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Sunday, August 26, 2012

"Once Upon A Gypsy Moon" by Michael Hurley ~Sailing Alone

"Once Upon A Gypsy Moon" by Michael Hurley
Ragbagger Publishing, 2012
Find it on Amazon here: 

Michael Hurley watched his world unravel in the wake of infidelity, divorce and failure. In August 2009, he was short of money, out of a job, and seeking to salvage a life that had foundered. Deeply in need of perspective, he took to the open seas in a 32-foot sailboat, Gypsy Moon. The story of his 2-year outward odyssey, deterred by rough weather and mechanical troubles, combines keen observation, poignant thoughts, and deeper introspection with glorious prose.

Once Upon a Gypsy Moon also presents a rare and much-needed point of view on the familiar spiritual-journey narrative. It offers a star-crossed love story wrapped inside a rollicking good sea tale, but it also has something important to say to the reader about relationships, faith and disbelief, life and death, love and marriage, and what really matters

Particulars of the Book :
Genre:  Memoir/Non-Fiction
Pages:  256
Author:  Michael Hurley
Photo of the book cover is not available at this time

Review by Catherine Fahy of A Bookish Libraria:

At times meandering, given to excessive self-reflection and peppered with a few too many preachy sailing analogies, Michael Hurley's memoir of life aboard his 32-foot sloop, The Gypsy Moon, is nevertheless worth reading to the very last page for its dramatic ending.

Because that is where the author is revealed in full — as a man of admirable wisdom and candor. It's no small feat to take to the open ocean alone in a small sailboat, and the end of Hurley's journey with his beloved Gypsy Moon is the stuff of sailors' nightmares.
What makes Hurley's seagoing memoir so honest and satisfying is its ability to reveal flaws that may make a reader dislike him (as I did for awhile) then, while documenting his own transformation, also manage to win the reader's heart in the end.
Talking about the affair that ended his first marriage, Hurley says he believes strongly in the fallibility of mankind: ". . . every one of us, since the Fall of Man, has been the cheating kind in whatever area of life that holds for him or her the greatest temptation."
Equally strong is his conviction in our redemptive qualities when he says that it's important to recognize that we are not defined by our mistakes. "A ship's wake tells you where she has been, not where she is going," he writes, in one of the book's more appealing analogies.
With his affair, Hurley lost his friends, his two children's trust and enough of his productivity at work that he was asked to leave the partnership of the law firm where he'd worked for 11 years. A rock bottom moment was finding himself in a laundromat near his rented apartment "next to college kids in backwards baseball caps and flip-flops, with the smell of marijuana wafting down the hall."
The one constant in his life, it seems, was his love of sailing, and the promise that one day he'd have enough money to embark on an extended voyage aboard the Gypsy Moon, which he did in August, 2009. The premise for the book is a series of letters he wrote about the voyage for his friends, and while much of the sailing jargon can be confusing for non-sailors, the book is worth reading for the philosophical journey it recounts.
Hurley's journey began in Annapolis, after which he bumped in stages down the East Coast until ultimately reaching Florida, where he hoped to make ready for a passage to Nassau (something this writer did with one other person aboard a 25-foot sailboat, following much the same Florida-Caribbean route as Hurley).
For some, the open ocean is an irresistible salve to life's woes, to others it offers some of the most profound moments they'll ever know and celebrates the awesome magnificence and vulnerability of life. For Hurley it was both, and his account of his journey is reflective, entertaining and informative as it unfolds at the same time as his journey of the heart.
Not everyone who has fallen from grace is a lucky as Hurley in finding "The One" as relatively quickly as he did. He credits the Gypsy Moon with that when her self-steering vane broke in high winds and seas south of Charleston and he had to turn around for repairs. Back in Raleigh, N.C., where he lived, an on-line dating foray led him to a woman near Charleston, where he would be returning to resume his Bahama-bound voyage once Gypsy Moon's autopilot was fixed.
Leaving Charleston the week before Christmas, 2009, Hurley wrote to Susan that he had "a childlike sense of wonder, awe and excitement" about their future together.
Here is where the tone of the book takes a turn from introspective to romantic and adventurous as Hurley tackles some of the more challenging legs that will carry him nearly 2,000 miles southeast. Once away from the East Coast, he encounters the deprivations of life at sea, ill-equipped ports, dangerous shoals and reefs, poor anchorages, disturbing economic disparity and spotty communication, but with Susan sometimes accompanying him he makes it all the way to the Dominican Republic.
There, he has to decide whether to head east to cruise the Caribbean or south, 1,000 miles through the Windward Passage between Cuba and Haiti to the Panama Canal and eventually across the Pacific Ocean.
True to character, Hurley takes the path less traveled, or the latter path. And although a series of mishaps and a rogue wave cripple his boat, he emerges a wiser man at the end of the journey — something we can all find inspirational.
A recommended read by Catherine Fahy, August 26, 2012.


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