Analysis: Hawaii Sailors’ GPS Track Does NOT Prove “we were no-where near Tahiti” as asserted by Jennifer Appel on the Today Show

by Linus Wilson

The GPS track that Jennifer Appel told the Today Show would prove they never were near Tahiti had less than 48 hours of tracks right before they were rescued by the US Navy.  Former Today Show host Matt Lauer questioned the skipper who said they were at sea for over five months before being rescued on October 25, 2017.  Mr. Lauer asked about their boat being hailed by the Coast Guard on June 15, 2017, within a day of Tahiti. Ms. Appel waved her GPSMAP Garmin 76cx in front of Mr. Lauer in the video below at about 2:58 and said, “I have no idea, but Garmin makes a great product. This is one of the GPS’s on the Sea–our Sea Nymph–and it shows we were no-where near Tahiti.”

She gave the Garmin GPSMAP unit to Alan Block after her in-person interview on his Sailing Anarchy Podcast. Slow Boat Sailing spoke to Mr. Block over the phone prior to his interview with Ms. Appel.  Slow Boat Sailing encouraged Mr. Block to look at her GPS tracks prior to his 8-hour interview with Mr. Appel and her crew member Tasha Fuiava in a Today Show-paid-for hotel in Long Island, New York. He posted a link to the GPX file on January 9, 2018, over a month after the interview, which Slow Boat Sailing has analyzed below.

GPSnew

Of course, the track does not go back to June 15, 2017, when the “Sea Nymph” responded to a VHF hail by a USCG plane near Tahiti. Thus, this is just another fib Ms. Appel has been caught in on national TV. Ms. Appel’s accounts of giant sharks and a force 11 storm among other things have been questioned in many news outlets. For a summary, watch our video below:

Slow Boat Sailing obtained Ms. Appel’s reported positions to the USCG in her survivor debrief. There was a large gap of reported positions to where the boat speed slowed to about 1 knot sailing downwind in the trades.

20MapGPS

The 48 hours of GPS track shows the Sea Nymph drifting slowly west (downwind) from points 1 to 2. From points 2 to 3, they sail less than one knot north, possibly to intercept the Taiwanese fishing vessel. This slow speed is in line with the very slow speeds the SV Sea Nymph skipper reported to the US Coast Guard in her survivor debrief Ms. Appel was interviewed in October. A boat with any sails up should have made better than one knot downwind in the opinion of Slow Boat Sailing. Thus, her reported speeds were more consistent with a sailboat “adrift” contrary to Ms. Appel’s assertions on her GoFundMe page. An other explanation for the slow speeds from June 26, 2017, until their tow on October 24, 2017, was that the SV Sea Nymph visited an island on the way, but Ms. Appel has always denied that too.

From point 3 to 4, the speed averages 4.5 knots upwind. That is well below the SV Sea Nymph’s 7.6 knot maximum hull speed. This is could be when the Sea Nymph was towed. This seems to dispute speculation by Slow Boat Sailing and others that perhaps the distress Ms. Appel and Ms. Fuiava felt was from a too fast tow. Motoring upwind in a mild to moderate ocean swell is definitely less comfortable than sailing or drifting downwind at a slow speed. By their accounts, Ms. Appel and Ms. Fuiava had been sailing downwind for 120 days at that point. Their distress at the tow, may reflect their inexperience motoring upwind in mild to moderate ocean swells. That was something the Slow Boat Sailing crew struggled with on their way to Ecuador.

The fishing vessel was in all likelihood towing the sailboat at a reasonable speed. This upwind course only lasted about 15 hours until the boat speed slowed down to less than a knot between points 4 and 5. That may be when they dropped the tow. This seems consistent with a boat largely adrift and a reasonable towing speed far below the Sea Nymph’s hull speed. There was less than 105 nautical miles traveled on the GPS track.

The local time was 10 hours ahead of GMT (London) plotted on the first figure. For a timeline of the last two days, the US Navy press release is a reasonable guide:

“On Oct. 24, they were discovered 900 miles southeast of Japan by a Taiwanese fishing vessel. The fishing vessel contacted Coast Guard Sector Guam who then coordinated with Taipei Rescue Coordination Center, the Japan Coordination Center, and the Joint Coordination Center in Honolulu to render assistance. 

