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VIDEO: A hefty price tag

The family of four, with a critically ill 1-year-old, rescued from their disabled sailboat last week nearly 1,000 miles off Mexico, has faced a backlash of criticism, but they will not face repaying the $663,000 it cost to get them.

“We don’t want people in trouble at sea to hesitate to call for help for fear they’ll be charged for assistance,” Lt. Anna Dixon, of the 11th Coast Guard District, told the media.

Charlotte and Eric Kaufman, of San Diego, along with their two daughters Cora, 3, and Lyra, 1, were on the Pacific leg of a circumnavigation when their youngest came down with a high fever and a rash. At the same time, the family’s sailboat, the 36-foot Rebel Heart, lost steering.

The family used their satellite phone to call for help, which came in the form of the Navy guided missile frigate USS Vandegrift, four California Air National Guard aircraft and the Coast Guard.

Click play for a report on who foots the bill for rescues at sea.

The joint mission cost about $663,000, according to calculations by U-T San Diego.

Public debate has raged over the parents’ decision to go to sea with young children, and the maritime tradition of not being required to reimburse rescue agencies seems lost on many in the non-boating community.

“Many of my friends and family have also expressed anger at the mean-spirited comments that have been left on our blog by complete strangers,” Charlotte Kaufman wrote on her blog. “Please, friends, do not dismay. We will slowly delete all the comments from the Internet armchair quarterbacks who know nothing about us, our life, our skills or, I might add, sailing.”