Investigation: Rescued Sailor’s Story Has Several Holes by Linus Wilson


On October 25, 2017, the USS Ashland rescued Hawaiian sailors Jennifer Appel and Natasha Fuiva from the sailboat SV Sea Nymph. They claimed to be adrift for five months unable to reach land. Many of the details of the story: 50-foot sharks, their battling of a force 11 storm, and the size of their boat do not check out.

  1. Ms. Appel claimed they hit a force 11 storm, which would pack winds of 64-72 miles per hour, off Hilo, Hawaii within a day of their May 3, 2017, departure from Honolulu.  Slow Boat Sailing looked at wind speed in Maui about the time of the storm and could find no such winds. Moreover, Slow Boat Sailing looked at NOAA’s records of storms in the Central North Pacific Region and found no records of storms, systems with winds of over 55 miles per hour near Hawaii or in that North Pacific region until July 2017. That contradicts the assertion of a 3-day storm soon after May 3, 2017, made by Ms. Appel.
  2. The author and Slow Boat Sailing has verified that the boat was 37-feet long according to US Coast Guard records. That is 13 feet shorter than they asserted. The boat was built in 1979 and was a Starratt & Jenks fiberglass yacht. The Sea Nymph was registered to Jennifer Appel of Haleiwa, Hawaii. It has 36.8-foot length, a 10.8 foot beam, and displaces 18 gross tons.
  3. Ms. Appel and Ms. Fuiva claimed that they could not hail anyone by way of VHF radio for three months. The author and Slow Boat Sailing has verified that they had an EPIRB device registered with the FCC  An EPIRB will notify rescuers of the vessel’s distress wherever it is in the world. The EPIRB was registered under the name of the vessel’s previous owner.
  4. Ms. Appel said their boat was attacked by tiger sharks as big as 50-feet long. Tiger sharks don’t grow longer than 18-feet long. Many species of sharks are endangered. Many sailboat cruisers enjoy diving with sharks and shark attacks are extremely rare. Slow Boat Sailing filmed sharks in Fakarava, Tuamotus while swimming with them.

Slow Boat Sailing Produced the following video looking at the videos and interviews by the US Navy. Slow Boat Sailing’s video questioned the judgement of Ms. Apppel, taking her statements as true. The video was produced prior to fact checking the statements above.

Dr. Linus Wilson earned his doctorate from Oxford University in financial economics in 2007. He is a USCG licensed “six-pack” captain, OUPV-Near Coastal. He has written three books about sailing, Slow Boat to the Bahamas, Slow Boat to Cuba, and How to Sail Around the World Part-Time. He is the creator of the Slow Boat Sailing Podcast and Slow Boat Sailing YouTube channel.  He has sailed over 10,000 nautical miles with his family and crew. He has sailed with family and volunteer crew on SV Contangothe Slow Boat” through the Panama Canal to Tahiti.


9 thoughts on “Investigation: Rescued Sailor’s Story Has Several Holes by Linus Wilson”

  1. My grandmother always cautioned us to never let a good story be spoiled by the lack of a few facts! The story here is obviously embellished, but who hasn’t told a few fibs when it comes to tales of the sea?? 🙂


    1. Sink, Tom?
      Ever seen a cargo container ship? lol
      A US A/C Nimitz class carrier weighs in around 97,000 TONS.
      Container ships can can float gross tonnage of 153,222 tons, which is not much. This is okay, because containers max out for cubic space before they reach max weight. There are large ships that displace on the order of 600,000 tons, too big for some ports. (Tons, not pounds).

      My boat weights about 16t. (and dead weight, weighed on the lift, called it 34,000 pounds fully loaded last year. We weigh less now, even with 3-4 months of food, water, fuel and tools aboard).


  2. Measurements based on the photo indicate the boat to be at least 45ft long, not including davits. It would appear your research or the documents are wrong. 18 tonnes seems reasonable but 25 is also realistic, but so what, its hardly a significant hole in their story to have estimated their displacement incorrectly or exagurated. EBIRBS have been known to fail. I had one registered but I know the batteries needed replacing and it would never have worked. You certainly wouldn’t expect a VHF to have helped them out there.
    The claims about a storm are the only significant ‘hole’ you mention, and even that only indicates them to be deluded. How many sailors have not knowingly or mistakenly exagurated wave heights, wind speeds or some other feature when recounting our stories?


  3. I withheld “judgement” on several accounts, the most important being a lack of facts as the story broke. There were three articles that contained scarce pieces of information about the boat, the women, their story, etc.

    Mostly, it was embellished. I believe the Navy let them talk freely so and didn’t interrupt them or correct any of their statements because the more they spoke, the deeper they dug their hole.

    Here are my thoughts on this:

    1) A boat with a broken shroud can still sail on one tack, though it might not take you where you’re going.
    2) The dogs, and women appeared very well fed for 5 months living on oatmeat and rice, and beef jerky (and this was somehow a “vegan diet” as one of the women stated?)
    3) A rig can be repaired, especially if it were just a bolt. Climbing up might have been difficult (and I personally have a fear of heights like that, but eventually I’d work out some kind of rigging system to get me up there, long before five months were up).
    4) A line could have been run to the side to take up the slack of a broken shroud – around the mast, and down to the deck. There’s probably numerous other things you might have done, but I wasn’t there to see it, so don’t know.
    5) Sharks – covered in the blog.
    6) Storm – covered in the blog.
    7) EPIRBs. Can fail. Can not work at all. Must be out of the cradle and deployed in water (maybe didn’t know this?)
    8) Boat length – looking at the videos, and stills, I would say that boat is close to 45′ if not 50′. No bow sprit.
    9) Port side shroud lines DO appear to be down in the video above at 1:45, stop motion.
    10) Things they have said: I’m not going to detail everything I heard, but I will say that there are definitely “holes” in their story, things they said weren’t very common sense, and some things sounded “wrong”. Five months is a LONG time to float out there.

    There are other factors involved too. The mom DID try to get them help according to an article I read, but I don’t know the veracity of that story either.

    I still reserve judgement on calling them “dumb” or “stupid” as some have done. They likely set off with good intentions – but at this point, I’m beginning to believe this was a stunt, something to get attention, or get a book or movie deal. I can’t see a lot of truth in their story; but, sometimes the mind forgets details, and inserts others. Five months without meat might be long enough for most people to lose brain functions (intelligence).


    That’s all for now.

    s/v Adventure


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