S/V Delilah

A Blog to track the wanderings of the S/V Delilah, a 37-foot Tayana sailboat.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Tropic of Cancer

Friday, February 24
Mayaguana Island
N 22 degrees, 21.65 minutes
W 072 degrees, 58.95 minutes

This week's weather has been perfect (sorry, Greg), so we have made a lot of progress south and east in light winds and calm seas.

Yesterday we woke early and pulled up our anchor at dawn for the roughly 150-mile sail from Conception to Mayaguana. Four other boats were planning the trip as well, and we left early with Amanzi, the other slow boat. The other boats would leave later and catch up with us near nightfall.

The winds were light enough that we had to motorsail during the day, but because of the persistent light winds, the surface of the Atlantic had become quite calm. We kept pace with Amanzi and watched with envy as they fought and landed a four-foot long, forty pound dolphin (again, the fish, not the mammal). In fact, ALL of the other boats caught so much fish on this crossing they ran out of room and had to pull in their lines! We didn't catch any keepers.

As expected, the other boats caught up with us at dusk, just as the wind built enough to turn off the engine. The other boats couldn't resist the temptation of making great time with both motor and sails, so we watched all but one boat pull well ahead of us while we enjoyed the peace and quiet.

The Tropic of Cancer, which begins at 23 degrees, 27 minutes north of the equator, is the northernmost point at which the sun reaches ninety degrees. Our dictionary defines it as the start of the Torrid Zone, which makes me wonder if this is where all the romance novels are written. Last night we passed south of this parallel and entered the tropics. YIPPEE! We've only come about 100 miles south, but the water is noticeably warmer, and our weather patterns are different from the rest of the Bahamas.

Two boats in our group have radar, a multi-thousand dollar luxury that we struck off our list early in the planning stages. But it was good to know on our passage that we did show up on their sceens, as well as the screens of the Caribbean Princess, an enormous cruise ship lit up like a Christmas tree and looking more like a city block than a boat, and then a tug boat pulling a barge on a long wire. Thanks to the books from Joe and Sharon (Joe, check your email), I know that you've got to stay VERY far away from those, and they have no maneuverability, so when he was still several miles away, we spoke to the tug captain over VHF radio, and assured him that we would leave him well to port.

Over the radio in response I heard the melodious and welcome tones of a man who drops his Rs. A Boston accent down here in the tropics, twenty miles from land! I couldn't resist asking, "Is that a Boston accent?"
"Well, Gloucester," the guy said. "I graduated from Peabody High, but that was a long time ago."

Nighttime was beautiful. The sky was jammed with stars, and the air was warm enough that we could keep watch in just a sweatshirt and pants. No ski gloves, no hand warmers, no fleece socks and three layers of high-tech fabric, no hot water bottle, no neck warmer, no foul weather gear. This is the way to travel.

All the boats made it to the anchorage at Mayaguana by early afternoon. The last few miles in the bay, we motored in about ten feet of water. I perched myself on the bow to look for coral heads. With the sun behind me and good polarized glasses, they were easy to spot, black blobs in a field of water the color and clarity and depth of a swimming pool. Looking down from the bow I could see a scattering of starfish on the bottom, and a few larger fish that swam out of our way, including a giant ray.

For dinner we all congregated on S/V Eira to help eat the fish they had caught, to review the previous 24 hours, and to talk about the next leg of our journey, which we expect to make next week.

Turks and Caicos is only sixty miles away, but the Dominican Republic can be reached in one leg if we pass by T & C. I can hear the gasps of horror and indignation rising up from Wayland, but skipping T & C means one less landfall to time precisely for daybreak, one less day of dealing with (and paying) customs and immigration, and one less courtesy flag to buy. The Dominican Republic, I am learning, is a well-kept secret as far as American tourism goes, and it is amazing. It's also a mandatory stop along the way to Puerto Rico, as it's right in the way.

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Blogger Gregory Burd said...

Perfect weather eh? Nice. :) But seriously, the water only gets warmer (for a while) as you go south. Enjoy.

5:15 PM  

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