Man survived on ketchup while lost at sea for 24 days

Elvis Francois, 47, is checked by Columbian naval medical personnel after spending 24 days lost at sea (Columbian Navy handout)
Elvis Francois, 47, is checked by Columbian naval medical personnel after spending 24 days lost at sea (Columbian Navy handout)

A man from the island of Dominica in the Caribbean said he survived for 24 days while lost at sea on a sailboat by eating ketchup before he was rescued, according to the country’s naval authority.

"I had no food. There was only a bottle of ketchup that was on the boat, garlic powder, and [bouillon cubes]. So I mixed it up with some water for me to survive 24 days in the sea," Elvis Francois, 47, said in a video released by the Colombian Navy.

He collected rainwater in a cloth to help keep him hydrated, naval officials told the Associated Press.

Mr Francois carved the word "help" into the boat in hopes that a passing plane might see him and call for a rescue.

He was ultimately found 120 nautical miles northwest of Puerto Bolivar.

Mr Francois said that during his time lost at sea he did see other vessels, but did not manage to catch their attention. He even lit a fire on the boat in one attempt to hail another ship.

At one point the ship began taking on water, and Mr Francois had to bail to stop it from sinking.

Near the end of his escapade, Mr Francois managed to catch the attention of a passing plane with a mirror.

"The final days, about the 15 of January, I saw a plane. I had a mirror. I was making some signals," he said.

Mr Francois said he angled the mirror to catch the sun’s rays and reflect them back toward the airplane.

"They passed over the boat twice, so I realised they saw me," he said. "I am grateful for being alive today because of them."

The crew on the plane informed the navy, who then set out to rescue Mr Francois with the help of a merchant ship.

He recounted his time alone at sea in the video, according to the Associated Press.

"Twenty-four days, no land. Nobody to talk to. Don’t know what to do. Don’t know where you are," he said. "It was rough. A certain time I lose hope. I think about my family."

Mr Francois was repairing a sailboat just off a harbour on the island of St Maarten in December when the weather turned and he was swept out to sea, the navy said.

"Without having any knowledge of navigation he was lost and disoriented at sea," the statement said. "His efforts to maneuver the vessel and the equipment on board were to no avail."

He said he didn’t "know how I am alive today, but I am alive."

"And I am grateful for that," he said.