Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava became lost at sea after poor weather conditions caused their engines to lose power and damage to the mast of their boat. The pair, who had their dogs with them during the journey, attempted to call for help, but their distress calls went unanswered for nearly 100 days.
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As reported by The Daily Mail, the two women, both from Honolulu, Hawaii, set out with their canine companions in May, boarding the small sailboat with plans to reach the island of Tahiti. On the first day, one of the women lost their cellphone when it was washed overboard and quickly sank.
About a month into their voyage, extreme weather conditions damaged the vessel, causing their engines to lose power. Appel and Fuiava still believed they could reach Tahiti thanks to their sails, but it was soon discovered that the mast was damaged as well.
The pair drifted across the open ocean. At one point, their water purification system stopped working, and the boat was even attacked by a group of sharks during one night, with a single shark returning the next day.
While the women sent out daily distress calls, no one received their message for 98 days.
They weren’t found until Wednesday, when a US Navy vessel located them approximately 900 miles southeast of Japan.
During an interview on Friday, Appel said, “When I saw the grey boat on the edge of the horizon, my heart leaped because I knew that we were about to be saved because I honestly believed we were going to die within the next 24 hours.”
A Taiwanese fishing vessel had spotted the disabled ship on Tuesday, alerting the US Coast Guard to the discovery. The USS Ashland rescued the women and their two dogs.
“They saved our lives,” said Appel in a Navy release. “The pride and smile we had when we saw [the Navy vessel] on the horizon was pure relief.”
Discussing their daily unanswered distress calls, Appel said, “It was very depressing and very hopeless, but it’s the only thing you can do, so you do what you can do.”
“I could see light, and I could see vessels, and I watched them get closer, and we thought it would be close enough to do a call or, if it was pointed our way, we would shoot flairs and hail it on a VHF,” said Fuiava.
“When they would turn or keep going, yeah, it was kind of sad.”
Appel and Fuiava told the Navy that they were able to survive because they had packed a water purifier along with a year’s worth of food.
According to the US Navy, the women will remain onboard the USS Ashland until it reaches its next port of call.
Cmdr. Steven Wasson of the USS Ashland stated, “The US Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation.”