When Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava set out on their 50-foot sailboat called the “Sea Nymph” they didn’t foresee their sailing adventure taking a turn 5,000 miles off course.
In a trip from Hawaii to Tahiti the pair and their two dogs ended up aimlessly floating at sea for five months.
This trip, a 2,600 mile journey, is not unusual for experienced sailors, and typically takes a month or so. Several weeks into the trip though, something went wrong.
Appel is an experienced sailor, however Fuiava was a novice. Appel had been sailing the Hawaian islands for the last 10 years, and Fuiava was a security guard at the pier where Appel was storing her boat. They became friends, so when it became time for Appel to leave for her trip, she asked Fuiava if she wanted to come along. Spontaneously she agreed to go on the adventure.
Appel had been planning the trip for more than two years.
“I had no idea what I was getting myself into,” she said. “When I asked Natasha, I told her I have no idea what’s going to happen out there and she said, ‘That’s OK, I’ve never sailed.’”
Appel and Fuiava’s boat engine died during a storm which left them stranded in the Pacific Ocean. The duo believed they could still sail safety to their destination with their dogs Zeus and Valentine on board.
Two months later, they were lost, and started to issue distress calls. They also fired flares at passing ships, with no luck.
For three months their calls for help went unanswered.
Fuiava, who took night watch, consistently experienced disappointment when she saw ships passing in the distance.
“I could see light and I could see vessels and I watched them get closer and we thought it would be close enough to do a call or, if it was pointed our way, we would shoot flairs and hail it on a VHF,” she said. “When they would turn or keep going — yeah, it was kind of sad.”
As time wore on and the pair continued to drift, they started to get discouraged. Sharks frequently circled their boat, and they had concerns of further damage to their boat that would put them into harm’s way.
“I went downstairs with the boys and we basically laid huddled on the floor and I told them not to bark, because the sharks could hear us breathing. They could smell us,” Appel told NBC News.
One night seven sharks, including five adults measuring 20 to 30 feet in length, slapped their tails repeated against the hull of their boat.