Sailing Adventure Ends in Rescue off the Coast of Nicaragua

April 8, 2014

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.”

Rebel Yell

Photo courtesy of Zach Morrison

Paragliding Crash Survivor Returns to World Cup Competition Better Prepared with inReach

February 28, 2014

The first task of the Paragliding World Cup in July 2012 went extremely well for Guy Anderson. Flying over a hundred miles and covering five mountain ranges, Guy was thrilled with the spectacular views of Sun Valley, Idaho. But the second task, which took Guy soaring over an area called Fish Creek Canyon, went incredibly wrong as he encountered unmanageable turbulence. Trying to descend low in a windy valley, he collapsed quickly and was unable to pull his reserve. The canopy was unrecoverable and Guy crashed violently on his side into the rugged terrain 600 feet above the valley bed. Guy sustained seven fractured ribs, a punctured lung, a broken upper arm, a shattered shoulder and a fractured pelvis. He also had to initially battle going into shock.

Equipped with one gallon of water, very little food, a dead radio, a cell phone without a signal, and no map, Guy was unable to see any signs of inhabitance and knew he’d have to hike out. After spending a frightening night at the crash scene with sounds of animals growling nearby, Guy started his grueling journey. Sliding on his rear, despite the mind-numbing pain, he gradually made his way down to the bottom of the valley. There, he found a sturdy stick and enlisted it as a crutch. Moving at a snail’s pace, he shuffled in threes—left foot, right foot, left foot—thinking about his wife and daughters back home in the UK.

“It was several days before I was rescued. I managed about a mile a day, walking with tiny steps and making such slow progress that three huge rattlesnakes I disturbed had plenty of time to slither away totally unbothered. Each step needed immense concentration. Perfect placement was everything to minimize pain and I became absorbed by getting the pattern right,” he said.

To make matters worse, he also endured a thunderstorm, utterly soaking him and leaving him without any hope of becoming warm and dry. Once the rain subsided, Guy emerged from beneath the bush he had used as meek shelter. Getting back up onto his feet took over an hour each time. Then, the hallucinations began.

A mirage of a cabin appeared. He knew he was starting to slip mentally, perhaps from the cold, wet night, or from low blood sugar. Either way, the exposure and injuries were taking a toll on him.

After 48 long, painstaking hours, search and rescue discovered the crash site merely by chance. With no sign of Guy near the glider wreckage, they suspected he’d been eaten by wildlife, but a member of search and rescue jumped out of the chopper to investigate the scene. Hearing the chopper in the distance, Guy knew search and rescue were close.

Upon investigation, search and rescue discovered Guy was trying to hike out. One rescuer stayed on the ground, while the rest of the team went up in the chopper to locate him. The team in the chopper spotted him quickly and landed within 150 feet of his location. He was rescued and treated at a nearby hospital within 15 minutes.

“I am certainly no survival expert, just very, very lucky,” said Guy, who plans to compete this year in the 2014 Paragliding World Cup in August in Portugal. “Because of what happened to me, I tell every pilot I meet to carry an inReach satellite communicator. I know I’ll have mine by my side every time I’m flying or traveling in any remote areas. If I had an inReach with me in 2012, not only would I have been able to let someone know where I was and trigger an SOS, but even if I’d been out all night, I could’ve sent an ‘Injured but OK’ message, which would have spared all the anguish at home for my wife and family.”


Pilot Walks Away from Alaskan Plane Crash with inReach SE

December 9, 2013

Will Johnson of Fairbanks, Alaska is a 66-year-old experienced commercial pilot operating Yute Air Taxi and a certified flight instructor with more than 20,000 hours of flight time, but in early August 2013 he experienced engine failure for the first time. 

