Family finds gold, moment of fame, lifetime of memories

Family finds gold: The Schmitt family finds gold treasure valued at $300,000 during their family vacation at sea, a bounty that has earned them a few moments in the national spotlight. The memories, however, will probably last a lifetime.

REUTERS/Schmitt family
Family finds gold: The Schmitt family finds gold chains and coins from a wreckage of a convoy of 11 ships that went down in a hurricane off the coast of Florida in 1715 en route from Havana to Spain in this handout image released on September 3, 2013.

The Schmitt family found a $300,000 trove of sunken Spanish gold and while that may bring them money and fame, the lasting, more elusive treasure was spending the past 13 summers together as a family searching along the Treasure Coast of Florida.

This family is as rare as the coins and ropes of gold they have salvaged from the ocean floor because they turned their shared passion into a family business that will surely become the stuff of parental legend.

Looking at their Facebook page posts before the epic find on Sept. 1 gives some insight into the Schmitt family that is currently all over the news for the find. They’re “pirates,” close-knit, fun loving, and very real.

According to CBS, Hillary and Eric Schmitt’s father, Rick Schmitt, learned to dive early in life and went on his first treasure hunt when he was a teen. After retiring and selling his pest control business in 1999, Schmitt decided to start a new company, Booty Salvage.

“My dad wanted to share that experience with us kids,” Hillary, 20, who has been diving since she was 5 years old, told CBS. She adds that there’s something special about seeing gold for yourself in the water. “We love doing it. It’s a family effort. … Not only are we doing something that’s really fun, we get to do it as a family. It’s a pretty awesome experience.”

While the news of something like this would not normally affect my family, this is going to have a big impact because we lived aboard a sailboat with our sons for six years on Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Unlike the Schmitts we weren’t treasure hunting for gold, but rather the unified family quest for adventure.

The dream began with my husband’s father, who wanted to sell everything, pack up the kids (who were in high school), and live aboard a sailboat for a year-long adventure. While my in-laws sold their cars and left their jobs, pulled their three kids out of school and prepared to set sail it all fell to pieces when their home’s sale fell through in the 11th  hour when the buyer’s loan failed on a technicality.

His dad went to work building his own business in place of the dream that he would not live to realize. He died of a heart attack before age 50.

My husband was determined to have his family adventure dream. I wanted him to have it and so when our first son was 9 months old and I was two months pregnant with son No. 2, we set sail from Long Beach Island, N.J. to the Gulf Coast of Florida aboard a 38-foot Columbia yawl named Afrita (Arabic for Little Devil).

Our plan was to spend a year aboard; instead it became six, amazing, humbling, stupefyingly impoverished but memorable years. I would never trade them for all the gold in the world, not even when the mortgage is due.

The reason news of the Schmitts will impact our family is that my husband turned 50 this year and talk of re-embarking on a boat for an adventure has been constant. This is going to seal the deal the second he opens the morning paper.

He’s planning a solo mini-transat (a transatlantic voyage). Both a Transat and a mini version are single-handed races of the same distance, but the former is an open class, any kind or size boat may enter, while the mini is restricted to a 23-foot boat of a specific design. The family will be unified as his support team.

At the same time our oldest son, Zoltan, 19, a sophomore at Virginia Commonwealth University is on the crew team and applying to join a team for a 6-man trans-Atlantic row.

“I finally see what Pop was doing all those years with the boat and everything,” Zoltan said.

I finally see it too, my husband, like his father and Mr. Schmitt, is a parental visionary. While parents like me are here to work the daily details and build the family child by child, the visionaries hardwire the passion for achievable dreams into their kids.

You can’t put a price on teaching people to follow their dreams. However, you can bank on any parent who shares their dreams with their kids.

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