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VIDEO: USS Ashland Rescues Two Mariners, Dogs Adrift for Months in Pacific

Sailors help Zeus, one of two dogs who were accompanying two mariners who were aided by the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD-48). US Navy Photo

After being adrift and off course for months in the Pacific Ocean, two women and their two dogs were rescued Wednesday by Sasebo-based amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD-48).

Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba, both from Honolulu, had set out from Hawaii in the spring, planning to reach Tahiti after a few weeks at sea. On May 30, bad weather knocked out their sailboat’s engine, according to a statement released by the Navy. Appel and Fuiaba decided to continue onto their destination under wind power.

After two months at sea, long past their intended arrival in Tahiti and hundreds of miles off course, Appel and Fuiaba started issuing daily distress calls. By this point, though, they had drifted far from routine shipping lanes or any shore stations which could receive these calls, according to a Navy statement.

On Tuesday, a Taiwanese fishing vessel found Appel and Fuiaba about 900 miles southeast of Japan. The fishing vessel contacted Coast Guard Sector Guam, which coordinated with Japanese, Taiwanese, and U.S. authorities.

Wednesday morning, Appel and Fuiaba spotted Ashland on the horizon, and knew soon they’d be rescued.

Command Master Chief Gary Wise welcomes aboard Jennifer Appel, an American mariner who had received assistance from Ashland crew members on Oct. 25, 2017. US Navy Photo

“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,” said a statement released by Appel.

Ashland was performing routine operations in the area, and was the closest ship to provide assistance. After determining Appel and Fuiaba’s sailboat was not seaworthy, the women and their dogs were brought aboard. They’ll stay with Ashland until it’s next scheduled port call.

Once on Ashland, Appel, Fuiaba, and the dogs were provided berthing, medical assessments, and meals. The women and dogs survived their months at sea thanks to having water purifiers onboard and having brought a year’s worth of food. Most of their meals for the past several months included oatmeal, pasta, and rice, according to a Navy statement.

  • MLepay

    WOW at least they were well prepared and BZ to the Navy.

    • Keith Curtis

      well prepared…. well stocked with food , but very ill prepared it seems

  • PappyStu

    Salute to the USS Ashland Officers and Crew…

    • BroadcastJohn

      And a well earned salute to the unidentified Taiwanese fishermen who made the initial discovery and attempted to tow the disabled sailboat. But when that failed, they contacted government authorities that resulted in the rescue by the USS Ashland.
      As a former sailor, my ship assisted the Coast Guard with rescuing seamen from a sinking merchant vessel. It was the highlight of my US Naval service.
      Bravo Zulu (a Navy term for a job well done) to everyone involved.

  • hmong

    If one of them happened to be a former secretary of the state, it would have been better to leave them on the sea.

    • On Dre

      Why do you hate Condoleezza Rice? It was Cheney that made her lie.

      • hmong

        Not that one.

    • Jay

      Trump U grad? Own your dummy now.

  • paolo Moile

    Great job by the Navy. These stupid women should have had an EPIRB beacon. They cost $350 to 450.

    • CharleyA

      It does make you wonder why they didn’t have a working EPIRB or PLB when embarking on such a voyage. Darwin Award averted.

    • Mallory Knox

      They had one! They chose not to use it!

  • Skyking239

    “bad weather knocked out their sailboat’s engine, according to a statement released by the Navy. Appel and Fuiaba decided to continue onto their destination under wind power.” In the video their sails are not set and they said they drifted for days. If these two knuckle heads didn’t know how to sail or navigate why did they attempt to make the trip in a sailboat by power? Odds are they will be on late night talk shows or on SNL as dumb and dumber.

    • Duane

      There’s just so much in this story that makes no sense at all. From the video and pics, their sailboat, masts, and standing rigging all appear to be intact. Even a problem with running rigging would still allow the crew to hoist some kind of jury rigged sail to get way on the boat. Loss of an engine should make no difference at all except in the doldrums right at the equator, yet they were found far north of the doldrums, just 900 nautical miles southeast of Japan, roughly 4,000 nautical miles northwest of Tahiti. The typical sailing passage from Honolulu to Tahiti is said to be a 3 to 4 week transit with the northeast and southeast trades being a steady 15-25 knots. A relatively easy broad reach to close reach point of sailing for the entire trip.

