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For nearly a month, Elvis Francois subsisted on ketchup, garlic powder and seasoning cubes after a strong current swept his sailboat out to sea. On Monday, Heinz, a condiments company, announced they plan to gift the man a new boat after launching a campaign to find him.
A fisherman born in Dominica, Francois was making repairs to his sailboat off the island of St. Martin in Netherlands Antilles, where he lives, according to the Guardian. Determined to survive, the man floated across the Carribean for 24 days before finally being rescued by the Colombian navy north-west of the Guajira peninsula.
Using whatever means at his disposal, Francois trapped rainwater with a cloth to drink while continuously removing water from the sinking sailboat. At one point, he unsuccesfully tried to start a fire to gain attention. It wasn’t until he carved the word “help” in English on the boat’s hull that his ordeal came to an end. Using a mirror, the ketchup-eating sailor gained the attention of a passing pilot who spotted him 120 nautical miles from the Colombian coast.
“There was nothing else to do but sit and wait” after that, François reportedly told officials.
Heinz finds sailor
After news of his rescue reached Pittsburgh-based Heinz, the food company launched the hashtag #FindTheKetchupBoatGuy on social media, in an effort to reward the man who survived on the company’s signature condiment.
Francois abandoned his old boat after his rescue, and Heinz is ready to help the fisherman get back into the sea.
“We received thousands of likes, shares and messages of kindness in our search to find Elvis François,” Heinz’s Instagram page said on Monday. “It was an incredible group effort across six continents that led to the hundreds of articles and leads and our eventual contact with Elvis.”
In a message to the Guardian, the company added it’s “working out the logistical details of [getting] him his new boat.”
A fresh start, thanks to ketchup
Heinz was able to finally connect with Francois after a journalist from Emo News in his home country of Dominica spotted the social media campaign and connected the two.
“I lost all that I had on the boat,” Francois told Emo News.
Despite being a few pounds lighter, the Colombian officials gave him a clean bill of health after his rescue, which was announced on January 18.
“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,” François said.