Characters

  1. Velasco: Luis Alejandro Velasco, a sailor who spent ten days on a life raft without food or water, was the lone survivor.
  2. Julio Amador Caraballo: Sailor who is wearing a lifejacket
  3. Castillo: had a firm grip around Carabello’s neck
  4. Caraballo: was yelling at someone at the sea.
  5. Luis Rengifo: Was trying to stay above water with the headphones.
  6. Herrera: was not seen much time on the water.

Introduction

The story ‘A Shipwrecked Sailor’ is an account of the tragedy that befell crew members of a Colombian naval destroyer in the Caribbean after they were allegedly swept overboard by a giant wave. Luis Alejandro Velasco, a sailor who spent ten days on a life raft without food or water, was the lone survivor.

This story was originally published as a fourteen-consecutive-day series of installments in El Espectador newspaper in 1955. García Márquez, then a young journalist, quickly uncovered a military scandal; the sailors perished not because of a storm, as Colombia’s military dictatorship had claimed, but because of naval negligence. 

Summary

Velasco survived the shipwreck

The story begins with Velasco feeling that he was all alone in the midst of the sea. His ship was completely destroyed in the storm. Catching on a crate he somehow managed to swim. It was a bright sunny day. He could see only the scattered cargo and huge waves around him.

The sea was so calm that there was no evidence of the disaster remaining. Suddenly he could hear some sounds around him. He could recognize the voice of Julio Amador Caraballo who was a well-built man. ‘Stand there Fatso’. That man was shouting. Velasco suddenly woke up as though from a short sleep.

Velasco discovered his friends fighting for life

Velasco recognized that he was not alone in the sea. His shipmates were trying hard to escape from the sea. They were fifty miles away from Cartagena. But Velasco was not scared, he hoped that he would spend his time till he gets a shelter. He was sure that his friends were also in the same state.

At that time, Velasco came across a raft, there were two rafts. The rafts were seven meters away from him. The rafts were near his friends. Suddenly one of the rafts disappeared. Velasco swam towards the raft searching for his friends. There were two, Castillo and Caraballo. Caraballo was wearing a life jacket and was carrying Castillo on his neck.

They were seen ten meters away from him. On another side of the sea, Luis Rengifo was swimming with his headphone. He had removed his shirt so as to swim easily. He did not have a life jacket. If Velasco had not seen him, he would’ve recognized his voice. Velasco somehow managed to take himself near his friends when Castillo and Caraballo were nearing the raft. Velasco could see Herrara too who was waving his hand. Velasco was confused about which direction he should move but then aimed at Herrera who was two meters away from his raft. The storm was flowing heavily.

So, he could not succeed in reaching Herrera and Herrera disappeared. Rengifo was swimming confidently. He would succeed Velasco thought because he was a brave man.

Velasco tries but couldn’t save his crew members

On the other side, Caraballo and Castillo were seen three meters away. Velasco put the oar towards them. Suddenly a big wave came and the raft drifted. After that when Velasco searched for them, he was unable to find them. Rengifo was still swimming towards Velasco but he seemed very tired. Velasco could hear his voice saying ‘Fatso row fatso’. There was a heavy storm when Velasco shouted and said that he could not row towards him.

He did not know whether Rengifo heard it or not he could see him on the surface waving his hand. Slowly he disappeared too. Velasco rowed his raft helplessly. Unfortunately, two meters away he was drowned, Velasco could not save him. With that thought, he was shocked and could not move.

Like a dog’s howling the wind was flowing and Velasco hoped that the other raft would have saved his friends. It would surely get it, he hoped. Suddenly he became aware of the hot sun.

Velasco waits for someone to come and save him

Velasco’s head and whole body were burning due to heat, he looked at my watch and it was at 11.30 that the shipwreck happened. Within ten minutes everything went wrong. Now Velasco could see the calm sea around me as if nothing had happened. Within two or three hours someone would come and save him, he wished.

At three o’clock he felt very thirsty but there was no water or food with him. He poured water on my head so that it became cool. Velasco sat on my raft and suddenly felt severe pain in his knee. There was a big wound and he poured saltwater on it due to which it became dry. Velasco started searching for my belongings and found the solitude very distressing. By seeing my belongings, he escaped from his solitude.

Thinking so he found his watch, his gold ring, the keys to his locker on the ship and the cars which he bought from mobile. Velasco spent his time repeatedly watching his cards. Someone ‘would come and save me’ he hoped.

Conclusion

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 talk 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.