      Just what the heck were they doing those 98 days at sea?

      And no sat radio or EPIRB – both of which must be considered absolute necessities. I wouldn’t venture on a 2,200 nautical mile ocean passage without multiple copies of both onboard.

      Their boat is not exactly a daysailer – roughly 40 feet long. They brought plenty of food and had the ability to make freshwater, so they put at least some thought into their expedition.

      There’s just not much sense to it as described so far.

      • jamaicajoe

        They talk about repeatedly making distress calls and yet no contact in 5 months. Did they have an HF radio? Certainly, they could have raised someone on HF, even with a makeshift antenna. Any solar power? What about the epirb? None? Just flares?

        I agree, I am not a sailor but have a certification from decades ago, the mast being intact, I would have expected they could have rigged up some sort of temporary sail and pointed some direction toward land.

        I would expect that anyone embarking on a crossing like this, or even Florida to Bahama’s would have an EPIRB, a working HF radio, a satellite phone and spare rigging. This is just nuts.

  • Pedro_Schwartz

    Did they abandon the boat afloat?

    Did they sink it?

    Did they take it aboard the Ashland?

    • Donald Carey

      From the photos, it didn’t look unseaworthy to me.

    • tiger

      Taken in tow…..

      • Pedro_Schwartz

        Thanks. All the story said was that it was not seaworthy.

  • Jay

    You must do lot of paying — and masturbating.

  • Ed L

    Something stinks. Less than a 2000 (early entry fat finger) Miles between Hawaii and Tahiti. Currents and Winds westerly. I personally know a few Sailboaters who have done this trip. One fellow said they did it once in 2 weeks Foil Racing . They both said that a month is average. Some 300 yachts leave the U.S. west coast for Tahiti every year, almost always crewed by couples or men only. Cruising yachts average about 150 km a day, so it takes about a month to get from the U.S. west coast to Hawaii, then another month from Hawaii to Tahiti. Plus storm season between Hawaii and Mexico coast which is from June to October. Average 5 knots is the expected SOA (for planning purposes) for most mono hull sailboats. Unless it’s foil equip than 16 knots or like the gunboat G4 making 31 knots. Oh my Catalina sloop usually does 6 knots in fair wind off the beam. But when cruising I sometimes have to redistribute the weigh to keep her balance. A little mast rake help too. U.S. Rules for marine HF is one time licensing for the boat. If you move the SSB to another boat a new license. That boat had radar. Possible Dingy davits on the stern No dingy in sight

    • Duane

      You have a couple of things wrong there, but I agree this story doesn’t make sense. Sailing distance Honolulu to Tahiti is about 2,200 nm. The winds range from northeast trade winds north of the equator to southeast trade winds south of the equator. They should not have needed to motor for more than a short distance, if at all. They ended up about 4,000 nm NW of their destination (about 900 nm SE of Japan), probably driven as much or more by currents as by the NE tradewinds.

      As for speed, a 40 ft sailing yacht similar to theirs would have a hull speed of about 7.8 knots .. sailing on a broach reach to a close reach, the fastest points of sail, they should have made roughly 5-6 knots constantly, or about 120-144 nm per day … making it an easy 18 day transit, maybe 21-30 days if they’re loafing along under partial sail. With two knowledgeable sailors onboard (???) and an autopilot, they should have been able to maintain a 24 hour a day watch and not have to heave to at night.

      But these two ladies apparently don’t know how to sail, on a sailboat, no less, when they were totally becalmed by an engine failure, supposedly .. in the tradewinds!

  • jamaicajoe

    Is that boat steel hulled? Would you expect that much rust after 5 months? Maybe indicative that the boat wasn’t well maintained.

  • Bill

    Actually, you made that up.

    • John Locke

      No, it’s true.

  • Ed L

    According to the latest news the Sailboat was left adrift. From what it sounds like the sailboat was busted up pretty good. The two sailboaters admitted they were novices at ocean sailing. And only expected that they could make Tahiti in 2 weeks

  • Mallory Knox

    They look suspiciously great for people who have been stranded for that long. People here commenting on the emergency beacon, well they had one! They purposely never activated it. So there you go. I’m telling you, something is very fishy here! Google this story for an article with better details. You’ll raise an eyebrow too.

  • ksright

    Book-Movie-Fake Sea Story….Sea Flakes and Dogs