Admiration & Ire - Writing the Story of Rebel Heart

Image description: writer Charlotte Kaufman seated at a dining table with her right leg tucked under her left. She is looking at and typing on a laptop on the table, in front of a window with pine trees in the distance.

My friend, Maria, told me once that I attract admiration & ire. I told her that sounded like a hipster band from Portland and she laughed but also said, ‘nonetheless’ in the same breath. Maria is often right. I don’t know why people tend to be so hot or cold about me, but I’ve found this scenario play out time and time again. Maybe the ups and downs of being bipolar attract it? Perhaps it’s because I’m an all-in kind of person. There’s nothing I’m ‘meh’ about. Life is zero chill; it’s plus 10 or negative 20.

Eric took the girls camping this weekend so I’ve had days on my own to work on edits for the Rebel Heart book. I’m working on a section that details the media coverage of mine and Eric’s rescue at sea from our sailboat, Rebel Heart, in April of 2014.

Image description: an open laptop with an article from the Voice of San Diego showing an article from April 2014 with a picture of Eric & Charlotte Kaufman and their two daughters debarking the USS Vandegrift. The laptop sits on a wooden table and a short glass of red wine to its right.

I put a call out to friends on social media on Saturday and asked for readers’ help identifying posts and articles from four years ago during and after the rescue. You can read the request for help here. If you’re on Facebook, feel free to friend me too.

And the help (and love, thank you, friends), came rolling in. I had some friends message first and say, “Are you sure you want this? I feel bad sending this.” And I sent them a giant virtual hug and said, “Let’s do this.”

And for the next day I read comments like:

-You dumbfucks should all drown.

-Idiots! Narcissists!

-Your children should be taken away. Where is CPS?

-How dare you put your children at risk?!


-You must pay back the cost of your rescue!

-Your husband is dumb looking. (Seriously, how is ‘dumb looking’ an insult in someone’s repertoire? And also, have they seen Eric? My god, the man is hot!)

-You’re fat! Put on some clothes!

And when I say I ‘read comments’ I mean thousands. There are probably 10,000+ internet comments pontificating about what happened to us aboard our boat that April. This one article on The New York Times alone has over 1,000 comments. Now think about all the online and print publications, the websites, blogs, and Facebook pages that covered our story, and yeah, lots of people were clacking on their keyboards to tell the world what they thought of us.

Admiration & Ire is what my friend Maria said.

Because for all the negative comments there were a lot of positive ones too. So many people who I have never heard of and will never meet counteracted this type of fear-based parent shaming. And while I did not have the time or emotional energy to read the multitudes of comments four years ago I know many of my friends did back then and many were online swinging battle swords of support for us and for the cruising/sailing and liveaboard lifestyle with children. It’s why the hashtag #KidsOnBoats was born. And as I read through article after article reporting on our story, the ire was swallowed up by bright beacons of admiration. Like shooting stars of living-your-best-life, the comments from friends and strangers, and some strangers who are now my friends, blasted out from the screen and made me smile. Things like:

- These people are an inspiration.

- I wish I had parents like them.

- I wish I could spend time with my kids like this.

- We need more people who live this way.

- Wait, you can live on a boat with kids?

- I’m glad they were rescued and they’re safe.

- They shouldn’t pay for the rescue, that’s what rescuers are for.

- These people are my friends and they’re good people and good parents.

Image Description: an open bullet journal on a southwest-style couch cushion on top of a roll of markers organized to the colors of the rainbow. The left page of the journal says Notes - Media Section and the text of page is blurred. The right page says Rebel Heart and the rest of the text is blurred.

I’m glad I waited several years to write this book and tell our story. It’s given me perspective. It’s helped me to be able to look at both parts of the admiration & ire while I tell you about who Eric and I are. I’m glad I’m in control of the narrative now and that one day I’ll have a book I can hand my daughters to tell them about who their parents were when they met and began their adventures together.

Until then, I’m still writing & editing. More soon. #RebelHeart #KidsOnboats #WomenWhoSail

- Charlotte

More on Instagram

Women Who Sail Gathering - Puerto Vallarta, January 2019

Women Who Sail - Mexico January 2019

Excited to be speaking at this Gathering at the Bay of Women Who Sail in La Cruz de Huanacaxtle, Mexico Jan 19 & 20, 2019. Saturday afternoon we'll be at Marina Riviera Nayarit from 3-5pm (women only) and Sunday night join us at Casa Malinda (open to all) from 5-8pm. Saturday's event is 100 pesos ($5) and proceeds go to orphanage Manos de Amor. Sunday night is cash bar and BBQ tacos with live music performed by Sonny Davis.

