After celebrating being sworn in as a police officer, Toakai Teitoi got into a boat with his brother-in-law Ielu Falaile, and was not heard from again until more than 3 months later. The ordeal for Teitoi and his brother-in-law commenced back in late May, when they decided to travel by boat from Tarawa to their home island of Maiana. The journey turned into a spontaneous fishing trip too, but that is where everything went horribly wrong. The pair slept at sea over night, waking up to discover that the 15-foot boat had drifted off into the middle of nowhere.
When traveling directly, the trip from one island to the other just takes 2-hours, but the detour proved to be an unmitigated disaster once the boat ran out of fuel. Eating was not the problem, staying hydrated however, was an entirely different story. Falaile, who was 52, lasted 5 weeks before succumbing to a lack of fluids, but Teitoi, 41, would hold on for 8 more. He kept the body next to him for one more night, and buried him at sea on the 5th of July. That same day a major storm filled the sky, dropping enough rain for Teitoi to catch ten gallons of water.
Teitoi reached a point where he really was uncertain of his destination, but he seemed comfortable with any outcome. “There were two choices in my mind at the time,” he said. “Either someone would find me or I would follow my brother-in-law. It was out of my control.” Ironically, no human being would really be the one to find him. Instead, his guardian angel came knocking on the 106th day, September 11th, when he awoke to a 6-foot shark tapping on the boat. The animal, infamously known as a man eater, only took off once he had alerted Teitoi, who does not feel like that encounter was any coincidence. “He was guiding me to a fishing boat,” said Teitoi. “I looked up and there was the stern of a ship and I could see crew with
binoculars looking at me.”
Once he was rescued, Teitoi did not get back to Tarawa immediately. Since he was still in good health, the crew continued fishing for a few more days before returning to shore. As he reflected on his incredible journey, Teitoi reminisced about the night it all began. He said he watched a movie right after his ceremony, and that was when he decided to travel back by boat. Unfathomably, the movie featured 4 individuals lost at sea for 6 weeks, with only two returning alive.
When speaking of his future, Teitoi is not hesitant about traveling at all–he does vow to change the arrangements, though. “I’ll never go by boat again,” he said. “I’m taking a plane.”