Thursday, 19 April 2012

Crossing the Atlantic, solo, in a canoe.

Belying fears that he was dead, thirty year old Hungarian sportsman-architect Gabor Rakonczay has become the first person to cross the Atlantic Ocean in a canoe alone. Paddling across the wide expanse from Europe to the Caribbean, Gabor's 3,500 mile long epic voyage took 76 days, during which his canoe capsized twice. What's more, three weeks into his adventure, he was left for the remaining fifty days without any means of communication with the outside world. Some feared he was dead, but his wife Viktoria never lost hope.

Gabor made his remarkable journey in a small specially designed 24.6 foot-long canoe- named Vitez, or 'valiant' in Hungarian.- He commenced his hazardous voyage at Lagos, Portugal late last year, stopping en route at the Canary Islands for supplies. Despite all odds and despite the capsizing, Gabor made it to Antigua's English Harbour almost three weeks ahead of his original estimate. The London based Ocean Rowing Society International has acknowledged Gabor's accomplishment. 

Gabor's communications equipment was irretrievably damaged when his canoe capsized, which meant that he was out of touch with the outside world since February 6. To add to his family's worries, the voyage was made without a satellite tracking system that would have let him send out a message saying he was all right. 

"The supplier raised the price at the last minute and I decided to leave without one because it was not possible to postpone the trip," Gabor said. "This trip was the first time I didn't have a tracking system and the first time I really would have needed one." 

Gabor tried to contact passing ships using flares thrice, but failed to communicate with them. "Some slowed and even changed direction as they likely picked me up on their radars, but I was often surrounded by waves 4 meters high and the canoe is less than one meter high, so it's most likely that they simply weren't able to see me." 

Back in Hungary, Viktoria did not lose hope after she lost contact with her husband. She even kept on updating a blog about Gabor's voyage daily, estimating the Vitez's position based on prevailing weather and current conditions. Gabor is touched at the confidence she and his family placed on his abilities. "I was positively surprised in those at home ... because everyone was certain that if I run into any difficulties, I'll be able to solve them," he said. Viktoria told the Hungarian media that she trusted in her husband's "mental state, skills, and experience to face the hardest of tasks". 

A relaxed Gabor told reporters at the finish, "It was a great relief to reach port because it meant completing the journey and because my family could finally know for sure that I was OK." 

"I was very interested in discovering what it's like to be all alone on a ship in the ocean," he added. "It was my childhood dream." 


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