SAN DIEGO – The California parents of a 1-year-old girl who fell ill on a sailing trip around the world thanked military crews who rescued them from their stalled vessel on Sunday and defended their decision to sail with young children.
Eric and Charlotte Kaufman said their daughter Lyra's medical condition continued to improve after they boarded a San Diego-bound Navy ship hundreds of miles off the Mexican coast so the girl could get to a medical facility.
"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 San Diego couple said in a statement from aboard the USS Vandegrift.
"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," the statement said.
The Kaufmans, Lyra and her 3-year-old sister, Cora, started across the Pacific in March when the baby girl developed a fever and a rash covering most of her body and wasn't responding to medications. After their 36-foot sailboat lost steering and communication abilities about 900 miles southwest of Cabo San Lucas, Mexico, they sent a satellite call for help to the U.S. Coast Guard on Thursday.
Four California Air National Guard members parachuted into the water and reached the boat Thursday night. The crew stabilized the girl, stayed by her side and then boarded the USS Vandegrift with the family Sunday morning.
The frigate was expected to arrive in San Diego midweek, Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Barry Bena said.
The ship reached the inoperable sailboat around 1 a.m. Sunday, but sailors waited until daylight to move the family from the "Rebel Heart," which authorities decided to sink because it was taking on water, Bena said.
Charlotte Kaufman's sister, Sariah Kay English, posted on her Facebook page that the family took only what they could carry from the broken boat.
The Kaufmans said in the statement they were disappointed to lose their sailboat and their home.
It was still not immediately known what illness the girl may have had.
Before the family left for the trip, Lyra had salmonella poisoning, but doctors cleared her to travel after she was healthy again, English said.
When her sister first mentioned plans to sail with two young children, English recalled, "I thought it was nuts."
But English said the couple was always careful. Eric Kaufman is a Coast Guard-licensed captain who introduced sailing to Charlotte Kaufman during one of their early dates.
"They were not going into this blind. I knew they were doing this wisely," English said.