They are a family of four who set off for a bluewater adventure and landed in a media firestorm over the parents’ decision to sail around the world with children 1 and 3 years old.
On April 6, Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, who are from San Diego, were rescued 900 miles off Mexico after their boat started taking on water and their youngest daughter fell ill. The joint Navy, Coast Guard and California Air National Guard effort involved a rescue team parachuting from helicopters to escort the Kaufmans into inflatables.
The boat they purchased in 2005, intending to circumnavigate — a Hans Christian 36 — was scuttled by rescuers.
As of April 8, the family was aboard the Oliver Hazard Perry-class frigate USS Vandegrift, which was steaming toward San Diego.
In a statement released by the Navy, the Kaufmans — reported to be experienced sailors — expressed gratitude to their rescuers and well-wishers before defending their decision to head offshore with toddlers in tow.
Click play for a CBS News Report.
“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 family said in a statement.
“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.”
Just two weeks earlier Charlotte Kaufman expressed mixed emotions about the voyage in a March 26 posting on her blog:
“I think this may be the stupidest thing we have ever done. ‘Stupid’ is the number one word that resonates throughout my day as we tick the slow minutes away to the kids’ bed times each night. Why am I doing this? … Why did we pick such a hard way of traveling? Stupid.”
However, she concludes the blog post this way:
“Ultimately, how many people will ever experience the feeling of being surrounded by waves and wind, as close as an arm’s reach away from them, for weeks and weeks? It is a difficult, self-imposed isolation that is completely worth it. OK, maybe still a tiny bit stupid, but worth it.”
Charlotte and her husband were posting blogs on the site named after their boat, Rebel Heart.
Critics and defenders chimed in with opinions across mass media and social media. Some people called the parents “irresponsible” and said they should have their children taken away from them.
Meanwhile, on forums such as the Facebook page for the Seven Seas Cruising Association, there were defenders such as a poster identified as Stuart James:
“As a cruising sailor, I can tell you this — they had a medical emergency. The ensuing actions were all by the book. The idiot media seized on this because there was a baby involved. What the media doesn’t realize is that there are hundreds of kids cruising with their parents who have been doing it since they were born. Invariably, they are the best adjusted children I’ve ever seen. This is manufactured hysteria.”
An in-depth analysis of the both sides of the issue was published April 7 in the New York Times.