On a tiny, remote island in the Pacific Ocean, a wild and ragged man stumbles ashore. As rescuers cluster around him, it’s clear that the disheveled man before them has been at sea for a very long time. But when José Salvador Alvarenga’s story begins to unfold, few can believe the epic journey that’s taken him some 6,700 miles from home.
It all started like any other day
On November 17, 2012, José Alvarenga was preparing to leave the village of Costa Azul in Chiapas, Mexico, for a run-of-the-mill fishing trip. Usually, his friend Ray Perez went with him on such expeditions, but that day Perez was unable to make it.
Undeterred by his friend's absence, Alvarenga sought out someone to take Perez's place — a search which led instead to a 22-year-old local soccer player, Ezequiel Córdoba.
A $50 promise
Córdoba and Alvarenga had never chatted, let alone worked together, before then. But the fisherman promised him $50, and Córdoba agreed. So, together, the pair left Costa Azul aboard Alvarenga’s 25-foot fishing boat.
Aside from not being well acquainted, the routine trip got underway just like any other. For the next 30 hours, they planned to fish for sharks, sailfish, and marlins out in the deep ocean.
Alvarenga’s boat was low and open, without any raised structure or working electricity. Although the vessel contained plenty of essentials, such as gasoline, a fishing line, and a cell phone, there were a number of glaring problems. Problems that would prove catastrophic as the trip progressed.
For example, the GPS had no protection from water, and the two-way radio was only partially charged. Which, had the trip gone to plan, may not have posed any problems. Sadly, though, these warning signs were a grim portent of the ordeal to come.
Blown off course
At first, in any case, the trip seemed to be going well. Together, the pair managed to catch more than 1,000 pounds of fish, including much sought-after tuna, shark, and mahi-mahi.
No amount of fancy fish could save the men from the elements, however. Later that day, they were hit by a storm and blown off their intended course.