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Michael Plant was one of the world’s best yachtsmen. Numerous times he navigated the oceans, gaining skill and notoriety. Then early in the fall of 1992, he decided to go all the way and set out from the East Coast on a solo voyage across the Atlantic Ocean to France.

He purchased a state-of-the-art sailboat with the best navigational equipment money could buy, christening it "The Coyote." With one press of a button, its emergency global positioning locator could transmit a signal to a satellite, relaying it within seconds to either of two ground locations that could pinpoint his exact coordinates, even in the middle of the vast ocean. The Coyote was the most fail-safe vessel of its kind.

But on the fourth day of his voyage, ground locators lost contact with the Coyote. Weather scans of the Atlantic showed storms causing high seas, and it was assumed that Plant was navigating the storms and would soon regain contact. But he never did. Search-and-rescue squads were deployed to the last known location of the Coyote but to no avail. Commercial airliners were asked to monitor their emergency channels in case Plant was broadcasting signals for help.

Two weeks after his departure, a ship about 400 miles off the Azores came upon the Coyote floating upside down. If there’s one position where a state-of-the-art global positioning locator will not be of much use, it’s upside down. Hoisting the Coyote up for a closer look, the rescuers searched the cabin, hoping to find the emergency life raft already deployed, which would indicate that Michael Plant might still be alive and floating somewhere in the Atlantic. But they found the life raft only partially inflated, still stuck in the hull of the boat. To this day, the body of Michael Plant has never been found.

The telltale culprit in the accident was a broken keel. No one knows whether the Coyote hit some ocean sewage, a submarine or a whale, but the ballast had been...

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