welcome to our blog!

This blog tells the story of our 22-month sailing journey from Oakland, California, to Bristol, Rhode Island, aboard our beloved Bristol 32 sailboat, Ute. Please feel free to browse through the archives (partway down the sidebar to your left) to see pics and read stories of our adventures in North America and Central America . (Sorry the first 3 months of the trip are missing - they vanished somewhere in an internet cafe in Mexico - but all you're missing is CA, Baja and Western Mex).

If you're trying to track us down now that we're landlubbers, try us at uteatlarge at yahoo dot com. Thanks!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

yup, we ate this guy, and about 14 of his best buddies.

crabby and proud of it!

alright, so we still haven't left shelter bay....Hebe finally got in this morning from the canal AND it was thunderstorming all morning so how could we leave? we're hoping tomorrow will be the day. at this rate we're spending all the cash we earned making the sailcover, but hey, at least we're breaking even. that's good.

it was great to have Tim and Ariel here today.....we played Risk, then went for a nice long jungle walk and got to hear all about their transit. Hard to believe both boats are finally in the Caribbean! nice work Hebe.

Just enjoyed a dinner of sweet succulent crab followed by piping hot brownies. the boys caught AND cooked the crabs right here at the marina. I have to admit I was amazed at how delicious they were. may this be just the beginning of our living off the land here on the Atlantic side!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

awesome oropendola nests
more leaf-cutter ants!

i think this is a great use for old army bases...

itchin' to get to the islands

Still here enjoying the disco showers, but probably leaving tomorrow....Hebe transited the canal today so we're eagerly awaiting their arrival in this ocean...cross your fingers for them..we finished our first canvas project and customers seemed pleased so that went well! it took three days but, goldarnit, it has double-flat-felled seams, reinforced facings, and two-tone contrast trim. Thanks Geoff and Gerry for our first real gig.

We went for another jungle walk today and were lucky enough to see a huge troop of capuchin monkeys, one a mom jumping about with a tiny tiny baby clinging to her back. pretty cool. the howlers were going crazy too as we explored old bunkers and tried to sneak up on jumpy grazing agoutis.

We're getting pretty excited to see the San Blas islands....Danny and Gabby spent 3 days there after they were with us and said it's unlike any place they've ever been. The archipelago includes 365 islands so at the very least it should keep us busy! We'll take our time getting there, though....with no experience sailing among reefs we'rea bit nervous...the common wisdom says sail during the day when it's clear and you can see the reefs...otherwise stay put. at that rate it could take a couple days to close the 70-mile gap between here and the islands! luckily there are some pretty neat-sounding stops along the way, like Portobelo and Isla Linton.

Hopefully we'll make it there before Craig and Evvy fly in to meet us on the 3rd!

you too can look this badass if you come visit us in Panama.

only a mom would be this sweet

danny's mom shot these pics of her computer when she saw Ute on the Canal webcam. Thanks Angela!!!!!!

Monday, May 22, 2006

Breakdown in the Locks

Imagine this ship twenty feet off your stern. Then imagine putting the boat in forward and hearing a resounding SNAP!

Well that is what I heard upon leaving the second lock. After the the linehandlers had pulled in all the lines and we were to move forward I tried to shift the transmission into gear but only heard a snap and felt no forward motion.

Mind you we had a similar problem leaving the bay and entering Monterey Marina. But this didn't sound like that.

Anyway I turned to Danny and asked if he saw a prop wash off the stern. He turned back to me and said "Nope" in a very Danny defintive way.

I then started throwing lines, seat cushions and the piece of wood we were using to cover the inspection hatch that is beginning to crack, down into the cabin. Gaby was looking at me like I was possessed.
I knew I had to get to either the transmission or the control cable or both. We had pliers and a screw driver out under the dodger just in case. This was the case. Looking down into the engine compartment I could tell that the Monterey problem had not resurfaced so I then went to the starboard lazzerette. Immediatly I could tell the cable had broken off right at the control assembly.

Realizing we were drifting helplessly in the lock I stuck my head above the dodger and in a blood curdling snarl said "Cora, Come here!"
She looked at me for barely an instant before she hurried to the stern. She could tell something was not right.
By this time I figured out that we would have to hand shift the transmission.

