The old man, whose name is Santiago, is a fisherman who lives alone near Havana. Incredibly poor, he sleeps in a shack and sets out each day on a small skiff to try to catch himself some fish to eat or sell. For awhile, the boy, named Manolin, accompanied the old man each day, to learn from him and assist him. Unfortunately, the old man went weeks without catching anything, so the boy's parents made him stop accompanying the old man. When the story begins, the boy is probably around twelve years old, and the old man has gone eighty-four days without catching a fish. The boy comes to his shack to talk to the old man about baseball, as they both greatly admire Joe DiMaggio, and supplies the old man might need. The boy likes to bring the old man whatever he can, such as food, bait, and clothing. He also helps the old man carry his heavy mast and sail out to his boat each morning. They drink a cup of coffee together before the old man heads out on his skiff alone.