Day 3,224 - New Caledonia (22° 16S 166° 26E)
16:17hrs - March 28th 2016
Don't Look

For the last few days I've been working with Patrick, our friendly French mechanic, who in both appearance and temperament has an uncanny resemblance to Doc Brown in the movie Back To The Future and Kramer in the television series Seinfield. Imagine the creative and dishevelled genius of Doc coupled with the quirkiness of Kramer, and that's Patrick. I've enjoyed his company immensely, it's been spirited, educational, and at times frustrating beyond compare.

His workshop is a cluttered debris field, like the tangled remains left behind from an industrial tsunami, or a collection of anything unwanted and greasy that neighbors hurl into his unit whilst driving past. The space is waist deep in old engine parts, tools, rags, plastic containers, cardboard, dive tanks and a red surf board. And ironically this is where he does his laundry, which he cleans and hangs to dry at the back of the workshop.

But somehow, surrounded by stacks of cannibalized engine pieces, puddles of oil, drying bed sheets and with absolutely no clear work area, this is where Patrick conducts his business.

For two days we've worked together amidst this chaos where we stripped, cleaned and rebuilt Dream Time's Velvet Drive transmission, installing new bearings, springs, plates and gaskets without, miraculously, losing a single part (I think). After the rebuild I gave it a fresh lick of paint which made it appear instantly out of place in Patrick's workshop, a shiny talisman that by comparison, only served to make the rest of the area seem a little sad and abandoned. And today, after a few tense hours of pulling, pushing and fishing dropped tools out of the depths of the bilge with a giant magnet, it was happily reunited with our Yanmar, and after stretching the bow lines and stern lines everything seems to be in perfect working order.

So if you find yourself in Noumea and in need of mechanical assistance give Patrick a call at Albacor Marine. He's a rare breed of mechanic, the first I've found that regardless of the challenge or frustration of the project never loses his cool. In fact if he drops a spanner into the bilge expect him to chuckle, shake his head and mumble something in French while reaching for his magnet.

Yes, he's a pleasure to work with, but if you frighten easily, best stay away from his workshop.




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Quick Fix: 22° 16.6 S / 166° 26.4 E
March 20th, 2016 (day 3,216)
Conditions:  Wind: 5/ESE  Sky: Cloudy/Rain.

Personal Space
I've been working very closely with Patrick, a French mechanic who comes highly recommended in these parts, in an engine 'room' with an access door not much larger than a cat flap. After three hours of dismantling engine appendages, hoses and cables, and with an elaborate system of pulleys, ropes and blocks, we managed to extract our 130 lbs Velvet Drive transmission from the hole and into the daylight without incident. Thanks to my Father we've got a brand new set of gaskets, seals, bearings and clutch springs to install along with a new oil cooler and starter motor.
We're making great progress but we've been stuck at the dock for four weeks now and we're eager to sail away and find a nice quiet anchorage.




Jack Hockley inspecting his ground tackle in Mudeford, England.

Quick Fix: 22° 16.6 S / 166° 244 E
March 16th, 2016 (day 3,212)
Conditions:  Wind: 6/SE  Sky: Cloudy.

Solid Support
My Father introduced me to sailing when I was just a wee swab, back when I didn't even know my bow from my stern. During family vacations he taught me the fundamentals in a ten foot dingy, like: "hey son, duck when you see the boom swing", and even now, forty years on, he's still providing me with sound advice and support that keeps us safe. In the last two months alone he's helped locate, order, pack and ship supplies from America that are just impossible to find here. From power cords, SSB antenna cables, an oil cooler, transmission gaskets, seals, springs and bearings, he's even mailed an anti-bug shirt and special Bengal Spice tea bags for Catherine! Yep, he's one hell of a Dad, number one, in fact, and it needs to be mentioned here. Thanks Dad, we love you!

Day 3,206 - New Caledonia (22° 16S 166° 26E)
18:09hrs - March 10th 2016
An Easy Decision?

Recently, while checking the engine room, I pulled out the gearbox dipstick, something that I do far too infrequently, to discover it coated not in a clean glistening red lubricant, but rather a gooey white mess.

It seems at some point in the last few weeks, or perhaps even months, our oil cooler ruptured and began feeding seawater directly into our Velvet Drive transmission, and without a time consuming examination, which involves removing the gearbox, there's really no way of knowing what the extent of damage is and if, or indeed when, it will result in failure. One thing's for sure, salt water swishing around inside a metal case with all manner of gears, springs and bearings is far from ideal.

Most online forums simply suggest flushing the gearbox, filling it with new oil, crossing your fingers and hoping for the best. Now that's easy advice to give when it's not your gearbox, not your boat or when you're secured to a dock. But if you're going offshore on a thousand mile passage or negotiating a tight network of reefs under power, Murphy's Law will probably ensure that your gearbox will fail and you'll lose propulsion exactly when you need it the most.

On Dream Time we don't have a 'cross our fingers' attitude to cruising but rather a 'click our fingers' philosophy, and I like to think that's helped us avoid a few headaches over the years and kept us safe. What that means is if we're aware of a task, project work, repairs or upgrades but are hesitating for whatever reason (laziness usually) or if we're even considering a duck tape fix, would our decision differ if to complete the task or project properly all that was required was a 'click of our fingers'. If the answer is yes we stop debating and get to work.

This philosophy, for us at least, removes the hassle of reality - the inconvenience, the work, the disruption, the mess, all the things that can cloud judgment, cause hesitation and provide excuses not to do what's right, to focusing simply on what should be done. And if it were easy as clicking your fingers, well, you get the idea.

So, we have a choice, we can choose to, A: just flush our transmission, cross our fingers and hope for the best , or B: click our fingers and have our transmission magically removed, checked and rebuilt with new springs, bearings and gaskets.

If it were that easy, what would you do?




Day 3,201 - New Caledonia (22° 16S 166° 26E)
22:55hrs - March 5th 2016

Since we began this epic world voyage we've averaged just nine nautical miles a day, a sea cucumber probably covers more distance than that. In fact, if a piece of driftwood was tossed into the Long Island Sound the same day we left New York and found the ocean currents, it would have travelled further than we have by now.

When we sailed from the Galapagos to the Marquesas, a 3,000 nautical mile passage, we experienced a week of absolutely no wind, just the South Pacific currents carried us west, and even then, on our slowest day, with mahi mahi camping under our hull, we still managed to cover over 40 miles.

Of course we're not sailing every day, this isn't the Vendée Globe, we're not in a race and we're not trying to set any world records. We're cruisers, or more accurately, we're nautical drifters. This world voyage is as much about enjoying the journey as it is the destinations, so if we like what we're doing or where we are, we stay another day, and if we like that we might stay for a whole week, an extra month or even hang around for an entire year. Applying this philosophy we've been happily drifting around the South Pacific for 2,554 days - seven glorious years.

It's a pace we never could have possibly imagined back in New York when we were running at full RPM, when life was rushing by and time was resented for its brevity or just consumed in great distracted gulps.

Time is still flying by, of course, nothing can change that, but at least now, drifting around the world, the journey of life is no longer a dizzying uncontrolled blur, but a colorful, vivid, mesmerizing kaleidoscope of experiences.

We're showing no sign of speeding things up either. So far this year we've only managed to cover 168 miles, or a very satisfying 2.5 mile a day average. Now, that's what I call progress.


New Caledonia    Lazy lagoon sailing, exploring the southern lagoon under headsail only - why hurry?