Man lost at sea for 24 days survives with bottle of ketchup and bouillon cubes

A 47-year-old man was rescued this week by the Colombian Navy after 24 days adrift at sea. How did he survive the test? By eating tomato sauce, garlic powder and bouillon cubes, he said.

Elvis Francois, 47, from the island nation of Dominica, was rescued 120 nautical miles northwest of Puerto Bolivar, Colombia after adverse weather conditions left it adrift, the navy wrote in a statement Thursday.

He was making repairs to his boat when it was taken out to sea. With minimal knowledge of navigation, Francois found himself unable to maneuver back to shore.

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“I had no food. On the boat there was only one bottle of ketchup, garlic powder and Maggi (bouillon cubes). So I mixed it with a little bit of water so I could survive 24 days at sea.” Francois said in a video published by the Colombian Navy.

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Francois carved the word “help” into the hull of his ship, but it was not seen by passing ships for weeks. He said he had to bail out of the water to avoid sinking and even lit a fire on his boat to try to get the attention of a nearby boat.

“The last few days, around January 15, I saw a plane. I had a mirror. I was making some signals,” Francois said, detailing how he tried to angle his mirror to catch the sunlight and alert the passing plane.

“They passed over the boat twice so I realized they saw me,” he added. “I’m grateful to be alive today because of them.”

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Francois was rescued with the help of the merchant ship Voltaire and was taken to Cartagena for medical attention.

Image of the merchant ship Voltaire, which assisted in the rescue of Elvis Francois, 47, off the northwest coast of Colombia.

Colombian Navy

“Twenty-four days, no land, no one to talk to. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know where you are. It was tough,” she said. “At a certain point, I lose hope. I think of my family.”

Colombian officials said Francois was turned over to immigration authorities to help him return home.

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