The San Diego couple critics blasted as reckless for bringing their two young daughters on a long sailing trip are finally speaking up to defend themselves — and set the record straight.
Eric and Charlotte Kaufman's 1-year-olld Lyra fell sick in April on their way from Mexico to New Zealand and the family was rescued by a Navy warship. By the time they reached land, the harsh judgments had already come pouring in.
"We're both experienced sailors. We've raised our daughters on a sailboat. We were very prepared. We knew what we were doing," Charlotte Kaufman told ABC News.
The adventure they spent years planning was supposed to be 3,000 miles but about 18 days into the journey their sailboat, the Rebel Heart, got stranded in the Pacific Ocean, nearly 1,000 miles west of Cabo San Lucas.
Their baby girl got a fever and rash before becoming lethargic.
"I think a lot of people think we grabbed a six-pack of beer and hopped in a boat and headed to Tahiti, fates be damned, let's do it, and that wasn't the case at all," Eric Kaufman told San Diego station KGTV.
The couple used their satellite cell phone to call their doctor who instructed them to treat Lyra with the antibiotics they kept a medical locker on the boat, which had been the family's home for eight years.
When that did not work, Eric Kaufman called the Coast Guard. He told them to keep the satellite cell phone on so he could reach them after consulting with a pediatrician, KGTV reported.
That call never came. The phone showed a SIM card error.
The Kaufmans were forced to activate the boat's emergency beacon.
Within 12 hours, an elite team of Air National Guardsmen parachuted from a plane into the ocean, inflated a raft and and got the ill child, who was treated with more antibiotics.
The Rebel Heart had also damaged to the point where it needed to be destroyed.
The couple accuses their satellite phone provider, Whenever Communications, LLC., of deactivating their cellphone — ultimately leading to a life or death situation, according to the ABC affiliate.
"I think the evidence clearly represents that they did what they did and that was the action that ultimately started a chain of events," Eric Kaufman added.
They plan to file a civil lawsuit against the phone provider to pay back the federal government for the costly military rescue and compensate the family for the loss of their boat.
Once the Kaufmans get a new boat, they plan to set sail.
"I can't wait to get back," Charlotte Kaufman said. "It's an amazing lifestyle."