The women, who were rescued by the Navy in October after spending five months at sea, now claim they were never lost at all. In fact, they said a crew aboard the Taiwanese fishing vessel credited with finding them actually meant to cause the women harm.
“We were never ‘lost at sea.’ We knew where we were the entire time,” Appel, 48, told NBC News following a Wednesday appearance on the Today show. “While the media portrayed a rescue with the Taiwanese fishing vessel, they were actually the reason why we called for help.”
“The Taiwanese fishing vessel was not planning to rescue us. They tried to kill us during the night,” she continued, adding that the Taiwanese vessel purposely rammed against them, overpowering their significantly smaller boat.
Appel and Fuiava, 26, set off from their Hawaii homes on a 2,700-mile journey on May 3, but ran into trouble when an alleged storm rendered their boat nearly useless, according to the women. Alongside the technical problems, they said they endured two separate tiger shark encounters — a claim that has prompted many to ask why the women didn’t use their emergency distress beacon to call for help.
Appel said that during the encounter with the Taiwanese crew, she was afraid to use the distress signal and, instead used a satellite phone on the fishing vessel to contact the U.S. Coast Guard.
“I was able to get on the surfboard and get on their boat, make an actual phone call,” Appel told NBC. “Because no one spoke English, it was easier and safer for me to relay the information to the U.S. Coast Guard-Guam sector that we were in danger without them realizing what we were saying.
“If I had thrown the EPIRB at that point, [the captain] would have known.”
The claim is the latest twist in the women’s account. Many have cast doubt on Appel and Fuiava’s harrowing story, including their claim that they hit a Force 11 storm just days after setting off in their sailing boat, Sea Nymph. When contacted by PEOPLE, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration had no record of any Force 11 storm happening around Hawaii at the beginning of May.
Some have even questioned the women’s claims of Tiger sharks circling their boats on two occasions. In different descriptions, Appel described the sharks as being at least 50-feet long. Although she told PEOPLE they were 20- to 30-feet in length, tiger sharks only grow about 16-feet long on average.
Experts have said that an instance of sharks jumping out of the ocean to capsize a vessel has never been recorded by other sailors.
Despite the pair’s alleged ordeal, they said they plan to set sail again.
“We still never got to see the 20,000 islands, so I think that would be the most fantastic trip for May of next spring,” Appel said during a news conference at a U.S. Navy base in Japan. She announced plans to build an “unsinkable and unbreakable boat” for the new voyage.