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​US man saved by Vietnamese fishermen after weeks adrift in sailboat

Tuesday, February 06, 2018, 11:38 GMT+7

Vietnamese fishermen have saved a U.S. national found adrift off the coast of south-central Quang Ngai Province, after the man had reportedly been lost at sea for over a month.

The victim, 67-year-old Rimas Meleshyus, was brought to shore at 3:50 pm on Sunday after having spent 17 days aboard the boat that had saved his life.

He arrived at a border guard post in the central city of Da Nang on Sunday to the roaring applause of locals, who had been eager to see the adventurous man they could not believe was traveling the world by himself in his late-60s.

Other than a minor problem with his blood pressure, Meleshyus was quick on his feet as he disembarked from the boat and thanked the crew for the rescue.

A timely rescue

Meleshyus left Hawaii on May 25 last year and traveled through a number of islands in the Pacific Ocean before his sailboat broke down around 500 nautical miles off the coast of Japan’s Yokohama City on December 10, according to data from his navigation system.

He tried to send out distress signals via his satellite tracker for two days before giving up and letting luck decide his fate.

Luck came in the form of Vietnamese fishermen, he said, as he would have died had he not been found for another few days, having nearly run out of fresh water and food.

The Vietnamese fishing vessel that found and rescued Rimas Meleshyus. Photo: Tuoi Tre
The Vietnamese fishing vessel that found and rescued Rimas Meleshyus. Photo: Tuoi Tre

According to Vo Van Bich, a sailor on the fishing vessel that rescued Meleshyus, the man was discovered on his battered sailboat at around 11:00 am on January 17 in a state of exhaustion, too weak to even stand on his own feet.

“At first he only intended to bring with him a handbag containing his papers and leave everything else on the sailboat. But we decided to help him carry some equipment on board as well,” Bich said.

As it was only day three of the fishermen’s fishing trip, they decided to let the new acquaintance tag along instead of bringing him immediately to shore.

Each crew member took turns to help Meleshyus with his eating and personal hygiene during the weeks-long voyage, as the man was still recovering from exhaustion.

Though he was too tired to return the favor by helping the crew with their daily work, Meleshyus said he did not miss the opportunity to learn about the Vietnamese fishing industry and take some photos of the “hardworking” fishermen, which he intended to share on his Facebook page after making it home.

A born adventurer

Growing up in Sochi, Russia, Rimas Meleshyus came to settle down in the U.S. upon reaching adulthood, where he harbored his dream of leading an untethered life by circumnavigating the globe in his sailboat.

His seafaring life began six years ago when he embarked on a months-long voyage in a sailboat that took him from Alaska to the distant corners of South America.

Meleshyus’ latest mishap was by no means his first, as the foolhardy man had found himself in a bind multiple times during his previous journeys, with the longest being 137 days adrift at sea before being rescued in October by U.S. Coast Guard off Saipan, a U.S. territory north of Guam.

Da Nang’s Border Guard has said it would provide the American man with shelter and food while paperwork is being taken care of by the municipal Department of External Affairs to help him resume his trip.

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