Rescued Hawaii Sailor Left for Tahiti without Charts for Islands on the Way by Linus Wilson

Jennifer Appel told Slow Boat Sailing that she lacked large-scale island or harbor charts on board the SV Sea Nymph, which would have allowed her to see the depths in the anchorages they passed up. In our patron-only bonus episode to the Slow Boat Sailing Podcast episode 42, Jennifer Appel tells how she hated electronic charts and lacked electronic charts for the South Pacific.

In an e-mail exchange the author asked Ms. Appel, “Did you have paper charts for Christmas Island, Kiribati and the Northern Cooks? Did you have a paper chart for Wake Island?” All those were islands that Ms. Appel has said the SV Sea Nymph passed by on their 5 month journey ending in a US Navy rescue. Ms. Appel replied, “I had overall charts for those locations but none that were island specific.”

USS Ashland arrives in Okinawa with Mariners
Photo credit: Public domain US Navy photo by by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan R Clay. Jennifer Appel with her dog on the USS Ashland in Okinawa, Japan.

“What I have learned about GPS’s is that sometimes they do not match exactly what the paper chart says. You can have things in the Garmin that are five miles away from where they actually are in reality. So my experience has been to always use paper charts as the law, and use the GPS as a secondary backup,” Ms. Appel said.

Slow Boat Sailing asked, “So the Garmin chart plotter with the screen did it have charts loaded on it or no?”

“Yeah,” replied Ms. Appel.

“It did. It did have charts. Did you get the charts for French Polynesia before you left?” asked Slow Boat Sailing.

“I think actually it had the entire Pacific Ocean to the California coast over to about the end of the Hawaiian Islands on it.”

Garmin chart plotters only have charts for the areas purchased by the owner. For example, the chart card named “VUS021R BlueChart g2 Vision West Coast Hawaii California-Mexico SD Card” does not cover French Polynesia, the Cooks, Kiribati, or Wake Island.

“So, like I said, the handheld [Garmin GPS] never quit. It always had a battery backup it was wonderful. The big one [Garmin GPS chart plotter] would quit because I have no idea why and we would just reset it and just turn it back on, but 100 percent of the time we use paper charts.”

Many times the electronic charts are identical to paper charts. It just depends on if the electronic chart used and the paper charts on board the vessel. For example, the USA and the UK have different paper charts that may be used for electronic charts. Navionics uses chart plotter soundings to update some of their electronic charts. Many paper charts were drawn prior to GPS positioning and are over a century old. Thus, large chart errors are possible whether they are paper or electronic.

Ms. Appel told Slow Boat Sailing that she did not have any electronic charts on the hand-held Garmin GPSMAP 76cx that she had on board.

She also told Slow Boat Sailing that she had never looked on her past bread crumb trail on the GPSMAP 76cx. She asserted on a Today Show interview with Matt Lauer that the handheld GPS would prove that they were not near Tahiti on June 15. The USCG said it made radio contact with the Sea Nymph. Ms. Appel told Slow Boat Sailing that the memory storage on the unit was unlikely to keep records that far back.

This bonus episode 42 of the Slow Boat Sailing Podcast is part of an interview exclusive to Slow Boat Sailing. To our knowledge, this is the first time Jennifer Appel has been interviewed by a sailboat owner since being rescued by the US Navy.

This interview highlight’s Ms. Appel’s lack of familiarity with much of the electrical navigation and communication gear on her boat. For example, Ms. Appel talks about the gear on board and often uses marine brand names to refer to pieces of electronics, assuming they manufacturer only makes one type of gear. Appel mentions that “ICOM” was an SSB. ICOM is an electronics manufacturer that makes both VHF and AIS transeivers in addition to SSB units. A similar exchange happens when Appel refers to “Furono,” which was the Sea Nymph‘s radar. Furuno makes GPS, fish finders, and chart plotters in addition to radar domes.

Ms. Appel has repeatedly said that she paid someone to install much of the new electronic gear. In this interview, she says, “I wholeheartedly espouse what Don Casey says in This Old Boat. You need to do your own work and don’t trust other people to do it for you. Because once they do something if you have no idea what they have done, then, by the time you realize there is a problem, you are so far behind the eight ball trying to fix it.  You might not even have the parts.”

Ms. Appel said, “The two things that I was not good at or had not had a large amount of expertise in were the rigging and the communications.”



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