The 26-year-old mother said they wanted to go to Kiribati because “we didn’t want to go anywhere big.” She said they understood the island to be “one of the least developed countries in the world.”
Kiribati is a group of islands just off the equator and the international date line about halfway between Hawaii and Australia. The total population is just more than 100,000 people of primarily Micronesian descent.
Hannah Gastonguay said her family was fed up with government control in the U.S. As Christians they don’t believe in “abortion, homosexuality, in the state-controlled church,” she said.
The Gastonguays weren’t members of any church, and Hannah Gastonguay said their faith came from reading the Bible and through prayer.
“The Bible is pretty clear,” she said.
The family moved in November from Ash Fork, Ariz., to San Diego, where they lived on their boat as they prepared to set sail. She said she gave birth to the couple’s 8-month-old girl on the boat, which was docked in a slip at the time.
In May, Hannah, her 30-year-old husband Sean, his father Mike, and the couple’s daughters, 3-year-old Ardith and baby Rahab set off. They wouldn’t touch land again for 91 days, she said.
She said at first, “We were cruising.”
But within a couple of weeks “when we came out there, storm, storm, storm.”
The boat had taken a beating, and they decided to set course for the Marquesas Islands. Instead, they found themselves in a “twilight zone,” taking more and more damage, leaving them unable to make progress.
They had been on the ocean for about two months and were low on supplies. They were out of food and were down to “some juice and some honey.” She said they were able to catch fish, but they didn’t see any boats.
Still, we “didn’t feel like we were going to die or anything. We believed God would see us through,” she said.
At one point a fishing ship came into contact with them but left without providing assistance. A Canadian cargo ship came along and offered supplies, but when they pulled up alongside it, the vessels bumped and the smaller ship sustained even more damage.
Eventually, their boat was spotted by a helicopter that had taken off from a nearby Venezuelan fishing vessel, which ended up saving them.
“The captain said, ‘Do you know where you’re at? You’re in the middle of nowhere,’ ” she said.
They were on the Venezuelan ship for about five days before transferring to the Japanese cargo ship, where they were for nearly three weeks before landing in Chile on Friday. The Chilean newspaper Las Ultimas Noticias reported the story of their arrival.
“They were looking for a kind of adventure. They wanted to live on a Polynesian island but they didn’t have sufficient expertise to navigate adequately,” police prefect Jose Luis Lopez told the newspaper.
Hannah Gastonguay said the family will now “go back to Arizona” and “come up with a new plan.”