Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, who were rescued after spending five months stranded at sea, have defended their epic tale of survival.
The US women said they had been sailing from Hawaii to Tahiti when their sailboat engine failed as a result of rough weather in May, the ABC reports.
The women and their two dogs were rescued in the Pacific Ocean around 1500 kilometres south-east of Japan—far from their planned path. Their tale of survival included bad weather, a tiger shark attack, and a food shortage. Appel and Fuiava said they had been making daily distress radio calls two months into their voyage.
Following speculation that the pair lied or exaggerated their version of events, the sailors have claimed that they were never lost at all.
Appearing on the Today show, the women explained that the Taiwanese fishing boat that had ‘rescued’ them actually had meant them harm.
“We were never ‘lost at sea.’ We knew where we were the entire time,” Appel, recounted. “While the media portrayed a rescue with the Taiwanese fishing vessel, they were actually the reason why we called for help."
The sailor said the Taiwanese vessel had rammed against their own much smaller boat.
“The Taiwanese fishing vessel was not planning to rescue us. They tried to kill us during the night,” she alleged.
The pair were also questioned about the storm they claimed to have faced, despite the US Coast Guard having no record of a storm of that magnitude in the area.
“I believe the storm advisory that the U.S. Coast Guard did put out… was anticipated to be smaller,” Appel told host Matt Lauer. “If you were there you would say the same thing that I did, it really felt a lot bigger.”
Doubts about the women’s story surfaced after it was discovered they had an emergency beacon on their ship, but never chose to activate it.
Experienced sailor Appel told Coast Guard officials that they did turn on the ship’s Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon because they didn’t feel like they were in “imminent danger”. The beacon would have immediately provided search and rescue crews of their location.
“Our hull was solid, we were floating, we had food, we had water, and we had limited maneuverable capacity,” Appel said. “All those things did not say we are going to die. All that said it's going to take us a whole lot longer to get where we're going.”
Boating expert Linus Wilson has queried if the pair fabricated some of their claims.
“Several of Appel’s statements about her voyage do not check out and don’t ring true to many experienced sailors,” he proposed. “I think a reasonable person may start out thinking that Ms. Appel was just a foolish skipper, but it seems likely many events that she recounts may have been fabricated to sensationalize the story.”
The two women met in late 2016. A week later they decided to embark on a sailing trip, although Fuiava had no experience.