A storybook ending? Rescued writer gets the girl, sets sail

  • Jun. 2, 2018 8:27 a.m.

PORTLAND, Maine — A novelist who was twice rescued at sea has sailed 7,000 trouble-free miles and envisions a storybook ending to his journey.

Michael Hurley is completing a voyage from France to the Caribbean to North America with a first mate who is engaged to be his wife. Then he’s embarking on a new adventure by putting his boat into storage, getting married and moving to England.

The 60-year-old Hurley, who sold his North Carolina law firm so he could sail and write, has travelled far since he was plucked from his storm-battered sailboat by the student crew of the Maine Maritime Academy training vessel in 2015. It was the second time he had been rescued and lost his boat.

Despite the bad luck, his wanderlust remained unfulfilled, and he soon purchased a final sailboat. He signalled his intentions by naming it Nevermore.

This time, his luck changed. He found love while in the United Kingdom writing “The Passage,” a book that drew from his experience of being rescued. His fiancee, Jill Gormley, of London, said she had never been sailing before meeting him. Her introduction was a four-week sail to St. Lucia.

“We didn’t have a single argument in 28 days,” Gormley said, despite cramped quarters, canned food and an early bout of seasickness.

Gormley, who ran a program for schoolchildren with special needs, was up for an adventure. The challenge, the 56-year-old Gormley said, was overcoming fear.

“I wasn’t bored. We chatted, played guitar, watched dolphins. Everything was new and exciting. The challenge was just not to be scared and trust that we were not going to sink,” she said in a telephone interview from Charleston, South Carolina. “It was coming to terms with the vastness of the ocean,” she said.

Added Hurley: “If there was any flaw in the relationship, it was going to be revealed then. We came out of it confident that we got along and were right for each other.”

For Hurley, it was supposed to be a round-the-world adventure. But he is cutting it short after two years and 7,000 miles in the Atlantic and Caribbean.

He said he met his goal of crossing an ocean, and he’s ready for a break from sailing. The journey ends June 15 in Oriental, North Carolina, where Nevermore will be stored.

Nate Gandy, captain of the Maine Maritime Academy training vessel, said he’s happy that Hurley was successful in crossing the ocean. “It takes more than luck to make a trans-Atlantic trip like that,” Gandy wrote in an email.

Hurley and Gormley are eager to tie the knot at a yacht club on the Thames River in October in London. They will be semi-retired, and Hurley will continue writing. The budding novelist has written a half-dozen books.

The Maryland native is planning a memoir, “The Leap.” The title comes from the American philosopher John Burroughs, who proclaimed, “Leap and the net will appear.”

Hurley has taken that to heart.

“If you open yourself up to new experiences, they will lead to new opportunities,” he said, “but if you fear constantly that you have to have a plan and a budget and a bankroll, and everything has to be laid out in advance, then you miss out on a lot of the serendipity of life.”

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