The two women who were rescued after spending five months in a sailboat adrift in the Pacific set foot on terra firma Monday – and promptly said they would like to try their voyage again next year.
The USS Ashland plucked Jennifer Appel, Tasha Fuiava and their two dogs about 900 miles southeast of Japan, and dropped them off five days later at a US Naval base in Okinawa.
“We never got a chance to go to Tahiti, or Papeete, or Moorea,” Appel, 48, said on the flight deck, reeling off myriad destinations they had hoped to visit before storms battered their boat.
“We still never got to see the 20,000 islands [of the South Pacific] so I think that would be the most fantastic trip for May of next spring,” she added, NBC News reported.
They two sailors acknowledge not being as prepared as they could have been for the 2,600-mile trip from their home in Hawaii to their planned destination of Tahiti.
Fuiava is a newbie sailor and although Appel has been sailing the Hawaiian islands for a decade, she described themselves as “landlubbers” and “greenhorns in the sailing world.”
The women and their canine companions – Zeus and Valentine — set sail May 23 for the trip that usually takes a month, but their mast and engine soon failed.
Their daily distress calls and emergency flares were not received or seen by passing vessels.
They tried to return, and at one point in June were within 726 nautical miles of Oahu, but couldn’t make it and continued to drift aimlessly in the perilous seas, Appel said.
“We knew we weren’t going to make it,” she 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.”
The women said they ran out of dog food so they began sharing their own with Zeus and Valentine, leaving their supply 90 percent depleted by the time they were rescued.
After 99 interminable days, a Taiwanese fishing boat spotted them, but its crew was unable to tow the wayward sailboat, which was further damaged in the attempt.
Appel said she paddled over to the fishing boat on a surfboard and made a mayday call.
The Ashland, which happened to be nearby to avoid a storm, traveled 100 miles and found them the next day, said the ship’s commanding officer, Cmdr. Steven Wasson.
“When I saw the gray ship on the horizon, I was just shaking,” Appel said earlier. “I was ready to cry, I was so happy. I knew we were going to live.”
The Navy dispatched a six-person crew on a small boat over to the sailboat.
Wasson said they determined “there were just too many things that needed to be solidified to make that vessel seaworthy again … so that’s why we brought them on board.”
His ship, which carried amphibious landing craft, wasn’t equipped to haul the 50-foot sailboat, the Sea Nymph, so it was abandoned at sea.
The two women still hope it will be found and they can repair it. If not, Appel said they want to build an “unsinkable and unbreakable boat” and set out for Tahiti again.
Appel earlier 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,” she said. “And the sailors in Honolulu really gave us good advice. We’re here.”
The women also praised the crew of the USS Ashland.
“This is on a top-10 list,” Appel said in a video posted by the Navy. “In a million years, I never thought that I would ever be on a Navy ship … much less rescued by a warship.”
She added: “We are honored to be here, and we are grateful for everything you’ve done for us.”
With Post Wires