The Norman Transcript

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April 10, 2014

Sailing family back in U.S.

SAN DIEGO — Six days after a family of four found themselves helpless and adrift in a sailboat far into the Pacific with a vomiting, feverish 1-year-old, a Navy warship delivered them safely Wednesday to San Diego, where they began their attempted around-the world voyage before the child was born.

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.

A satellite phone ping from the boat set off a huge rescue effort that involved skydiving National Guardsmen, three federal agencies, a plane, a frigate and scores of personnel.

It also sparked a debate over parenting and the propriety of hitting the high seas with two young children.

The Navy warship, the USS Vandegrift, docked at Naval Air Station North Island with the Kaufman family safely aboard and the child recovering from her illness, Navy spokeswoman Lt. Lenaya Rotklein said.

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 ship was scheduled to move from the island to the San Diego mainland later in the day without the Kaufmans, who first want to tend to their 1-year-old daughter, Lyra, and get some rest before talking publicly, said Charlotte Kaufman’s sister, Sariah English.

The Kaufmans’ decision to sail around the world drew accusations of reckless foolishness from some and praise from others.

“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 novelist Margaret Dilloway.

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