The first time Polish kayaker Aleksander Doba tried to paddle across the Atlantic Ocean in 2007, he didn't get far. "I realized almost immediately that an ordinary kayak can't handle the open ocean for very long," Doba says. "It's not strong enough.
So Doba enlisted the help of Polish ship maker Andrzej Arminski to design and manufacture a kayak fit for a transatlantic expedition. Doba tested the first-of-its-kind kayak in 2010, successfully crossing the Atlantic in 99 days at its narrowest point, from Senegal and Brazil. The same vessel, dubbed Olo, was responsible for his latest feat, crossing the Atlantic at its widest point, from Portugal to Florida, in 167 days.
Olo the kayak measures 23 feet long. To decrease the risk of sinking, Arminski structurally divided it into five separate waterproof parts, two of which are filled with foam. Food is stored in the rear hold and drinking water (120 liters) underneath the seat. In the front, there is a sleeping cabin with space for clothing and extra food. Arminski added wings over the cockpit for stability in rough water; ensuring the kayak stays upright.
Polish company Surfing Zone made Doba's custom paddle. The carbon fiber paddle weighs only two pounds, despite having been extended by 50 centimeters and reinforced in the center. Even more important than paddle weight, according to Doba, are the cuffs that protect the paddler's hands from the constant splash of seawater. He learned the hard way in 2010 when he neglected to bring them and badly chafed both hands.
Regarding technical apparel, Doba says he's not a good source. "I didn't bring any shoes, and for most of the time, probably 164 out of the 167 days I was at sea, I was naked," he says. "It's really the best way to prevent the rashes that come from being wet." He did wear a hat – either a sombrero or a baseball cap, depending on his mood.
Here are his other essentials for crossing the Atlantic in a kayak:
1. Doba tried the PowerSurvivor 40E/12 V desalinator made by Swiss company Katadyn. It stopped working almost immediately. He reverted to his old standby, a manual desalinator made in 1992 by Minneapolis-based PUR Water Purification Products.
2. Garmin GPSMAP 78s designed specifically for boaters (it even floats).
5. He also carried two SPOT satellite GPS trackers.
9. Sailor SE 406 II Satellite EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon)
12. He heated water for his meals with a Jetboil Flash.