Women rescued after months at sea talk shark attacks and survival

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A pair of women from Hawaii intended to sail for Tahiti but bad weather and technical problems left them adrift at sea for months, sometimes among sharks.


Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava kicked off their 2,700-mile journey on May 3, expecting to arrive at their destination in about a month’s time — they even brought Appel’s two dogs, Zeus and Valentine for the trip. It wasn’t long though, before the mast on the boat malfunctioned and bad weather left their engine flooded.


Thanks to the advice of a local fisherman, they’d packed a year’s worth of food and water purifiers in case of an emergency, but there was nothing they could have done to prepare for the sharks.


“I was absolutely down on my knees praying to a higher power that we would hold together,” Appel told People. “I’ve never been so scared in my whole life.”

Jennifer Appel, of Honolulu, blows kisses as rescuers approach her crippled sailboat, the Sea Nymph, after being lost at sea for months, about 900 miles southeast of Japan. 

(US Navy/AP)


She said the sharks seemed to come together in a bid to overturn their ship.


“I’m telling you I’ve neer seen any Stanley Cup winner come even close to the precision these five sharks had,” Appel continued. “Three would get on one side and two would get on the other side, and they would make waves and try to knock down the boat.”


The pair sent out help signals for 98 days straight, but no other vessels came within a close enough proximity to pick up on them.

OCT. 25, 2017 PHOTO. AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS PUBLICLY DISTRIBUTED HANDOUT PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE U.S. NAVY. MANDATORY CREDIT

Ashland Command Master Chief Gary Wise welcomes aboard Jennifer Appel. 

(Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/AP)


Appel said between the cramped quarters and distressing situation, it was easy to get into a squabble or two — though the dogs did have a knack for dissolving the tension.


“We would be lying if we didn’t say that two women in a close space of 500 feet didn’t get into it every once in awhile, but we didn’t cat fight or pull hair — we just threatened to throw each other overboard!” Appel laughed.


“By having two dogs with us, they instantly recognized a situation going south and they would intervene by coming to give us kisses, playing with us and getting us to change our mood.”

OCT. 25, 2017 PHOTO. AP PROVIDES ACCESS TO THIS PUBLICLY DISTRIBUTED HANDOUT PHOTO PROVIDED BY THE U.S. NAVY. MANDATORY CREDIT

Sailors from the Ashland approach a sailboat with two Honolulu women and their dogs aboard as they are rescued after being lost at sea for several months.

(Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/AP)


The duo, who became “friends at first sight” when they first met in December, planned the trip shortly after they connected while Appel was doing work on her boat.


“I think the third night that I saw her, she asked me to go on this trip,” Fuiava said, adding that she’d never sailed before. “Everyone thought I was crazy!”


After five months at sea, Appel and Fuiava were spotted by a fishing vessel about 900 miles off the coast of Japan. The fishermen contacted the U.S. Coastguard and the pair were rescued by the USS Ashland.


“When I saw the grey ship on the Horizon, I was just shaking, I was so happy, I knew we were going to live,” Appel said. “I couldn’t have been more grateful paying taxes to the US Navy, who would honor us by going out of their way and holding up national security issues to save two women and two dogs who erroneously ended up on the other side of the planet.”


With News Wire Services

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