Two women and their dogs rescued after 5 months adrift in the Pacific
Posted October 27, 2017 2:16 a.m. EDT
Updated October 27, 2017 9:21 a.m. EDT
(CNN) — Two women from Hawaii who were lost at sea for nearly five months have been rescued by the US Navy.
Jennifer Appel, Tasha Fuiava and their two dogs were found Wednesday, drifting about 900 miles southeast of Japan, a Navy statement said.
In a call with the media Thursday, Appel described the situation prior to the rescue as "very depressing" and "very hopeless."
"When I saw the gray boat on the edge of the horizon, my heart leapt because I knew we were about to be saved," Appel told NBC News. "Because I honestly believed we were going to die within the next 24 hours."
The group had left Hawaii in the spring, bound for Tahiti, but ran into trouble on May 30 when bad weather damaged their sailboat's engine. The women decided to keep sailing, but strayed off course, according to the Navy.
After two months -- past the time they estimated they would arrive in Tahiti -- the Honolulu residents began sending out daily distress calls, the Navy said. But they were too far away from other boats and shore stations to be heard.
"You can't get any help at all because you're in the middle of nowhere," Fuiava said in the call.
Appel and Fuiava survived on a year's worth of dry goods including oatmeal, pasta and rice, the Navy said. They also had a water purifier.
"There is a true humility to wondering if today is your last day," Appel said in the call, according to CNN affiliate KGMB. "If tonight is your last night. If the storm that's approaching is going to bring down the rig."
"But it's the only thing you can do, so you do what you can with what you have. You have no other choice," Appel said.
'Thank God we've been rescued'
After nearly five months lost at sea, a Taiwanese fishing vessel spotted their boat and contacted the Coast Guard. The boat was discovered Tuesday, about 900 miles southeast of Japan -- which is thousands of miles away from Tahiti.
The USS Ashland, a ship based in Sasebo, Japan, was near the area on routine deployment and reached the damaged sailboat Wednesday morning.
"The US Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation," said Cmdr. Steven Wasson, Ashland commanding officer.
The Navy released video footage of the rescuers reaching the stricken sailboat. An ecstatic woman greeted them and blew kisses, while the two dogs, Zeus and Valentine, wearing bright, yellow life jackets, barked excitedly.
"Thank God we've been rescued," Appel said, according to CNN affiliate KHON.
Their sailboat was deemed unseaworthy and is currently drifting out at sea, KHON reported.
The women were given medical assessments and will remain aboard the USS Ashland until its next port of call, the Navy said.
"I'm grateful for their service to our country," Appel said in a Navy statement. "They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [the US Navy] on the horizon was pure relief."