Capturing the loneliness of sea

  • 2006-01-18
  • By Karina Juodelyte

JOURNEY ON: Rimsas is careful not to romanticize life at sea in his book. Although sailing is his greatest passion, the yachtsman reminds readers of the aching loneliness that comes along with it.

VILNIUS - Constant danger, huge waves tossing a small boat about in the middle of the ocean and a one-eyed cursing captain 's most of us imagine the life of a yachtsman as if from a scene in the movies. But professional yachtsman Rimtautas Rimsas refutes this image with his book "Klajones po jura ir save" ("The Wanderings in Sea and Self"). After reading this captivating memoir, there will no longer be a need to romanticize.

Rimsas has been standing behind the wheel of a yacht for more than 30 years. The former captain of Pilies Yacht Harbor in Klaipeda now lives in his native Kaunas, although he still calls the sea his home. Even today, Rimsas spends most of the year on the water, chartering yachts all over Europe. Meanwhile, his own yacht sits patiently in Klaipeda's harbor, waiting for tourists to board her for an unforgettable journey.

When six-year-old Rimsas first saw the sea, it did not make a big impression on him. In fact, he saw basking in the sun as more tortuous than fun. Perhaps it is surprising then that, years later, Rimsas would make a decision to leave his life on land for the sea.

The Lithuanian still has a crystal-clear memory of his first encounter with water: he had just become a professional yachtsman in Kauno marios during the blockade. Rimsas was doing a tour for Kazakh tourists, who had never seen so much water in their lives. Thus, every wave made them worry.

"It was the first time I understood that, no matter what, the eyes and gestures of the captain must be as calm as ever," Rimsas says.

After spending nearly a lifetime on the waves, the yachtsman has learned the subtle differences between people of the land and those of the sea. When confined to a boat, people become like brothers and sisters, united by water. They can say "Hi" hundreds of times a day to strangers sailing by because such is the etiquette of life at sea.

Rimsas hopes his book will dispel old stereotypes and provide people - regardless of whether they love or fear the sea - with an appreciation for his passion.

"Is the cursing, ill-tempered captain a reality?" many ask Rimsas.

"Those at sea are washed by salty waters and hugged by stormy winds; thus, they surround themselves with a tough shell, but it does not mean they have no feelings," the yachtsman says.

In his autobiographical book, Rimsas proves that a yachtsman is a romantic at heart 's at least there's truth to that stereotype. The story works itself around "ship, sea and she," weaving these ideas together in poetic fashion.

Rimsas describes the life of the yachtsman with clarity: long weeks alone with only the sea as your companion. The days spent on board with no crew are the worst, he says, when you feel loneliness to the core. A yacht is your only loyal friend at such times.

Perhaps it was during one of these moments that Rimsas was inspired to put his memoirs to ink. His words are both truthful and frank - all the names of his characters are real people. The woman romantically written into the book is the love he once yearned for during those lonely hours at sea, and the ocean is shown with no pretense: sometimes harsh, sometimes kind.

Some compare the loneliness of the sea with that of the mountains. Others compare the sea to the universe in respect to the sense of freedom it gives, and many see the ocean as inscrutable as women.

Rimsas, however, believes the sea cannot be compared to anything because it always has a different face: "It does not need to be conquered, but rather serve as a source of joy," he says.

Today it is trendy for young couples to buy a yacht and travel around the world. During the Middle Ages, women on board symbolized adversities; thus, sailors could be only men. When reflecting on just how much the idea of sailing has changed over the centuries, Rimsas has some insight. Women, he has noticed, are far better at tolerating seasickness than men and show more courage in difficult situations. "When women are on board, men curse less and take everything easier," says the yachtsman.

One day, Rimsas says, he will pack up his things, say goodbye to the coast, climb into his yacht and sail around the world. But for now he's still tied to the land, with his friends constantly wondering when he will leave.