SPECIAL REPORT: Setting Sail - WECT TV6-WECT.com:News, weather & sports Wilmington, NC


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Erik and Rachel Hemingway wanted something more for themselves and their children. So they set out on the adventure of a lifetime and they are sharing their story to show other families it doesn't have to be just a dream. Erik and Rachel Hemingway wanted something more for themselves and their children. So they set out on the adventure of a lifetime and they are sharing their story to show other families it doesn't have to be just a dream.

The Hemingways have been in Wilmington for about a year.

Mother Rachel Hemingway home schools four of her six children: Emma 13, Lily 9, Zoe 7 and Miles is 3.

The oldest child, Maggie is 19 and married now. Levi who is 18 is trying to get a job with the fire department. For the time being he helps his dad, Erik, who is a contractor. 

In 2009, Erik and Rachel sold a building they owned in Arizona and realized if they were going to fulfill their dreams, now may be the best time to do it.

"We said well, this was the scariest thing, scarier than any ocean crossing or anything, is when you do get some money - it's like we could either save it or reinvest it or invest it in a different way into our family," said Erik Hemingway.

The investment was be a 37 foot catamaran and a commitment to give their children a different kind of learning experience. This family, of seven at the time, moved from a big house to 350 square feet on their sailboat "The Mehari," or as Erik likes to call it, "the station wagon of the seas."

With a kitchen, living room, bathroom and four small bedrooms the Mehari took the Hemingways on several adventures, including hiking a volcano on the Island of Vulcano off the North coast of Sicily.

They went to the main square area of Marrakech, Morocco where Emma was amazed to see monkeys walking around the marketplace .

The leaning tower of Pisa was a big hit, and when they wanted to take it easy and relax they could always dock and enjoy a day of swimming around the boat.

Also along the journey, Maggie met her future husband and the Hemingways became a family of eight when Miles was born in Israel.

As they look back on their adventures Erik and Rachel feel confident they gave their children real life experiences they never could have learned in a text book.

"There were a lot of times when we sent the older kids, ya know we would come into a new port with a debit card and they would have to and a shopping list they had to go find an ATM and get out Turkish Lira find a store maybe it was a bus ride away," explained Erik. "They knew what things should cost and what the budget was, so that's huge skills for a 15 and 16 year olds."

"I think that's what's made them more confident, more bonded as brothers and sisters and as a family just dealing with all the challenges I had, we had no idea we were going to face," said Rachel Hemingway.

And their two oldest children agree.

"I think it was really the best thing that could have happened," said Levi Hemingway. "I feel like my education on the boat was not so much text books and doing a lot of that it was more experiencing life and real life situations and I think that shaped me into who I am today."

"For me it's definitely confidence. Just the fact alone that we sailed across the Atlantic ocean," explained Rachel Hemingway. "I was up at 2:00 in the morning steering the boat. That in itself gives you a sense of pride and accomplishment."

With their oldest children ready to start their own lives, Erik and Rachel put the Mehari up for sale but say it will always be a reminder of the sailboat that carried them around the globe and served as a home, classroom and so much more.

The Hemingway's did encounter some rough seas, a few bouts of sea sickness, and found themselves at times washing clothes in buckets on the front of the boat - but other than that they didn't have any big problems.

As a family of 8, they lived on a third of what they were used to which was about $1,200 a month with food being the biggest expense.

Now, they are committed to helping other families make their travel dreams come true. They have a website (www.sevensailors.us) with great pictures, information and a way to contact them as well as a podcast (www.familyadventurepodcast.com) that features other families and the adventures they have been on.

The family has also been asked to speak at the home-school conference taking place in Raleigh May 17, 2014. Their topic is "Home Schooling Outside of the Box".

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