Nautical drifters


To the editor: Since my wife, Catherine, and I began our epic world voyage on Dream Time, a 1981 Cabo Rico, 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 set off from Brewers Marina in Glen Cove, Long Island, and found the ocean currents, it would have traveled further than we have by now.

When we sailed from the Galapagos to the Marquesas, a 3,000-nm journey, we endured a week of absolutely no wind with only the South Pacific currents carrying us gently west. But even on our slowest day, with fluorescent mahi-mahi happily camping under our hull, we still managed to cover more than 40 miles.

For the record, Dream Time is not a slow boat; in favorable conditions, she glides along quite comfortably at 6 knots. But we’re happiest when swinging on the hook, drifting slowly from one sun-drenched tropical anchorage to another. We’ve abandoned all hope of sticking to our original schedule of circumnavigating the world in six years. Our plans are freestyle now — if we like what we’re doing or where we are, we continue doing it, perhaps for one day, an extra month or even for an entire season. Applying this carefree cruising philosophy, we’ve been happily floating around the world for more than nine glorious years.

We know how lucky we are to have this freedom, the lack of commitment and restraint that has given us the opportunity to explore in the true meaning of the word. To wander with no direction, to see with no limitation and to let circumstances, new friends and experiences influence our path. If we had stuck to our original schedule, we would have barely glimpsed the remote corners of the world, areas that were once completely unknown to us that now feel like home.

We sailed down to New Zealand on three separate occasions and spent three cyclone seasons touring a country we never had any intention of visiting even once. For more than two years we explored French Polynesia when we thought, naively, that a few months would be more than enough for the region, and last year when we sailed into New Caledonia we intended just a quick pit stop en route to Australia, but that was more than a year ago and we’re still here.

It’s a pace and lifestyle we never could have possibly imagined back in New York when time was resented for its brevity and life was consumed in great distracted unappreciated gulps. The years are still flying by, of course — nothing can change that. But at least now, drifting slowly around the world, we are able to appreciate the journey. Life is no longer a dizzying blur, but rather a colorful, vivid, mesmerizing and exciting kaleidoscope of experiences.

We’re showing no sign of speeding things up either. So far this year we’ve only managed to navigate a measly 900 nautical miles, or a very satisfying three-mile-a-day average. Now, that’s what I call progress.

—Read about the cruising experiences of Neville and Catherine Hockley on their website:

By Ocean Navigator