TODAY   |  April 07, 2013

Search in Gulf of Mexico for kidnapped kids

Authorities are searching the Gulf of Mexico on Sunday for a 25-foot sailboat. Onboard is a father who police say has kidnapped his two young sons and may have fled to the open waters. NBC's Charles Hadlock reports.

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the search is on this morning for two parents accused of kidnapping their young sons after they lost custody. police suspect the family may be on a sailboat in the gulf of mexi mexico. charles hadlock has the very latest. good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, erica. a search by land, sea, and air continues along the gulf coast this morning for a father who police say kidnapped his own children and planned an elaborate getaway. the coast guard today is searching the gulf of mexico for a 25-foot blue sailboat named "salty." on board are sean and jessica hacken and their 2-year-old and 4-year-old. he lost the custody battle of the boys last week, took them from their maternal grandmother.

>> he tied me up. i was able to remove myself, but they've been gone with half an hour.

>> reporter: police aren't sure if the boys' mother had any role in the kidnapping, but security cameras at the marina show the family boarding the boat and sailing away on wednesday. by the time police made the connection, they say the boat could have sailed 100 miles away , or more. however, police say the search by land is not over.

>> wouldn't put it past them to be able to pull into one of the cove, or one of the inlets, and then board a vehicle. so we're not going to eliminate our land search. we're still maintaining the amber alert .

>> reporter: investigators say joshua hacken knows how to operate a boat, and they believe he planned the getaway. his pickup was found near the marina. it was searched, but police found no clues as to where the family is headed. experienced boaters say crossing the gulf of mexico in a 25-foot sailboat is a daunting and dangerous task.

>> it's like being in a washing machine. it's too small to be out there.

>> if they were downstairs in life jackets , they should be -- they should be okay. maybe a little seasick.

>> reporter: the boat was last seen heading out into the open water . hacken and believed to be armed and dangerous , but coast guard has broadcast a message to ships in the gulf of mexico to be on the lookout for the blue sailboat. erica?

>> all right, thank you.