A rescue mission was underway Friday to help a 1-year-old girl who fell seriously ill aboard her parents’ boat 900 miles from the Mexican coast, and worried family members at home are divided on whether the trip was a good idea in the first place.
Eric and Charlotte Kaufman of San Diego set sail aboard their 36-foot sailboat with their two daughters, a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old.
But on Thursday, a rescue call went out when the youngest crewmember became sick with salmonella poisoning. To complicate things, their boat started having problems.
Thus began a complex rescue mission between the California Air National Guard and U.S. Navy to get antibiotics to the little girl.
Concerned family members in San Diego are waiting by the phone for updates on what’s going to happen to their 1-year-old niece.
"I saw this coming. I saw the potential for every bit of it,” said Charlotte’s brother James Moriset. “I'm just glad they're alive and my little niece is being taken care of, which is cool.”
The Kaufmans were two weeks into their around-the-world journey, and they were getting farther and farther away from land every day.
Had the girl fallen ill one week later, James’ wife April said this could be a different – and more tragic -- story.
James told NBC 7 he believes the whole trip was nuts from the beginning.
“I don’t understand what they were thinking to begin with. I’m sorry, I don’t even like to take my kids in a car ride that would be too dangerous, and it’s like taking them out into the big ocean? It’s like – I don’t know,” said James.
Charlotte's sister in New Mexico, Sariah English, said she thought the same thing at first, but as plans developed, she changed her mind.
"[Charlotte] involved me in how she was planning and educating herself. I got to meet other boat parents who were sailing around the world with children that young or younger," said English.
English told NBC 7 that Eric is a former Navy corpsman and a certified Coast Guard captain, so they weren't "just novices going out to sea."
By the time the Kaufman's were ready to ship out, English believed they'd be OK.
Not so for James, who said he could not even see his sister off because he thought the trip was “too crazy.
But even on her blog, Charlotte herself expressed misgivings about the trip.
On March 25, six days into the trip, the mother wrote about how her baby is the most challenging part of the trip, but not because she is a "bad baby."
"WE are the nutballs who decided to set to sea with you," Charlotte wrote, addressing the post to the one-year-old. "Trust me, we have no one else to blame for bringing a 13 month old to sea than ourselves. I keep telling myself that Bora Bora will be worth it, worth what I’m now calling ‘extreme parenting.’"
Both James and April are glad the family is OK, and they hope this will be the final event that convinces the Kaufmans to abandon their goal and come home.
“As a mom, I can only imagine that this is the absolute scariest fear, next to losing a child,” said April. “I can only imagine that [Charlotte] is like, ‘Let’s get back on land.’”
The Kaufmans’ boat “Rebel Heart” was waiting for the Navy’s USS Vandergrift to transport them back to shore. The frigate reached the stranded family on Saturday evening.
"It really has just been a roller coaster of emotions," said English, "from fear of not knowing, to gratitude of these men who have jumped out of an airplane into the ocean and swam aboard to get to my little niece."
Assuming the little girl’s condition doesn’t take a turn for the worse, the family may be back in San Diego by Monday.