Novelist and sailor Michael Hurley said he has nothing but the highest praise for the response of rescuers who came to his aid Wednesday morning in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
“I have never met such a fine group of people. I hate to have gone through this experience, but they have been professional and very welcoming,” Hurley said Saturday morning by telephone from aboard the Maine Maritime Academy training ship State of Maine.
The 500-foot State of Maine, with a crew of 284, diverted from its route home in order to locate Hurley, who was on the 30-foot sailboat Prodigal that was taking on water after apparently sustaining structural damage during a series of gales. The rescue occurred about 600 miles south-southeast of Halifax, Nova Scotia.
Hurley said he never feared for his life because he had been prepared with two life rafts, a full immersion suit and a distress emergency beacon, which he did not have to activate.
The Charleston, South Carolina, man said he had been posting daily about his activities on the Prodigal and had mentioned how he was having a difficult time keeping up with the water coming into the sailboat. He said a satellite link through DeLorme allowed him unlimited text messaging and the ability to post on Facebook.
He left Charleston on May 25 and was aboard the Prodigal for 17 days before he had to abandon the vessel.
He said friends who were following his adventure asked if he needed help. When he pointed out his situation, he later received a call from the Coast Guard asking if he needed assistance. By then, Hurley realized he could not keep up with pumping the water and — worried about the possibility of a prolonged gale and the distance he yet had to travel — he agreed he needed help.
Capt. Leslie Eadie said the State of Maine heard the radio call to all vessels from the U.S. Coast Guard Regional Coordination Center in Boston about a sailing vessel in the vicinity that was taking on water. The Prodigal was about 33 miles from the training ship at the time, and the decision was made to head in the Prodigal’s direction.
Seas were 8 to 10 feet at the time.
The State of Maine crew tried to make contact with Hurley every 10 minutes. After about an hour into the effort, they were able to reach Hurley by marine VHF radio. At the same time radio contact was made, the Prodigal could be seen about 8 miles away.
Midshipman Gabrielle Wells of Kittery said her job was to make sure the equipment was ready for the rescue. Those duties for the crew included making sure the rescue boats were ready, fastening a cargo net to the main deck that would hang to the waterline to act as a target for the vessel and rigging a Jacob’s ladder, according to Maine Maritime Academy.
Hurley thanked the crew for assisting him in unloading some of his belongings from the sailboat to the training ship.
Hurley said he decided to make the trip to Ireland to give him time to write a novel about a person taking a passage to Ireland. He said he planned to finish the novel when he was in Ireland, but now plans to finish it in the states.
The retired lawyer said he and his wife, Susan, talked about separating two weeks before he left Charleston. Hurley had planned to toss his wedding ring into the Atlantic Ocean when he reached the halfway mark to Ireland. But during the trip, the two conversed and agreed to reconcile.
Eadie said this was the first actual rescue for the training ship. Last year, the ship turned around twice near the Azores to help sailing vessels, but other vessels arrived first to help. Then there was one response to assist a fishing boat off Nova Scotia: The State of Maine sent a medical crew, but the person had already died.
The captain said there was relief when Hurley was safely on board.
“It felt good to help,” Eadie said.
Hurley said his boat was not insured.
The State of Maine arrived back in Maine on Saturday.