In a tiny Mexican coastal village, the fisherman had long been given up for dead.
So it was with a mixture of astonishment and jubilation that the boatmen of Costa Azul, a picturesque hamlet in the southern Chiapas region, received news that one of their number had turned up 10,000km away in the Marshall Islands.
Jose Salvador Alvarenga's tale of survival in a 7m fibreglass vessel has met with disbelief in some quarters. But in Costa Azul, there were tears as fishermen saw on television the image of the man they called La Chancha, an affectionate name for someone of large girth.
"It's him. He worked for me for a year and I've known him for 10 years," said Bellarmino Rodriguez Solis, 64, who claimed to own the boat Alvarenga was in. When shown a photograph of the boat, beached in the Marshall Islands, he cried: "It's my boat, it's my boat. I know the number on the side."
Through tears, he added: "Don't you believe in miracles? It's a miracle. When we saw it on TV all the fishermen were shouting and jumping up and down. We couldn't believe it was La Chancha. I hope he comes back here. We're desperate to see him and throw a big party. We will kill a cow and we will drink beer and tequila and eat fish."
Alvarenga has been transferred from a hospital to a hotel. He broke down in tears yesterday as he spoke to his parents and 14-year-old daughter, Fatima, who live in El Salvador, and to his brothers, who live in the United States.