With me lying in the floor of the cockpit, Cora steering the boat and the linehandlers waiting to enter the next lock we put the engine into forward at a very slow crawl. Shifting the transmission with your hand is not really hard but is uncomfortable and also rather awkward. Not to mention that as the captain I can't see what is happenning. So with confidence in the crew we transitted into the next lock. Now mind you confidence in the crew is important and I started to get up off the cockpit floor and then get back down every minute or so, but I relaized that I would have to just have faith so I stayed down on the floor.

Our advisor, Ernesto, had been on the radio to report that we were having some problems but that we were moving under power into the next lock. Once we were safely secured to the next lock Ernesto turned to me and said, "Captain, are we ok? Because if we have to get towed out of the locks it is going to cost lots and lots of money. Like thousands of dollars." I told him we were good and could make it to the anchorage for sure. He smiled and hopped back on the radio to report to the lockmaster that we were making way under our own power and would be a bit slower than usual. We really weren't slower but I didn't feel any need to correct him.

We did make it out of the locks and into the anchorage that night. Be prepared and know your boat. Also Great crew makes all the difference.
Much to our relief we were able to replace the cable the next day and continue our journey.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

still here at shelter bay

alright i think that's enough canal pics for now. suffice to say it was a great experience....even though it went by in a blur. lots of hurry up and wait, lots of anxiety and excitement. Thanks again Rick, Bill, Danny, Gabby for being The Best Panama Canal Crew Ever....we owe you one!!!

and now we're here at the cushiest marina yet, decompressing. it's a bit surreal. in a good way.

we were going to leave this morning, but we got a little sewing job - hopefully the first of many this summer! we had mentioned to the marina manager that we were headed to Bocas del Toro for the summer to park the boat and make some money doing canvaswork and lo and behold he had 4 or 5 jobs lined up for us just a couple hours later. So we're making a sailcover today and tomorrow. Can't say no to a job that pays our rent and then some at a place with two disco baths. oh, yeah, by the way, the baths are disco style too. so you can soak while blasting the tunes and flashing red and blue lights. I found this gives you a vague sense that you are about to be arrested. also if you fall asleep in the tub you run the risk of waking up thinking you passed out naked in a latin american disco. very peculiar.

so we will finish the sailcover and then see what's up.....our only schedule is we need to be in the San Blas islands around June 2nd because our friends Craig and Evvy are coming to visit from Oakland and meeting us there (yeah Craig and Evvy!! can't wait). so..who knows...we may have time to do a couple other sewing jobs.

We have a really nice little setup for the sewing machine in an old machine shed. The marina employees hang out with us and wonder why one silly sewing project is taking us so damn long. any one of the Kunas working here could probably make a sailcover with 44 intricate molas of endangered species and US presidents on it in the time it took us to cut out the first piece. so they think we're a riot. I taught them the expression "must be about beer-thirty by now" in spanish today. it was a big hit.

we learned today that the land around here is not just any abandoned US army base but the one and only (former) U.S. Jungle Operation Training Center. aka the Guerrilla Warfare training center where not only the US but also every scary Latin American dictator, revolutionary and counterrevolutionary sent their best men to learn some really scary shit. we haven't explored the grounds extensively yet but I guess there is a group of buildings that are set up like every kind of prison and torture chamber imaginable. they also had what they called the "zoo" which was a bunch of cages where they held various kinds of jungle animals so trainees could learn which ones they could eat and which ones woudl eat them while at the same time building up their immunity to snake bites et cetera. The cages are all still there. You can bet some pretty freaky stuff went down here. Ah, the wonders made possible by the CIA. The US is so generous in sharing it knowledge and technology with all the right people. check out http://junglefighter.panamanow.net/ for more info.

what's fun and funny is to walk around now and see the jungle reclaiming the place. nobody lives here. and the jungle doesn't waste any time taking over again.

you can just see a corner of a big white ship in the upper right in this pic...well, it was locking through on the other side. a car carrier. it carried FIVE THOUSAND cars. it was bigger than the county I was born in.

these little engines - called "mules" are what move the big ships through the canal...

as you can probably tell this was taken at night....we entered the Gatun locks well after dark...our advisor said that in over 10 years of piloting he'd never entered the locks that late...evidently there were no advisors available for the next day so the ACP told him to do whatever he had to do to get us through! it was beautiful and sort of eerie to be by ourselves in the locks at night. pretty neat actually....

