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Tropic of Cancer

Log: 3441

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Location: Stella Maris Marina, Long island, Bahamas

Total Trip Distance: 802 Nautical Miles

We talk about the sun “moving” but we all know that it’s apparent daily “movement” across the sky is caused by the rotation of the earth while it’s apparent annual movement north and south is caused by the tilted earth’s orbit around it. Anyway, by this common usage, the furthest north that the sun gets in our summer is called the Tropic of Cancer while the furthest south that it travels in our winter is called the Tropic of Capricorn. Technically, the location of the Tropic of Cancer varies slightly each year. However, it is commonly agreed that latitude 23 degrees, 27 minutes north is called the Tropic of Cancer.

In about a month, around March 21, the sun will cross the equator on it’s trip north. This is called the Vernal Equinox and is commonly considered the first day of spring. Three months later, the sun will reach the Tropic of Cancer on around June 21, the summer solstice, commonly called the first day of summer.

Yesterday, the Lovely Laura Lee and I crossed the Tropic of Cancer. I think the name has to do with astronomy rather than what the sun here does to your skin. There is some kind of homage that should be paid to Neptune on such ocassions but we are not sure what it is. Our failure to salute the gods would prove to be a serious omission. Anyway, briefly today, we were in “The Tropics”.

The last few days have been mostly delightful, with a few harrowing moments thrown in for good measure. We had a great time with Bonefish Bob and the Dahling Ashley. After our bonefishing expedition Saturday, we mostly hung around at Emerald Bay enjoying the amenities of the Four Seasons Resort there. We tried to set out one day for an excursion to Volleyball Beach for lunch at the Chat-N-Chill, but the seas were rough and we returned to Emerald Bay. Bonefish Bob briefly became Bouncing Bonefish Bob as he made a heroic leap from boat to dock in an effort to get us tied off in high winds. Other than a skinned knee, we believe he will recover. I had him sign a waiver of liability before he left as he is a noted litigator.

After our guests departed Tuesday, the Lovely Laura Lee and I took off Wednesday for another try at Georgetown. This time, we went to a far less-populated anchorage called Red Shanks, a little further from town but protected from wind on all sides. Compared to the two or three hundred boats anchored along Stocking Island, we found only two sailboats in the Red Shanks area. Red Shanks is home of the tongue-in-cheek Red Shanks yacht and Tennis Club and is known for a degree of eccentricity. Sure enough, as we rounded the corner into the anchorage, we found a man walking around the deck of his sailboat “au naturale”. Didn’t bother us in the least. In fact, we returned the favor by bathing off the back of the boat that afternoon.

We took the dingy into Georgetown Wednesday afternoon for some supplies, had a drink at the Peace and Plenty Hotel bar, and ordered some lobster tails from the beauty shop in town (where else?). After grilling chicken on the boat, we were treated to a total eclipse of the moon starting around 8:30 pm. When the moon was totally obscured at about 9:30, the stars were magnificent in the dark sky. Yesterday, after a quick run into town to pick up the lobster tails, we set out for Long Island on a sparkling southern route across the banks, keeping us from the rough seas in the open Exuma Sound.

The trip across was incredibly beautiful and we were headed for a great-sounding marina which we had read about near the Simms community, right on the Tropic of Cancer. Alas, perhaps because we had not followed proper ceremony crossing the Tropic, we were destined for one of those strange Bahamas “parallel universe” experiences.

The ad in our cruising guide for Alligator Bay Marina Village is a full-page spread with pictures of docks, sport-fishing boats, beautiful condominiums, etc. It promises a 50–slip “Mediterranean Style” marina 25 miles southeast of Georgetown on Long Island. It says it will accommodate yachts to 120 feet with a 13–foot draft. Amenities include a gourmet provision shop, dockside bar and grill, gourmet dining at “Yuma”, rental cars, wireless internet, and concierge services. Beyond the marina, there are dockside residence suites and one and two-bedroom villas, fully-furnished for rent or sale with prices starting at $395,000. The marina listing in the guide backs this up with details about the facilities.

It sounded too good to be true, and it was. We are used to marinas falling short of expectations but this one simply doesn’t exist at all. There is a natural little harbor and a few construction shacks. We found out later that some work had been done there but that it had simply stopped. Classic Bahamas. In fact, there are half-finished houses and other projects throughout the Bahamas. We are told that people cannot get mortgages so they simply work on a house when they have money, and then stop until they can afford it again. The good news is that there is no sub-prime mortgage crisis here.

With it nearing dark, Alligator Bay not existing, the wind picking up, and no good anchorage in sight, we headed a few miles north to the Stella Maris Marina, one of our least-favorite places. We had been assured that we could get in the channel with our six-foot draft at half tide or better, but that was not the case. After bumping the sand and anchoring several times to wait, we finally literally dragged the boat across the sand to get in by 9 pm, just a half-hour before high tide. We shall read up on how to properly invoke the good wishes of Neptune before we cross the Tropic of Cancer again.

We are laying over at Stella Maris tonight and will have dinner at the beautiful Stella Maris Resort. Tomorrow, at high tide, we will dash back to Emerald Bay to receive our friend Loti Woods who flies in tomorrow night.

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