In a video released by the Navy, she blows kisses with two hands as her rescuers arrive; Zeus and Valentine yap and circle excitedly in the background.
Ms. Appel, who said she had lived in Hawaii for 10 years, began planning the trip two and a half years ago out of a desire to further explore the South Pacific. But after their engine flooded, the plan went awry. Ms. Appel and Ms. Fuiaba at first believed they could get to their destination using only the boat’s sails. But two months into a journey that ordinarily takes half that long, they began to issue daily distress calls using a high-frequency radio.
“It was very depressing and very hopeless,” Ms. Appel said. Their boat had been too far out of range to communicate with anyone either on land or at sea. “There is true humility to wondering if today is your last day, if tonight is your last night.”
In an interview with The Associated Press, Ms. Appel’s mother, Joyce Appel, said she had called the Coast Guard after being unable to reach her daughter a week and a half into the trip. By that point, Ms. Appel’s mobile phone had fallen overboard.
A Coast Guard search-and-rescue mission turned up empty, but Ms. Appel’s mother still believed her daughter would return. “I had hope all along, she is very resourceful and she’s curious and as things break, she tries to repair them,” she told The Associated Press. “She doesn’t sit and wait for the repairman to get there, so I knew the same thing would be true of the boat.”
The Ashland, a ready-response vessel that operates out of Sasebo, Japan, was alerted to the location of Ms. Appel and Ms. Fuiaba’s boat by a Taiwanese fishing vessel on Oct. 24, according to the Navy. The next morning, nearly half a year of anguished uncertainty came to an end.
“They saved our lives,” Ms. Appel said in the Navy statement. She described the feeling of seeing a ship on the horizon as “pure relief.”
Ms. Appel and Ms. Fuiaba are currently aboard the Ashland, where they will remain until its next port of call. Their boat, deemed unseaworthy, was left behind.