Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava, and their two dogs, were found Wednesday after setting off from Hawaii for Tahiti this spring.
But on May 30, the Honolulu residents encountered bad weather that damaged the sailboat’s engine, the Navy said in a statement.
The women decided to keep sailing, but strayed off course, according to the Navy.
After two months, which was past the time they had estimated they would’ve reached Tahiti, they began making daily distress calls. But they were too far away from other boats and shore stations.
“You can’t get any help at all because you’re in the middle of nowhere,” Fuiava said in a call with the media.
‘You have no other choice’
Appel described the situation as “very depressing” and “very hopeless.”
“But it’s the only thing you can do, so you do what you can with what you have. You have no other choice,” Appel said.
They survived by using water purifiers and a year’s worth of food they had brought, such as oatmeal, pasta and rice.
After nearly five months lost at sea, a Taiwanese fishing vessel spotted their boat and contacted the Coast Guard. The boat was discovered Tuesday, about 900 miles southeast of Japan — which is thousands of miles away from Tahiti.
The USS Ashland, a ship based in Sasebo, Japan, was near the area on routine deployment and reached the damaged sailboat Wednesday morning.
“The US Navy is postured to assist any distressed mariner of any nationality during any type of situation,” said Cmdr. Steven Wasson, Ashland commanding officer.
The Navy released video footage of the rescuers reaching the stricken sailboat. An ecstatic woman greeted them and blew kisses, while the two dogs, Zeus and Valentine, wearing bright, yellow life jackets, barked excitedly.
“Thank God we’ve been rescued,” Appel said, according to CNN affiliate KHON.
Their sailboat was deemed unseaworthy and is currently drifting out at sea, KHON reported.
The women will remain on board the USS Ashland until its next port of call.
“I’m grateful for their service to our country,” Appel said in a Navy statement. “They saved our lives. The pride and smiles we had when we saw [US Navy] on the horizon was pure relief.”