Two women from Honolulu, Hawaii, are basking in sweet relief as they and their dogs were rescued after spent five months stranded at sea in shark-infested waters. Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava set a course for Tahiti on May 3rd but suffered engine failure and a broken mast when a storm battered their boat. Fortunately, they had water purifiers, a year’s worth of dog food, and rice, pasta, and oatmeal. The basic supplies kept them alive long enough to be spotted by a Taiwanese fishing vessel roughly 900 miles southeast of Japan.
On Wednesday morning, the day after Appel and Fuiava were discovered, the USS Ashland (a 610-foot Navy ship) rescued them from the boat. Said Appel in a statement, “I’m grateful for their service to our country. They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [U.S. Navy] on the horizon was pure relief.”
Less than a month after the women set sail for Tahiti, they hit a patch of bad weather. Calling for help was impossible, as their only phone went scuba diving on the first day. For five long months, they drifted in the Pacific Ocean, sending out distress calls and waiting for help. “It was very depressing, and it was very hopeless,” Appel said. “The only thing you can do, you use what you can and what you have. You have no other choice.”
Believe it or not, lack of food wasn’t the greatest concern – the boat was constantly surrounded by sharks.“We were slowly maneuvering through their living room. They came by to slap their tails and tell us we needed to move along,” Appel said. “They decided to use our vessel to teach their children how to hunt. They attacked at night.”
After Fuiava and Appel were brought aboard the USS Ashland, they received medical assistance. They will remain aboard until the Ashland’s next scheduled port of call.
On Thursday, footage of the rescue (above) was released. Their reaction to being saved is both exciting and touching. Said Commander Steven Watson, Ashland commanding officer, in a statement: “The US Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation.”