Alone with only a water tank and frozen meals, Milnerton resident, Richard Kohler, is paddling nearly 7000km across the southern Atlantic Ocean to raise funds for Operation Smile.
The 52 year old left the shores of Granger Bay on Friday, December 17, and is preparing to sail for about 70 to 80 days to Salvador in Brazil.
Mr Kohler says he does not have a set amount he hopes to raise for Operation Smile but instead used this voyage to create awareness for the non-profit.
Operation Smile offers free cleft lip and cleft palate surgeries to vulnerable children and adults across southern Africa.
“I have always been a fan of the work operational smile have been doing, they can change someone’s life almost instantly but they need our help,” he said.
Mr Kohler said he started preparations for this adventure nearly five years ago, but Covid-19 made him change his mind “a lot of the time”.
Eventually he decided to take on the adventure.
“At least I will be social distancing ,” he said.
Mr Kohler will be paddling in an eight-meter long kayak made out of carbon fibre, to make it lighter and easier to use, he said. The kayak is named Osiyeza, which he says is inspired by Johnny Clegg’s 1993, The Crossing.
He said Osiyeza means “we are coming” in isiZulu.
Mr Kohler said he hopes to finish the adventure quicker than anticipated but is well prepared and packed meals for 80 days. He hopes to make it to his destination in just under 70 days.
He said if there were any concerns it would be about his physical well-being because he will be wet most of the time, his body will be exposed to salt, and he will also be sitting all of the time.
There are no islands on his journey and he will not be making any stops along the way.
When he gets to Brazil, he hopes to spend some time with friends and make new friends, he said, but that all depends on the Covid-19 restrictions Brazil has.
Mr Kohler will make use of a satellite phone to make calls or send text messages in the case of an emergency.
He said his experience of being on the water since he was a young boy at the age of six to later sailing at an international level has given him the opportunity to do such adventures, confidently.
In 2012 Mr Kohler did a solo kayaking trip of 2800km around the entire South African coastline.
In his past adventures he has survived a shark attack, had a broken kayak and had almost all of his equipment stolen, but he does not believe in giving up.
Ronel Visagie, Operation Smile’s marketing coordinator, said: “It is an honour to have someone like Richard Kohler choose the NPO as his beneficiary and take up such an enormous challenge, to help raise funds for kids and adults born with a cleft lip and palate – to help change lives ’one smile at a time’.”
If you would like to donate you can do so by visiting www.givengain.com
To keep track of Kohler’s journey, there is an interactive map on www.richardkohler.co.za to show where he is.