Man Survives Adrift at Sea For 24 Days on Ketchup, Garlic Powder, Maggi Cubes, and Rainwater

“At some point I lost hope."

A man managed to stay alive for 24 days lost at sea, surviving on nothing but rainwater, ketchup, garlic powder, and seasoning cubes. Elvis Francois, 47, ran into trouble when his sailboat was swept out to sea from the island of St. Martin in the Netherlands Antilles, where he lives.

The strong ocean currents were too much for Francois, who found himself stranded without supplies, drifting alone in the Caribbean for weeks. "At some point I lost hope and thought about my family, but I thank the coast guard," Francois says. "If it weren't for them I wouldn't be telling the story." Here's how he was found.

Swept To Sea


Francois says he was making repairs on his sailboat on St. Martin when strong currents swept his sailboat out into the ocean. All he had on board was ketchup, garlic powder, and Maggi seasoning cubes for food. This is how he survived for 24 days, using a cloth to collect rainwater. 

Call For Help


Francois tried using his phone to get help but to no avail. "I called my friends, they tried to contact me, but I lost the signal. There was nothing else to do but sit and wait," Francois says in a video released by the Colombian navy. 

Distress Signals

Armada de Cuba/Twitter

Francois says he had to keep taking water out of the boat to stop it from sinking, and at one point unsuccessfully attempted to send a distress signal by lighting a fire. He scrawled the word "help" in English on the boat's hull, which was a key factor in his eventual rescue.

Plane Overhead


A plane happened to be passing overhead and spotted the sailboat 120 nautical miles northwest of La Guajira peninsula. Francois signaled for help using a mirror, and the rescue was underway. 

Successful Rescue


A merchant ship picked up Francois and brought him back to shore. According to Cmdr. Carlos Urbano Montes, Francois was in good health other than having lost some weight. "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," Francois says.

Ferozan Mast
Ferozan Mast is a science, health and wellness writer with a passion for making science and research-backed information accessible to a general audience. Read more
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