PORTLAND, MAINE – A novelist who was twice rescued from storm-battered sailboats hopes his next adventure lacks in such drama.
South Carolina author Michael Hurley plans to sail around the world after using the experience of scuttling his sailboat on a failed trans-Atlantic crossing for his new book, “The Passage.”
“I love the freedom of sailing on the ocean. There’s no limit. The horizon extends. There’s nothing to stop you from going wherever you want to go,” he said from England.
The former corporate lawyer captured international attention last summer when his 30-foot sailboat began taking on water as he sailed solo from Charleston, South Carolina, to Ireland.
He credits a decision he and his wife made to renew their vows days before his rescue for saving his life. Absent that, he said, he may have tried to continue sailing — with fatal consequences — after his vessel began sinking with more storms looming ahead.
He was rescued south of Newfoundland by students on the Maine Maritime Academy’s training vessel, State of Maine.
Elements of the adventure are rolled into “The Passage,” the tale of a spiritual journey by a broken stockbroker who encounters a stowaway who changes his life while sailing to Ireland.
The book, which goes on sale June 1, features an attempted trans-Atlantic crossing, a harrowing rescue and a Robert Burns poem, character and details drawn from his experiences aboard the State of Maine. After his rescue, Hurley made a pilgrimage along the Camino de Santiago in Spain for a time of reflection and that, too, found its way into his book.
In the end, he and his wife never renewed their vows, and their marriage didn’t survive. Part of that may have to do with Hurley’s wanderlust.
Hurley, 58, is an experienced mariner who has no intention of remaining on terra firma — despite his spate of bad luck.
He was rescued by the Coast Guard in 2012 and had to scuttle his storm-damaged Gypsy Moon between Haiti and Cuba. The boat had lost its headsail in a storm, and then a rogue wave sheared the engine off its mounts, leaving the sailboat helpless.
After his latest rescue, he worked on his book in Wales before decamping for London and purchasing a British-made 1967 Camper & Nicholson, a yacht that bears the name Nevermore.
The 32-foot fiberglass boat is heavy and strong, and suitable for his goal of traveling and living in the boat, he said.
But Jonathan Beale, from Burnham Yacht Harbour, an England boatyard that has worked on Hurley’s new sailboat, had some reservations about Hurley’s plan to sail the old boat around the world.
He doesn’t share Hurley’s opinion that the 49-year-old sailboat is an oldie but goodie. “It’s an oldie. That’s all I’m saying,” he said.
And Susan Ryan Hurley said she fears the man she’s divorcing won’t survive his latest effort to sail the world’s oceans. “The whole sailing thing is in his blood. Sometimes I think he’s planning his own death,” she said from South Carolina.
Now living temporarily in France, Hurley is ready to take advantage of a narrow weather window this month to sail to the Canary Islands. After riding out the hurricane season there, he’ll head to the Caribbean. Then, he plans to sail the world — a little bit at a time.
“It’s a gypsy lifestyle but it’s a simple and beautiful way to live. It’s the freedom of sailing that’s always attracted me. The wind is free. The ocean is free. If you have the chance to enjoy both in a sailboat, then you’re free,” he said.
IN FIVE EASY PIECES WITH TAKE 5