A quick glance at a map shows how foolhardy the boys’ plan was. Atafu is a tiny atoll, measuring just a single square mile, surrounded by a whole lot of wild and unpredictable ocean. The open sea’s inherent dangers are the reason why most Tokelauans don’t sail far from the shore unless accompanied by a seasoned fisherman, or “tautai.”
These hazards didn’t seem to trouble the teens, though, when they loaded the small, engine-powered boat with stolen fuel and provisions. Their stash comprised some 30 coconuts, two bottles of milk, a jar of water, a sealed container of vodka and some cigarettes. It was a somewhat paltry stockpile, and one that clearly showed they weren’t expecting their trip to last for more than a few days at the most.
The three would-be sailors didn’t even carry any fishing gear, despite Atafu being a fishing village. Fortunately, Filo had had the presence of mind to grab a tarpaulin before they left, something that would prove invaluable during their ordeal. It was to be their only means of collecting water and providing cover when it rained.