Two women who were sailing from Hawaii to Tahiti have been rescued after they were lost at sea for nearly five months, the U.S. Navy says.
The women – Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba, as well as their two dogs – set sail from Honolulu this spring to travel to the French island of Tahiti, which is about 2,745 miles (4,415 kilometers) southeast of Hawaii.
The sailboat lost its engine during bad weather on May 30, but the women continued on their journey, believing that they could make it to land by sail. But two months into their journey, and long past the date when they were supposed to reach Tahiti, they began to issue distress calls.
“The two continued the calls daily, but they were not close enough to other vessels or shore stations to receive them,” the Amphibious Force of the U.S. 7th Fleet said in a statement. The sailboat remained adrift until October 24, when they were discovered by a Taiwanese fishing vessel.
The women turned out to be far away from their destination – about 900 miles (1,450 kilometers) southeast of Japan. The fishing vessel contacted the U.S. Coast Guard in Guam, which in turn coordinated with other agencies to launch a rescue operation.
The USS Ashland, which was in the area for routine deployment, was dispatched to assist and reached the sailboat on Wednesday morning. Both women and their dogs were evacuated to the USS Ashland and their sailing boat was assessed to be unseaworthy.
“They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [them] on the horizon was pure relief,” Appel said. She added that they were able to survive because they had taken with them water purifiers and over a year’s worth of food, primarily dry goods such as oatmeal, pasta and rice.
Once on the USS Ashland, Appel and Fuiaba were examined by medical personnel and they were provided with both food and accommodation. The women will remain board the U.S. Navy ship until its next port of call.
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