As his float-equipped Cessna 206 began to lose altitude, Johnson looked for a safe place to land amongst the rough Alaskan landscape near McGrath. When he spotted a clearing he readied himself for a difficult landing, maneuvering as best he could until the Cessna came to a slow and bumpy stop. The plane sustained minimal wing damage and remarkably, Johnson didn’t sustain any injuries. But once he made ground contact and began checking out the damage, he realized that his motion-censored ELT (Emergency Locator Transmitter) never went off, so search and rescue officials had no idea yet that he had crash landed. However, Johnson did have an inReach SE device, which had been transmitting GPS tracking information during the entire ordeal. 

Knowing his wife was following his tracks, the first thing he did was send a message from his inReach SE, “ENGINE FAILURE: ALL OK.” Then, using data from his inReach, he radioed his GPS coordinates to search and rescue officials and with help from an Alaskan Wildlife Trooper flying overhead he was able to pick a route to the nearest road three miles away. Since Johnson’s inReach could send and receive messages, he and his wife were able to communicate back and forth, giving her peace of mind knowing that he was getting the help he needed. 

According to Johnson, the crash was nothing compared to the walk across the rough Alaskan tundra.

Thankfully, Johnson’s wife and officials were able to follow his progress with inReach, which provided them with real-time tracking showing exactly where he was and piece of mind that he was all right. And without an inReach, he would not have been able to relay his exact coordinates to the trooper who assisted in his rescue. 

Johnson considers himself a ‘crusader’ when it comes to new technology, always trying out the latest and greatest. When the new inReach SE was released he had to have it, and he’s glad he did.

“I am a great believer in this kind of technology, and now DeLorme has the best and has certainly taken it to the next level. I would like to see everyone who is out in the wilderness, in whatever conveyance, carry one of these as a matter of personal responsibility.”


Photo courtesy of Will Johnson

Grand Canyon Rafter Airlifted Out Within One Hour of SOS

November 15, 2013

The award-winning inReach two-way satellite communicator was a critical factor in a recent rescue. The two-way communication capabilities and Iridium® global coverage helped a group of hikers to communicate with rescue personnel and have a helicopter onsite within one hour of contact.

Durango, Colorado resident Kevin Camp is as an avid hiker, mountain biker, and white water rafting guide and has used DeLorme products for many years, including the company’s handheld GPS devices, Atlases, and most recently the inReach, which helps him share his many adventures with family and friends. His latest adventure took him on a three-week Grand Canyon rafting trip with 16 people ranging in age from twenty-somethings to seventy-plus.

On September 27th, the group – including the trip’s co-leader Jim Fuge – prepared to hike to the top of a waterfall. Fuge has more than 12 Grand trips under his belt and is an experienced climber. With one misstep, Fuge fell about fifteen feet and landed on rocks suffering a serious head wound, a broken wrist, and numerous cuts and abrasions. He also was initially unconscious for about 40 seconds with his face in the water. Recognizing the severity of his injuries, the group spun into immediate emergency action with some rushing to get aid materials and supplies while others worked to stabilize Fuge.

“Jim was beginning to go into shock but we managed to get him on a paddleboard to carry him out. He just kept muttering ‘need e-vac”, Camp continued. “We were about a quarter mile from camp, so a group member quickly went to camp, retrieved my inReach and brought back two more people with medical training to assist.”

With no cell service available, Camp grabbed his inReach and initiated an SOS, thereby activating communication with GEOS, an international emergency response service. inReach offers two-way messaging capabilities when paired with a smartphone, tablet or DeLorme handheld GPS. Because Camp was able to have a two-way text conversation with GEOS during the rescue, he was able to provide critical information about Fuge’s vital signs and other aspects of his injuries. These details were then relayed to local search and rescue (SAR) authorities to evaluate the severity of Fuge’s injuries and ultimately determine that he needed to be airlifted immediately. Camp was also able to converse with rescue personnel about the physical surroundings so the helicopter could land as close to injury site as possible.

Fuge was airlifted to a hospital and after undergoing a craniotomy and receiving 20 head staples, made a full recovery. A family member was told by the surgeon that if Fuge had arrived at the hospital an hour or two later, he might not have ever fully recovered, or worse.

Grand Canyon


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