For Gulfport, Mississippi native Zach Morrison, adventure has always come calling. A former golf pro, avid traveller and sailing enthusiast, Zach says that he’s known among his friends for attempting crazy things. So when he announced that he was planning to purchase and restore a 1937 55-foot schooner and sail it from Los Angeles to Gulfport through the Panama Canal his friends weren’t surprised, but they were worried for him nonetheless.
Zach named the restored schooner Rebel Yell as a tribute to his alma mater Ole Miss and because it was so symbolic of his passion for adventure and the freedom to explore. Once he finished the schooner’s restoration, he asked a friend and his father if they wanted to join him on the trip of a lifetime. They said yes and the group began making preparations to leave, including the evaluation of what gear to take.
“inReach was my first experience with any kind of satellite tracking device. I selected it because its messaging capabilities were head and shoulders above the competition,” Zach said. “I used it so much during the sail for everyday communication with friends and family, I had already felt that I had gotten my money’s worth. But then when the rescue happened, it was invaluable to have all the firsthand information it transmits. I had all kinds of tools with me from a sat phone to an EPIRB, but we were so far out that even the sat phone wasn’t working that well. inReach was the only tool I had that provided instant feedback during the rescue. Getting messages back during the rescue kept our situation from being a guessing game.”
They set out in late December, 2013 and the trip was going as planned until one night in early February when they encountered 15-foot waves and high winds at about 10 o’clock one night when they were sailing through the 400-mile passage of Golfo de Papagayo. The Rebel Yell had about 100 miles left to clear the passage when Zach and his friends discovered she was taking on water rapidly from a leak in the rudder. After trying to repair it and bailing out water, Zach made the difficult decision to abandon ship and trigger an SOS from his inReach and the EPIRB.
The Coast Guard received the SOS alert from GEOS, DeLorme’s partner for 24/7, global search and rescue monitoring. Seeing how close the Rebel Yell was to Nicaragua, the Coast Guard called the country’s navy, which then contacted an Indian oil tanker that was just 20 miles away from the schooner. “The Nicaraguans wanted the tanker to take us to Managua, but the Captain told them that we were Americans and that’s where the tanker was headed anyway, so we could stay aboard and return home with them,” Zach said. “We had 53 awesome days at sea and it took us nine to get back.”
Far from discouraged about the end of the Rebel Yell, Zach says he’ll be setting out on a new adventure as soon as he’s able. “I’ll probably find another boat and sail somewhere beautiful. I am sure DeLorme will be with me wherever it is.”
Photo courtesy of Zach Morrison