SASEBO, JAPAN (CBSNewYork) — Two American women who were stranded at sea for months recounted their harrowing ordeal on Monday.
The Navy rescued them last week, after they drifted thousands of miles in the Pacific Ocean.
As CBS2’s Jericka Duncan reported, safe in the hands of the U.S. Navy, Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiva weren’t shy to express their gratitude.
The women and their two dogs were rescued Wednesday, after an 18 day journey swelled into a five month long crisis.
“Seeing other boats and then seeing them turn away from us was just heartbreaking. We got to a point where we actually wrote in the log we’ve been left for dead,” Appel said.
A Taiwanese fishing vessel discovered the women on Tuesday, 900 miles southeast of Japan. They said their engine died, and the 50 foot sailboat had drifted some 5,000 miles from their original course from Hawaii to Tahiti.
“We saw the Navy, we were like, ‘yes, someone who can actually help us,” Fuiava said.
The crew admitted they faced problems with their equipment including their radio, from the start of the trip.
“And all we hear is ‘Maui, storms’ so we’re like okay, turn away from Maui. Not realizing that the antenna was already messed up. We were turning directly into the storm instead of away from it,” Fuiava said.
They said they collided with near hurricane force winds, but refused to turn around. A piece of the mast broke limiting the craft’s steering and speed. Another storm they said flooded the boat’s engine and disabled communications.
Appel said the crippled vessel eventually drifted into a group of aggressive tiger sharks.
“And the tiger sharks figured that we had entered their living room, and were not leaving fast enough,” she said.
As the challenges mounted, Appel and Fuiava looked to their canine crewmates, Zeus and Valentine for support.
“I’m telling you right now, without those two we’d have been nuts. I mean, way more nuts than we already are,” Appel said.
The women also credited their survival to a water purifier and a year’s supply of extra food.
Their sailboat is still floating out in the ocean.