About a year ago, I came across a Facebook photo of Rimas Meleshyus and was immediately intrigued. Who is this distinguished gentleman and rugged seafarer?
As I scrolled through his page, it was clear that his friends and followers genuinely love him, showering him with accolades, bouquets of virtual flowers, and kisses. He warmly reciprocates in kind. I was compelled to learn more about this adventurous man, so I sent him a friend request and he kindly accepted.
Rimas' timeline is filled with photos, memories and videos recalling his many journeys. With a simple Google search, I was able to locate many news articles from various places across the globe. His ventures on the sea are filled with overwhelming joy and freedom, great successes, and heartbreaking trials and tribulations. Some of his escapades are so extraordinary, one may believe they have been extracted from an adventure novel.
Rimas' life is a screenwriter’s dream!
To do Rimas proper justice, one would need to spend hundreds of face-to-face hours to fully record and capture his life story. It’s my hope to introduce you to this amazing man, and to provide a glimpse into a few of his most memorable ventures and his amazing spirit.
Rimas was born on December 22, 1951 in Northern Lithuania and grew up in Sochi, Russia located on the Black Sea. He also lived for five years in Tallinn, Estonia nestled on the Baltic Sea during the Soviet Union era. Rimas has very fond memories of Tallinn and feels it is one of the most romantic cities on the planet.
He recalls his father telling him, “Son, you need to travel around the world to get a good education.” He listened intently and at a young age, he began his journey. He traveled across the Soviet Union and Ukraine, and resided in picturesque, seaside towns to include Batumi, Riga, and Klaipeda. His traveling spirit also took him to central Asia where he rode the rails for free in exchange for working on them.
In 1988, he left the USSR to become a naturalized U.S. citizen. He made his way to Hawaii where he tapped into his Japanese speaking skills to work as a tour guide. Over the years, he has visited all 50 states. He stated, “I was interested to discover American culture and to learn to speak in English.” He has fond memories of living in Canada for three years, traveling across Central America, and living in the Caribbean for two years. He is now a resident of the Garden Island of Kauai, and feels it is the most beautiful island on the planet.
Fast-forward to May, 2012. Rimas is now in his early sixties. His lifelong dream of sailing the globe was finally in his reach. He purchased his first sailboat in Juneau, a 1973 San Juan 24, named Cesura. Fellow seafarers cautioned him against this excursion as the boat is not designed for blue-water cruising. However, he was determined. While he had no open-ocean experience, he left port to begin his 1,200 mile trip across the Gulf of Alaska. He was filled with exhilaration! His time had finally come!
According to Rimas, he doesn’t so much sail as he drifts.
He calls this “Kon-Tiki style sailing.”
In July, after 34-days, he was rescued from a beach on Akutan Island. However, reading about his journey was jaw dropping.
First, his boat is struck by a 36-ton gray whale ejecting him from his seat. According to Rimas, “If not for the safety harness, I would have been killed.” Log entry (Alaska Public Media)
“On June 4, 12 Monday was big bang on my right side, near my seat and engine. It was extremely scary for me. I think when me hit, now boat sink. Already in life raft. Very calm and sunny and warm. That was very bad news and I will remember for a long time, in middle of Gulf Alaska.”
Later in the journey, Rimas faced torrential storms and his boat capsized a few times during a gale.
His troubles continued as he approached the Aleutians as many cargo ships almost hit him. For fear of getting hit, he didn’t sleep for three days. After 34-day passage, his lack of sleep contributed to his boat hitting a reef and was beached.
“I tried to do flares, but fog. I tried to use mirrors to planes. I tried climbing mountains and waving. But nobody can see me.”
Fortunately, a passing boat spotted his smoke signals and than two days later, a Coast Guard helicopter picked him up.
Rimas was not deterred and his passion to sail around the world was stronger than ever! In 2013, he launched his second boat, another San Juan 24 named Pier Pressure from Puget Sound. His plan was to travel 10-months, nonstop to the southern tip of South America (Cape Horn.) Unfortunately, his boat was hammered by storms off Mexico. Volunteers helped him repair Pier Pressure and he drifted back to San Francisco in 56 days.
