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Family saved at sea asks critics to hold judgment

  • Associated Press
  • April 11, 2014 - 3:10 PM

SAN DIEGO — A family lifted from a disabled sailboat hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast with their sick 1-year-old thanked rescuers and defended their "maritime life" in their first public comments since returning to land.

Eric and Charlotte Kaufman said in a blog posting that their children have been sailing on boats for a long time and that the "modern cruising family" dates back several decades.

The Kaufmans were on a round-the-world cruise with their 3- and 1-year-old daughters when the vomiting, feverish younger girl forced them to call for help.

The couple asked critics to reserve judgment and wait for more details. Without elaborating, they said there were many inaccuracies reported in the news media about their daughter's health, their vessel's condition and the "overall maritime situation."

The Rebel Heart, the 36-foot sailboat that had been their home for seven years, is at the bottom of the ocean 900 miles off Mexico, sunk by rescuers because it was taking on water after losing its steering and most of its communications.

"We have been happy with the maritime life we have been able to share with our daughters. Even as we write this, several other boats are crossing the same stretch of water that Rebel Heart was on, with families who seek to show their children the world," the couple wrote in a posting dated Thursday and titled, "twenty four hours back in San Diego."

The couple thanked the 129th Rescue Wing of the California Air National Guard and the crew aboard the USS Vandergrift, saying, "We will remember them forever." In response to unsolicited offers of support, they asked that donations be sent instead to That Others May Live Foundation, a nonprofit group that assists families of Air Force rescuers who die on duty.

A satellite phone ping from the sailboat on April 3 set off a huge rescue effort that involved skydiving National Guardsmen, three federal agencies, a plane, a frigate and scores of personnel. It also sparked a debate over parenting and the propriety of hitting the high seas with two young children.

When the family and their rescuers returned to California on Wednesday, sailors said poor visibility, winds of 10 knots and rough seas kept them from sending a rescue boat to the Kaufmans for hours. When they reached the family's sailboat, 5- to 8-foot waves forced them to offload one person at a time. The effort took two hours.

© 2014 Star Tribune