Bogota – Colombia –
The Colombian Navy has rescued a man from Dominica who says he survived at sea for 24 days on a dhow by eating ketchup, garlic powder and spice cubes.
Elvis François, 47, had written “help” in English on the boat’s hull, which officials said was key to saving it.
The Colombian Navy said in a statement on Wednesday that the dhow was seen from the air about 120 nautical miles northwest of the La Guajira peninsula, and that Francois was taken to the port city of Cartagena on a container ship from the passage.
François told Colombian authorities his ordeal began in December when currents swept sailboats out to sea while he was carrying out repairs off the island of Saint Martin in the Netherlands Antilles, where he lives.
“I called my friends, and they tried to call me, but I lost the signal. There was nothing to do but sit and wait.” François recalls in a video released by the Navy.
He said he lived on a bottle of ketchup, garlic powder and Maggi cubes.
Director. Carlos Urbano Montes told The Associated Press Thursday that Francis said he collected rainwater with a piece of cloth. He said that François was in good health, but told the director that he had lost weight.
In the video, François says he constantly has to drain the water from the boat to keep it from sinking. He also tried to start a fire to send a distress signal, but to no avail.
Eventually a plane flew by and he pointed at it with a mirror. He said the Navy told him he was seen when the plane passed by.
“At some point I lost hope and thought of my family, but I thank the Coast Guard. Without them, I would not have told the story,” François said.
Urbano Montes said the dhows were abandoned at sea when the merchant ship Francois seized them.
The Navy said Francois underwent a medical on shore and was then handed over to immigration authorities for repatriation to Dominica.