Sailors rescued in Pacific say they feared they would be ‘dead within 24 hours’

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Two Hawaiian mariners who say they were stranded at sea for five months feared they had less than 24-hours to live when the U.S. Navy rescued them last week.

Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, along with their two dogs, made it to solid ground in Okinawa on Friday after being rescued in the Pacific ocean nearly 900 miles southeast of Japan.

“The crew of the USS Ashland saved our lives,” Appel said during a press briefing on Monday. “Had they not been able to locate us we would have been dead within 24 hours.”

The Associated Press
Jennifer Appel, center, raises her arms from bridge way of the USS Ashland Monday, Oct. 30 at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan. At left is Tasha Fuiava, and at right the Ashland’s Command Master Chief Gary Wise. The U.S. Navy ship arrived

“We actually talked about how believed we’d been left for dead,” Appel added.

The women left Honolulu on May 3 aboard Appel’s 50-foot sailboat, the Sea Nymph, for what they thought would be an 18-day trip to Tahiti, they said.

The excursion took a dangerous turn when a storm hit and caused a mast malfunction, the pair said. Soon, their engine flooded with water and nearly all of their communication capabilities were severed.

Jennifer Appel, right, and Tasha Fuiava, left, hug with crew members of the USS Ashland on the deck of the USS Ashland at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. The U.S. Navy ship arrived at the American Navy base, five dThe Associated Press
Jennifer Appel, right, and Tasha Fuiava, left, hug with crew members of the USS Ashland on the deck of the USS Ashland at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. The U.S. Navy ship arrived at the American Navy base, five d

“We knew we weren’t going to make it,” Appel said. “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.”

In addition to their technical problems, Appel said they survived two “horrific” shark attacks while lost at sea.

“When those things would hit the boat, my own teeth would rattle in my head,” Appel said. “We were on the ground just praying. Because even if someone would have been able to assist us, they were literally thousands of miles away and they [the sharks] were 6 inches off our shoulders.”

USS Ashland, carrying two women who were rescued after months at sea on their storm-damaged sailboat, arrives at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. The U.S. Navy ship arrived at the American Navy base, five days afterThe Associated Press
USS Ashland, carrying two women who were rescued after months at sea on their storm-damaged sailboat, arrives at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. The U.S. Navy ship arrived at the American Navy base, five days after

The women said they sent distress calls for 98 consecutive days, but got noting. They had drifted thousands of miles in the wrong direction when a Taiwanese fishing vessel found them and allowed them to make a mayday call, they said.

Appel, who said she spent two years preparing for the trip, said she and Fuiava survived the situation by bringing water purifiers and over a year’s worth of food, mostly dry goods such as oatmeal, pasta and rice, on board with them.

Both women said they were nearly brought to tears when they saw the the U.S. Navy ship sailing toward them.

“It’s been a great experience. Everyone’s been kind, genuine, happy,” Fuiava said recalling their rescue. “We came on board we forgot toothbrushes toothpaste we forgot the last time we ate and they were like so kind.”

ABC News’ Anthony Trotter and Courtney Han contributed to this report.



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