A perilous journey for two Americans lost at sea for five months after their boat lost power in a Pacific Ocean storm has ended with the rescue of the women and their dogs, the Navy said Thursday.
"They saved our lives," Jennifer Appel said after the rescue. "The pride and smiles we had when we saw (the ship) on the horizon was pure relief."
Appel and Tasha Fuiaba, both from Honolulu, said they and their two dogs left Hawaii for Tahiti this spring, but their engine failed May 30 during bad weather. The duo said they continued on, hoping to reach land by sail.
Lost and off course, they said they began issuing daily distress calls two months into their journey. But they were not close enough to other ships or land to be heard.
A Taiwanese fishing boat finally discovered them Tuesday, 900 miles southeast of Japan and thousands of miles from Tahiti. The crew contacted the U.S. Coast Guard at Guam.
Help arrived Wednesday morning in the form of the USS Ashland, a 610-foot-long amphibious docking landing ship, the Navy said. The battered boat was determined to be "unseaworthy," and the couple and their dogs were brought aboard the Ashland.
Appel said they survived because they had water purifiers and more than a year's worth of food — primarily oatmeal, pasta and rice.
Cmdr. Steven Wasson, Ashland commanding officer, shrugged off his ship's efforts.
"The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation," Wasson said.