The survival of the El Salvadoran, who drifted across the Pacific to the Marshall Islands, was greeted with incredulity and amazement. Many doubted it happened. A Mexican official deemed it nigh impossible and speculated whether it was connected to the national problem of drugs!
Experts stepped in and credited the Pacific currents, his ability to eat anything and his sea savvy. An oceanographer, Eric Van Sebille, said that he was incredibly lucky to come ashore on the remote atoll of Ebon in the Marshall Islands. The current could have swept him on toward the Phillipines and then back into the Pacific garbage patch where he would remain forever - going around and around.
So was it sea savvy, luck - or something greater? A miracle and the Hand of God?
Coastal fishermen say that they are in the hands of God when they go to sea. Jose Salvador Alvarenga says that his strong faith helped him keep up hope. He prayed. And his mother prayed to Jesus for a son she had not seen for 8 years. For them their prayers were answered! So. let's give some credit where it is due!
There were the currents, the ability to stomach a strange diet, sea savvy and that bit of luck that can be called the Hand of God. These days, we don't have enough miracles or maybe we just miss them because we are blind. Faith among seafarers goes back over centuries!
The old hymn, Abide With Me implores: Hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea.
And Jonah from inside the whale said “I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me;"
A national sailing program is being launched in Panama to bring the simple art of sailing and the sailing culture within reach of all Panamanians.
The sea knowledge in this program will benefit those who plan a maritime career - and - the very poor who go out in small pangas to earn a living. Fishermen through the centuries have gone out and got home under sail. It is a simple art that has been forgotten as the outboard took over.
It is an art that must be revived!
Fishing in pungas or cayucos along Latin America's Pacific and Atlantic coasts is hazardous. The poor go to sea to earn a living and eat. The survival of the Salvadoran fisherman Jose Alvarenga has brought into the spotlight the perilous and primitive fishing equipment and practices still used in Mexico, and the rest of Latin America.
Fishermen typically take to the sea in small open boats with no cover, no life jackets, primitive communications gear, with only a cloth wrapped around their heads for protection from the sun. For many fishermen, the only thing that stands between them and death on the high sea is an aging outboard motor, a wooden oar, a machete, a few plastic jugs of water and their faith.
"When one is at sea, one is in the hands of God," said Manuel de Jesus Diaz, 39, who has fished from Alvarenga's hometown of Garita Palmera for 25 years. "We go out almost without anything, our clothes to cover us from the sun and water for the voyage."
While fishermen often depend on God as much as safety equipment, they also rely on sea skills picked up over a lifetime. Relatives say Alvarenga was unusually strong and resilient, and an experienced sailor. However, not all are that strong and resiliant.
In Panama, a fishing panga set out to catch fish for Easter. The outboard failed and the boat drifted to Ecuador. There was only one survivor.
Though these fisherman are tough and canny, they would have a better chance of survival when their outboard dies if they knew how to use a sail and the currents to make their way back to land. Just a simple pole and sail would make the difference between life and death, when the outboard fails.
Learning to sail will give them an age old skill that will not only get them home. It will save fuel and reduce their dependence on the outboard notor.
A Salvadoran fisherman's account of his survival after more than 13 months adrifting across the Pacific in an open 7 meter boat is checking out.
Mexican authorities have two reports of a boat going missing around that time and the names of the crew match those of Jose and his companion Ezequiel. Jose was known at home by the nickname "Cirilo". There is a discrepancy in dates, but they are very close and the names of those aboard match the nicknames of Jose.
Journalists found the parents of Jose Salvador Alvarenga in the coastal town La Garita Palmera. where his 65 year old father, Jose Ricardo Orellana, owns a store and flour mill. They said:
Disbelief in the survival tale continue, but, José's tale rings true with us for the simple reason that the currents would have taken him across the Pacific to the Marshall Islands and he could have survived if he was an experienced seaman by living on a catch of birds, turtles and blood. He says he drank rain water, blood and his own urine. The young crew member could not stomach the diet, and that led to his death.
Another factor would be mental strength and determination to live. José said he prayed and was afraid to take his own life. He kept going dreaming of real food and reaching land once again.
Comments by Jose Salvador Alvarenga's joyful, sometimes tearful parents about their son may help explain how he survived, but they did little to dispel continued doubts about his tale.
Note: James delivered a catamaran Suzy Q to the Marshall Islands in the mid 1990's. The trip took 84 days under sail. They made 75 miles a day and caught enough rain water for the captain and two crew to manage without using the water in their tanks. The hardest part of survival in a small craft would be shelter from the sun.
The sole survivor of 16 months drifting across the Pacific has been taken from Ebon Atoll to Majuro in the Marshall Islands. He made the 22 hour journey from Ebon Atoll to Majuro in a police patrol boat under the care of a male nurse. A crowd of 1000 gathered to see him step ashore.
His name is Jose Salvador Albarengo. A 37 yearold, originally from El Salvador, he had been living in Mexiso for some years. Jose set off to hunt sharks with a young lad aged 15 to 18 in late 2012. Winds blew them off course and they became lost. The lad survived only a few weeks because he could not eat raw bird meat.
Sixteen Months after setting off from Mexico for El Salvador, Jose Ivan came ashore on Ebon Atoll - a remote atoll that is part of the 22 small islands that make up the Marshall Islands.
Spanish speaking Jose Ivan came ashore from a 24 foot (7.3 meter) fibreglass boat. Clad only in underpants, he was weak and thin - a sole survivor of a short journey that began in September 2012.
He told the Norwegian anthropolgy students who found him that he had survived by eating turtles, fish and birds. His companion had died some months earlier. NZ Herald report.
Survival at sea over long periods maybe a harrowing experience but it does highlight the fact that survival is possible and that raises the question. When is a boat lost with no survivors? And how long should an official search last?
The NZ Herald lists several cases: