A man lost at sea for 24 days on a sailboat says he survived by eating ketchup, garlic granules and stock cubes.
Elvis Francois told how he “lost hope” while adrift in the Caribbean Sea off Colombia.
The 47-year-old was eventually spotted from the air after scrawling the word “help” on the hull of the boat.
The plea for help was key to his rescue by the Colombian navy, officials said.
The sailor’s ordeal began in December, when his boat was swept out to sea by powerful currents while he was making repairs off the island of St Martin in the Dutch Antilles, where he lives.
“I called my friends, they tried to contact me, but I lost the signal,” Mr Francois, who is originally from Dominica, said.
“There was nothing else to do but sit and wait, but I had no food.
“I only had a bottle of tomato sauce that was in the boat.”
He also found the garlic granules and seasoning cubes, and mixed the condiments with water to give him enough energy to survive.
He told how he had to constantly scoop out water from the boat to stop it sinking. He also tried to light a fire to send a distress signal, but without success.
Eventually he managed to alert a passing plane by signalling with a mirror.
Mr Francois was spotted around 120 nautical miles northwest of La Guajira peninsula, which borders Venezuela, before being escorted to the port city of Cartagena with the assistance of a passing container ship.
‘At some point I lost hope’
Mr Francois said: “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.”
He was in good health when he was rescued, the navy said.
He was given a medical check before being handed over to immigration authorities for his return to Dominica.
The Colombian Navy said it will continue to develop maritime control and surveillance operations, in coordination with the authorities, to safeguard life at sea.
In 2019 a German tourist survived being lost at sea for more than three hours off New Zealand, thanks to his jeans.
He transformed the jeans into a floatation device – a trick he said he learned from US Navy Seals.
“Without the jeans I wouldn’t be here today – they were really the thing that saved me.”
A 62-year-old French man survived 16 hours in an air bubble inside his capsized boat in the Atlantic Ocean before crews embarked on a rescue mission described as “verging on the impossible” in August last year.