Mike Hurley is a husband, father, attorney and writer living in Raleigh, North Carolina. Born in Baltimore in 1958, he received his undergraduate degree in English Education in 1981 from the University of Maryland at College Park. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Law, he began a career in private practice in Houston in 1984. At age 34, he moved to North Carolina, where he took a year off to work as a professional sailboat-charter captain. Since entering private practice in North Carolina in 1993, he has earned success and notoriety as a defense lawyer in medical malpractice litigation. He is listed in North Carolina Super Lawyers.*
Mike began writing magazine articles about the outdoors at age 17. In 1995, he began writing and photographing a travelogue of wilderness canoe-expeditions with his children. This homespun journal grew into a commercially printed, quarterly gazette known as Hurley’s Journal (later Paddle & Portage) that was well-loved by more than 10,000 subscribers in 48 states. A collection of Mike’s essays from eight years of the journal became his first book, Letters from the Woods. The Wilmington Star-News described it as “one of those books you pick up like a comfy old shirt to relax in. . . Whimsical . . . Elegiac . . .” and wrote that “Hurley, like Hemingway, glories in the job cleanly done.” Writer’s Digest called it “inspiring on a variety of levels.” The Raleigh News & Observer found it “pointed, personal and poignant,” “a deep and passionate tale of wilderness adventures,” “a celebration of universal truths,” and “well worth reading.”
In 2006, Mike’s life was turned upside down by the end of his first marriage. Three years later, in seeking to understand these events and find a way forward, he took to the open ocean in a 32-foot sailboat, the Gypsy Moon, on a voyage that spanned two years. In his latest book, Letters from the Sea, Mike tells the unlikely, true story of how this remarkable voyage changed his life, and he offers hope to others who have had to pick up the pieces after personal failure and loss.
Michael C. Hurley, a noted trial attorney who once worked as a professional sailor, returns to the sea to give us a thought-provoking memoir of a man's yearning for redemption and renewal.
Watching his world unravel following the end of his 25-year marriage, Hurley is short of cash, out of a job and deeply in need of some perspective. He takes to the open ocean on an improbable sailing voyage that is part pilgrimage, part protest, and part penance. The ensuing odyssey, spanning two years and 2,000 miles to the shores of Hispaniola, yielded triumphs, failures and treasures that the author scarcely could have imagined when he first set sail.
The story begins as Hurley departs Annapolis, Maryland aboard an aging, 32-foot sloop, the Gypsy Moon. He first makes port in Beaufort, North Carolina after a 350-mile solo passage that includes a midnight run through the "Graveyard of the Atlantic"--an area off the Outer Banks of North Carolina storied for thousands of shipwrecks but which Hurley finds to be eerily calm, "like a murderer's smile."
As the story leads to various ports of call farther south, the author uses keen observations as touch points to reconcile events from his own past. Through these poignant, personal stories, he draws larger lessons for the reader on such diverse topics as faith and disbelief, life and death, love, marriage and affairs, parenting, and the challenges faced by adult children of alcoholics.
The voyage brightens in a surprising and unexpected way when Hurley meets his future bride, Susan, after rough weather and mechanical failures force him to come ashore in Charleston for repairs. Eight months later the two are married, and the voyage continues. This course-correction provides the author a vehicle for describing his past failures in love and the foundation on which he has resolved to build again. Writing the final chapters of the book one year after his re-marriage, Hurley explains his remarkable experience of redemption by telling a humorous, metaphorical tale of the sailing couple's quest, off the coast of Hispaniola, for the "perfect mahi-mahi."
The book reaches a dramatic ending in the Windward Passage between Haiti and Cuba when Hurley, having resolved to point the bow of his ship homeward, give up the dream of sailing around the world, and nurture the adventure he has begun with Susan, is caught by unexpected high winds and seas. Alone and two days into a planned, 700 mile passage from Hispaniola to Miami, Hurley suffers the failure of a halyard and the resulting loss of the ability to steer upwind. Fearing that he will drift ashore in Cuba, Hurley alters course to seek repairs in Port au Prince, 140 miles away. Seventy-file miles from land, the Gypsy Moon is knocked down by a rogue wave and suffers catastrophic engine damage. Drifting on the open sea, Hurley is faced with a life-altering choice that brings this memoir to its exciting and unexpected conclusion.