DRIVEN by the sea currents and tossed by waves for 36 hours, schoolteacher Filipe Koroi hung on to a container and prayed for the safety of land.
Twice he saw land and came close only to be swept out into the treacherous Koro Sea.
Yesterday, after being picked up from Natokalau Village on Ovalau and rushed to the Levuka Hospital, the 51-year-old told of his survival after the boat he and six others were in sank in waters off Wakaya Island at 3pm on Saturday.
Speaking from his hospital bed in Levuka yesterday, Mr Koroi said he left Batiki, where he taught, with five Public Works Department employees for Ovalau on Saturday.
"All I did was pray, pray that I would stay warm, pray that I would have strength in my legs to swim, pray that I would not get hungry or sleepy and pray that no sharks would get me," Mr Koroi said.
"My prayers were answered.
"I never felt any fear the whole time I was lost at sea. I truly believed that everything I prayed for would come to pass and they did."
Clutching a 20-litre container, Mr Koroi evaded sharks, reefs and on two different occasions was missed by search and rescue teams combing the area.
He did not despair. At 3am yesterday, he made it ashore on Yanuca Lailai under his own power and found a road that eventually led him to the village of Natokalau.
"The power of prayer worked for me. Even when they brought me here to the hospital my temperature was normal. There was nothing much wrong with me."
Mr Koroi, who is married with five children, said his wife and youngest child on Batiki could not hold back their emotions when he called to tell them he was safe in Levuka. "I never told them that I was coming to Levuka to pick up my allowance at the post office. When they heard my voice they began crying but I told them I was fine and there was nothing wrong with me," he said.
One of the PWD workers made it ashore on Ovalau on Sunday while the boat captain from Batiki was rescued at sea yesterday. The search continues for the remaining four.