Operating near the area on a routine deployment, Ashland made best speed to the location of the vessel in the early morning on Oct. 25 and arrived on scene at 10:30 a.m. that morning. Ashland dispatched a small team of Sailors to provide aid and attempt to fix the mariners failed engine. Ashland’s boat engineer was unable to fix the engine due primarily to a lack of requisite parts. Given the inoperable engine, combined with other equipment degradations expressed by the mariners, Ashland’s commanding officer chose to take the mariners and their two dogs on board. The mariners and their two dogs were safely aboard the ship at 1:18 p.m.”

The Navy account and GPS tracks line up with the first contact and tow happening in the daylight hours of GMT+10 at points 2 to 4. The USS Ashland arrived at the scene between points 4 and 5 of the GPS track. Ms. Appel must have turned off her GPS shortly after coming aboard the USS Ashland at 13:18 local time (GMT+10) or 3:18 GMT. The last track reading on that day was at 3:23 GMT or 13:23 GMT+10.

It seems likely that the Sea Nymph was towed upwind after Ms. Appel called for the Navy rescue from the satellite phone aboard the fishing vessel. The distress call was made on the 24th but the Sea Nymph stopped moving east at 7:13 local time (GMT+10) on October 25, 2017. Thus, Ms. Appel called (with a satellite phone on the fishing boat) to be rescued from the Taiwanese fisherman on October 24, 2017.  She told NBC, “They tried to kill us during the night”. Nevertheless, it seems likely that she did not drop the tow until at least seven hours after she made the distress call. The Taiwanese government has disputed Ms. Appel’s allegations that the fishing vessel posed any danger to the women or their boat.

As an aside, Ms. Appel told the USCG that they signaled for rescue since June 26, 2017, that is 22 days longer that they signaled for rescue by VHF, flares, and hand signals then they reported to the media. They told reporters in their conference call on the USS Ashland in October 2017 that they signaled for rescue for only 98 days prior to October 24, 2017, when they got the fishing vessel’s tow. It is not clear why there is this discrepancy in the number of days that Ms. Appel reported signalling for rescue, but not using her EPIRB. USCG interviewers criticized Ms. Appel’s decision to not use an EPIRB in their phone conversation with her on the USS Ashland.

Dr. Linus Wilson, is the creator of the Slow Boat Sailing Podcast and YouTube channel.  He has written three books about sailing including How to Sail Around the World Part-Time. He sails out of New Orleans and his 31-foot Island Packet sailboat at the time of writing was awaiting the next leg of the Pacific crossing in Tahiti. Dr. Wilson holds a six-pack captain’s license.

Advertisements

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.
We use a Mantus Anchor and swivel on our boat. Get all your Mantus gear at
http://www.mantusanchors.com/?affiliates=15
Mantus Anchors is a corporate sponsor of this episode.
Get $5 off your wind speed indicator at

http://www.SailTimerWind.com/SlowBoatSailing

The SailTimer Wind Instrument™ is a wireless, solar-powered masthead anemometer. There are no wires to install down the mast. It is the first anemometer designed for sailboats, with wind cup blades that maintain equal accuracy when sailing along heeled over. It is submersible, so even works great on sailing dinghies, since it does not require a 12-volt battery. But on boats large and small, it works with a range of apps, and continues to gain new features as more apps support it and add new functions. This means that it is not a one-time purchase; you can wake up tomorrow, and it can do things that it did not do today. There is also an accessory that can receive the wireless transmissions and wire in to your NMEA network, for displaying the wind speed and direction on wired marine electronics. This also happens to be the only masthead anemometer that you can raise even if your boat is already in the water, without needing to lower or climb the mast. It is also the first masthead anemometer that has a digital compass built right in to the wind directoin arrow. No calibration required; it knows which way it is pointing. This is also a connected device, allowing you to share wind conditions and location online. That is a handy safety feature like a float plan, but can also let you be at home and check live wind conditions on your boat.

SailTimer Wind Instrument™ is a corporate sponsor of Slow Boat Sailing.

Support this channel for great rewards:
http://www.Patreon.com/slowboatsailing
Patrons of the round the world vlog and podcast get bonus podcast episodes and free audiobooks of How to Sail Around the World Part-Time and Slow Boat to Cuba. They get never before released audiobook chapters of Slow Boat to the Bahamas. You can also get access to many podcasts and videos early as a patron.
Slow Boat to the Bahamas

Slow Boat to Cuba

and
How to Sail Around the World-Part Time

have been #1 sailing bestseller on Amazon.
Associate Producer, Anders Colbenson
Support the Slow Boat Sailing vlog and podcast at
https://www.patreon.com/slowboatsailing

(c) Linus Wilson, 2017
Vermilion Advisory Service, LLC