Dominican man tells how he survived while lost at sea for 24 days

Francis Akhalbey January 20, 2023
Elvis Francois said he got lost at sea for 24 days -- Photo Credit: Colombian Navy press office via AP

A Dominican sailor, who was rescued by the Colombian navy, said he survived on ketchup, garlic powder and seasoning cubes after he got lost at sea for 24 days. According to The Associated Press, 47-year-old Elvis Francois told authorities in Colombia that he was repairing his sailboat off the island of St. Martin in December when sweeping currents cast his boat adrift in the Caribbean sea.

“I called my friends, they tried to contact me, but I lost the signal. There was nothing else to do but sit and wait,” Francois, who resides in St. Martin, said in a video the navy released.

Officials said Francois scribbling “help” in English on the hull of the boat was crucial to finding and rescuing him. A plane eventually sighted Francois’ sailboat 120 nautical miles northwest of La Guajira peninsula. In a statement on Wednesday, the Colombian navy said a container ship that was passing picked Francois up and transported him to the port city of Cartagena.

In an interview with the news outlet, Cmdr. Carlos Urbano Montes said Francois used a cloth to harvest rainwater. And though he said Francois had no health issues when he was found, he said the sailor informed officials he had lost weight. 

In the videotape, Francois also said he kept his boat afloat by frequently scooping water out of it. He added that his attempts to send a distress signal by lighting a fire proved futile. The sailor eventually used a mirror to get the attention of a plane that flew over. He said the navy informed him he was spotted when the plane flew over again, The Associated Press reported. 

“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,” said Francois.

Urbano Montes said Francois’ sailboat was left behind after he was rescued. The navy also said the rescued sailor underwent a medical check when he got on shore, adding that he was subsequently handed over to immigration officials for his return to his native Dominica. 

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