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.
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.
The ocean rescue set off a serious debate over parenting, and the propriety of hitting the high seas with two kids young enough to be in diapers.
In a photo released by the Navy, the family looked like typical vacationers, with father Eric dressed in shorts and a baseball cap while lugging bags, and his wife, Charlotte, walking behind him, holding the toddler in a strap-on carrier and grasping the hand of her 3-year-old daughter.
The happy scene was a far cry from the miserable conditions described by Navy sailors who spoke to reporters after the ship moved to the San Diego mainland later in the day without the Kaufmans.
It was scheduled to move on to the San Diego mainland later in the day but without the Kaufmans, who said they want to tend to their 1-year-old daughter, Lyra, first and get some rest before talking publicly, Charlotte Kaufman's sister, Sariah English, said.
The Kaufmans' decision to sail around the world with Lyra and her 3-year-old sister Cora drew accusations of reckless foolishness from some observers and praise from others for their courageous spirit.
'They'll probably go on the 'Today' show to talk about this, and write a book about it, do a miniseries and get 15 minutes of fame because that's how our country tends to reward people who choose recklessly to put themselves and their children in danger,' said Margaret Dilloway, a San Diego novelist who has three children.
English doesn't question the decision of her sister's family. She said sailing is their passion. It's what defines them.
'Charlotte and Eric raise their children how they see fit,' English said. 'They are very concerned about child safety. That's their No. 1 concern, and they did not do this blindly. They are responsible, good parents.'
But they are aware of the criticism. Eric Kaufman, a Coast Guard-licensed captain, and his wife sent a statement from the ship defending their actions, saying '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.'
Others said children benefit in many intangible ways from parents who show them the world, even when they're too young to remember it.
Ivan Alba said the Kaufmans should be commended.
'I think it's a great thing, their decision to sail around the world, and just because their children are 1 and 3 years old doesn't mean they can't be on a boat,' said Alba, of San Diego, who is also planning a world trip with his wife and two daughters, 8 and 10. 'It's just too bad what happened, but that's also life. Anything can happen, anywhere.'
Four California Air National Guard members parachuted to the sailboat Thursday and stabilized Lyra, who responded well to medication for Salmonella-like symptoms until the warship arrived Sunday.
She had previously had salmonella in Mexico, where the family had stopped their voyage for her birth, but her pediatrician assured them she was recovered and could travel, English said.
But shortly into the trip, the child started showing symptoms and did not respond to antibiotics.