Below is the statement from Jennifer Appel sent to CNN. CNN sent her statement to me prior to my interview on CNN Headline News with Erica Hill on October 31, 2017, at 2:00 PM eastern. As a sailor, none of her story makes sense to me:
- A flare or waving a white flag is a distress beacon like an EPIRB. It signals that the crew needs rescue. Flares just have a harder time getting people’s attention. If they were setting off flares, they were compelling mariners to rescue them when they were not in a “immediately life threatening” situation according to Ms. Appel.
- None of Ms. Appel and Natasha Fuiva’s story makes sense to sailors. If they could sail 4-5 knots as Ms. Appel asserted, they could have sailed anywhere and they said they visited Kiribati and the Northern Cooks, but choose not to stop prior to their engine being disabled in a “white squall“. Their decision to turn towards the doldrums versus sailing downwind in the trade winds, also seems unwise, but that decision is not as implausible as their assertion that it was not possible for them to go into any port prior to their rescue. If one can sail to land, one can anchor next to it in most cases.
- The AP reported that they told the USCG that they were hours away from Tahiti in June, which contradicted their statement that that they had never gotten within 600 nautical miles (660 statute miles) of Tahiti. See the end of my video for that statement from the conference call on the USS Ashland. Their sailboat should not be able to sail more than 200 nautical miles in 24 hours.
- The AP reports that Ms. Appel went aboard the fishing vessel. She returned to her boat after refusing rescue from the fishing vessel. Why did taxpayers have to pay for a rescue if she refused help from the closest vessel which she was able to board? Ms. Appel went back to her vessel, which was in danger of sinking to wait for a larger Navy vessel to rescue her.
- The surprise that the VHF radio did not broadcast 200 miles out is a sign of incompetence. VHF radios on sailboats have a 25 mile range maximum regardless of their antennae.
- In addition to glaring the inconsistencies in her story, Ms. Appel blames others for things that are her fault. She blames the rigger, she blames the person who installed the electronics, and she blames the fishing vessel that tried to save her and tow her at no charge. The skipper has to make sure the electronics work and the rig is well tuned. The skipper makes the judgement to accept a tow. Not once has Ms. Appel said she made a mistake in a voyage that ended in an expensive taxpayer funded rescue and the loss of her boat. Surely, she must think she made some mistakes, which she cannot pawn on others trying to help her.Below is the full text of Ms. Appel’s response to CNN:
“#EXTRA: US sailor responds to criticism over rescue story – Full response
Full response from Jennifer Appel to CNN addressing address questions over their lack of use of the EPIRB:
The USCG Honolulu Sector receives many calls a day. They have limited resources for the enormous span of water their area covers. A fair amount of those calls are for people in the process of losing their boat and swimming in the ocean. While I do not deny that a broken spreader, blown backstay and non-functioning motor are all disabling situations – and we had all at the same time when we were at the Equator and 160 degrees West, our boat was still afloat; we had food, water and limited maneuvering capability due to fortifying the broken items at the mast. (Yes, I climbed the mast in open ocean to make hack patches so we could continue as any good sailor would.)
I have been on other boats that have dismasted, had motor problems, lost steering, taking on water, ripped sails and just about every problem a boater can have. (The more anyone does something the more experience they will have solving problems within the subject matter – whether it be a lawyer, doctor or sailor. Most people become better at their jobs over time through experience.)
I have seen broken boat pieces floating in the ocean. EPIRB calls are for people who are in an immediate life threatening scenario. It would be shameful to call on the USCG resources when not in imminent peril and allow someone else to perish because of it. Every sailor knows that. Land people do not; so please do not allow the spin of ignorance to cloud good judgement.
The Pahn Pahn distress calls that we made daily after we realized we could not return the last 726 nautical miles to Oahu from roughly 8 degrees North and 156 degrees West – that went unanswered and allowed us to reach Wake Island – were determined to be due to antenna issues that only allowed for a 1-2 nautical mile of reception. We thought we had about 200 miles reception and were notified of the descrepancy once aboard the Navy vessel.
Had we known our calls were going nowhere – we would have used the EPIRB – but hindsight is 20/20.
