[These are excerpts from an AP story. You can't make up stuff like this.]
A northern Arizona family that was lost at sea for weeks in an ill-fated attempt to leave the U.S. over what they consider government interference in religion will fly back home Sunday.
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.
U.S. “churches aren’t their own,” Gastonguay said, suggesting that government regulation interfered with religious independence.
Among other differences, she said they had a problem with being “forced to pay these taxes that pay for abortions we don’t agree with.”
Hannah Gastonguay, 26, said Saturday that she and her husband “decided to take a leap of faith and see where God led us” when they took their two small children and her father-in-law and set sail from San Diego for the tiny island nation of Kiribati in May.
But just weeks into their journey, the Gastonguays hit a series of storms that damaged their small boat, leaving them adrift for weeks, unable to make progress.
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 could have used a sail called a genoa, she said, but they risked snapping off the mast and losing their radio and ability to communicate.
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.
They were getting hit by “squall after, squall, after squall.”
“We were in the thick of it, but we prayed,” she said. “Being out on that boat, I just knew I was going to see some miracles.”
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, who took the family’s statement at San Antonio [Chile], told the newspaper.
Hannah Gastonguay said the family will now “go back to Arizona” and “come up with a new plan.”