Eight Bells

Circumnavigator and Adventurer Mike Harker Passes Away at 64

Mike Harker small

Mike Harker, an extreme athlete who survived a gruesome hang-gliding accident and went on to complete a solo circumnavigation aboard his Hunter 49, Wanderlust III, passed away in early April after reportedly suffering a stroke aboard his boat off Marigot, St. Martin. He was 64.

“He was an inspiration,” said well-known St. Martin sailing journalist Gary Brown. “His life read like an action adventure novel.”

A native Californian who became a champion water-skier, Harker eventually moved on to rowing and then hang-gliding, where he was a pioneer in the emerging sport. But a 400-foot free-fall in 1977 while flying off Grenada left him in a nearly yearlong coma and paralyzed from the waist down. Remarkably, after several years of therapy, he began to walk again, at first using his wheelchair as a walker. Overcoming adversity became his life’s recurring theme.

For many years after, Harker pursued careers in photography and filmmaking. Then, in 2000, he discovered sailing, and characteristically, never looked back.

His first two boats were a Hunter 34 and 46, both named Wanderlust; aboard the latter, he soloed twice across the Atlantic and caught the eye of Hunter executives who were inspired by his tenacity and accomplishments. Ultimately, Harker traded his 46 for a new Hunter 49, Wanderlust III, and set off from Miami in 2007 to circle the globe in a year's time, averaging a thousand miles a week under sail for the 26,000-nautical-mile voyage, while taking every other week off to enjoy his surroundings. He completed the trip in a remarkable 53 weeks.

Last year, Harker survived another harrowing ordeal when he was severely beaten by thieves that boarded his St. Martin-based boat in the middle of the night. An eternal optimist, he later said, “My spirits are good because I’m not dead yet.”

Now he’s gone, after a life fully lived. It’s almost impossible to believe.