Excerpted from an article by Wendy Killoran, published by Adventure Kayak Magazine.
Most epic kayak journeys start with a paddle stroke, but this trans-Atlantic kayak crossing was unique.
Dan Colodney was involved in a mishap at the notorious Oregon Inlet at Cape Hatteras, North Carolina when he was separated from his NDK Explorer kayak in May 2003. Colodney’s kayak drifted for nearly a year at the whim of ocean currents. It turned up floating off the shores of France.
A Swiss boating couple recovered the barnacle-encrusted kayak and found the hatches to be perfectly dry! The day hatch’s contents had become a moldy mess. Colodney’s uneaten lunch had drifted the 5600 mile journey up the Eastern Seaboard, along the south shore of Newfoundland, and then caught the Gulf Stream across the Atlantic Ocean to France.
"found the hatches... perfectly dry!"
The odyssey began when Colodney and a friend ventured into the rough waters of Oregon Inlet. Conditions were deteriorating rapidly when Colodney noticed another paddler in distress. With building waves reaching seven feet and a six-to-seven knot current, he set out to rescue the paddler and dislocated his left shoulder in the process. As he and the panic-stricken victim held onto the victim’s kayak, Colodney decided that his friend should tow his own kayak to shore and dispatch a boat to rescue the two drifting paddlers. Towing Colodney’s kayak impeded the friend’s progress, delaying the eventual rescue, so she released the kayak.
Nearly a year later, Colodney learned of his boat’s arrival off the shore of France, when a police officer returned his wallet…
The Swiss couple who located his kayak decided to keep it. Marine law of the high seas is basically “finders, keepers”: an abandoned vessel and its contents can be claimed by whomever finds it.
What would Colodney’s NDK Explorer have to say about its adventure? Speaking for his boat, Colodney said, “It would probably thank me for giving it the opportunity to travel the ocean unencumbered by a paddler, dictating its every move. Just think, it went wherever the sea would take it.”