ISTEC grieves for Mike Harker
07 Apr 2011
We have just received sad news that our friend and Parasailor ambassador Mike Harker passed away at the age of 64 in Saint Martin (Caribbean) last Friday due to a stroke. Mike was a true explorer and pioneer with an extraordinary personality. His friendly character and positive attitude to life and his various projects were very inspiring. We are truly touched by his death.
Even though Mike has earned a reputation as a bluewater sailor and single-handed world circumnavigator, our friendship with Mike does not originate in sailing, but in hang-gliding and paragliding. Günther Wörl, ISTEC's founder and owner, also owns the world's leading paraglider manufacturer Swing, and has known Mike for many years.
Mike was amongst the first to get involved with hang-gliding in the 1970s during the time he was stationed in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, southern Germany, as a US soldier. In 1973, Mike became famous for being the first person to fly a hang-glider from Mt. Zugspitze, Germany's highest mountain. Mike continued to be an active developer of this new sport - as an ambassador, as a developer and as an instructor alike. He also produced a number of TV documentaries on hang-gliding.
Mike's career as a hang-gliding pilot came to a sudden end in 1977, when a very serious flight accident put him into hospital for three years and left him paralyzed from the waist down. However, after years of determined training and positive training, Mike's health improved up to a point where he was no longer tied to a wheel chair. In the following years, Mike successfully worked as a photographer and producer of documentaries.
It was in the year 2000, when Mike, who had sailed dinghies as a teenager in California, rediscovered his passion for sailing and bought his first boat "Wanderlust", a Hunter 34. Just two years later he upgraded to a Hunter 466, called "Wanderlust II", and began his sailing adventures by going across the Atlantic single-handedly. Mike's biggest sailing project began when he started a single-handed world circumnavigation in March 2007 on "Wanderlust III", a Hunter 49. Of course, ISTEC supported Mike by providing a 140 m² (1,507 sq ft) Parasailor for Wanderlust III. After all, on a typical circumnavigation, one sails downwind for more than 75 per cent of the time. Mike reported he had the Parasailor up for more than one week without taking it down while crossing the Indian Ocean.
During the past three years, Mike helped with our boat shows in Miami and Annapolis, and we also saw him regularly whenever he visited Germany to see friends and hang-gliding buddies.
On his Facebook profile, Mike indicated a quotation from Mark Twain was his favorite: "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." He has truly lived up to that motto.
We'll miss Mike and are thankful for his friendship and support.