Friday 24 May 2019

Women arrive back on dry land after five months adrift at sea

Tasha Fuiava and Jennifer Appel with their dogs on the deck of the USS Ashland (AP)
Tasha Fuiava and Jennifer Appel with their dogs on the deck of the USS Ashland (AP)
Jennifer Appel, centre, waves from USS Ashland as she arrives back on dry land alongside Tasha Fuiava, left, following five months adrift at sea (AP Photo/Koji Ueda)

Two sailors who were rescued by the US Navy after more than five months lost at sea have arrived back on dry land.

Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava waved from USS Ashland as it docked at an American naval base in Japan on Monday.

They arrived at White Beach Naval Facility, in Okinawa, five days after the ship had picked them up, along with their two dogs, from their storm-damaged sailboat 900 miles southeast of Japan.

Appel and Fuiava had left Honolulu on May 3 aboard Appel's 50-foot vessel, the Sea Nymph, for what was supposed to be an 18-day trip to Tahiti.

But storms flooded the engine and damaged the mast and sails so badly that they could not generate enough wind power to stay on course.

They drifted aimlessly and sent unanswered distress calls for 98 consecutive days.

The women were thousands of miles in the wrong direction when a Taiwanese fishing vessel found them. Towing the sailboat damaged it further, but Appel swam to the Taiwanese vessel to make a mayday call.

The pair had run out of food for the dogs, and had begun sharing their own, leaving their food supply 90% depleted by the time they were rescued.

The USS Ashland picked up the women, as well as their dogs Zeus and Valentine, on Wednesday, with all four looking remarkably fit for having been lost at sea for nearly six months.

Appel told reporters on Friday that they were beginning to believe they were completely out of luck when they saw the US Navy ship chugging towards them.

"When I saw the grey ship on the horizon, I was just shaking," she said. "I was ready to cry, I was so happy. I knew we were going to live."

Although Appel has been sailing the Hawaiian islands for 10 years and spent two years preparing for this voyage, she acknowledged she and Fuiava, a novice sailor, may not have prepared as well as they could have.

Appel credited their survival in part to the veteran sailors in Hawaii who had warned them to prepare well for their journey.

"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," Appel said. "And the sailors in Honolulu really gave us good advice. We're here."


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