"I remember thinking to myself, 'Lord, please don't let this boat capsize," The X Factor judge told PEOPLE at the Television Critics Association meeting in Beverly Hills. "Please let us get to shore in one safe, sound piece. I just want to see tomorrow."
The 32-year-old was on a whale-watching cruise with friends when they lost sight of the boat they'd been following.
Suddenly there was "no more shore, no more land, we're seeing no more of the buoys, no more of the boats passing by – it's just in the middle of nowhere, so we realized that we're lost," she says.
It was 1:35 p.m. and Rowland and her pals tried to call for help on their cellphones, but since they were so far from shore, no one had a signal.
"I was like, 'Please, Lord, give me two bars,'" she remembers. "He gave me two bars and we contacted some folks that were on land and they helped us."
The Coast Guard sent a towboat operator to escort them to Provincetown, but it wasn't an easy cruise back to civilization.
"The waves coming in were like 5 to 10 feet high and the boat was only a 27-foot boat and it felt like forever to get back to shore," Rowland says. They arrived at the dock at 11:47 p.m. – more than 10 hours after they realized they were lost.
Rowland laughs about the adventure now, but admits that she doesn't want to get on another boat "for a long time – a very long time."
The new season of The X Factor premieres Sept. 11 on Fox.