Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba decided to go sailing from Hawaii to Tahiti, and they brought their dogs along. The trip turned out to be a disaster as the women survived shark attacks and lost the engine. They were out in the open waters for five months but were rescued by the US Navy on Wednesday.
Luckily, the women embarked on the voyage prepared, and they have managed to stay alive for so long because they packed enough food to last them for a year plus they had a water purifier. Also, they brought their dogs with them, and they kept their spirits.
Appel told the media from the USS Ashland: “There is a true humility to wondering if today is your last day, if tonight is your last night.”
Both women are from Honolulu, Hawaii and they were unlucky to lose their engine in the poor weather. They were not discouraged since they thought they could reach Tahiti using their sails, but when their mast broke, they were adrift, according to Appel’s mother who spoke to the two women over the phone.
They were carried by the ocean currents, and after two months out there, the girls decided to send distress calls, but they couldn’t be heard since they were too far from the land to detect any signal. Also, no vessels passed by. According to Appel, the distress signal was sent for 98 days, but no-one responded. She explained: “It was very depressing and very hopeless, but it’s the only thing you can do, so you do what you can do.”
She added that their boat was attacked by several sharks. One of the sharks returned the day after: “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.”
At times, the two women thought that they wouldn’t make it. They said that it was normal to think about death in situations such as these. But their companion animals kept their spirit and Appel said: “There is a true humility to wondering if today is your last day, if tonight is your last night.”
They were spotted by a Taiwanese fishing boat about 900 miles south-east of Japan, which was way off course and the US coast guard came to the rescue. The USS Ashland found them the very next day and Appel said in the Navy release: “They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [US Navy] on the horizon was pure relief.”
They explained the navy member that they survived thanks to a lot of food including dried goods such as oatmeal and pasta and a water purifier. In the photo you can see here, the navy member is welcoming Fuiaba’s dog Zeus, while she is standing behind, smiling.
It was a difficult situation for two women and their families, but Appel’s mother told the Associated Press that she had hope that her daughter would turn up alive. Joyce Appel, 75, from Houston got a call from her daughter after five months: “She said, ‘Mom?’ and I said, ‘Jennifer!?’ because I hadn’t heard from in like five months,” she said. “And she said ‘yes mom,’ and that was really exciting.”
Jennifer Appel departed on May 3, but she lost her phone and lost touch with her mother immediately. Mom said: “Various things on her boat broke, the mast broke and the engine wouldn’t start when she needed power. So she had several problems that caused her to end up drifting in the ocean.”
Joyce called the US Coast Guard about a week and a half after the departure, and she never lost hope: “I had hope all along, she is very resourceful and she’s curious and as things break she tries to repair them, she doesn’t sit and wait for the repairman to get there, so I knew the same thing would be true of the boat.”
She knew her daughter, who managed to fix the water purifier when it got broken. Luckily, both Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba are safe and sound.