April 21, 2010 – On the morning of Sunday, March 14, Robert Cortis and three friends set off in their boat to enjoy the day fishing off the coast of Charleston, South Carolina. With clear skies and calm winds, Cortis recalls spending the day reeling in multiple fish. Suddenly, 20 miles out at sea, their luck took a turn for the worse.
Mr. Cortis reported that their 23 foot 2006 vessel had begun to take on water due to a breach in the hull shortly before 4 p.m.
“Being that many miles at sea and sinking is a frightening experience,” explained Cortis. “We immediately starting bailing water but soon found ourselves in three feet of open ocean water standing on top of our sinking boat. The only thing keeping us afloat was the one remaining outboard motor which I kept throttled in gear moving us forward at about 3 miles per hour. ”
An avid boater and fisherman, Cortis had recently purchased a SPOT Satellite GPS Messenger™ from West Marine. Mr. Cortis kept the portable GPS enabled satellite messaging and emergency communications device on his belt while boating. He also reports having a personal locator beacon or PLB onboard. All four men were able to locate and securely fasten their life jackets.
“We were prepared but I never imagined being in a situation needing to send a distress signal for help,” added Cortis. “Being miles off coast beyond the range of VHF and cell phones, we were in big trouble. I didn’t hesitate pressing the SOS button on my SPOT device.”
The SPOT Messenger sends location-based messages to personal contacts or an emergency rescue coordination center via a global satellite network. Because SPOT uses 100% satellite technology it works outside of cellular coverage on land and hundreds of miles or more out at sea.
“We received the SOS alert message with the GPS location coordinates from Mr. Cortis’ SPOT device at 4:10 p.m.,” said Mark Garver, Chief Commanding Officer for the GEOS International Emergency Response Center (IERCC). “We contacted Mr. Cortis’ listed emergency contact in his SPOT account and were able to verify the make and model of his vessel. We immediately notified the US Coast Guard and provided them with the vessel information and their GPS position.”
According to news reports, an HH-65 Dolphin rescue helicopter was dispatched from Charleston and spotted the sinking boat. News sources state a 41 foot rescue boat arrived on scene shortly after 5 p.m. about 15 miles east of Charleston harbor and brought the men to safety. According to Cortis, the rescue crew successfully secured his sinking vessel prior to it being towed to shore.
“My SPOT device saved our lives that day” added Cortis.
Used with permission from SPOT LLC