Aussie in 30-foot junk-rigged sailboat rescued after 102 Days at sea near Hawaii

HONOLULU — The Coast Guard, and a good Samaritan assisted a 62-year old Australian mariner in his homemade sailing vessel three and a half miles west of the Keehi Harbor, Maui, Sunday.

A 45-foot Response Boat-Medium boatcrew from Coast Guard Station Maui safely towed the 30-foot sailing vessel Kehaar Darwin to Sugar Beach, Maui. Customs and Border Protection personnel will interview the mariner before he resumes his voyage.

Coast Guard, good Samaritan assist disoriented Australian mariner off Maui

USCG public domain photo of SV Kehaar Darwin a 30-foot junk-rigged, homemade sailboat towed by the USCG on January 1, 2018, near Maui.

“Being disoriented while at sea in a vessel with no communication capabilities aboard can be deadly if not handled quickly,” said Petty Officer 2nd Class Jacob Schlereth, a boarding officer and engineer at Station Maui. “We commend the good Samaritan for recognizing the complications and contacting the proper authorities to initiate a rescue.”

At 3 p.m., watchstanders at Station Maui received a report from the operator of the commercial passenger vessel Trilogy V stating the master of the Kehaar Darwin flagged him down asking for assistance.

Reportedly he appeared disoriented and was having trouble making it into port. He departed Panama approximately 104 days earlier enroute to Australia; his vessel became beset by weather forcing him into Hawaiian waters. He was without communications equipment, an engine and his sails were in poor condition.

Weather on scene was reportedly 17 to 23 mph winds and seas to 4 feet.

The Coast Guard strongly recommends all mariners ensure they have proper safety gear aboard their vessel prior to departure. Properly fitting life jackets, a VHF radio or some form of communication and signaling devices are examples of safety gear that can mean the difference between life and death in an emergency situation.

The Coast Guard also strongly recommends that all mariners file a float plan with a friend or family member, with an approximate time of return and route. It is also recommended mariners check in regularly especially if plans should change. Mariners should check current and forecasted weather conditions prior to getting underway, and remain aware of changing conditions once on the water.

Coast Guard, good Samaritan assist disoriented Australian mariner off Maui

The above is the USCG “courtesy story.” It seems to conflict with the photo captions by the USCG that say he was rescued on January 1, 2018 (Monday) and not Sunday, December 31, 2017. Also Keehi Harbor is in Oahu not Maui. (Jennifer Appel hauled out and parked her boat at Keehi. That is why Slow Boat Sailing knows that Hawaii boating trivia.) We have contacted the USCG for further clarification. They have not released the name of the 62-year old Aussie as far as we know.

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No charts, dinghy, & autopilot before sailing offshore? SV Sea Nymph & Jennifer Appel

The Hawaii sailors say they had trouble making port because they lacked large-scale charts. The skipper, Jennifer Appel, failed to buy them before she left Honolulu on May 3. Without “island” or large-scale charts, of the Christmas Island, Kiribati, the northern Cooks, or Wake Island, Appel said she had to make VHF calls to see if the anchorages were safe. A responsible skipper would have bought charts (paper or electronic) for the islands on the way.

Nothing about the mysterious case of the SV Sea Nymph is clear cut, because the skipper Jennifer Appel has been caught in so many lies about sharks sizes, a force 11 storm , and even the size of her boat (50-feet versus 45-feet long)!

The dinghy pictured in thumbnail a 2017 picture by Michael Krijnen was no where to be found when Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava were rescued by a Taiwanese fishing vessel and the US Navy’ ship the USS Ashland LSD48.

Mariners Rescued by USS Ashland (LSD 48)
AT SEA
10.27.2017
Navy Media Content Services
Public Domain

Interviews with mariners Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, and Cmdr. Steve Wasson, USS Ashland commanding officer.

USS Ashland Rescue
WHITE BEACH, OKINAWA, JAPAN
10.30.2017
Video by Lance Cpl. Jonathan Pearson
American Forces Network Okinawa
Public Domain

 

Ms. Appel told Sailing Anarchy that she had to hand steer and lost sleep because rookie sailor Tasha never got the hang of steering weeks into the voyage. There is little evidence that the boat had an autopilot or windvane. Very few sailboats leave for a three-week offshore passage for Tahiti without a self-steering device.

