Should sailing family pay the rescue bill?

The Kaufman family being rescued Sunday by sailors from the frigate USS Vandegrift.
The Kaufman family being rescued Sunday by sailors from the frigate USS Vandegrift. –AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard, File

A family’s decision to sail around the world with their young children has come under fire in the wake of their dramatic rescue Sunday. People have questioned their parenting. And now they are questioning whether they should have to pay the rescue bill.

Eric and Charlotte Kaufman’s 36-foot sailboat broke down 900 miles off the Mexican coast while their 1-year-old daughter Lyra was suffering from a rash and fever, had diarrhea, and was vomiting. After the family sent a satellite call for help, three federal agencies responded — the Navy, Coast Guard, and California Air National Guard. National Guardsmen had to parachute down to reach the sailboat and rescue the family. The family is now safe and the baby is responding to medication.


The incident sparked a heated debate about whether raising two tots on the high seas is enriching or endangering the children (the couple, whose other daughter is 3, has been sailing for seven years). The family returned home to San Diego this week.

The exact cost of the rescue has not been released, but the cost to operate a Navy frigate during a rescue mission is estimated at $216,000, reports

The family will not have to pay a bill.

“The Coast Guard does not charge for search and rescue operations,’’ said Lt. Anna Dixon of the 11th Coast Guard District. “We don’t want people in trouble at sea to hesitate to call for help for fear they’ll be charged for assistance. Mariners assisting one another at sea is a both a time honored tradition and a requirement of the Safety of Life at Sea Convention of the International Maritime Organization.’’

Folks online have been debating who should pay for the rescue all week.

“Who paid for this rescue? My taxes? This family should be sent the bill,’’ writes reader Porter119.

Several other readers wrote “Send them the bill’’ after reading the story of the rescue.


But reader WickedSmartConservative writes, “I see. So if you’re in an accident because your car becomes disabled and the jaws of life have to be used to rescue you, you should pay for the time and effort of your rescuers, right?’’

“The family chose to participate in a risky activity, they should bear all financial responsibility for the result of their decision,’’ wrote reader Lee Phillipi.

“What ‘risky activity’? Sailing is safer than driving a car,’’ wrote another reader, Vince Sneddon, in response to Lee. “Do you also oppose somebody driving their infant child home from the hospital?’’

What do you think? Should the Kaufmans pay up?

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