• Rebel Heart before leaving on dream trip turned disaster. Taken from Facebook via Daily Mail.
    Rebel Heart before leaving on dream trip turned disaster. Taken from Facebook via Daily Mail.

Much has been written and spoken about the recent rescue of a family off a boat in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. Were they bad parents or living the dream?

Linked here are two editorials from the UK's Daily Mail and the USA's New York Times:

Daily Mail

New York Times:

As her family began what was supposed to be a months long journey in a 36-foot sailboat from Mexico to New Zealand, Charlotte Kaufman wrote openly of her misgivings about taking her two daughters – ages 1 and 3 – to sail the South Pacific, with her husband as captain and herself as the crew.

“I think this may be the stupidest thing we have ever done,” she wrote in her trip blog, before concluding: “It is a difficult self-imposed isolation that is completely worth it..”

Less than two weeks later, 900 miles off the coast of Mexico, Charlotte and her husband, Eric, unable to steer their ship, the Rebel Heart, called for emergency help. Their younger daughter, Lyra, who had been treated for salmonella just weeks before the trip, was covered in a rash and had a fever.

After a complicated rescue effort orchestrated by the California Air National Guard and the United States Navy and Coast Guard, the Kaufman family was on a Navy ship heading to San Diego, scheduled to arrive on Wednesday.

But well before they set foot on dry land, the Kaufmans have become the focus of a raging debate over responsible parenting. Some readers of their blogs have left blistering comments suggesting that the authorities should take their children away, seizing on such details in Ms. Kaufman’s postings as the baby rolling around and unable to sleep because of the ship’s violent pitch, and soiled diapers being washed in the galley sink.

Experienced sailors have also shaken their heads.

“I have a rule in my mind that I would never bring a kid less than 2 years old,” Matt Rutherford, who has completed several solo journeys across the seas and is planning to sail to Japan from Northern California this month, said in an interview. “There’s some real risks here, and you bring somebody else along and you’re taking the risk for them, too. That’s a serious question.”


It is indeed a serious question.

A lot of comment has been hung on the mother's words in the blog noting “I think this may be the stupidest thing we have ever done.” For most sailors these are the very words we are all prone to utter after just a few days at sea. Experienced and unexperienced alike.

It does neither prove or disprove their parenting capabilities.

A lot of the outrage brings back memories of Jessica Watson's solo sail around the world and to a more global extent the Dutch girl Laura Dekker:

The Atlantic

Did disaster befall either of those young brave women? No.

Do many other families take young children and cross oceans without nary a problem? Yes (refer Cruising Helmsman November 2013 issue: An oceanic upbringing).

Was it wrong for this particular family to head off into the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean with a child recently recovering from sickness? Probably.

What do you think?

Phillip Ross

Editor, Cruising Helmsman

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