The moment the two women and their dogs were rescued is captured on video, taken from the deck of a Navy boat.
The camera wobbles as the motorboat cuts across the ocean, some 900 miles southeast of Japan, toward the lone sailboat that had been sending distress signals for months after its engine died.
One of the women is on the deck, her arms outstretched. She feverishly blows kisses toward the rescue boat. This is the reaction of someone who had been lost at sea for months.
“They saved our lives,” sailor Jennifer Appel said, according to a news release from the Navy. “The pride and smiles we had when we saw [U.S. Navy] on the horizon was pure relief.”
Appel and Tasha Fuiaba, both from Honolulu, had set sail for the Polynesian island of Tahiti in the spring. But their boat’s engine died in May after a bout of inclement weather. They pressed on, hoping to make it to land by sail, the Navy said. But they soon found themselves lost. Their distress signals went unanswered for months.
The pair had prepared for a long trip; they had water purifiers and over a year’s worth of food on board, mostly dry goods like oatmeal, pasta and rice.
On Tuesday, a Taiwanese fishing boat found them. The fishermen alerted the U.S. Coast Guard, and on Wednesday the USS Ashland, a warship operating out of Sasebo, Japan, tracked them down about 10:30 a.m. and dispatched the rescue boat.
The two sailors and their two dogs were brought safely aboard after the Navy determined that their boat was no longer seaworthy.
Once on board the Ashland, they were assessed by medical staff and given food and lodging arrangements. The Navy said that they will remain on the ship until its next port of call.
Photos distributed by the Navy show the women smiling aboard the warship. Zeus the dog appears in good spirits, if a bit skinny.