Michael C. Hurley watched his world unravel after he became involved in an extramarital affair that ended his 25-year marriage. In August 2009, short of money, out of a job, and deeply in need of some perspective, he took to the open ocean in a 32-foot sailboat, the Gypsy Moon.
Hurley’s improbable voyage spanned two years in a series of fits and starts and was beset by personal doubts. While still at sea, he began writing a series of letters to a small group of long-time readers, family and friends. These letters, in which the author explores his past while chronicling an outward voyage filled with storms, setbacks and the dawn of new love, became the memoir that is Once Upon A Gypsy Moon.
The story begins as Hurley deports Annapolis, Maryland. Hurley 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 follows Hurley 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. Hurley is then faced with a life-altering choice that brings this memoir to its exciting and unexpected conclusion.
Once Upon A Gypsy Moon tells a wonderful love story and a salty, wave-swept tale in the time-honored tradition. Its message of hope will resonate with anyone who has had to pick up the pieces after personal failure and loss.