Join me and fellow guest speakers: Behan Gifford, Jen Durham Boyle, Caroline Spott (all speaking Saturday) and Anne Bryant, Dee Dee Christensen, Flo N Jasper, and Catalina Liana (speaking on Sunday).

Hope to meet you there. La Cruz, I can't wait to be back.

#RebelHeartBook #RebelHeart #WomenWhoSail #KidsOnBoats

Australia bound for Women Who Sail and Rebel Heart

Australia does Wild West photo ops too! 16 year old me with a fellow cheerleader and football player in Queensland’s Gold Coast.

Australia does Wild West photo ops too! 16 year old me with a fellow cheerleader and football player in Queensland’s Gold Coast.

When I was 16 I traveled to Australia as the youngest member of the Alaskan All-Star Cheerleading team. We cheered for the Alaskan All-Star Football team in Queensland at their annual Down Under Bowl. 

Kangaroos. Let me repeat: Australia = kangaroos.

Kangaroos. Let me repeat: Australia = kangaroos.

Tomorrow I fly to Australia, twenty two years since the last time I visited to speak at Women Who Sail Australia’s third annual Gathering on the Bay in Port Stephens, New South Wales (north of Sydney).

Australia Bound for Women Who Sail - Charlotte Kaufman - 3.jpeg

As the founder of Women Who Sail, I’ve been invited to speak about my motivations for creating the group and why I think it is so successful. Our main group has almost 15,000 women and non-binary sailors. To give you an idea of how fast the group grew, I started it in December 2011 with only nine members!

We have over 37 sub-groups that span the globe with almost 16,000 members in them as well. 20 of those are regional sub-groups, some are even in different languages. Five deal specifically with topics surrounding health and living aboard. And 10 are various interest groups like Women Who Splice, Women Who Write, WWS Unicorns (LGBTQ Sailors), and Women Working in the Marine Industry. 

All six of these women (me pictured in blue dress) lived on sailboats and had babies in Mexico during the same sailing season as I did in 2013/2014! Four of the six of us sailed across the Pacific with our families in the same season as well.

All six of these women (me pictured in blue dress) lived on sailboats and had babies in Mexico during the same sailing season as I did in 2013/2014! Four of the six of us sailed across the Pacific with our families in the same season as well.

In addition to talking about founding Women Who Sail, I’ll be talking about the rescue at sea that happened to my family in the spring of 2014 while crossing the Pacific Ocean on our sailboat, Rebel Heart.

Australia Bound for Women Who Sail - Charlotte Kaufman - 5.jpeg

Four years ago today (April 3) we made the decision to hit our EPIRB (emergency position indicating radio beacon ) ensuring our 13 month old would get the medical treatment she needed and also knowing that flipping that switch would mean a water rescue and losing our boat (and only home for over seven years.)

[ If you are just hearing about what happened to us as we sailed across the Pacific Ocean you can listen to This American Life’s Episode 525 to hear more about why we had to call for help or read author Kevin Grange’s article in The Journal of Emergency Medicine (JEMS). ]

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Other than our interviews with This American Life and JEMS, neither Eric nor I have shared any further details about what happened before, during, or after the rescue. I think it’s fitting that the first time I talk about what happened to us I will be amongst sailors, and female sailors at that.

Australia Bound for Women Who Sail - Charlotte Kaufman - 7.jpeg

Sometimes it feels like a lifetime ago, sometimes like just yesterday. It took me two years after the rescue to even start to be able to write about it. Another two to get this far along with a manuscript. Speaking at WWSA's event this weekend will be my first time in public reading from the manuscript. 

Australia Bound for Women Who Sail - Charlotte Kaufman - 8.jpeg

I keep practicing the pieces I'm going to share because it's emotional to read them. I'm bringing tissues. The most important part of all this though is that I'm finally ready to share our story with the world. It took four years to get here though. 

Australia Bound for Women Who Sail - Charlotte Kaufman - 9.jpeg

Australia!! If you’ll be at the Gathering, please say hello! 

You can buy tickets here:

#KidsOnBoats #RebelHeart