Sailor rescued by Colombian Navy after 24 days drifting survived eating bouillon cubes – The Guardian

The Colombian Navy has rescued a Dominican man who says he survived 24 days adrift on a sailboat in the Caribbean by eating ketchup, garlic powder and spice cubes.

Elvis François, 47, had the word “Help” scrawled in English on the boat’s hull, which officials said was key to his rescue.

The sailboat was spotted from the air 120 nautical miles northwest of the Guajira Peninsula and François was carried to the port city of Cartagena by a passing container ship, the Colombian Navy said in a statement on Wednesday.

François told Colombian authorities his ordeal began in December when currents swept the sailboat out to sea while he was making repairs off the island of St Martin in the Netherlands Antilles, where he lives.

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“I called my friends, they tried to contact me but I lost the signal. There was nothing to do but sit and wait,” François recalled in a video released by the Navy.

He subsisted on a bottle of ketchup, garlic powder and Maggi cubes.

Carlos Urbano Montes said that François said he collected rainwater with a cloth. He said François was in good health but told the officer he had lost weight.

François said on the videotape that he had to constantly remove water from the boat to keep it from sinking. He also attempted to start a fire to send out a distress signal, to no avail.

Eventually a plane passed and he signaled with a mirror. He said the Navy told him he was spotted just as the plane flew by again.

“At some point I lost hope and thought of my family, but I thank the Coast Guard. I wouldn’t be telling the story without her,” said François.

Urbano Montes said the sailboat was left at sea when François was picked up by the merchant ship.

The Navy said François was medically examined ashore and then handed over to immigration authorities for his return to Dominica.