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Adventurous Kaufman Family Back on Dry Land — and Facing a Storm of Critics

Rescue of family stranded on Pacific Ocean with sick baby cost $663,000. What do you think of their decision to sail with two little ones? Vote in our poll.

Every parent makes a few questionable decisions. Sometimes, grandma and grandpa come to the rescue with advice or a helping hand. And for most, family and friends are the only judge and jury when it comes to the humiliating second guesses.

For Eric and Charlotte Kaufman, rescue came at the hands of the U.S. Navy, the Coast Guard and the California Air National Guard — and everyone in America, from the New York Times to local fishermen, is talking about their decision to take a 1-year-old and a 3-year-old on a sailboat journey from Mexico to New Zealand.

“I think this may be the stupidest thing we have ever done,” Charlotte Kaufman wrote in her blog before departing.

Two weeks in, their Pacific Ocean journey was cut short 900 miles off the coast when 1-year-old Lyra — who suffered a bout of salmonella a few weeks before the family set sail — took seriously ill with a fever, rash and diarrhea. Antibiotics weren't helping. Then the sailboat, the Rebel Heart, lost its steering and communications. The Kaufmans used a satellite phone to radio for help.

Air National Guard rescuers parachuted in, and the U.S. Navy brought the family back to San Diego aboard the USS Vandegrift. They docked Thursday. The rescue cost the taxpayers $663,000.

Charlotte Kaufman's brother, James Moriset, called the entire adventure "nuts."

Her sister, Sariah English, was more understanding.

But bringing such young children on a potentially dangerous quest has many people questioning their judgment.

James Gardner, an Oceanside, CA, fisherman told the New York Times the trip "was asinine."

“He put his family at risk. Any Joe can take a Coast Guard course and you are a captain," Gardner said, referring to Eric Kaufman's Coast Guard certification. "It is just above a cereal box certification.”

After arriving at Naval Air Station North Island on Thursday, the family stayed away from the news media. But Eric Kaufman posted a statement on his blog thanking his rescuers and asking people to keep an open mind about their decision.

"To our supporters and those who also seek an adventurous path with their families, we thank you for your kind words and support. From professional rescuers, professional sailors, and other families at sea we have been buoyed by your warmth and kindness," he wrote. "For those who are more critical, we ask that you kindly await all the details. There have been many inaccuracies reported through various media related to our daughter's health, the vessels' condition, and our overall maritime situation."

This post is published across the California Patch network.

What do you think? Was the decision to take their children on a sailing adventure a reckless act, or are the Kaufmans getting a bum rap?
Ken Briggs April 14, 2014 at 06:16 PM
wait , they will be on most talk shows to tell about it , right ? that money they get should help pay for some of the cost of something .
J. Knight April 14, 2014 at 06:20 PM
... not to mention the book and movie deals. ;)
Ken Briggs April 14, 2014 at 06:36 PM
J.Knight. you areso right and some boat company will give them anew boat and all new gear .
J. Knight April 14, 2014 at 06:51 PM
Yes, Ken Briggs. And with a new boat will come their own reality show "Pediatric Survivor". LOL!
Christine White April 15, 2014 at 10:22 AM
To Anel and Casandra: you two have obviously not sailed a small craft in open waters. I suggest you try it with 2 babies in tow and come back and report. (It's dangerous enough with 2 experienced adults.)

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