Sick Baby: Sailboat Rescue Triggers Controversy About Family’s Lifestyle

A sick baby on a sailboat was rescued in a joint mission by the U.S. Coastguard and the California Air National Guard on Sunday, according to a Reuters’ report.

The seriously ill little girl and her family were transferred from the sailboat to a U.S. Navy frigate which is taking them back to California. Initially, the family was put into an inflatable raft to make the short trip to the Navy vessel, the USS Vandegrift.

Hailing from San Diego, Eric and Charlotte Kaufman and their daughters, Cora, 3, and Lyra, 1 set out on their trip about two weeks ago in their 36-foot (11-meter) sailboat called the Rebel Heart, heading for New Zealand.

They were 1,000 miles (1600 km.) off of Mexico’s Pacific coast when baby Lyra got sick; she developed a fever and rash. Her parents then sent a satellite distress call to the Coast Guard on Thursday.

The fact that the family had set out on such a long voyage in such a relatively small vessel (for the Pacific Ocean) raised questions about the wisdom of the endeavor.

But the Kaufman family vigorously defended their decision to take their young children:

“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.”

Following a distress call on Thursday, the California Air National Guard’s 129th Rescue Wing dispatched a military transport plane and a team of four men to provide immediate medical assistance.

Their spokesman, Second Lieutenant Roderick Bersamina, described how the rescuers parachuted from the plane into the ocean, inflated a dinghy and motored toward the sailboat. They then boarded the vessel and treated the baby girl with the medical supplies they were carrying.

Bersamina added, “They took it upon themselves to do whatever necessary to save her life.” They remained on the sailboat with the family until the Navy ship to arrived.

In a further statement, the Kaufmans said that they were thankful that they were safe and well, adding,”We also appreciate all the concern, thoughts and prayers… for our daughter Lyra. She is doing well now, and her medical condition continues to improve.”

The father, Eric Kaufman, says he is a licensed U.S. Coast Guard captain and certified dive master. He obviously felt that he could deal with any problems, no matter what they might have been.

On the other hand, his wife Charlotte posted in her blog one week into the journey, that things were difficult.

“I think this may be the stupidest thing we have ever done,” she wrote. “Why did we pick such a hard way of traveling? Stupid.”

Usually, search and rescue missions are paid for by the Coast Guard. In this case, considering the circumstances, the Coast Guard spokesperson would not comment.