Raising Young Children at Sea

Family defends their choice to live on a sailboat after the sailing lifestyle came under scrutiny.
6:57 | 07/11/14

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Transcript for Raising Young Children at Sea
Living on the sea. Sounds like a life of adventure and fun. But for one family who found themselves stranded in the middle of the pacific ocean with a sick child, their family adventure turned into a national flashpoint, and they aren't alone. There are others living their lives away from the safety of the shores. ABC's Reena nine hops on board with one set of aquatic parents and kids. Reporter: On deck, this might look like a fun family vacation. But below deck, severely cramped quarters for this family of five. But it's home for this family, who ten months ago sold everything they have to live at sea with their three young children. We all sat down and said, this is not really the way we want to raise our kids. So this plan was not pretty much for us, it's kind of more for them. Reporter: They've stocked the boat with everything, food, tools, even duct tape. We've seen a lot of movies. Reporter: They say they're prepared for whatever mother nature sends their way. At arm's reach, jugs of sun tan lotion, a trauma style medical kit. And a state of the art communications system. You don't happen to have cruise control, do you? Yes, we do. That's where we're going today. All right, you're sailing. Mother nature can do fierce, fierce things. Yeah, we live on the water. But who is to say we're any worse than people who live in New Orleans for the hurricanes? Reporter: Many question why families choose to live at sea with their young kids? Especially after another family's harrowing ordeal ignited a fierce national debate over parenting at sea. So many questions this morning, George. This rescue was as harrowing as they come. High seas, howling winds and a sick baby girl. Reporter: Eric and Charlotte decided to cross the pacific ocean with their two young daughter. But 900 miles off the coast, their youngest รง got sick. My youngest got sick at day ten. When the symptoms compile and your baby no longer acts normally, that's when you need to do something. Reporter: It got worse, they say, when their satellite phone stopped working. At that point, we had no ability any longer to talk to our physician or to the coast guard physician. Our daughter wasn't getting any better with what was prescribed for her. And that's when we realized that we had entered a very bad spot. Reporter: The Kaufman's made it aboard a Navy warship. They were forced to sink and abandon their boat. The rescue operation cost $600,000. The word that kept coming up about your trip was the word reckless. What do you say to that? Irresponsible, too. We disagree. I think you said it earlier that people -- I think they were Reading the news and making this ten-second snap judgment and assumed we grabbed a six pack and hopped in a sailboat and went to the south pacific. We're both experienced sailors, we raised our daughters on a sailboat. We were very prepared. Reporter: Still, many accused them of being selfish and irresponsible parts. My heart went out to them. They lost everything. They lost their home. It's like your house burning down. They did everything right. Are they irresponsible? I don't think they are. They can do whatever they want to. Reporter: They say living at sea is anything but a life of danger. Family budgets range from $2,000 to $5,000 a month. As for safety in I wouldn't do this if it wasn't safe. We have netting all the way around. It's pretty much a big playpen. To me, it is. I feel safe on this boat and I think the kids feel safe. Come up here and put your life jacket on. Reporter: The kids reluctantly wear life jackets and are tethered to the boat with a harness when the family hits the high seas. You know how it is when we go sailing. I don't want to. I don't care if you want to put it on. Reporter: And below deck, the living space might seem cramped but it's well designed. The dining room doubles as a living room. They have storage underneath, and there's a master suite and each of the girls do have their own room, albeit a small one, and all over the boat is engineered with an eye towards safety. I like how much of your house is already baby proof. These are locks here. Everything has great latches. You don't want your cups and plates flying out. Reporter: Every bunk has netting, including the crib for their newborn. When it comes to bath time, the kids bathe in a little bucket in the shower stall. Are there any confidents of home that you really miss? A bathtub. Especially when I was pregnant. I would just die for a bath. You know your ABCs? A, B, C, D -- Reporter: Life at sea means they're responsible for teaching their children. It's no different homeschooling on land than it is on the boat. Reporter: And while there have been many adjustments, some routines never change. I'm not tired. This is as chaotic as any home trying to get them bathed, vitamins, and bed. The greatest thing is I get to spend all day with them. And it's the hardest thing that I get to spend all day with them. Reporter: Despite the challenges, they have no regrets. I don't want to be that person that looks back and just says that I've worked and become a slave to the system and not lived. I want to live. We know we'll be judged. Bull that's okay, because we know in our heart we're doing what we think is right. These big cats were taken from

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