Monday to Thursday evening. He doesn’t sleep much on this boat,” said Vince Chiaro, owner of Bobbie’s.

A few people, such as Barnegat Light commercial fisherman Tim Brindley, had already chatted with him dockside and noted, “You never know who you’re going to meet in Barnegat Light.” There was a language barrier, as the kayaker spoke broken English, but the story was there.

“In 2013-2014 he made his voyage across the Atlantic in the same kayak, a 6,000-mile journey,” Brindley learned. “He eats dehydrated foods for the long trips by adding water. He has a desalinization plant onboard.”

The name on the kayak, Olo, is the nickname for Oleg.

“I saw a post that he didn't want to die doing nothing, so he started his travels,” Brindley said. “He said his kayak and the people he meets are his family. He just turned 70 and looks like he is in good shape.”

Folks on Facebook looking at the pictures agreed about Doba’s sturdy condition. Some other guys, including commercial fishermen, were impressed:

“That’s a pretty kick-ass kayak.”

“That is one badass captain.”

“Holy cow, that’s a journey.”

Doba rested at the North Shore Inn through the next day’s nor’easter, and took off eastward Tuesday morning. He needed a new compass, and was driven to Connecticut and back on Monday to get it.

“He left here at about 6 in the morning and he’s on his way,” Chiaro said Tuesday. “He was hoping to make it in six months; that’s his goal.”

“He was going back to Portugal. He had to wait for this weather to blow by. He wanted the wind behind him,” added George Grabowski, at the dock. “If he left at 6 o’clock, I figure he’s about a mile and a half, two miles out right now.”

Published reports in Canoe and Kayaker said Doba had left Sandy Hook Monday, May 8, bound for Portugal but in five days of contrary conditions had only made it 30 miles out. That was one-fourth of the way to the relative safety of the Gulf Stream. With the weather picture worsening, he turned back toward the Jersey Shore to wait out the storm.

Already in the record books more than once, Doba was the first person to cross the Atlantic ocean relying on muscle power alone, without the help of a sail.

He was the first person to paddle a 7-meter sea kayak across the Atlantic, in 2010. That Senegal-to-Brazil trip took 99 days. During a leg from Peru to Brazil, he was attacked and robbed.

On Oct. 5, 2013, at age 67, he left Lisbon for a second, 6,300-mile transatlantic venture, this one ending in New Smyrna Beach, Fla.

The people who met him this weekend won’t forget him, and will be wishing him safe journeys.

Doba was in a good mood when he left Barnegat Light, said Grabowski. “It seemed he was pretty high spirited all weekend.”

Keep checking or other online sites by Googling his name. The man seems like he’s got steam for quite a few more miles of adventure.









(Photo by: Timothy Brindley)
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