TODAY   |  April 08, 2014

Family: Mom, dad rescued at sea ‘not being abusive’

A family rescued at sea is fighting back after being criticized for taking their children, including a 1-year-old girl who fell ill, on a global sailing trip. The mom's sister says they're "great parents." NBC’s Miguel Almaguer reports.

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>> much. there's some new fallout this morning from a rescue at sea that we've been following. the sick 1-year-old girl who was saved is now improving and now her family is responding to criticism that they have faced for attempting to sail around the world with their two very young children. here's nbc's miguel almaguer.

>> reporter: for eric and charlotte kaufman, a once in a lifetime opportunity. sail the world with 3-year-old cora and 1-year-old lira. but after two weeks at sea, their dream ended with a crippled sailboat and an ailing lira, who needed medical attention . a para rescue team responded to the family's distress call saturday. by sunday, they were safely aboard the uss vandergrift, leaving their only home behind.

>> before we left the sea, we actually saw the boat sink.

>> reporter: lira is recovering, but her parents' reputation may be taking a hit online. one post calling them negligent. another, taxpayers have to pay big-time for their fun and games . the military says that argument doesn't hold water.

>> these are american citizens. in some ways, they kind of prepay for this by paying their federal taxes, state taxes.

>> reporter: in a statement sent from the vandergrift, eric kaufman defended the family's decision, saying we prepared as well as any sailing crew could. adding to the scrutiny, a blog entry from charlotte kaufman detailing the salmonella diagnosis for lira and the medication she was taking just days before they set sail.

>> they didn't put their kids in harm's way.

>> reporter: charlotte's sister says online critics don't know the whole story.

>> i wish i could communicate to them what great parents charlotte and eric are. they were not being negligent parents. they were not being abusive parents. they're good people.

>> reporter: the kaufmans will be back on shore wednesday, but they may face a growing tide of criticism. for "today," miguel almaguer, nbc news, san diego .

>> a lot of people still talking about that.