As the story opens, Manolin, the boy, is helping Santiago through his day, even though Manolin's parents disapprove. Manolin has helped Santiago fish in the past, and loves Santiago's skill. They discuss baseball, and then Manolin compliments Santiago:
"Que Va," the boy said. "There are many good fishermen and some great ones. But there is only you."
"Thank you. You make me happy. I hope no fish will come along so great that he will prove us wrong."
"There is no such fish if you are still strong as you say."
(Hemingway, The Old Man and the Sea, Google Books)
Manolin, in typical youthful exaggeration, attributes extraordinary skill to Santiago. Santiago has lost his wife and is alone in the world, and his relationship with Manolin is father-like; he loves Manolin because of the boy's devotion and his efforts to make Santiago's life easier. Of course, the compliments make him emotionally happy as well. However, these lines foreshadow the coming events as Santiago fights the enormous marlin, which almost proves too much to handle; in the end, Manolin's belief in Santiago is not damaged, and he still says that Santiago has proven himself the greatest fisherman of all.
In my best recollection, the old man, Santiago, speaks to God throughout his desperate attempt to fight with the fish and the sea creatures as he attempts to bring the fish back to land. He ahs been without a catch for a long time and it is very important that he be able to prove himself a worthy fisherman at least one last time. He has begun to question his own skills.
Santiago has a young man who sees him as the best fisherman in the village and who looks up to him. The boy wants to be just like Santiago and tells him that he hangs with him because he is knowledgeable. However, Santiago tells him over and over again that he has become unlucky.