-- Two civilian mariners were rescued at sea by a U.S. Navy ship after being stranded in the Pacific Ocean for almost five months.
The two mariners were well off course: They left Honolulu on their sailboat in the spring, bound for Tahiti, 2,600 miles away in the South Pacific, but were rescued in the western Pacific 900 miles southeast of Japan.
Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, both from Honolulu, and their two dogs were rescued on Wednesday by the USS Ashland (LSD 48), an amphibious transport dock ship.
During a spell of bad weather on May 30, their sailboat's engine stopped running for good. But the pair continued sailing toward Tahiti, believing they could make it to land.
Two months into their voyage, they began issuing daily distress radio calls. But there were no ships close enough to receive the messages.
On Tuesday a Taiwanese fishing vessel discovered the pair 900 miles from Japan, nearly 5,000 miles from their planned destination.
The vessel reached out to the U.S. Coast Guard in Guam for assistance, and it was determined that the Ashland was in the best position to pick up the stranded mariners.
The Ashland reached the sailboat Tuesday morning, and after the craft was assessed as unseaworthy, Appel and Fuiava were taken aboard. They were given medical checkups, food and berthing arrangements on the ship because they will remain on the Ashland until its next port of call.
"I'm grateful for their service to our country. They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [the Navy] on the horizon was pure relief," said Appel.
Appel said they survived for so long at sea thanks to the water purifiers on the sailboat and the year's worth of food they had on board, including oatmeal, pasta and rice.
"The U.S. Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation," said Cmdr. Steven Wasson, the Ashland's commanding officer.