MAJURO, Marshall Islands — A day after watching a film about being lost at sea, Toakai Teitoi was trapped in his own nightmare, drifting in a wooden boat for 15 weeks — before a shark helped to rescue him.
The 41-year-old Kiribati policeman and father-of-six relived his harrowing voyage in the central Pacific when he arrived in Majuro on Saturday on the Marshall Islands fishing boat which picked him up last week. He told of sleeping with the body of his brother-in-law who died during the ordeal, suffering severe dehydration and praying to be found alive.
Teitoi’s drama began on May 27 after he had flown from his home island of Maiana to the Kiribati capital of Tarawa to be sworn in as a policeman.
Following the ceremony, he watched a film about four men from Kiribati who were lost at sea.
It was then that he changed his mind about flying home and joined his brother-in-law Ielu Falaile, 52, on what was supposed to be a two-hour sea journey back to Maiana in a 15-foot wooden boat.
But after stopping to fish along the way and sleeping overnight, they woke the following day to find they had drifted out of sight of Maiana and soon after ran out of fuel. As dehydration took hold, Falaile’s health began failing and he died on July 4.
Teitoi continued to pray regularly and on the morning of Sept. 11 caught sight of a fishing boat in the distance but the crew were unable to see him.
But one day, Teitoi said, he woke in the afternoon to the sound of scratching and looked overboard to see a six-foot shark circling the boat and bumping the hull.
When the shark had his attention it swam off.
“He was guiding me to a fishing boat. I looked up and there was the stern of a ship and I could see crew with binoculars looking at me.” — AFP