One of a sailor's worst nightmares is losing the boat, taking to the liferaft only to drift and drift and drift. This year a man from Kiribati in the Pacific Ocean has lived that nightmare and survived. He was at sea for fifteen weeks before, he claims, a shark led him to rescue and safety.
’The shark was bumping the side of the boat to draw my attention’
Toakai Teitoi was on a fifteen foot boat, not much bigger than a liferaft, during the nightmare. The only other crew member, his brother, died of dehydration after six weeks.
Mr Teitoi's ordeal 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.
Instead of flying home he decided to join his brother-in-law Lelu Falaile, 52, on what was supposed to be a two-hour sea journey back to Maiana.
But after stopping to catch fish along the way and sleeping overnight, they woke the following day to find they had drifted out of sight of Maiana and became disoriented. Then they ran out of fuel.
'We had food, but the problem was we had nothing to drink,' he said.
As dehydration took hold, Mr Teitoi, a Catholic, said he turned to prayer as it gave him strength. But Mr 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,' Mr Teitoi said. He buried his brother-in-law at sea the next morning.
Only a day after Mr Falaile passed away a storm blew into the area and rained for several days allowing Mr Teitoi to fill two five-gallon containers with 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.
Mr 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. 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 Mr 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 Mr Teitoi in no physical danger, the Marshalls 203 continued fishing for several days before returning to Majuro.
'I'll never go by boat again. I'm taking a plane,' Mr Teitoi said.