Their first steps on solid ground were at the US Naval base in Japan, and both of them couldn’t be more grateful. Their terrifying experiences over the past five months left them both wondering if they were going to survive at all.
Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba, along with their two dogs, were found drifting over 900 miles southeast off the coast of Japan. Thankfully, the women were alive, but they were down to their last fresh gallon of water. The timing of their rescue couldn’t have been more desperate.
The women left Honolulu, Hawaii on May 3rd in Appel’s 50-feet sailboat called the ‘Sea Nymph.’ They were supposed to arrive in Tahiti 18 days later — but storms had other plans, and shifted their course.
The storm waters flooded their engine which destroyed the starter; the high winds and ripping waters destroyed their mast so badly that they couldn’t generate any windpower to stay on course. They immediately began to drift miles off course.
Appel and Fuiaba even tried to return at one point in June when they were 726 miles away from Oahu, but they just couldn’t make it.
“We knew we weren’t going to make it,” Appel said to the Navy press. “So that’s when we started making distress calls. We were hoping that one of our friends who likes to go deep sea fishing and taking people out might have gone past the 400-mile mark and might have cruised near where we would be.”
For five terrifying months, their distress calls went unanswered. “It was very depressing and very hopeless, but it’s the only thing you can do, so you do what you can do.”
Not only did the women start to feel defeated and hopeless, but things also took a turn for the worse one night when a group of sharks began to attack their boat. One shark even returned a couple of days later.
“Both of them, we actually thought it was lights out, and they were horrific. We were just incredibly lucky that our hull was strong enough to withstand the onslaught,” Appel said.
Finally, the women spotted a Taiwanese fishing vessel; Appel was able to paddle over to make a distress call. The next day, the USS Ashland found them and their two dogs.
“When I saw the gray ship on the horizon, I was just shaking,” she said then. “I was ready to cry, I was so happy. I knew we were going to live.”
Appel and Fuiaba said they survived off of the dry food that they had packed, and also fresh water using a water purifier; most of their food was depleted, and the water purifier had broken — they were only down to their last gallon of water at the time they were found. They were sharing the goods with their two dogs, Valentine and Zeus.
After being rescued, both of the women, and the dogs were given medical assessments; they were also given some helpful advice from the Navy for the future.
“They said pack every square inch of your boat with food, and if you think you need a month, pack six months, because you have no idea what could possibly happen out there,” she said. “And the sailors in Honolulu really gave us good advice. We’re here.”