Family defends taking infant to sea following rescue by Navy task force


Rescuers help a sick baby stranded in a sailboat in the Pacific. (U.S. Navy)

A California couple who got stranded with a sick infant in the Pacific Ocean — and had to be rescued by a task force consisting of the U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and California Air National Guard — is now stuck in the middle of a social media firestorm.

Why would anyone take a baby and a 3-year-old on a Magellan-like voyage around the world? That’s the question.

The answer: “This is how our family has lived for seven years.”

Charlotte and Eric Kaufman, along with their two daughters, Cora, 3, and Lyra, 1, set sail two weeks ago from Mexico, their blog states, on the latest leg of a trip around the world. But when Lyra broke out in a severe rash and got an infection that did not respond to medication, according to local media KPIX 5, they sent a distress ping to a satellite and called it quits.

 

According to a U.S. Navy news release, the distress signal was received on Thursday and the child was rescued on Sunday.

“Sailors from Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 49) assisted in the rescue of a family with a sick infant via the ship’s small boat as part of a joint U.S. Navy, Coast Guard and California Air National Guard rescue effort. The Kaufman family and four Air National Guard pararescuemen were safely moved from the sailboat to Vandegrift, and the ship is now transiting to San Diego.”

The family’s sailboat, the 36-foot Rebel Heart, had lost power and stalled about 900 miles off the coast of Mexico. That’s where the medics treated the child, who is said to be in stable condition and already improving, and stayed with the family until help could arrive on Sunday, USA Today reported.

But now, the parents are taking heat for trying to circumnavigate the globe with a baby on board. The Kaufman’s Facebook page was littered early Monday with negative comments:

“Hope they send you the bill for the rescue.”

“If you want publicity do not involve a child’s life.”

“They are your children to endanger, but then you want the government to come save you.”

The Kaufmans responded in a statement from aboard the USS Vandegrift:

“We understand there are those who question our decision to sail with our family, but please know that this is how our family has lived for seven years, and when we departed on this journey more than a year ago, we were then and remain today confident that we prepared as well as any sailing crew could. The ocean is one of the greatest forces of nature, and it always has the potential to overcome those who live on or near it. We are proud of our choices and our preparation, and while we are disappointed that we lost our sailboat and our home, we remain grateful for those who came to our aid and those family and friends who continue to encourage and support us.”

The couple also said Eric Kaufman is a U.S. Coast Guard licensed captain and that the trip was carefully planned.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena said they are expected to arrive in San Diego midweek, according to The Associated Press. Some are glad to see them come home.

In their defense, one Facebook commenter said:

“It’s so sad to see so many people saying that these loving parents should have their kids taken from them and be charged for this and that. Honestly they did nothing wrong. How hard is it for anyone to see that? They were stranded and needed help and they got help because that is what it is there for. They shouldn’t have to pay money to be rescued. If your building is on fire do you pay the fire department to save it from burning? No, because that’s not how it works. Those services are there for the people who need them. Prayers to the family that they are well and that they get a new boat and never give up on their adventure.”

Upon rescue, authorities decided to sink the Rebel Heart because it was taking on water.

Sailors approach family sailboat to rescue infant. (U.S. Navy)
Sailors approach the sailboat to rescue a sick infant. (U.S. Navy)
Lindsey Bever is a national news reporter for The Washington Post. She writes for the Morning Mix news blog. Tweet her: @lindseybever
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