Ten-year-old Teiki, the son of the chief, enjoys a reasonably stable life on one of the Marquesas Islands (in French Polynesia). One day, his island is visited by a schooner. Such visits are rare, and exciting for the island. The inhabitants of the ship, both white and Pacific islanders, usually come with rare fish, fruit, and metal objects to trade. In the excitement, Teiki wanders about the ship, seeing what there is to see. But the heat of the day and his exploration tires him, and he falls asleep in a lifeboat, undiscovered. When he wakes, the ship has already departed and is too far from the Marquesas to return him. Although the captain is less than impressed to have a stowaway, the crew sympathizes with Teiki. They give him tasks to perform and see that he is fed. He prefers, however, to sleep in the open in the lifeboat, rather than in the cramped, smelly bunk he is assigned.
When the ship nears an island, Teiki sees his chance. He dreads landing at Tahiti, which sounds too bustling and crowded for him. Teiki jumps from the ship and swims to the shore of the island of Moorea (also in French Polynesia, more or less adjacent to Tahiti), and commits to knowing the island on foot and seeing what kind of people live there before making his presence known. Over time he is adopted into a family, attends school, and becomes part of the community. But he finds life on this island is a bit too easy and lacks challenges. Teiki is unsure how to remedy this lack, but in the meantime, excels at everything he sets his hand to through hard work, so that his father would not be ashamed of him.
Eventually Teiki is able to see a definite future for himself and pursue it, though a series of events in the book. However, for a book with so many cultures and sea voyages in it, it's not very exciting. I much preferred Call It Courage, for something along similar lines but more engaging.