Please select your home edition
Edition
Musto AUS 2017 728x90 4

Family of five's amazing survival - found God, but not Kiribati

by Michael Smith, Op Ed/Sail-World Cruising on 12 Aug 2013
Storm after storm after storm SW
All sailors who go to sea have reasons - the freedom, escape from the ratrace, maybe setting a record or finding new worlds. But one family had their own unusual reason, to escape the realities of America, where they had lived in Arizona, and 'find God' by sailing to the remote islands of Kiribati. Instead, they became lost and drifted for over two months around the Pacific, their supplies gradually running out.

The Gastonguay family, including their two small children and the children's grandfather, started a pilgrimage of faith that could have been deadly for them all, but their belief that the 'all mighty' would protect them was, apparently warranted.


On Saturday 26 year-old Hannah Gastonguay told the Guardian Express how she and her husband decided to take their 'leap of faith' and see where 'God led us.' The couple took their two small children and Hannah’s father-in-law on a journey that was meant to culminate on the tiny island nation of Kiribati in May of this year.

But instead of finding their island paradise, the family were buffeted by storms until they lost their bearings and drifted for weeks in the middle of nowhere. As their supplies dwindled and the small vessel sustained more damage, their faith never wavered and no-one on the tiny boat feared death.

The Gastonguays are not members of any church, and Hannah said that their faith and belief came from reading the Bible and through prayer. 'The Bible is pretty clear,' she said.

Like America's pilgrim forefathers, the Gastonguay’s felt that Christian churches in America had it all wrong, and they wanted to be free from what they saw as a religious system corrupted by the government.

The family chose the tiny island of Kiribati because, 'we didn’t want to go anywhere big.' Their research had disclosed that the tiny nation was 'one of the least developed countries in the world.'

The family made their decision and moved in November, 2012 from Ash Fork, Arizona, to San Diego, California. The heavily pregnant Hannah gave birth to their youngest child, eight month-old daughter Rahab while they prepared the boat for its journey. The small family lived on board while they got vessel ready.

In May 2013, Hannah, her husband, 30-year-old Sean, the couple’s two daughters, three year-old Ardith and baby Rahab, along with Sean’s dad Mike, set sail for the tiny island.

A few short weeks into their journey, the Gastonguay’s began to be hit by multiple storms that put them off-course and damaged their small boat. They wound up drifting at sea for weeks, stalled in their journey and hopelessly unable to proceed.

Speaking to the press via the telephone, Hannah said how, when the journey started, they felt that, 'We were cruising.' But after two weeks things changed and 'when we came out there, storm, storm, storm.'

Their boat had taken a pounding from the weather and they set course for the Marquesas Islands. But they couldn’t make any real headway. The family found themselves in a 'twilight zone,' with their boat suffering further damage. They were stuck.

The family had been on the ocean for almost two months and their supplies were running out. They had no food and were down to 'some juice and some honey.' Hannah says that they caught fish but didn’t see any other boats. She said that at no time did they fear for their lives, it 'didn’t feel like we were going to die or anything. We believed God would see us through.'

They had a couple of 'false starts' that pointed to rescue, a fishing ship came into contact with them but didn’t provide any help. Later a Canadian cargo ship came along and offered them supplies, but as they pulled up to the ship, the two vessels collided and their tiny ship was damaged even further.

Before they were finally rescued, Hannah said that their craft was hit by 'squall after, squall, after squall.' 'We were in the thick of it, but we prayed,' she added, 'Being out on that boat, I just knew I was going to see some miracles.'

Despite the storms’ fury, their faith was rewarded, Hannah said, 'next thing you know the sun is out. It’s amazing.'

Eventually, their boat was spotted by a helicopter from a Venezuelan fishing vessel, which then took the family on board. Hannah said, 'The captain said, ‘Do you know where you’re at? You’re in the middle of nowhere!’'

After spending five days on the Venezuelan ship, they transferred to a Japanese cargo ship that took them to Chile where they are resting in a hotel in the port city of San Antonio. The Chilean newspaper Las Ultimas Noticias reported the story of their arrival.

The small Christian family who got lost at sea and found God, have all had flights home arranged by U.S. Embassy officials. According to the Associated Press, Hannah said that their journey was, 'pretty exciting' and 'little scary at certain points.' Hannah also said the family will 'go back to Arizona' and 'come up with a new plan.'

