If you’d been adrift at sea for 106 days, what’s the first thing you’d ask for when rescued?

As you may know, my new crime novel Food of Ghosts is set on Tarawa, the capital of the Republic of Kiribati. I lived on Tarawa for five years and fell in love with the island and the I-Kiribati people. Any news from the Republic of Kiribati always interests me, which is why the piece below about being adrift at sea caught my eye (reported in the Herald Sun the Asia Pacific News and AFP News via Yahoo News). It’s an incredible story of survival, although one of the two men tragically didn’t make it. 

‘Shark helped save me’ says rescued Kiribati fisherman (Sept 16, 2012)

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. Only two survived by the time they were washed ashore in American Samoa six weeks later.

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.

“We had food, but the problem was we had nothing to drink,” he said.

As dehydration took hold, Teitoi, a Catholic, said he turned to prayer as it gave him strength. But Falaile’s health began failing and he died on July 4.

“I left him there overnight and slept next to him like at a funeral,” Teitoi said. He buried his brother-in-law at sea the next morning.

Only a day after Falaile passed away a storm blew into the area and rained for several days allowing Teitoi to fill two five-gallon containers with a life-saving supply of fresh water.

“There were two choices in my mind at the time. Either someone would find me or I would follow my brother-in-law. It was out of my control.”

He continued to pray regularly and on the morning of September 11 caught sight of a fishing boat in the distance but the crew were unable to see him.

Dejected, he did what he had done most days, curling up under a small covered area in the bow to stay out of the tropical sun.

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.”

When the vessel Marshalls 203 pulled Teitoi on board the first thing he asked for was a cigarette.

“They told me to wait. They took me to meet the captain, and they gave me juice and some food.”

With Teitoi in no physical danger, the Marshalls 203 continued fishing for several days before returning to Majuro.

He was scheduled to fly from Majuro to Tarawa on Sunday and will then fly to Maiana.

“I’ll never go by boat again. I’m taking a plane,” he said.

If you’d survived 106 days adrift at sea, what’s the first thing you’d ask for when you were rescued? I think I might want a mobile phone to phone home – or maybe a shower? 
And don’t forget, to thank everyone who makes a comment on my blog, at the end of every month we put your names in a hat and one lucky winner wins a free copy of The Blue Suitcase! Look forward to hearing from you! 🙂

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8 Responses to If you’d been adrift at sea for 106 days, what’s the first thing you’d ask for when rescued?

  1. I think it would have to be a cup of Tetley tea ! Closely followed by hugs from my family.
    Whenever I come back from abroad I’m always amazed at the greenness of England. I expect I would really miss my familiar landscape. It sounds like an exciting book Marianne, all the best with it.

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      Thanks for your comment and good wishes,Deborah. We were once in a small recreational boat and the rudder went. We couldn’t control the boat and it began to drift slowly out to sea and we were too far from the shore to swim for it. It didn’t take long before we were rescued, but I found the experience very unnerving. I don’t think I’d last adrift for 106 days. If I did, I’d definitely want a hot drink with a whole heap of sugar in it for the shock! Thanks again 🙂

  2. Katrina says:

    Hi Marianne

    Hmm, if I lasted the 106 days I would ask for all family gossip followed by my computer to check on friends because knowing they were or still annoying would really spell out.

    ‘I’m home.’ 🙂

    Good luck with the book sound interesting.

    I asked my sister this question and she said with no hesitation; Chocolate! Chocolate ! Chocolate. 🙂

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      Ha ha ha 🙂 I would want to know the family gossip too – apart from my son and daughter and long suffering other half, I have six sisters and two brothers, and then there’s all the nephews and nieces, so there’d be a lot to catch up on! Chocolate sounds good too 🙂

  3. amazing story! The first thing I would ask for would be a cup of tea! Then a phone. Then a comfy bed.

  4. Shirley gill says:

    Definitely chocolate

    • Marianne Wheelaghan says:

      thinking about this again, I’d want a glass of Coke – something I only drink when I have a bad hangover, which, fortunately, isn’t that often any more 😉

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