Two tots who were abducted from their South San Francisco home by their father, then loaded onto a stolen yacht and taken out to sea, were safely rescued Friday night by the Coast Guard, authorities say.
For much of Friday the Coast Guard watched the craft from afar, and officials were tight-lipped about the mission to safely bring in the vessel, the children and their father.
"We are actively tracking the vessel, but due to the nature of the situation I can't say anything else out of concern for the children," said Coast Guard spokesman Thomas McKenzie said earlier in the evening. The children were reported safe just before 9 p.m. after sailing on the .
yacht -- a 40-foot sailboat christened "Unleashed." Lutz said they were able to keep an eye on the craft through the day and had been confident that the children were not harmed.
Jennifer Hipon, the mother of 3-year-old Brooklynn and 2-year-old Devin, told television reporters that she was "blown away" that her estranged boyfriend, Chistopher Maffei, would grab the children and go on the lam.
"It's surreal that he actually did this," she said.
Hipon said he nabbed the kids Tuesday by opening a sliding-glass door and hooking one under each arm before fleeing down the street. Police said Maffei's rented Ford Fusion was later found in the parking lot of a boat harbor at Ballena Bay in Alameda.
Police added that Maffei had been to the harbor just two weeks before -- with
The boat had not been seen until a commercial fisherman contacted authorities Friday at 4 a.m. to report spotting the vessel, said South San Francisco police Sgt. Bruce McPhillips. He said authorities electronically sent a photo of Maffei to the fisherman, who confirmed him as the skipper of the boat he'd spotted. The fisherman told police he also saw Brooklynn on the boat, a white Hunter 41 model with a blue
South San Francisco police consider the children abducted and have issued a warrant for Maffei's arrest.
ABC7 News spoke to the mother Thursday night and she said she was in the midst of filing a restraining order in Redwood City when Maffei got into her home and took the couple's two children.
"I'm afraid if they back him into a corner," the children's mother told ABC7 on Thursday. "I just don't want him to snap and do something really stupid more than what he's already done, so I'm just really worried for my kids and I just want them to come back home to me safe and unharmed."
Staff writer Robert Salonga, Natalie Neysa Alund and the Associated Press contributed to this report. Contact Eric Kurhi at 408-920-5852. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.