It sounded like one of the great survival stories: two women and their dogs, found after being lost at sea for five months. But now, questions are being asked about Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava’s incredible journey.
The two women are friends from Honolulu. While Appel is an experienced sailor who has spent 10 years sailing around the Hawaiian islands, Fuiava had no sailing experience before starting out on the trip.
They met at a boatyard when Fuiava took a temporary job there. Appel, who owns a housing business specialising in affordable micro homes, was a regular at the yard.
“She was the only chick working on a boat,” Fuiava tells the Honolulu Star Advertiser.
For more than two years, Appel had been planning a trip from Hawaii to Tahiti on her 50-foot boat, Sea Nymph. She estimated it would take 18 days.
Appel invited Fuiava to join her, and Fuiava was keen.
“Tasha never sailed a day in her life,” Appel says. “She didn’t know how to be scared.”
Before leaving, they took advice from veteran sailors in Hawaii, packing “every square inch” of their boat with a year’s worth of supplies like oatmeal and pasta, as well as a water purifier.
Appel and Fuiava, along with their two rescue dogs, Hungarian hunting dog Valentine and pitbull mix Zeus, left Hawaii on May 3. They say they lost their phone overboard on the first day, and a string of other communications devices failed. They claim their boat was pummelled by a storm with winds greater than 100km/h.
“We got into a Force 11 storm, and it lasted for two nights and three days,” Appel said after their rescue.