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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 Contango “the Slow Boat” through the Panama Canal to Tahiti.