On July 31, 2014, Rimas posted on FaceBook:
July, 30 2014 San Francisco Bay. The journey included perils of sailing blue water, such as fog, gales, danger of collision with whales, loneliness, doldrums, navigation, gear failure.
From San Francisco, he launched again and drifted for 121 days until arriving in American Samoa. (Rimas..Around the World).
Jefferey Hayner posted this photo and caption on his FaceBook page:
“My friend from Russia, Rimas Meleshyus who is attempting to sail around the world in a San Juan 24 foot sail boat. I took this picture of him at Pago Pago Harbor right here in Am. Somoa on Monday, March 9 . Become Friends with him and keep track of his historic voyage. Fa’afetai, Jeff.
His third boat was named Mimsy, a Rawson 30.
In June of 2017, Rimas who was now 67-years-old, departed Hilo, Hawaii. In October he had sailed/drifted 3,300 nautical miles and was rescued off Saipan, a U.S. territory north of Guam. During his journey, he faced fierce storms that caused damage to his mainsail. Amazingly, he jury-rigged a sail out of a bedsheet. His message sent via satellite tracker:
“No response from fiji coast guard yet. My tilles broken no contrals for boat its dangerous current pushing unknoow strong gale was couple daays ago at night."
After being rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard, he told Saipan’s KSPN 2 Television, "I'm emotional because, long time at sea." (NPR).
In December 2017, he departed Saipan and headed towards Guam to continue his dream of sailing the world. A few months later, he posted on his Facebook that he was safe in Vietnam. According to the Dantri International News, (DTINews), Vietnam fishermen spotted Rimas waving his shirt. He had run out of water and was dangerously low on food. As they had just begun their fishing trip, they picked him up and brought him along. In his weakened state, the fishermen took him under their wing and nursed him back to health.
Over the years, Rimas has had his share of critics. Some will argue that his approach is unconventional, and at times very dangerous. Yet it is the thrill of the unknown, the quest for accomplishment, and the love of the sea that drives Rimas’ lifelong dream to sail across the globe.
Rimas is truly grateful for having met so many friends along the way who have supported him. He would especially like to thank Shannon Buys and Jean Mondeau (pictured below) for their incredible support and friendship.
Around every corner, he has beaten the odds by surviving treacherous gales, wicked lightning storms, and being without food and water for days. He embodies the spirit and the passion for the sea, a solo seafarer who through trials and tribulations successfully sought out adventure and conquered the obstacles.
I would like to extend my deep appreciation to Rimas who gave me permission to write this article, for inspiring us all to take great risks in pursuit of our passions, and to live life to its fullest degree.
He is truly determined. We (Shannon and I) placed a tracker on his vessel and the tracks are still out there on the Delorme In reach website for the public to be seen. Unbeknownst to us Rimas was legally blind (20:800 vision) when he was sailing. He has since had cataract operations and he can see. However due to his age we are hesitant to send my dear friend adrift again. A retirement in Hawaii is pretty nice after all he’s been through. You know we love you Rimas.
I have already heard of this fisherman, I was in Sochi, in the south of Russia, people spoke of him as an adventurer. Fishing leads to that connection with the whole living world. It gives you the opportunity to be totally immersed, to focus on yourself. A form of meditation, some form of communion with levels of you that are deeper than ordinary yourself.
What an action packed story, June! I couldn’t read fast enough. You worded it perfectly when you said, “Rimas’ life is a screenwriter’s dream!” It certainly is just that.
Rimas Meleshyus is the embodiment of adventure, risk, perseverance, determination, and living life to the fullest all rolled into one. The fact that he does such solo earns him mass respect in my book!
As you wrote in one of your posts; “… don’t find the regular excuses to stay back…Traveling alone is so liberating and in the end you’re not even alone, you’ll meet so many people along the way.” Even in his late 60’s, Rimas is living this very thought!
Another AWESOME Sea Blog, June!