Photo Courtesy of EMO News
Thanks to Heinz, we’ve heard plenty about the Ketchup Boat Guy. Back home on Dominica, especially in his village of Anse du Mé, 47-year-old Elvis Francois is also known as the down-and-out fisherman whose luck finally changed for the better. A lot better.
In late February, the Caribbean Compass caught up with a relaxed, refreshed Francois for a Zoom interview arranged through the island’s Emo News. Seated comfortably on a sunny porch, his state of wellbeing was a far cry from the dehydrated soul who was plucked from a dismasted sailboat to safety aboard a cargo ship after drifting solo more than three weeks across the Caribbean Sea.
Upon rescue and medical examination by Colombian officials, Francois (now) famously uttered that he survived on ketchup, garlic powder, and Maggi bouillon cubes.
News that ketchup saved his life — sort of — ignited a viral social media storm, otherwise known as an impromptu corporate marketing campaign by behemoth Kraft Heinz, the American multinational food company.
The company’s mid-February search for Francois via Instagram reached 4.8 million people and garnered more than 4,000 likes – a brand record. It also helped Heinz, which in top-flight marketing gimmickry publicized its intention to buy Francois a new boat, get in touch with the news outlet, which then arranged for contact with the fisherman, who at that point had been safely returned to his island nation community. Media hordes — the BBC, Reuters, The Guardian, CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC among them — followed, interviewing Francois nonstop through early March 2023.
“After thousands of messages, hundreds of news stories, and countless leads, ELVIS HAS BEEN FOUND. Thank you, Internet, you helped #FINDTHEKETCHUPBOATGUY” declared Heinz’s marketing department via Instagram.
Accompanied by editor Kim Jospeh of Emo, Francois, who at press time was communicating with Heinz about his new boat, shared with the Compass what happened, how he survived, and how he got back home.
Living aboard the 35-foot monohull in St. Maarten after fire destroyed his home — twice — on Dominica, Francois had pushed off after dropping friends ashore. They were helping him work on the boat, whose problems ranged from a broken mast to a malfunctioning engine. It also leaked. Once the boat started to drift, Francois, more a powerboater than a sailor, lost cell service.
Hours turned into days, then, horrifically, weeks. Between bailing out the boat, ducking below to shield himself from the sun, trying unsuccessfully to catch fish, and straining the lone container of contaminated water aboard to make it potable, Francois waited for rescue. He rummaged around for supplies, which were spare – no VHF, no flares, no working battery, no fishing pole — just garlic powder, bouillon and ketchup.
CC: Did you plan on eating ketchup for 24 days?
CC: How did it taste?
EF: Well, good.
CC: Is ketchup high on your list of foods you will never eat again?
EF: No. I will keep on eating it. Because it is a good product.
Francois, who’s now about 20 pounds lighter thanks to the ordeal, says he enjoys using ketchup as a gravy with biscuits. He also enjoys bananas, and though he hasn’t participated in sports lately, plans to return to running and boxing when he’s not out catching fish. The father of three also hopes the notoriety he’s gained will shine a light on his community and Dominica in general.
“I feel great about it,” he says.
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – Recently, we told you about the sailor who survived on Heinz Ketchup while he was stranded at sea for 24 days.
The story has inspired Heinz to find the man and get him a new boat.
Well, now it appears he has been found!
The Dominican news outlet “Emo News” posted an interview with Elvis Francois saying they tracked him down on the island of Dominica.
In January, Francois was repairing his boat when he was swept out to sea.
For more than three weeks, he drifted deeper into the sea where he was found by a Colombian Navy patrol plane and was rescued.
His story went international and the part about surviving on Heinz Ketchup caught everyone’s attention.
Kraft-Heinz launched a campaign to find him and get him a new boa.
In Emo News’ Facebook post about their interview, Heinz commented: “We’ve hopped into your DMs, let’s get Elvis his boat!”
