A 41-year-old policeman from the island nation of Kiribati only wanted to do a little bit of celebratory fishing with his brother-in-law following his inauguration as a policeman. But what would normally be a two-hour trip ended up taking 106 days and cost one man his life.

According to numerous reports, Toakai Teitoi flew to the Kiribati capital of Tarawa from his home island of Maiana to be sworn in as a policeman. He decided to take a boat back home, an approximately 20-mile journey. On May 28, Teitoi and his brother-in-law Lelu Falaile, 52, took a 15-foot wooden boat and stopped to fish along the way. They fell asleep overnight. In the morning they awoke to realize they had drifted well out of sight of Maiana.

They attempted to drive the boat toward Maiana, but soon ran out of fuel. For the next few weeks, the pair simply drifted at sea hoping to be spotted by a passing boat. They had no water, but survived off the little bit of food they brought and from fish they caught. Falaile’s health took a turn for the worse and he died on July 4.

Teitoi buried him at sea and continued on, praying the whole time that he would be found alive. Just one day after Falaile died, a storm that went on for several days supplied Teitoi with 10 gallons of fresh drinking water, which would be a life-saver.

Early on September 11, he spotted a fishing boat from far away, but nobody could see him. Hopeless, he curled under a small covered area in the bow to sleep partially sheltered from the sun. In the afternoon, he said he woke to the sound of a six-foot shark bumping the hull. When he gazed outside his boat, he saw a fishing boat looking at him through binoculars.

A view of the island nations of Kiribati and Marshall Islands. Marker A shows Teitoi’s home island, B is Tarawa where he was sworn in and C is where he was taken by the fishing boat that found him. Imagery copyright TerraMetrics, Map data copyright Google

The vessel Marshalls 203 pulled him onboard and gave him food and drink until they finished fishing over the next few days. Teitoi said all he wanted was a cigarette. He was taken to Majuro on Sunday where he will fly back home to Maiana, vowing never to take a boat again when a plane is available.

Ironically, after the ceremony at Tarawa, Teitoi watched a movie about four fishermen who were lost at sea for six weeks before they washed ashore in American Samoa. By the end of the movie, only two had survived.

Boat image from Tony Bowden (tm-tm) on the flickr Creative Commons, Map imagery copyright 2012 TerraMetrics, Map data copyright 2012 Google

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