Friday, May 11, 2007

Normans Cay to Emerald Rock, Exumas, Bahamas

21.8 nm
Wind: SW 10 knots dying to calm
Seas: Flat
Latitude: 24°23.00’N
Longitude: 076°38.01’W
Maximum speed: 4.5 knots (under sail)
Average speed: 3.0 knots

Our sail today was gorgeous--close-hauled, with a bare ten knots forwards of the beam, Secret chortling along at close to four knots, the bright sun just warm enough, the breeze just cool enough, hazy white clouds blooming on the blue horizon like flowers.

We had a nice little race with a beautiful ketch we didn’t know. We’re not much of racers, but it’s extremely fun to see you’re gaining on another cruising boat. We’ve felt a little competitive with some of the other boats we’ve seen on our same tack in the States, but it’s a different thing here, where every boat you track with is also carrying fifty gallons of water and hundreds of pounds of canned goods. It’s especially fun to see you’re winning against a bigger boat with more sail area. Secret is a racer at heart, after all.

Eventually the wind died and we motor-sailed a bit, until our engine made its bad noise and we ended up sailing into our little anchorage in very light wind and then anchoring without an engine. That’s always exhilarating. I felt a little like a showoff--the ketch that we’d been racing all day, who had already motored in and anchored, watched as we flew in and dropped our wings. Still, if we can do it, why not?

We’ve had a lovely peaceful night, reading and talking. I pulled out my start chart and found the North Star for the first time ever. It’s close to the new moon, and there’s no ambient light, so the stars are brilliant. Karl saw the Milky Way the other night, but low, low on the horizon, much lower than he’s used to.

Starlight is almost tingly on the skin, it’s such a peculiar kind of light. So old and silver. It doesn’t look like stars should give off enough light to reflect off the ocean, but they do, and the light they reflect seems brighter than the stars themselves. It makes me think about old stories of ancient mariners, Odysseus, and Coleridge, and Columbus.

These are the days, though, that cruising is all about. A perfect sail, a perfect anchorage, and perfect stars.

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