The Colombian Navy rescued a man from Dominica who says he survived 24 days adrift in the Caribbean on a sailing boat by eating ketchup, garlic powder and seasoning cubes.
Elvis Francois, 47, had scrawled the word “help” in English on the boat’s hull, which officials said was key to his rescue.
The boat in which Mr Francois was adrift was spotted from the air 120 nautical miles north west of La Guajira peninsula and then escorted to the port city of Cartagena with the help of a passing container ship, the Colombian Navy said in a statement.
Mr Francois told Colombian authorities that his ordeal began in December when currents swept the boat out to sea while he was making repairs off the island of St Martin in the Netherlands Antilles, where he lives.
“I called my friends, they tried to contact me, but I lost the signal. There was nothing else to do but sit and wait,” Mr Francois recalled in a video released by the Navy.
He said he subsisted on a bottle of ketchup, garlic powder and seasoning cubes.
Mr Francois said he had to constantly remove water from the boat to prevent it from sinking. He also tried to light a fire to send a distress signal without success.
Finally, a plane passed by and he signalled with a mirror. He said the Navy told him that he was spotted when the plane passed again.
“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,” Mr Francois said.
The Navy said Francois was in good health when he was rescued. After receiving a medical check on shore, he was handed over to immigration authorities for his return home to Dominica.
Heinz recently launched an unlikely side hustle: an international man hunt. The ketchup brand is searching the world for the man who survived for 24 days at sea with only a bottle of ketchup and some packaged seasonings so that it can buy him a new boat.
By Emily Heil
February 22, 2023 at 5:25 p.m. EST
(Stefani Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images)
So far, it hasn’t been able to do so, despite sharing pleas on social media bearing the hashtag #FindTheKetchupBoatGuy and taking other measures. In an Instagram post, Heinz said that in its investigation, it had inquired with the Colombian navy, which helped rescue Francois last month, and the government of Dominica, as well as “several Elvis impersonators” (a company representative confirmed that the people were posing as Elvis Francois, not Elvis Presley).
Francois’s story was harrowingly cinematic: He had been repairing his boat near the island of Saint Martin, where he lives, in December when currents pulled the vessel out into the Caribbean Sea. He tried to call for help but had no signal, he said in news reports, and so he spent 24 days waiting for rescue. He survived on ketchup, garlic powder and Maggi seasoning cubes, according to officials, along with fresh rainwater he collected.
“At some point I lost hope and thought about my family, but I thank the coast guard,” he said in a video released by the Colombian navy. “If it weren’t for them, I wouldn’t be telling the story.”
Francois was finally discovered by a plane passing overhead who saw the word “help” he had written across the hull of his boat, according to reports, and he was picked up by a container ship.
Without knowing for sure that it was Heinz brand ketchup that helped keep Francois alive (though they assumed it was, given Heinz’s market dominance), the company decided to give him a “state of the art boat,” a Heinz representative said in the email, which might have been a neat publicity stunt/kind gesture on its own. But the plan to offer the man “a new boat equipped with full navigational technology to avoid another disaster in the future” hit a snag when he couldn’t be found. And so Heinz took to social media, enlisting the public in the widening mission.
“We’re setting this message adrift into the sea of the internet, because if anyone can help us find him, it’s you,” read an Instagram post seeking leads. “If you or anyone you know can help us get in contact with Elvis Francois, please drop us a DM.”
Even after multiple posts, Francois remains under the radar. Heinz wants to take the search international and plans on enlisting “other Heinz markets around the world” to help the company track him down. They’ve received some wacky tips — or as the company’s representative wrote, “we’ve heard from some very interesting folks.” A group of internet sleuths is on the case, and the company also is hoping to hear back from the prime minister of Colombia. “We’re hoping to spread the word far and wide so Heinz can finally get in touch with Elvis,” the representative said in the email.
(For the full article click on the headline link to the Washington Post )
Heinz Ketchup Has found Elvis In Dominica
(Here is a news link to a video