Inconsistencies cast doubt on harrowing tale of sea survival

In this Wednesday, Oct. 25, 2017 still image taken from video provided by the U.S. Navy, Jennifer Appel, of Honolulu, holds up a shaka sign as rescuers approach her crippled sailboat, the Sea Nymph, after being lost at sea for months, about 900 miles southeast of Japan. Their engine was crippled, their mast was damaged and things went downhill from there for two women who set out to sail the 2,700 miles from Hawaii to Tahiti. A Taiwanese fishing vessel spotted their boat off Japan and thousands of miles in the wrong direction from Tahiti. The Navy sent the USS Ashland to their rescue. (U.S. Navy via AP) HONOLULU — Two Hawaii women who say they were lost at sea on a sailboat for months never activated their emergency beacon, the U.S. Coast Guard said, adding to a growing list of inconsistencies that cast doubt on their harrowing tale of survival.

The women previously told The Associated Press that they had radios, satellite phones, GPS and other emergency gear, but they didn’t mention the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon, or EPIRB.

A Coast Guard review of the incident and subsequent interviews with the women revealed that they had an EPIRB aboard their boat but never turned it on.

Jennifer Appel confirmed in an interview Tuesday that they had the beacon and did not use it. She said that in her experience, it should be used only when you are in imminent physical danger and going to die in the next 24 hours.

“Our hull was solid, we were floating, we had food, we had water, and we had limited manoeuvrable capacity,” Appel said in Japan, where the U.S. Navy took them after they were rescued by a Navy ship. “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.”

In retrospect, though, Appel said there were two times that she would have used it — once when she and Tasha Fuiava were off Hawaii around late June to early July, and a second time off Wake Island on Oct. 1.

“That’s a lesson learned for me, because that was the best chance we had in the ocean to get help,” Appel said of the Wake Island missed opportunity.

Previously, Appel and Fuiava had said they were close to giving up when the Navy rescued them last week, thousands of miles off course.

The EPIRB communicates with satellites and sends locations to authorities. It’s activated when it’s submerged in water or turned on manually. The alert signal sends a location to rescuers within minutes.

A retired Coast Guard officer who was responsible for search and rescue operations said that if the women had used the emergency beacon, they would have been found.

“If the thing was operational and it was turned on, a signal should have been received very, very quickly that this vessel was in distress,” Phillip R. Johnson said Monday in a telephone interview from Washington state.

Johnson described the device […]