Crafton Family of 5 Now Back on Land in Maryland After Sailing Around World for 7 Years

Crafton Family

The five members of the Crafton family still are getting their land legs back after spending seven years at sea.

"It seems like we were gone a lifetime sometimes, and other times, it seems like we were gone [for] a snapshot," Tom Crafton said. "Part of it, I really didn't want to end."

Tom Crafton and his wife, Kathy, were living in Alaska in 2003 when they decided that the life they'd created for their three children with two houses, cars, motorcycles and promising careers, wasn't enough.

VIDEO: Kathy Crafton says living on the high seas has brought her family closer.
Family Lives on Boat for Seven Years

"As we looked in the future, I didn't want to see my teenagers on the telephone in their room with their own TV," Kathy said. "I wanted to really know who they were ... to know them and they to know us, not the babysitter or the nanny."

Tom Crafton left his job as a child psychologist. Kathy Crafton stopped her work as a nurse. They sold their possessions and bought a boat, calling it Nueva Vida, a new life.

Crafton Family Spends Seven Years on the High Seas

Crafton Family Sets Sail on Nueva Vida

The Craftons and their three children -- Jena, Kalena and Ben -- pulled away from a dock in Severna Park, Md., in 2003, setting sail on a journey that would take them around the world. Their youngest child, Ben, was just seven years old when they first set sail.

The real life Swiss Family Robinson traveled 30,000 miles, going around the world and then some. They did it all in a space not much larger than a minivan.

Video: Family sails around the world.
The Connecticut family saw the world via their 32-foot sailboat.

"It brought us closer together as a family," Kathy Crafton said. "We don't fight. We don't raise our voice. You know, there's just no tolerance for it, so everybody learned to have their own space."

Tom and Kathy Crafton said that the kids never complained, that sibling rivalry stopped the day the masts went up.

Each of the children had rotating duties regarding sailing the boat.

"You have to actually work," said eldest daughter Jena, now 21. "You have to pull the line and make sure the sail is OK."

The World Was Their Classroom

Jena and Ben, who is now 15, have severe speech and developmental delays. The Crafton parents let the world become the kids' classroom, home schooling them throughout the journey. They found they were succeeding in giving their kids, Jena and Ben especially, the education that traditional schooling couldn't.

The family swept by the Mayan Ruins in Mexico in 2005. They traced Darwin's footprints in the Galapagos in 2006, visiting the same marine dragons and giant tortoise that Darwin did.

They survived the roughest seas in Panama in 2006 and the roughest years in a child's life: adolescence.

"There's a lot of good and bad things about it," 18-year-old Kalena said. "You do miss out on the social life of friends your age."

But the kids marked milestones in unique ways. Jena celebrated her 17th birthday at a pig roast in Guatemala. Kalena met her current boyfriend in the Solomon Islands.

The parents made memories they'll never forget too. In the island of Vanuatu, Kathy Crafton walked the same beaches as her dad did in World War II.

Tom Crafton: Not Leaving Footprints

Tom Crafton created a philosophy for their travels and the different cultures of people they met.

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