The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor: Who Drifted on a Life Raft for Ten Days Without Food or Water, Was Proclaimed a Nati... Summary & Study Guide

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The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor: Who Drifted on a Life Raft for Ten Days Without Food or Water, Was Proclaimed a Nati... Summary & Study Guide Description

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"The Story of a Shipwrecked Sailor" by Gabriel Garcia Marquez is the story of a man who is hopelessly lost at sea but miraculously survives for ten days without food or water and withstands the rough waters of the Caribbean and the relentless heat of the merciless sun. Luis Alejandro Velasco was a twenty-year-old sailor in the Colombian Navy who was stationed in Mobile, Alabama, for eight months with his crew as they worked on repairing and renovating their destroyer called the Caldas.

The men had a great time during their stay in Mobile. They made friends, partied, danced, and drank many nights away. Luis became close to a young woman named Mary Address while he was stationed there. Several nights before they were to embark on the trip back to their port city, Cartagena, Colombia, they watched a movie together. They all enjoyed "The Caine Mutiny" but the storm that the men encountered in the movie gave Luis a feeling of unease. He had never been fearful of a voyage in the ocean before but he could not get the image of the storm in the movie out of his mind. But when they started out and got deep into the Gulf of Mexico, the waters seemed calm and the weather was ideal. Luis began to forget about his premonitions.

But as the Caldas ventured on and entered the Caribbean Sea, the conditions rapidly worsened. Although the skies were a beautiful and clear blue, the waters were choppy and the winds were inexplicably strong. Things only deteriorated from there. The ship rocked so violently that Luis and the other men couldn't sleep. In the middle of the night they were ordered to stand on one side of the deck in an attempt to right the ship as it was strongly listing in one direction. But a huge wave encompassed the ship and the next thing Luis knew he was underwater. He began swimming up thinking that he was still on the ship. But as he surfaced, he saw that the ship was off in the distance and he was in water. He clung to a crate that had been swept from the ship and then pulled himself up and into a life raft, one of several that had been launched by those still on the ship.

Once in the raft, he saw two shipmates in the water nearby. He struggled to row toward the two men but a wave washed over them and they vanished. The other man tried to swim toward him but he was too exhausted and succumbed to the water. He was devastated to see the ship moving away in the other direction. Luis was alone and lost at sea. That night it was so dark that Luis could not see the palm of his hand before his face. But as he looked up, he had never seen so many stars in his life. Although terrified and devastated to see three of his mates most probably drowned, he was almost certain that planes and helicopters would be out the next day and rescue him. The planes did fly over, in fact, they buzzed the area for the next two days but failed to spot him. He was truly alone and adrift in the Caribbean Sea.

Over the next ten days, Luis fought against the raging sea, harsh winds, the blistering sun, sharks, hunger, thirst, hallucinations, loneliness, and desperation. Finally, he succumbed to a resignation that the end was near. But Luis lived to tell about it. Good fortune was on his side as he inexplicably caught the right current and wound up in a remote area of Colombia, his home country.

When he was certain that he had lived his last day, he spotted what looked like coconut palms off on the horizon. Of course, he was certain that he was hallucinating since he had been having hallucinations all along during his trek. But this time, it was for real. He had reached land. The exhausted, half-dead Luis washed up on the beach. The kind village people there tended to him and got him to a doctor. They arranged for a plane to take him to his shocked but jubilant family who had already held a memorial for him.

Luis Velasco became a hero to many. He didn't quite understand the heroism thing. He was just glad to be alive. He was paid to endorse products and to tell his story but he would not have relived his experience for all the pesos in the world.

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