Monday, April 7, 2014

Try not to be too quick to judge.



Last week I got caught up with the blog 'Rebel Heart' written by Charlotte Kaufman. I ran across Charlotte's blog a long time ago when I was googling boat type sewing information. Thanks to her I found a YouTube tutorial that shows how to sew a pillowcase that has no raw seams. I loved it and after a $40.00 visit to the fabric store I soon had four completed (and very pricey) pillowcases. I realize this has nothing to do with maritime sewing but it made me feel good (and it also dressed up our berth). Charlotte sewed tons of stuff for her family's boat and last night when I watched the dramatic NBC news broadcast of their rescue at sea, I was shocked, when amid all the drama, I recognized the beautiful salon cushions Charlotte sewed.


I can't imagine there are very many people out there who haven't heard this story and I hope those that do, don't rush to judgement too soon without knowing the specifics. But for those who haven't, here's a brief rundown. Charlotte and her husband Eric (a certified captain) have been liveaboard cruisers for several years and last month they set off on an around the world cruise. They left Mexico with their two daughters (3 years old and 1 year old) on a heavily provisioned (and I mean something like 4 months worth) blue water boat. This is nothing new in the cruising world and over the years many families have safely completed this voyage.

It can be a tedious journey and Charlotte's posts are brutally honest (which most likely explains the vicious nature of many comments on many forums). The newscast stated that the baby had suffered from salmonella poisoning that had been diagnosed before the family left port, but they also reported that doctors had cleared them for departure. This wasn't news for those who follow the blog because Charlotte wrote about delaying the trip while she and her girls had to take rounds of antibiotics after a check up revealed problems. It was after the doctor declared them okay to go they left Mexico on the first leg of their journey to Australia. Charlotte and Eric updated their blog frequently and then a couple of days after the last post and nearly two weeks into their jouney there they were on the news. Of course most of the early reports were conjecture and the first report I heard on TV was that a couple who are sailing around the world were on a disabled boat with an infant that has heart problems. I immediately knew they were talking about the Kaufmans but I also knew Lyra did not suffer from heart problems. If I hadn't known who they were referring to I, too, would have wondered who the hell goes out to sea under those circumstances. And I believe that's about all it takes to bring the haters out of the woodwork. It kind of makes me wonder how many other news stories start out wrong because the media feels the need to 'fill in' the blanks.


This much we know: A call for help was sent from Rebel Heart. The baby was sick and the boat disabled. Rescue crews were dispatched and upon arriving on the scene were able to stabilize the baby. Unfortunately, they could not get the boat restarted and once the family was evacuated, it was scuttled (purposely sunk). Personally I feel the situation was handled well. The Kaufmans had the proper equipment to call for help and did. I know a lot of people are upset about the cost of the operation, but that's what rescue squads are trained to do. Wouldn't it be a perfect world if they were never needed.


So here's a true story I read a few years ago. A cruising couple (mom was pregnant) and their two year old set out on a known to be very dangerous passage (I can't remember the exact piece of water). Among other problems, they knowingly left on a boat with bilge pump issues. For crew they brought along an exotic dancer they'd just met who had no sailing experience. The passage was every bit as bad as it had been described and in addition to a couple of knockdowns they took on an alarming amount of water. Of course the automatic bilge pumps quit working and had to be manually operated. The wife was down below in a berth with the two year old and the husband had to man the pumps with the dancer at the helm. There were a couple of times they nearly did sink when huge waves crashed over them and the husband couldn't keep up with the manual pumps (after all, he could only handle one pump at a time). But somehow they survived and later on wrote a rather light hearted article about it. Of course the world didn't weigh in on this couples questionable decision to take off on an un-seaworthy boat because, lucky for them, nothing happened.


The point of my story? We can prepare and take precautions and try to always do the right thing, but then life happens. Because honestly, Rebel Heart should have had a typical sailing adventure; not always pleasant and easy but certainly manageable. And that other boat? There are a lot of vessels like that sailing around and somehow they manage to stay afloat.


We make decisions every day to drive on highways, fly on airplanes, and sail the seas. And sometimes bad things just happen.


I'm relieved that Lyra appears to be doing well and I can't imagine what it was like for Charlotte and Eric when they were told their home had to be destroyed. If you read any of the links I provided you can see how hard they worked to make that boat a real home.


I do know they have a huge support group among the sailing community and I hope only the best for them.









  1. Thanks for showing your support in this near tragedy. A couple of points that many seem to miss is that in addition to Eric being a former Navy Corpsman, it was reported that he also had his USCG Masters certificate (no tonnage was listed). He and his family were on a very blue-water capable Hans Christian 36. While news reports gave contradictory information, often in the same report, of not having communications capabilities, followed by statements that they made contact with rescuers on their satellite phone, is some indication of the poor level of understanding and reporting of this event by the lay press. It is predictable that fear of the unknown and ignorance of the real risks involved in off-shore sailing have received so many ill informed and negative comments. Rather than admiring the skill and dedication to those involved in SAR missions and the safe deliverance of the Kaufmann family, people rather focus on their own misconceptions and recriminations regarding "their tax money" going towards humanitarian efforts such as this. Shame on them.

  2. When a person puts their life up on the internet for all to see, they should not be surprised when people read it and make judgments both good and bad. I think the general public judging them on this accident is just the beginning of their problems.