Yachtswomen Rescued after Five Months Adrift in Pacific
Friday 27 October 2017The US Navy's USS Ashland has rescued two very relieved sailors along with their dogs after they had been adrift in the Pacific for five months.
Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiaba set off from Hawaii for Tahiti on the 3rd of May but on the 30th of May their engine failed because of "bad weather". It is speculated that they also sustained damage to their mast. Despite this they carried on with their voyage.
They drifted at sea in their yacht Sea Nymph until the 25th of October when thankfully a Taiwanese fishing boat found them 900 miles southeast of Japan. They alerted Guam coastguard and yesterday they were rescued by USS Ashland.
The women were well provisioned with rice, pasta and oatmeal as well as having a watermaker. This undoubtedly saved their lives.
There are three questions raised by what we know about this story:
If they were unable to raise their sail for some reason (my best guess at this would be windlass failure) why did they not use their mast steps and jury rig their mainsail and unfurl their genoa? It might be that they had done so and just furled them when the rescue vessel arrived.
If they were able to make way could it be that they were lost. To state the obvious the Pacific is huge (if you look at it on a globe you can see nothing much but water) and is very easy to get lost in especially if you are not making much headway. If their engine was out of action then that could mean they were unable to charge their batteries and use their GPS which would make navigation more difficult. Solar panels, a handheld GPS and celestial navigation equipment and skills would all be of benefit if this was the case.
The biggest question I have was why they did not have a decent means raising a distress call. VHF radios have an extremely limited range so are of little use when you need them the most. I'd be inclined to have an HF radio, an EPIRB and a Satphone. At the very least I would have an EPIRB.
We are very glad that Jennifer and Tasha are safe. They have no-doubt learned from the experience and as fellow sailors we can all learn from this story and others like it.
Update on 31st of October
I have been following reports from the US Coast Guard about this case closely over the last few days because several factors about it seemed strange.
The USCG reports that the women did have an EPIRB aboard but they did not use it because they did not think their lives were in imminent danger (despite claiming they were incredibly lucky to be alive).
The National Weather Service has no record of the three day storm that they experienced on their first night. Indeed there was no storm anywhere in Hawaii during those three days and NASA satellite photos back this up.