Viewpoint: I Support Rebel Heart

Sailing makes the news when there’s a disaster. The rest of the time, thousands of small boats traverse the oceans in safety, carrying hundreds of families with young children.
Author:
Updated:
Original:
Just like the Kaufmans, the Lairds took their kids cruising at a very young age

Just like the Kaufmans, the Lairds took their kids cruising at a very young age

Sailing makes the news when there’s a disaster. The rest of the time, thousands of small boats traverse the oceans in safety, carrying hundreds of families with young children. One such family, the Kaufmans, was attempting a Pacific crossing in April when an ill one-year-old and a troubled boat led them to call for help. They were rescued from their 36-foot sailboat, Rebel Heart, about 900 miles off the coast of Mexico by the California Air National Guard, the Navy and the Coast Guard. Immediately afterward, the media seized on the story, launching a vitriolic public response in their online comments sections.

The bulk of the debate was about parenting: whether the Kaufmans were good or bad parents for taking their small children out onto the big ocean. Numerous posters suggested child protective services take away their children, and the family’s blog was inundated with obscene comments.

I do not know the Kaufmans personally, so I cannot opine as to whether or not they should have gone to sea. But by the same thinking, neither can their detractors, many of whom believe sailing with children is wrong—even criminal!—no matter the condition of the boat or the experience of the parents. I disagree, and I take those comments personally.

Raising two daughters at sea now

Raising two daughters at sea now

We finished building our boat, Seal, when our daughters were two and four, so that’s when we set sail. I could claim that our job made us cruise, but the truth is, we created the job—a high-latitude charter company—so that we could cruise, predominately in remote places.

To be sure, it’s the parents who want to cruise, but over the long term, I believe it is the children who benefit. Boat kids don’t study other cultures and third world countries from books. They walk through the streets and play with the children.

Once, I commented how foreign a place felt, and my daughter Helen looked mystified; I realized they see the similarities in cultures and peoples, not the differences. What’s more, because Helen and Anna have spent months at a time in the wilderness, they don’t need video games to fulfill that craving for adventure that we all share as humans.

We knew it would be harder work to sail offshore with small children, but we had plenty of role models. We also didn’t think it mattered whether the children remembered those early years—though they do, perhaps because each adventure took place in a different country, rather than the typical child’s triangle of home/school/daycare.

Our daughters are now 12 and 13, and they have sailed about 65,000 miles. Leafing through old log books to see what we’ve been doing on the first week of April over the years—the same week the Kaufmans were rescued—I find Helen and Anna visiting the following places: Alaska; Osaka, Japan; Fjordland, New Zealand; South Georgia (Antarctica); the Chilean Channels; England; and New Hampshire, preparing for a trip to Greenland.

Raising two daughters at sea then

Raising two daughters at sea then

In all those miles, the worst accident either of my children experienced was when Anna surfed down a flight of stairs on a baby gate, smashed into Helen’s head, split it open and caused a concussion and a lot of blood. Ashore and indoors, injured by safety equipment!

Our lives are never free from risk, no matter how tightly we wrap ourselves in the protection of home and social services. Car accidents and cancer, natural disasters and human evil shadow us. Heading offshore was the best parenting decision we’ve made.

Of course, there are dangers to crossing oceans, and the Kaufmans are fortunate that their troubles didn’t start a week later when they might have been out of range of assistance. In the middle of the ocean in a small boat, you are farther from help than astronauts on the International Space Station, and in many places there is no possibility of timely assistance. The prospect of illness, injury or a crew overboard is rightly frightening.

And, sometimes things go wrong, no matter how well we plan and prepare. The Coast Guard, Air National Guard and Navy were there when the Kaufmans needed them, and I am grateful for their professionalism, skill and willingness to risk everything to jump out of an airplane to help sailors in distress.

Kate and Hamish Laird, with their daughters as crew,

Katebio2

run a high latitude charter sailboat in Alaska and post

their adventures at expeditionsail.com

Read more about family cruising adventures at SAILfeed with bloggers Behan Gifford and Amy Schaefer

Related

Screen Shot 2020-09-18 at 1.18.36 PM

Harken Changes Hands, Stays in the Family

. In a video posted yesterday, Peter Harken cheerfully announced that his company, Harken Inc., the trusted hardware brand bearing his last name, which was formerly owned by founders and their families has changed hands. The owners have sold their shares to employees—"passing ...read more

OceanRace

Newport Hosts The Ocean Race Summit on Ocean Health

Hundreds of participants from around the world tuned in yesterday for the latest installment of The Ocean Race's (formerly the Volvo Ocean Race) Summit Series, which aims to bring the best of ocean racing—leadership, resilience, tenacity, collaboration—to solving the ocean’s ...read more

sp360_fs5-024crop (1)

Highfield SPORT 360

The new 2021 SPORT 360 is the next generation of Highfield boats. Highfield is celebrating its 10th year in the market this year and in this relatively short period of time has now delivered over 30,000 boats to happy customers in 38 countries. Highfield is already the ...read more

sp560_drone-028crop

Highfield SPORT 560

The new 2021 SPORT 560 is the next generation of Highfield boats. Highfield is celebrating its 10th year in the market this year and in this relatively short period of time has now delivered over 30,000 boats to happy customers in 38 countries. Highfield is already the ...read more

Three Props 1772x1181

EWOL Propellers

Ewol propellers make maneuvering easier, increase sailing speed and increase cruising speed under power. EWOL adjustable pitch propellers are made of stainless steel alloys that represent the highest technology in terms of marine corrosion and galvanic corrosion resistance, ...read more

leadership-forum-LGBTQ-email-graphic

Tonight: US Sailing’s LGBTQ+ Panel

Tune in to the latest installment in US Sailing’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Series tonight at 7pm EDT. This week Kimball Livingston will moderate a panel of LGBTQ+ sailors who will share their personal and professional experiences as well as strategies for improving ...read more

200910

Find Your People (Virtually)

Social media offers a world of new opportunities for sailors. I regularly see folks meet their next delivery crew in the comments section of Facebook or decide on their next charter based on breathtaking photos posted by a stranger. It’s a great way to connect with other sailors ...read more