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Europe to Florida in a kayak: Another bucket list check

By Alan Duke, CNN
updated 6:22 PM EDT, Tue April 15, 2014
Olek Doba steers his kayak,
Olek Doba steers his kayak, "Olo," in the Atlantic Ocean on March 25.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Olek Doba has no corporate sponsors, but is using retirement funds
  • The 5,000 mile kayak journey launched in Lisbon, Portugal, last October
  • Doba hopes to reach New Smyrna Beach, Florida, on Friday
  • It's his second complete transatlantic kayak trip in four years

(CNN) -- Olek Doba's slow, lonely kayak journey across the Atlantic Ocean is nearing an end this week.

Doba, 67, isn't making the record-setting transatlantic trip for money, but because it's on his bucket list, a friend waiting for his arrival in North America said.

He has no corporate sponsors. The only logo on his yellow 21-foot boat is the name of his hometown: Police, Poland. Doba is paying his own way with his retirement money saved during his career as an engineer, according to Piotr Chmielinski, a friend who helps with his logistics.

Doba began paddling the kayak, named Olo, in Lisbon, Portugal, last October with a goal of reaching the Florida coast more than 5,000 miles away. At a pace of about 30 miles a day, he hoped to get there in February. A broken rudder and unusual weather patterns slowed Doba, but he wasn't stopped.

Olek Doba departing Lisbon, Portugal, on October 5, 2013.\n
Olek Doba departing Lisbon, Portugal, on October 5, 2013.

He refused a rescue offer from a tanker when his communications gear failed in the middle of the Atlantic in December. He was forced to make a monthlong pit stop in Bermuda when the rudder broke in February, but he was back in the water in late March, Chmielinski said.

Another mishap broke his navigation light and radar antennae, which he repaired using a boat paddle and soda bottle.

Doba paddles at a pace of about 30 miles a day.
Doba paddles at a pace of about 30 miles a day.

By Tuesday, Doba was less than 200 miles from his destination of New Smyrna Beach, Florida. He still has to paddle through the Gulf Stream currents around the Bahamas. The mayor and a high school band will be on the beach to greet Doba when he makes landfall, which is expected Friday morning unless another storm kicks up, Chmielinski said.

Doba has no corporate sponsors and is paying his own way with retirement money.
Doba has no corporate sponsors and is paying his own way with retirement money.

Doba's voyage is the longest ever in a kayak and the first to go from Europe to North America, he said.

This would be his second complete transatlantic kayak trip in four years. He paddled the Olo from Africa to Brazil over 99 days in 2010.

Doba expects to have another 30 years left in his life to explore the world, because members of his family are known to live to 100, Chmielinski said.

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