When Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava were pulled from their seemingly useless boat on Oct. 25, it seemed like a happy ending to a potentially harrowing story of survival at sea. The duo were only 900 miles from Japan when they were spotted and rescued along with their two dogs that had taken the voyage with them. Less than two weeks later, their story seems to have more holes in it than their boat.
A mixture of inconsistent information combined with strange behavior for people “fearing for their lives” have cast serious doubts on the credibility of their account.
On May 3, the two women started out on a 2,600-mile sailing trip from Hawaii to Tahiti. They had prepped their vessel, the Sea Nymph, with a year’s supply of provisions, including dry foods and two water purifiers. Appel and Fiuava claim that their vessel’s engine was damaged beyond repair by bad weather shortly after they set off. They made the decision to continue sailing, but strayed from their course.
This is when their story becomes even more sensational. Apparently, the mast was damaged making navigation impossible. Then, communications systems went out. Next came the shark attacks and the unanswered distress calls. If things are starting to sound too dramatic to be anything but a Hollywood pitch, it may be because they are.
The National Weather Service had no reports of organized storms in their area during the times that they claimed to have undergone massive and incapacitating damage. CNN reported on some of the story’s inconsistent content, stating that an interview with National Weather Service meteorologist Norman Hui revealed that there were “no organized storm systems near the Hawaiian islands on the dates of May 3, 2017 or the few days afterward.”
According to the Washington Post, Jennifer Appel wasted no time starting interviews. While aboard the USS Ashland, the naval vessel that came to rescue them, Appel made a statement that has been broadcast across media in recent days.
“When we saw you guys, coming over the horizon, it was like, ‘Oh god we’ve been saved.’ It was the most amazing feeling because we honestly did not believe we would survive another 24 hours in the current situation.”
This raised the question: why did the women not activate their emergency beacon? Yes, they had a working Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) that was properly registered, and that could have ended the entire ordeal in short order. Activating the beacon would have released a steady and strong signal that would have alerted authorities to their location and allowed for rescue.
When questioned about this, Appel explained why they did not activate the beacon.
“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.”
That interview seemed to be in direct conflict with their original statements claiming that they were in definite and very real fear for their safety and lives. The validity of their “shark attack” story was also called into question when scientists were asked to evaluate their claims. Appel and Fuiava claim that 20- to 30-foot tiger sharks spent six-to-eight hours in a seemingly coordinated attack on their vessel.
Kim Holland, a seasoned shark researcher from the University of Hawaii, pointed out that this behavior has never been recorded in tiger sharks. Not only do they never “coordinate” attacks, these sharks only grow to a maximum length of 17 feet. Holland also made the observation that tiger sharks will not congregate without the presence of some sort of food.
“If there’s nothing there to attract the animals. I mean this is just an inert boat hull,” she stated.
Appel’s mother had claimed to have called the U.S. Coast Guard after only a week-and-a-half to report her daughter missing. The coast guard said that they received no such call. Instead, they had received a call from an unidentified “male family member” on May 18 that would have raised little alarm as it was well before their intended arrival date. The two women failed to file a float plan with the coast guard, which would have provided them with some measure of transparency and safety.
All of this comes after Appel decided to pursue her career in acting. Fox News reported on her budding acting career.
“At some point, Appel joined the Hawai’i Actors Network, noting on the group’s website that she has ‘been known to do almost any skydiving or motorcycle stunt — camera optional.’ Through the group, she found work as an extra in the former TV series ‘Off the Map’ and the former sitcom ‘Cougar Town,’ appearing in that show in a pink bikini in the background of a season finale. A call to the actors’ network by The Associated Press was not returned.”
It would seem that the more that experts weigh in on the situation, the more it becomes unlikely that the story happened as the women claim. Is it possible that they turned their vacation into a sensational tale of survival in the hopes of grasping their 15 minutes of fame? Or, are they simply using exaggerated accounts of their adventure as a way to cover up poor sailing choices and a serious lack of personal experience?
[Featured Image by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Clay/ US Navy via AP Images]