SEASIDE — Rimas Meleshyus, a 61-year-old Russian Cold War refugee has big dreams.

Dreams that he hopes will bring him around the world in a not-so-big boat – a boat that he doesn’t have yet.

But by June, Meleshyus hopes to raise $1,000 to purchase a 24-foot San Juan sailboat and leave on his journey to make history.

His goal is to achieve a status in the Guinness Book of World Records for the first to ever complete that trip in such a small craft.

“This boat is not designed for the open ocean,” he said. “But I am determined to do it. I am strong and I am determined.”

And the biggest surprise of all: Meleshyus taught himself to sail just last year and will sail with no fancy equipment, only paper charts, a simple text GPS from the year 2000, and basic supplies.

Meleshyus says he is not scared, but is confident he will succeed but is confident he will succeed. Afterall, he is living the American dream.

“I’m very happy to live in this country,” he said. “My goal basically is to make it past Cape Horn because I want to be in the Guinness Book of World Records and put an American flag there. And I am very proud to do that.”

Life before sailing

Meleshyus was born in Sochi, Russia on the Black Sea, the location that has won the bid to host the 2014 Winter Olympics.

He escaped from the Soviet Union in 1988, when he fled to the American Embassy in Moscow and claimed political asylum.

He’s never returned.

“I am a very adventurous person. Things that are almost impossible, I have done many, many things,” he said, including the time he fled the communist country for freedom.

The next several years were an adventure in themselves. Meleshyus, who speaks seven languages including Japanese and Estonian, spent several years in Hawaii as a Japanese tour guide. He later left for San Fransisco. For a time he lived in Alaska and then the Pacific Northwest.

He says he feels 35 years old, and doesn’t take medication. He comes from a healthy family, he said. His parents lived into their 90s without any medications. He doesn’t drink or smoke. When he was dating a Japanese woman, he said they ate nothing but rice and fish for seven years. He credits that in part for his good health.

So while he’s strong, confident and filled with a fire to make his dreams come true, he’s ready to conquer his goal.

“It takes a strong person, determined to go, and I want to do it,” he said. “Nobody’s done it, in history, in a craft this small.”

He came to Seaside to visit friends, where he met Shannon Hopkins through church. The two connected and she is helping to spread the word and encourage support for her new friend.

“I’m just glad he came to our town and I was able to help him, because I have been in ocean stuff all my life and this is amazing,” Hopkins said. “I want to see him have his dream.”

The boat

The San Juan is one of the most versatile keelboats for its size, according to Wikipedia. Designed in the 1970s in Washington state, the boat can be seen in several marinas around the Pacific Northwest. The last San Juan was produced 22 years ago. There is one listed in Seattle for $1,000 cash on craigslist.org

“Sleeping four adults, with a dinette table and galley, it is suitable for long weekends or extended trips on inland waters,” the description on Wikipedia says.

The people who dream about sailing around the world, “never do because they’ve been brainwashed by the slick commercial boating publications who perpetrate their advertisers propaganda that if you somehow manage to clear the breakwater in anything less than a 40-footer you will instantly die,” Meleshyus wrote on a blog posting. “So they toil away at jobs they basically detest trying to save up enough money to buy that unattainable dream and it’s nearly always impossible to sustain a dream that long.”

You do not need to have a million dollars, he added, to sail around the world.

“If I can raise $3,000 for the boat and supplies, I will be happy. That is good enough,” he said. “I don’t need more.”

Alaska

Meleshyus had a 24-foot long San Juan just last year, the only sailboat he’s ever owned, and attempted to sail around the world. He purchased the boat in Juneau, and decided that it was the vessel he would accomplish his dream in. But he didn’t make it very far, as he ventured across the Gulf of Alaska.

He was at sea for one month before his boat, the Cesura, ran aground on Akutan Island, part of the Aleutian Island chain.

Stranded on the island for seven days, a passing research vessel finally spotted Meleshyus’s smoke signals, but the amateur sailor hesitated to leave his boat, which was still intact but surrounded by such shallow water, it could not be reached by another vessel.

Two days later, the U.S. Coast Guard sent a helicopter to rescue the man. His boat remained on the island. Now, he has started over and refuses to give up.

Meleshyus said his boat ran aground because he fell asleep. Already, he had experienced sightings of tsunami debris from the March 2011 event in Japan. He had an alarm clock that woke him up every 15 minutes at night so he could check for items in the water.

“Being alone is very different because you need to be awake at nighttime,” he said.

His boat capsized three times in 34 days before it ran aground. Each time, he was safety-harnessed in so he was able to recover. Once, his boat was hit by a gray whale.

But after three particularly sleepless days and nights, accompanied by gales, fog and several close encounters with cargo ships, Meleshyus hit a reef. Trying to free the ship for several hours, he eventually fell asleep. He woke up to find his boat on land.

“It’s very very dangerous, with the debris. I needed to watch a lot,” he said. “I used a lot of discipline. Every day, every night, 34 days, I was sleep deprived.”

He said he started to hallucinate from the sleep deprivation, and hit the reef.

“When I hit the reef, I became famous,” he said. “They started putting me in magazines and on TV in Alaska. Reporters arrived from all over. They interviewed me and put me on the radio stations in Alaska. Everyone was very interested in my rescue with the Coast Guard. And then they started putting me in magazines when I came back to Washington state, to Port Townsend.”

Donations and route

Meleshyus has already received support and donations toward his adventure around the globe.

He’s sailing on the most dangerous route – not through Panama or Hawaii but around Cape Horn.

“It’s very dangerous at Cape Horn. There are a lot of missing sailors out there,” he said. “But I want so much to cross. I know Panama and Hawaii is easier, but I want the challenge, the more difficult way to go. And the flag I am going to put is very big. Most people put a small flag on the end of their boat. I carry a really big one,” he said of his full-sized flag and pole, “because I am very proud and happy to do it.”

He’ll plant a flag everywhere he stops.

A 90-pound life raft with enough supplies inside for six months on the ocean was donated last week, at a $4,000 value. Sails have been contributed.

The boat he hopes to purchase will store 10 months of food and supplies. His route will take him straight to Cape Horn in South America, because it is too late to go to Japan and Guam as he had originally intended.

“It might take one year and a half, in a small craft, to go around the world. I want to make less stops and make it to my destinations,” he said.

From Cape Horn, Meleshyus will sail 400 miles to South Georgia Island in the Antarctic.

From there, he is bound for Cape Town, South Africa, and into the Indian Ocean to Phuket Island, to Vanuatu Island, to Guam and back to Washington. He will deal with strong winds, large waves, swift currents and submerged icebergs all along the way.

He plans to keep Hopkins informed by satellite phone where he is on his journey. She said she will keep a map and pinpoint his locations with every call. That way, she can track his progress and know his location if something goes wrong. She asked for a beacon to be donated to his cause. She also plans to keep the community apprised of how his trip is going.

To donate financially toward Meleshyus’s boat, beacon or supplies, money can be sent by mail to Shannon Hopkins, 1250 S. Wahanna Road No. 9, Seaside, OR 97138. A donation account at Wells Fargo is also in the works. To contact Meleshyus, he can be reached at rimassolo sailingaroundtheworldm@ymail .com or by phone at 360-461-9284.

Meleshyus will also be updating a blog about his trip at http://about.me/meleshyus rimas

   

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