A desperate, four-day search ended dramatically Friday night when the U.S. Coast Guard apprehended a man aboard a stolen yacht off the Monterey coast with his from their South San Francisco home earlier this week, a Coast Guard spokesman said.
The father, identified as Christopher Maffei, 43, surrendered without incident in sailing waters off the Monterey Peninsula shortly before 8 p.m. and the toddlers were found safe on board the boat, Coast Guard spokesman Thomas McKenzie said.
McKenzie said the children, 2-year old Devin and 3-year-old Brooklynn, would be checked out by medical personnel, but anticipated they would return home shortly.
South San Francisco police said the yacht was spotted by a fisherman early Friday morning in the waters off Half Moon Bay, due to extensive alert by local, state and national law enforcement was alerted to the incident.
The San Francisco Chronicle quoted the children's grandmother, Jean Hipon, who said she hadn't been able to sleep or eat since the havoc began 3 p.m. Tuesday afternoon when Maffei showed up at the home she shares with her husband, daughter and grandchildren on James Court in South San Francisco and allegedly went through a side gate to get his daughter and son. She chased after him, grabbing for the car door, but was unable to stop him, she told the Chronicle.
, works at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital in Palo Alto.
Police said Maffei then drove in a rental car to Ballena Isle Marina in Alameda, where he stole a yacht named "Unleashed" and sailed away with the children.
around 4 a.m. Friday about 50 miles off the coast from Pillar Point Harbor in San Mateo County, South San Francisco police spokesman Sgt. Bruce McPhillips said.
The operator of the fishing vessel notified the U.S. Coast Guard, and after police were alerted of the sighting, photos were sent to the fishing vessel that helped its operator confirm that it was indeed the stolen yacht, McPhillips said.
Coast Guard duty officer Corinne Gaines said a C-130 aircraft from the agency located the vessel and monitored it from the air until crews could get to the scene by boat.
Maffei had an informal custody-sharing agreement with her, Jennifer Hipon told the Chronicle, but that began to unravel Monday, when they argued over her decision to block his visits until he got a job and his own place to live.
The San Mateo County Times cited the restraining order Hipon was filing on the day the children were kidnaped that said he was kicked out of his friend's apartment and that "he needed to get his act together since he didn't have a job, money, transportation or a place to stay."
The children "love their dad," she told the Chronicle. "Everyone's been telling me, 'Jen, he'd never hurt them,' but it doesn't make me feel better. Who in their right mind would go out alone on a boat with two toddlers?"
—Bay City News, San Francisco Chronicle and San Mateo County Times reports