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PAPEETE, Tahiti (Tahitipresse, April 24) - A 57-year-old
Tahitian fisherman who miraculously survived 118 days drifting between French
Polynesia and the Cook Islands in an eight-meter (26-foot) fishing boat, has
published a book about his adventure.

" Si loin du monde " (So Far from the World) is the name of the
book published by Tauaea Raioaoa, better known as Tavae, who tells how he set
out from Tahiti on March 15 and miraculously ended up safe and sound on the
island of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands on July 10.

A quote from famous adventure novelist Jack London illustrates
the cover of Tavae’s book: "The most beautiful tales always begin with

Tavae writes: "During my long life as a fisherman, my boat never
broke down. I couldn’t imagine what it was like. But at that moment I wasn’t
worried. Since I was born, I spent more time on the ocean than on land, and when
the sea tried to hide a danger from me, shivers ran up and down my skin, as
though my deceased ancestors were trying to alert me."

Tavae’s adventure took place aboard a traditional Tahitian
fishing boat, known as a "poti marara," a boat that chases flying fish. Tavae
named his boat "Tehapiti". He covered nearly 1,200 km (746 miles) as he drifted
west in his boat.

He had no distress beacon, so it was impossible for him to alert
authorities of his predicament. An exceptionally big wave flooded his motor. He
was out of fuel. So he couldn’t return to his tiny island of Maiao in the
Windward Islands.

Tavae owes his miraculous survival to the fish that he continued
to catch and the fresh drinking water from the rain that he captured in his ice

He was eventually discovered off the coast of Aitutaki in the
northern Cook Islands and was immediately hospitalized on that island.
Dehydrated and suffering from his adventure, Tavae’s weight went from 70 kilos
(154 pounds) down to 49 kilos (108 pounds), leaving him in a weakened state
captured by a photo on the cover of his book.

While he was adrift in his fishing boat, Tavae was swept about
the ocean by swells of three and four meters (9.8-13 ft.) high. To prevent his
boat from turning over, he took the precaution of throwing all non-essential
things into the ocean, keeping aboard only his ice chest and a harpoon for

Tavae prayed regularly, marking a cross on the hull of his boat
as each day passed. But by the time he was rescued, he had lost all notion of
time, thinking he had spent five months and three weeks at sea.

April 28, 2003


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