Hawaii sailors mystery deepens

WHEN two lost sailors were rescued by the US Navy after apparently being lost for months out at sea, their story of survival against the odds seemed rather extraordinary.

But now accusations are flying that one is a wannabe actress who appeared as a "pink bikini wearing blonde" in Courteney Cox's CougarTown. And some suggest there's more to the story than meets the eye.

Mariners Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava's vessel had strayed "well off its original course" according to the navy after setting off from Hawaii with two dogs en route to Tahiti on May 3.

They planned an 18-day trip to Tahiti before sailing the South Pacific and returning to Hawaii in October.

The women said they lost their engine after a storm the same day they left Hawaii, off the coast of Oahu, that threw them across the ocean for three days. With the use of a sail they thought they could continue on their course.

Instead, blown off course and adrift for five months, they faced multiple shark attacks and severe storms and were credited for their "sheer courage and will power".

"Long past when they originally estimated they would reach Tahiti, they began to issue distress calls. The two continued the calls daily, but they were not close enough to other vessels or shore stations to receive them," the public affair unit for the Force 7th Fleet explained at the time of the rescue.

But eventually their communication devices broke down, the women said.

"We didn't have our hand radio and our radio telephone wasn't working. And also our Iridium (satellite) phone was not working," Ms Appel told CNN. "They're dependent on the antenna, and when the antenna went out, everything went out."

They survived on one water purifier after the second broke, and more than one year's worth of food - mostly dried goods like pasta - which had reportedly nearly run out already.

They were finally discovered by a Taiwanese fishing boat on October 24, almost 1500km off the coast of Japan. They were picked up by the USS Ashland the next day.

"When we saw you guys coming over the horizon, it was: 'Oh god we've been saved'," Appel, told navy officers at the time.

"It was the most amazing feeling because we honestly did not believe that we would survive another 24-hours in the current situation.

"We had no idea what to expect, but when we saw that big grey ship coming it was just ... relief."

Yet after a deeper investigation, serious holes are beginning to appear and people are beginning to cast doubt on the women's story.

In fact Ms Appel's excuse over why the pair had not activated their emergency beacon completely contradicts their original story.

"One of the two Hawaii women who say they were lost at sea for five months, said they had not activated their emergency beacon because, in her experience, it should be used only when facing imminent physical danger and death in the next 24 hours," the Associated Press reported.

"Our hull was solid, we were floating, we had food, we had water, and we had limited manoeuverable capacity," Ms Appel released in a statement in Japan, where the navy dropped them off last week.

"All those things did not say we are going to die. All that said, it's going to take us a whole lot longer to get where we're going."

But that's just the beginning of a web of stories that don't make sense.

Meteorologists have contradicted reports of the severe weather the women encountered along their journey, while NASA images have proven their were no tropical storms in sight near Hawaii at the time.

Ms Appel said in hindsight the pair should have used the emergency beacon on at least two occasions; in Hawaii in late June and Wake Island on October 1.

In another strange twist, the women only met in late 2016 and decided to take the trip within the first week.

They said they had planned to dock their boat, the Sea Nymph, after the first storm but there was not a port big enough nearby to hold the ship.

Meanwhile, the coast guard reportedly made contact with a vessel identifying itself as the Sea Nymph near Tahiti in June, after the boat had lost power to its engine. The captain at the time told them the ship wasn't in distress and was expected to make land the next morning.

"There's something wrong there," retired Coast Guard officer Phillip R. Johnson, who oversaw search and rescue operations, told the Associated Press.

Reporters state Ms Appel is a wannabe actress, linking her to a Hawaii Actors Network. In Ms Appel's profile, seen by news.com.au, her credits include a role in the medical drama Off the Map and a "pink bikini wearing blonde" in Courteney Cox's CougarTown.


- Share your story - youngma@news.com.au

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