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Sailor begins circumnavigation attempt from Oak Harbor

Rimas Meleshyus, left, departs from Oak Harbor Marina Monday on his around-the-world voyage in his San Juan 24, Pier Pressure. Central Whidbey sailor Shannon Buys, right, accompanied him through Deception Pass. - Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times
Rimas Meleshyus, left, departs from Oak Harbor Marina Monday on his around-the-world voyage in his San Juan 24, Pier Pressure. Central Whidbey sailor Shannon Buys, right, accompanied him through Deception Pass.
— image credit: Justin Burnett / Whidbey News-Times

Rimas Meleshyus, a Russian immigrant with big dreams, sailed out of Oak Harbor Monday and into history.

To what end, no one can say.

Leaving on an around-the-world voyage in a 24-foot sailboat he purchased for $500, Meleshyus is bound first for Cape Horn, which he now estimates will take him seven months, non-stop, to complete.

“I’m very happy,” said Meleshyus, 61.

“I’m very thankful for the American people supporting me.”

He has been planning the trip for years and has already completed one ill-fated leg across the Gulf of Alaska.

He spent 34 days at sea before being shipwrecked on an island near Dutch Harbor.

He was rescued by the U.S. Coast Guard nine days later.

Meleshyus’s boat was lost but he recently purchased another of the same make, a San Juan 24, from the Oak Harbor Youth Sailing organization.

Determined to earn a place in history and secure personal fame — he would be the first to complete a voyage in a San Juan 24  — Meleshyus departed on a vessel overloaded with the fantasies of fellow sailors.

“There are a lot of people living vicariously through Rimas’s dream,” said Oak Harbor resident Mike Newhouse, repeating the words of another boat owner.

Pier Pressure, Meleshyus’s boat, was designed as a lighweight weekend sailer and racer. The 3,200-pound vessel sat well below her designed waterline, crammed with food, water and other  supplies.

All of it was donated from Good Samaritans who wish Meleshyus well on what many say will be a passage rife with peril.

“I think it’s going to be dangerous and challenging,” said Shannon Buys, an accomplished sailor and Central Whidbey resident. “And there are going to be plenty of challenges.”

Buys, who owns a San Juan 24 of his own,  accompanied Meleshyus through Deception Pass Monday morning. The idea was to give him some last minute instruction — it was the first time Meleshyus had actually sailed his new boat — and see him safely into the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

“He has to be a little crazy to do this but you have to admire someone who is going after their dream,” Buys said. “I wish him the best.”

Meleshyus was all smiles, saying he is anything but frightened to finally embark on his long-awaited voyage.

“No, I’m absolutely confident,” he said, when asked if he was having any second thoughts. “Not scared.”

“This comes true a dream.”

Meleshyus’s progress can be followed via his Facebook page.

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