After Five Months Lost at Sea, Two Sailors and Their Dogs Rescued Aboard Sailboat in Pacific

Sailors assigned to the amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48) maneuver the landing craft personnel (large) to render assistance to distressed mariners, October 26, 2017. U.S. Navy Photo

The U.S. Navy has rescued two distressed sailors and their two dogs nearly five months after their sailboat strayed off course in the Pacific Ocean.

The rescued sailors, Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba, both from Honolulu, and their two dogs had set sail from Hawaii to Tahiti this spring. The boat suffered an engine casualty on May 30 during bad weather, but they continued on, believing they could make it to land by sail, the Navy said in a statement.

Two months into their journey, and long past when they originally estimated they would 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 sailboat was finally located about 900 miles southeast of Japan by a Taiwanese fishing vessel on October 24, leading to their rescue by the crew of the USS Ashland on October 26 somewhere between Guam and Japan. After assessing the sailboat unseaworthy, Ashland crew members brought the distressed mariners and their two dogs aboard the ship.

“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 Appel.

Appel said they survived the situation by bringing water purifiers and over a year’s worth of food on board, primarily in the form of dry goods such as oatmeal, pasta and rice.

It was not immediately clear if the sailors were equipped with an EPIRB, or other lifesaving equipment that could have aided in their rescue.

The boat appeared beaten up but with its mast intact and sails furled. 

Once on Ashland, the mariners were provided with medical assessments, food and berthing arrangements. The mariners will remain on board until Ashland’s next port of call.

“The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation,” said Cmdr. Steven Wasson, Ashland commanding officer.

U.S. Navy Photo
U.S. Navy Photo
U.S. Navy Photo