His odyssey began in late 2012 when, he said, he left Mexico on what was supposed to be a one-day fishing expedition. But Alvarenga said he and a 23-year-old companion
were blown off course by northerly winds and then caught in a storm. Eventually, the pair lost use of their engines and, according to Alvarenga, had no radio signal to report their plight. Four weeks into their drift, his companion died of starvation because he refused to eat raw birds and turtles, Alvarenga said. Eventually, he threw the body overboard. Alvarenga's next interaction with humans came on January 30, thirteen months later.
It was then that islanders on Ebon, a remote atoll on the already remote Marshall Islands, spotted the mysterious visitor. As he inhaled pancake after pancake, Alvarenga recounted what he'd gone through.
Soon after, images of the bearded, bedraggled castaway began circulating worldwide.
As she awaited his return this week, his mother, Julia Alvarenga, said she'd been praying for him since his last visit eight years ago. "That was the only hope I had all this time," she said. "I would pray to God, and I won't lie to you, I was crying; but I never lost hope."