The Caribbean Man Who Survived Three Weeks At Sea On Household Condiments

Several movies and books depict people surviving at sea, and what most of them get right is that things can go wrong pretty quickly. And once things begin to go downhill, knowing how to extend your time on the sea until help arrives is paramount. When it comes down to it, some people have survived on very little as they wait to be rescued.

Take the case of Elvis Francois, 47, a man from the Caribbean island of Dominica, who survived for 24 days stranded at sea with not much more than household condiments. Francois said he was repairing his boat off the island of St. Martin in December 2022 when powerful currents swept him out to sea. He called his friends, who tried to help him until he drifted so far out that he eventually lost any cell signals. He said he tried to make his way back to the port, but soon he realized that all he could do was wait, Sky News reports.

Francois' boat began to leak

Francois had to get a little inventive when it came to eating because there wasn't much on the boat. In a video released by CBS News, he said he mixed ketchup from to-go packets, garlic powder, and Maggi seasoning with water. Cmdr. Carlos Urbano Montes also told CBS News that Francois stay hydrated by drinking rainwater he collected in a cloth.

It turned out Francois was lost at sea for quite a long time — more than three weeks. Meanwhile, his boat was leaking. While he waited for his luck to change, he was also continuously scooping water out of his boat to keep it from sinking. "Twenty-four days, no land. Nobody to talk to. Don't know what to do. Don't know where you are. It was rough," Francois said to CBS News, adding that he began to lose hope as his thoughts drifted to his family.

Francois was a long way from home

The Columbian Navy rescued Francois about 120 nautical miles from the northeastern tip of Columbia, which is a few hundred miles from St. Martin. One thing Francois did that helped increase his odds of being rescued was write "HELP" on the hull of his boat, which was eventually spotted from the air. But perhaps the most significant thing he did was flash a mirror at a plane traveling overhead. On the plane's second pass, pilots on board spotted the flashes. Not long after that, a merchant ship picked up Francois, per The Guardian

Once safely on land, officials took Francois to the Colombian port city of Cartagena, where physicians examined him. While he had lost some weight, they said that he was otherwise in good health. Once he was deemed healthy, authorities helped him get back home to St. Martin, according to NPR