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Parents of sick 1-year-old defend sailing trip after Navy rescue

TravelCabo San Lucas (Mexico)

The parents of a sick baby who had to be rescued hundreds of miles off the Mexico coast Sunday are defending themselves against criticism that taking two small children on a year-long sailing trip around the world was not smart parenting.

Eric and Charlotte Kaufman issued an email statement while aboard the Navy frigate Vandegrift, which took the parents, their ailing 1-year-old daughter and their 3-year-old daughter onboard at daybreak Sunday after their sailboat became disabled about 1,000 miles from Cabo San Lucas, Mexico.

"We understand there are those who question our decision to sail with our family," the Kaufmans said in the statement. "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."

The rescue began Thursday when the Kaufmans sent a distress message via satellite phone to the Coast Guard that their 1-year-old daughter was sick and the sailboat disabled.

By late Thursday, four para-rescuemen had plunged into the water from a fixed-wing aircraft and were on the sailboat, said 2nd Lt. Roderick B. Bersamina, spokesman for the 129th Rescue Wing based at Moffett Federal Airfield in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The child was treated with medication, officials said.

The family was on a worldwide trip when the child got sick and the sailboat lost its communication and navigation capability.

The Vandegrift  was on a routine mission off the Southern California coast when it was redirected to render aid.

After the family was taken aboard, their 36-foot sailboat, the Rebel Heart, was scuttled to prevent it from being a hazard to navigation. Holes were drilled below the waterline on the vessel and it quickly sank.

The medical condition of the 1-year-old girl, meanwhile, "continues to improve," the Kaufmans said in their statement. 

"We are proud of our choices and our preparation," they said. "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."

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tony.perry@latimes.com

Twitter: @LATsandiego

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