The SV Sea Nymph owned by Jennifer Appel had underwent a major refit before leaving Honolulu. Did the rigging problems occur on the voyage, in Honolulu, or were their rigging problems at all?

All this adds up to a skipper who had not prepared her boat for a major offshore passage. Appel says they were at sea for over 5-months before being rescued by the US Navy on October 25, 2017, over a thousand miles off course. Appel and Fuiava said they departed Honolulu bound for Tahiti.

Interviews with rescued mariners aboard USS Ashland
By Navy Media Content Services, 10/27/17, Public Domain
Interviews with mariners Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, and Cmdr. Steve Wasson, USS Ashland commanding officer.

Pictures from Michael Krijnen of Jennifer Appel on a motor scooter and in a dinghy are used with his permission.
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US Air Force Confirms Part of Hawaii Sailor’s Story about Hailing Wake Island by Linus Wilson

Very little of the timeline and itinerary given by Hawaii sailors Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava prior to October 24, 2017, on the 45-foot, SV Sea Nymph sailboat has been confirmed at this point.  The US Air Force base at Wake Island in the North Pacific confirms to the author and Slow Boat Sailing that US Air Force personnel did have radio contact with the SV Sea Nymph on October 2, 2017. The North Pacific atoll is approximately 1,000 nautical miles east from where the women and their two dogs were rescued by a Taiwanese fishing vessel. That means the SV Sea Nymph averaged about 2 nautical miles per hour over the roughly three weeks until they accepted a tow from Taiwanese fishing vessel.

171026-N-XC372-1915

Public domain photo by Anthony J. Rivera, Navy Media Content Services, on October 26, 2017: Four F/A-18C Hornets fly in formation over Wake Island and the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt during a U.S. Navy Heritage event for the crew.

Ms. Appel and Ms. Fuiava said they set sail for Tahiti from Honolulu on May 3, 2017, and never touched land until after they were taken off Ms. Appel’s sailboat on October 25, 2017, by the US Navy’s USS Ashland approximately 900 miles east south east of Japan. Their account has been questioned after they described a “three day” force 11 storm at the start of their trip that could not be found in weather records. Further, they described sharks bigger than have ever been before measured. The Associated Press reported that a US Coast Guard’s VHF call put them just outside Tahiti on June 15, 2017,  when they claimed to be over 1,000 miles to the northwest of Tahiti at that time.

In e-mail communication with the author, Ms. Appel said she was next to Wake Island on October 1. Wake Island has a US Air Force base and a landing strip sometimes accommodating commercial flights. The US Air Force in an e-mail exchange with Slow Boat Sailing said the fire department personnel received her call on October 2, 2017, at 6:35 A.M. local time.  “She relayed her antenna was broken and a partial coordinate. She was seeking to harbor in the Wake Island Marina, which was approved. Communication was in and out,” wrote Mr. Tommie W. Baker, Chief of Community Relations for the Eleventh Air Force.

Ms. Appel has wrote the following on her Facebook page on a November 12, 2017, post, which she said was sent to media outlets on November 1:

“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 actually 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.”

Mr. Baker of the US Air Force wrote that they did not tow the SV Sea Nymph because they were, “Unable to locate their craft.” Further, he wrote that the Air Force “was not aware of the vessel being adrift. Island personnel passed all information gathered to the USCG.”

The USCG in Honolulu’s Petty Officer 2nd Class Tara A. Molle declined to comment on their communications with the US Air Force at Wake Island, saying “this case is now closed”.

The author has examined the chart and the channel on the west side of the island, which was little under 100 feet wide. Thus, it is the author’s opinion that sailing a 45-foot cruising boat into that channel would be very risky and difficult for a crew of two under ideal circumstances. Ms. Appel asserted that the engine did not work since late May 2017. Slow Boat Sailing found that the US Navy was also unable to start the sailboat’s engine when the two women and two dogs were rescued on October 25, 2017. Nevertheless, the shelf outside the channel could be used to anchor in while the crew waited for assistance or took their tender to shore to get help.

The one-day discrepancy in the date of the US Air Force could be due to Ms. Appel not adding an additional day to her log entries when she passed the international dateline at 180 east longitude. Wake Island is at approximately 166.6 east longitude. Alternatively, they could have sailed near the island for multiple days.