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This Castaway Sailor Survived 24 Days at Sea By Eating Ketchup

We love condiments as much as the next person, but surviving 24 days at sea on condiments alone is an ordeal no one should have to go through. Unfortunately for Elvis Francois, there was no other choice. 

The Dominican sailor was doing some maintenance projects off the coast of St. Martin this past December when a current seized his boat and carried him out to sea. He tried to call for help but was unable to make contact before he lost signal, reports NPR. For the next 24 days, he sat on his boat and waited, eating ketchup, bouillon cubes and seasonings to survive. 

St. Martin, an island in the Caribbean. Image by thierrydehove.com/Getty

Francois did a few other things right. He used a cloth to collect rainwater and wrote “Help” in large letters on the hull of his boat. He also tried to light a signal fire to alert authorities to his position, though he wasn’t successful. When a plane passed overhead several weeks into his ordeal, he was able to use a signal mirror to contact the plane. 

This time, the pilots noticed him. They contacted the Colombian Navy, which sent a ship to his rescue. Francois was plucked from his sinking boat and brought to a local clinic. There, medical personnel declared him healthy, if hungry and fatigued from his ordeal. Within a few days, he was able to return to Dominica, albeit this time not via sailboat. 

But the story doesn’t end there. Within a few weeks, ketchup company Heinz caught wind of Francois’s story. Evidently flattered by the role that ketchup played in his survival, the brand announced plans to buy Francois a new boat

At first, Heinz wasn’t sure how to contact him. So, they launched a social media campaign in which users tweeted with the hashtag #FindTheKetchupBoatGuy in an effort to spread the word. In early March, CNN reported that Heinz had finally found Francois with the help of local Dominican reporters. Plans to bring him the new boat are currently underway.

Francois hasn’t issued any statements on the matter, though we can only assume he’s excited to receive a new boat. As for whether he’ll ever eat ketchup again? Now that’s another story. 

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