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Saturday, March 1, 2008

Tropic of Cancer


Perhaps the best day of sailing, ever.

I take over for Alisa at 0600, before sunrise. We’ve heard that you can see the Southern Cross from Baja, but though we’ve been looking and have thought we might have seen it a couple times, we never have been sure. “After you hear that Crosby, Stills and Nash song you kind of expect it to be a more dramatic moment,” Alisa said one evening as we were trying to decide if the crossed formation of stars we were looking at was the constellation in question.

But this morning, there it is, no question, low over the southern horizon. The celestial emblem of the southern horizon, looking just like it does on the Australian flag.

The black night is swallowed by a purple dawn and then a blue blue early morning. I see a booby (a masked booby, Sula dactylatra), our first booby of the trip, and a good sign that things are getting firmly tropical. Which they literally are, as shortly after dawn Pelagic crosses over latitude 23º26.37'N, the Tropic of Cancer. Which means that we have now officially sailed from 60°N to the tropics.

Pelagic, unconcerned with the abstractions of geography, is making good time on twelve knots of wind and a flat sea, the sails pulling us insistently further south. Just the night before I had been huddled under the cockpit light, writing about how acting on a dream is a step towards acceptance, since even when you live a dream you continue to live under the constraints of the demanding everyday. But I'm not thinking of constraints now. With the brown mountains of Baja backlit by the rising sun to port, water all around us that is the essence of blue, and my wife and son sleeping peacefully in the bunk below, I go forward to the bow to adjust some piece of rigging. I finish the job, then look up at our bow wave cleaving across the ocean and the frigate birds wheeling overhead. I find myself pumping one fist in the air, momentarily enlightened at the joy of the world as it should be.

This morning, every one else in the world is competing for second place.

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