Please keep in mind that Wake Island could have towed us less than 3km into their turning basin and the fishing vessel/Navy rescue would never have happened. We would have replaced the broken rigging with the rigging replacements we had on board while in the safety of a harbor and gotten motor parts and a new antenna then would have continued on our journey with no press involved.
We were close enough to the reef at Peacock Point to have discussions with`Big Island` on Channel 16 at Wake Island and they responded that they were aware we needed assistance. That factoid is acutally pretty impressive because we had navigated over 2000 miles to reach a 7.4km island in the literal `middle of nowhere` at roughly 19 degrees North and 166 degrees East.
Pahn Pahn calls, which we made, are different than EPIRB or MAYDAY calls. Pahn Pahn calls let the USCG and other boats know that the vessel has issues but they are not immediately life threatening. There is a definite distinction but all three types of communications: MAYDAY, EPIRB and Pahn Pahn are varying types of distress calls.
As for other boats not seeing our flares… the other boats in the ocean missed the flares that were shot when the Titanic sunk, too.
(Ours were the smaller flares not the fireworks kind.)
Even the Navy vessel did not see us until they were 4 nautical miles from us and at 4 nautical miles away, the USS Ashland was still unable to hear our radio transmissions. Our view of the horizon is 8 nautical miles on the deck of Sea Nymph. We could see the USS Ashland but the USS Ashland could not see us – we were too small and blended in to the ocean between the wave swells. (Believe it or not, the ocean is not flat and a 50 foot object can disappear from the horizon between waves, which the USS Ashland disclosed to us upon our arrival aboard.)”
Had we not had the benefit of the `help` from the longliner, we would have continued to progress across the Pacific Ocean to Japan or the Northern Marianas or possibly catching a westerly current north and west over the French Frigate Shoals and into the northern part of Hawaii.
Incidentally, those westerlies we were hoping to catch when we left Wake Island are the reason the North Shore of Oahu is the surfing mecca of the world in the wintertime. Pipeline, The Vans Triple Crown and The Eddie – http://www.surfline.com/surf-news/data-crunching-early-major-swells-in-the-worlds-most-publicized-big-wave-basin-how-common-is-october-xxl-swell_150025/
We knew if we could navigate Sea Nymph to Wake Island we could also navigate her back home with the right wind and swell in absentia of assistance.
However, once the 100 ton steel fishing boat towing Sea Nymph backed into our 25 ton fiberglass vessel, crushing the anchor roller, taking out the bow pulpit, bending the forestay bracket, ripping off the life lines and incurring structural damage to the deck to hull joint, we had no choice but to call a MAYDAY. They had already tagged the side and back of our boat, ripping the wind generator pole off of the deck, ripped the life ring and holder from the stern pulpit, breaking chocks and lifting cleats when attempting a side tie tow. We cut ourselves loose from the fishing vessel and they sent someone to climb aboard to reattach us. It wasn`t until we disclosed that the US Navy was coming to rescue us that they moved away from our vessel. Had the Navy not responded in a timely manner, the next `hit` would have done us in. Even the Navy was a bit surprised at how fast the fishing vessel took off when they saw the USS Ashland on the horizon, which did not allow for a proper hand-off proceedure from a rescuing vessel.
We did a MAYDAY call for assistance only when it was absolutely necessary and help did arrive because the resources were available. We are grateful for that.”
Check out my video to get up to speed on the crazy trip of the SV Sea Nymph:
Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Jonathan R Clay
Commander, Amphibious Force 7th Fleet
171030-N-UX013-121 OKINAWA, Japan (Oct. 30, 2017) Natasha Fuiava, left, and Jennifer Appel, the two American mariners rescued at sea, share a moment with Command Master Chief Gary Wise as the amphibious dock landing ship moors pier side at White Beach Naval Facility in Okinawa, Japan, to deliver the mariners and their two dogs ashore. Ashland, operating in the Indo-Asia-Pacific region on a routine deployment, is in Okinawa for a scheduled port stop to prepare for the joint U.S. Navy-Marine Corps exercise Blue Chromite. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/Released) It is a public domain photo with no copyright.