BIA 2017 Brisbane 660x82 SailingNorth Technology - Southern SparsAuckland On the Water Boat Show

Related Articles

Pulling G’s with Beneteau – Pt I
In a car, just the one G will have you straining at your seatbelt. In a car, just the one G will have you straining at your seatbelt. Over nine (+ve) in an aircraft, and without a G-suit, you will be unconscious. So at three G’s, and pulling no punches with them either, we not only enjoyed our opportunity to sit with Gianguido Girotti (G3), we got to learn a lot as well!
Posted on 23 Aug
2017 J/111 World Championship - Preview
Every team’s journey to a starting line is a tale of organization, crew alignment, vessel preparation and practice Every team’s journey to a starting line is a tale of organization, crew alignment, vessel preparation and practice. Add in international travel, and the complexity snowballs. Then, weave in the pressures and prestige of a World Championship— in this case the 2017 J/111 World Championships (August 23-27, 2017), hosted by St. Francis Yacht Club in San Francisco, California — and situation compounds.
Posted on 21 Aug
Twenty-eighth blog from Jon Sanders - He's made it to Noumea
Noumea' New Caledonia a long Island kinda lies south-east to north west. 30 N Miles wide and 220 miles long 'Noumea' New Caledonia a long Island - kinda lies south-east to north west. 30 N Miles wide and 220 miles long, sort of. Plenty of reef. The fringing reef well out with several well posted passages into the Lagoon. Once inside the lagoon one cannot steer a course direct to Noumea, or one would come to a grinding halt. 'Crunch' (Coral reef and Islets). Never the less a small boat paradise....
Posted on 17 Aug
New rules to better protect and enable access to the Whitsundays
Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority Chairman Russell Reichelt said it was vital to protect the area’s values The updates to the Whitsunday Plan of Management — an area-specific plan that manages use in this highly visited region in addition to Reef-wide zoning — follows extensive consultation.
Posted on 10 Aug
Keep the water out with Zhik’s new Superthermal Hydrobase
The lower arm and leg of the new Superthermal Hydrobase is made from a water-repellent, stretch woven fabric We’ve all done it - and fished a rope out of the water, pushed the rudder down or stepped down the slipway one foot too far and gained that unwanted wet sleeve or leg.
Posted on 9 Aug
Satori is for sale
This 50ft McConaghy built performance cruiser is effectively a mini Wally. This 50ft McConaghy built performance cruiser is effectively a mini Wally. In-boom furling, self-tacking and hydraulic driven everything through push button controls that really work. You just need to trim your nails before sailing! It really is a boat that you can sail on your own, but nice to have company to show it off!
Posted on 9 Aug
Brisbane Boat Show – 18 days to go
The Brisbane Boat Show opens in less than three weeks, capturing all the Queensland boating lifestyle has to offer. There will be a huge clearance of fishing tackle and show only deals. If you love boats, fishing and water sports you don’t want to miss the Brisbane Boat Show.
Posted on 7 Aug
Knots are great, but beware of limitations
Paul Dyer, technical manager at Marlow Ropes, tests the effects of knots and splices on rope strength. Paul Dyer, technical manager at Marlow Ropes, tests the effects of knots and splices on rope strength. There's a knot for every application and for many applications there is no better solution than a knot. Nonetheless it is important to be aware of the limitations of knots.
Posted on 3 Aug
Twenty-seventh blog from Jon Sanders - More South Pacific trade winds
In my last blog I mentioned running before the trade winds. All the way from South America to Australia. In my last blog I mentioned running before the trade winds. All the way from South America to Australia. i.e. Sailing between the equator and the Tropic of Capricorn. I cleared Tahiti and headed for New Caledonia. (A sizeable French elongated Island) all in the trade wind belt. And after Noumea 'New Caledonia' to Bundaberg, where rum is made in Australia.
Posted on 31 Jul
Twenty-sixth blog from Jon Sanders - The South Pacific trade winds
First one has to get into them from Panama. Then you have them. First one has to get into them from Panama. Then you have them. Some years your sails might flop along in a light wind. But it is there.
Posted on 27 Jul