Sailor lost in the Caribbean Sea for 24 days survives by eating ketchup

Man lost at sea
Elvis Francois, 47, survived on Ketchup and rainwater for 24 days while stranded in the ocean. Credit: @ArmadaColombia

A sailor who was stranded at sea on a sinking ship for 24 days says he survived by eating ketchup and drinking rainwater.

Elvis Francois was rescued by the Columbian Navy after he managed to get the attention of a pilot in a passing plane using a mirror.

The 47-year-old, from the island of St. Martin in the Netherlands Antilles, had been trying to repair his sailboat when a current swept the vessel out to sea, in December.

In a video released by the Colombian navy, Francois said: “I called my friends, they tried to contact me, but I lost the signal. There was nothing else to do but sit and wait."

Along with ketchup, Elvis says he lived off a diet of garlic granules and stock cubes, as the Caribbean Sea seeped into his boat.

The sailor tried to light a fire to send a distress signal without success and even scrawled the word “help” in English on the boat's hull, which officials said was key to his rescue when he was spotted by the plane.

He said: “At some point I lost hope and thought about my family, but I thank the coast guard. If it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be telling the story.”

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When the sailboat was spotted by the plane, it was 120 nautical miles from the nearest land - northwest of La Guajira peninsula.

Elvis was taken to the port city of Cartagena by a passing container ship, the Colombian Navy said in a statement Wednesday.

Cmdr. Carlos Urbano Montes said he had collected rainwater with a cloth to survive. The commander added the sailboat was abandoned at sea when Francois was rescued by the merchant ship.

Elvis received a medical check once back to shore and then was handed over to immigration authorities for his return home to Dominica.

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