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Pacific Ocean: Circumnavigating family abandon ship as 1 year old falls seriously ill - new statement from family

By Sue Richards — last modified May 11, 2014 09:48 PM
Contributors: San Jose Mercury News, AP News, USA Today, Cruisers Network Online, the Kaufman's blog
Yesterday was a day of relief yet sadness for an American family of four, who had just embarked on their dream voyage after years of planning to find they had to abandon ship when their 1 year old daughter fell critically ill and their boat lost its steering.

Published: 2014-04-05 23:00:00
Topics: Circumnavigation , Safety and Medical
Countries: USA , Mexico

Pacific Ocean: Circumnavigating family abandon ship as 1 year old falls seriously ill - new statement from family

The Kaufman family

A Navy warship completed the rescue yesterday (Sunday) of a sick 1-year-old girl from a San Diego family's sailboat approx. 900 miles off the coast of Mexico.

Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena told USA TODAY the frigate USS Vandegrift had reached the 36-foot Rebel Heart on Sunday, and the entire family was taken aboard the Vandegrift bound for San Diego.

Charlotte and Eric Kaufman had just begun their first ocean passage as part of thier planned circumnavigation across the Pacific Ocean with their daughters, Cora, 3, and Lyra, 1. Their blog tells how the family had lived aboard their Hans Christian 36 "Rebel Heart" since 2012, when they left San Diego and sailed down to Mexico. The first stage of their planned circumnavigation was across the Pacific to New Zealand, departing Mexico on March 20th.

Parents Charlotte and Eric issued a distress call on Thursday after Lyra became sick with a fever and rash. Charlotte's sister Sariah English told reporters that family members had caught a "little bug" in Mexico that required antibiotics, and they had postponed the trip for a week to make sure they were all shipshape before leaving. That night, a four-person Air National Guard team from California's 129th Rescue Wing parachuted into the ocean, inflated a boat and reached the Rebel Heart to provide immediate medical attention for Lyra.

The Rescue Wing reported Saturday that Lyra's condition had stabilized, but that she required medical treatment. Pararescuers remained with the family and were providing care to the infant until the Navy frigate arrived at about 1 a.m. Sunday. Pararescuers, sometimes called PJs or pararescue jumpers, combine parachuting and emergency medical skills.

The Rescue Wing said in a statement Saturday that the sailboat was almost 1,000 miles from Cabo San Lucas and did not have steering or communication abilities. One news report stated that when using the engine the boat was taking on water, others are more vague and simply say that Rebel Heart no longer had steering capabilities. A statement just released by the family simply refers to losing their boat, so exactly what went wrong is not yet clear.

Eric and Charlotte Kaufman issued the following statement from aboard the US Navy Oliver Hazard Perry class Frigate USS Vandegrift (FFG 48) on Monday morning (https://www.facebook.com/ThirdFleet/posts/10152456522234180):

"First, we would like to express how grateful we are to the men and women of the Coast Guard, California Air National Guard and Navy who rescued our family, especially the pararescuemen and crew of USS Vandegrift. We are very thankful to be safe and well. We also appreciate all the concern, thoughts and prayers of everyone back home for the health of our daughter Lyra. She is doing well now, and her medical condition continues to improve.

"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 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.

"Thank you."

An update on the Yahoo group Cruisers Network Online by a friend of the Kaufmans, reports that the family were able to take three bags off Rebel Heart (their home for 7 years), before she had to be sunk. All will be helicoptered from the Navy ship to San Diego on Tuesday, when it's expected the family will talk with the media about their ordeal.

Photos of the rescue can be found on the US Navy website

Posting by the Kaufmans on their website April 10, 2014.

When Boating with Young Children - Article NY Times: April 2014
Some guidelines for parents who want to take to the high seas with young children.

11 May 2014: Charlotte and Eric did an interview with "This American Life" radio, called "Call for Help". You can listen to it at http://audio.thisamericanlife.org/jomamashouse/ismymamashouse/525.mp3 (20 minutes long).

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