Lat: 23 26.578′ N
Long: 82 58.140′ W

Within the next hour or so, we will cross latitude 23 26′ N (the Tropic of Cancer) and officially enter the Tropics.

At the beginning of our watch around 9 p.m. last night, the light from the Florida Keys was clearly visible to the northeast, while to the southwest, we could see the glow of Havana. Although the moon was new, the skies were clear and bright with the light of the soup of stars spread across the heavens. It had been a long time since either Lauren or I had seen such a seemingly infinite number of stars. Watches on nights like this invariably include a number of shooting stars. Lauren distinctly recalls one that was shockingly bright with a clear tracer of light behind.

We carried the spinnaker until 3:30 a.m. when the winds clocked too far to the east to carry it with the same set, and we had all hands on deck for a shift change. We still have not perfected the art of dousing a spinnaker, but we did manage to get it stowed in the sail locker and get the jib up without any crew or gear mishaps. We’ve been on a broad reach through the Florida Straits since then with the wind and seas steadily building. Redistributing weight and carrying less sail has seemed to pay dividends, as the motion has been pretty reasonable so far, and nobody has surrendered their dinner over the stern. In order to avoid a boarding by the Cuban Guarda Frontera, we’re going to attempt to stay 20 miles offshore until the 12-mile legal limit, because that’s what they seem to prefer.

During our sail change last night, the same steering problem reoccurred, but we were able to confirm that it was due to the wheel break (a threaded donut on the steering wheel shaft that allows the wheel to be locked into position) inadvertently being tightened and thankfully is not in fact an auto-pilot problem.

Shipping traffic through the Straits of Florida hasn’t been too bad and is much less stressful with the AIS on board. Using the AIS and the chart-plotter, we are able to view course predictions that tell us when and at what promixity a ship will pass us, sometimes even before we can see the ship on the horizon. Other than a few ships, our only other company has been numerous flying fish that the boat scares up.