Women Rescued At Sea
Tasha Fuiaba climbs the ladder to board the USS Ashland, Oct. 25, 2017. United States Navy

Two women who have claimed they were lost at sea for five months and encountered sharks during an ill-fated sailing trip to Tahiti are facing tough questions about their dramatic account of survival.

Many critics have raised questions about Jennifer Appel and Tasha Fuiava's story of survival at sea, but the two women are standing by their account of the “absolutely terrifying” ordeal.

Appel and Fuiava – both Americans – were found 900 miles southeast of Japan last month after they ran into trouble May 30 when the mast on their boat malfunctioned and they lost most of their communication capabilities.

The women were bound for a 2,700-mile journey to Tahiti from Hawaii with Appel’s dogs Zeus and Valentine.

The women said they were attacked by tiger sharks and they also survived a storm with 25-foot waves that hit their boat early on in their trip.

However, both the claims have been met with skepticism. Critics questioned why the women didn’t use their emergency distress beacon to call for help when they spotted the sharks.

“The sharks were six inches away,” Appel said during a Wednesday interview with Matt Lauer on the "Today" show. “Using [the signal] means that, in the location that we were, it’s probably four hours to a day that the coast guard would have found us in a fly-over.”

She added: “So, we took our chances with the man upstairs, who gave us grace and allowed us to still be here today.” Appel described the sharks circling their sailboat as “absolutely terrifying,” adding that the women “were too ignorant to realize what was going on.”

“The sharks had been telling us, ‘You’re in our living room and you’re not leaving fast enough,’” she said. “And we didn’t realize that was what we were being told until too late.”

Women Lost At Sea
Sailors assigned to the USS Ashland assist the two women in their boat, Oct. 25, 2017. United States Navy

The women said they hit a Force 11 storm just days after setting off in their sailing boat, Sea Nymph. However, the National Weather Service in Hawaii said no major storms of such a scale were detected in the area at that time.

Appel said Wednesday the storm advisory released at the time “was anticipated to be smaller than some of the down drafts that we saw. If you were there, you would say the same thing I did. It really felt a lot bigger.”

The women have been criticized for inconsistencies in their story about the five months they were lost at sea. In an interview with NBC News after their appearance on "Today," they said they hoped to clarify what happened.

The pair was finally spotted by a Taiwanese fishing ship about 900 miles off the coast of Japan. The fisherman alerted the United States Coast Guard, which sent the USS Ashland to rescue the women.

During the interview with NBC, the women said that it wasn't until they were rescued that they actually felt their lives were in danger.

"We were never 'lost at sea.' We knew where we were the entire time," Appel said. "While the media portrayed a rescue with the Taiwanese fishing vessel, they were actually the reason why we called for help."

Appel said that the Taiwanese boat did not obey standard regulations for the distance a vessel is supposed to keep while towing a boat, and instead purposely rammed against them, overpowering their significantly smaller boat.

"The Taiwanese fishing vessel was not planning to rescue us," she continued. "They tried to kill us during the night."

Explaining why she didn’t use the Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) and instead used the satellite phone on the fishing vessel, Appel said: “I was able to get on a surfboard and get on their boat, make an actual phone call. 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, he [the captain] would have known.”