Saturday, May 20, 2006

these hills actually represent the continental divide, and the one on the right is Contractor's Hill...pretty cool.

our advisor, Ernesto, had us double back so we could take pictures. he was really into canal history and his heritage. A Colon native, he spent a good part of the day telling us about what a great city Colon is and how much he wished it could get cleaned up and enjoyed by gringos and sailors. It was really refreshing to hear from someone that loved Colon after having everyone tell us what a hellhole it is.....Ernesto, may your Third Bridge dream come to fruition.

Getting to know our advisor was a funny process. when you apply for transit, you sign a paper saying you will provide sunshade, a bathroom, privacy, bottled water, and a complete and balanced meals for your transit advisor. we had heard some stories of advisors who didn't like the food a yacht had to offer - and were therefore compelled to order a lunchh through the ACP and have it delivered to them on the boat - to the tune of $440, payable by the boat owners! so we tried to have a bunch of food available. mind you we were also trying not to go broke, and to have space to sleep 6 people. yikes. so when he boarded our boat and asked for cereal straight away - the one thing we'd not bought - I was forced to try and wow him with what we did have. luckily a blue cheese and vermont cheddar omelet, baguette, and hot tea seemed to make him happy enough. and lunch and snacks went over fine too.

after an hour on the boat Ernesto was already in one of our team t-shirts and he and Allen were swapping doggy baby pictures. I was cracking up. we really had a fun time with him. he was a great advisor - conscientious and helpful. two thumbs up.

sadly we don't seem to have any pics from Lake Gatun, which is funny we spent nearly 6 hours crossing it - that was the bulk of the transit. I think I got too relaxed and assumed someone was taking pictures. maybe Gabby or Bill will have some pics from the Lake....hope so. in any case it was beautiful: misty, rainy and lush. treetops poking out from the flooded forest. vines cascading everywhere. little sloughs and inlets just begging to be explored by kayak or canoe. sort of the mississippi with the amazon along its edges. when you are in it it is surprisingly difficult to believe that it's all manmade - that it all used to be uninterrupted jungle. crazy.

wish the graphic on the shirt showed a little better in this pic...we are gonna have to post a full-frame t-shirt shot here when we get a chance...the artwork is awesome. The sailboat pictured in the graphic is Ute: she used one of our Nicaragua shots from the blog!

into the locks

rick's bizarre knee sunburn....if you can guess how he got it you win a prize.

having crew aboard was a hoot. in looking through our pics of the pre-canal prep I'm realizing that Bill and Gabby took most of the photos so maybe we'll get some pics from them down the road. we had a great time putting them to work pretty much straight off the plane.

the event coordinator in me was having a tough time last week....there were so many things around town I was just sure we'd do with our visitors....but the week went by so fast that we hardly had a chance to show them anything...it was just boat work, boat work, and more boat work. oh, and tons of last minute errands. they were very good sports about it though, in fact they assured me that I was more disappointed than they. They worked hard without complaint and were up for anything.

of course we did find time for some send-off parties and whatnot....how could we not with so many friends & fam in one place? Hebe was around, prepping for their canal transit (just around the corner - May 25th! go Hebe!!) and Que Onda showed up on his way to Ecuador. so the three Emeryville boats were together again, unexpectedly, just to add to the fun. it was all a bit overwhelming in a very exciting sort of way.

Gabby was not only a rock star on the boat work but also showed up with the MOST amazing custom t-shirts for the transit. they blew our minds! you'll see them in the transit pictures....THANKS GABBY!!! we appreciate it!!

the dads stayed at a sweet little B&B up on Ancon hill (those of you who got through the McCullough book will recognize some place names here on the blog) that afforded them not only great views of the city but lots of close-up wildlife encounters. on their first morning in Panama they hiked to the top of the hill and saw a full complement of jungle critters including agoutis, parrots, leaf-cutter ants, a green tree snake, and more. Bill spotted squirrel monkeys that next day. mind you this was right in the middle of a huge city..one of the reasons we are enjoying Panama so much.

hard at work

rick's first day as Ute crew

small world

not exactly a great photo but I had to start off with this one, because i was just so amazed to have all these people come together at the Panama Canal, of all places: Bill Green, Rick Carey, Allen, Danny, me, Bryan Light (Emeryville neighbor), Billy, Tim, Gabby, Ariel, and our friend Yenn. unbelievable.

"You should just call this place Emeryville Marina del Sur," Danny said on is first night here.

back online

the great thing about this marina is the clubhouse has so many rooms, i was actually able to set up shop in the corner of the book room and grab a couple more precious moments of wi-fi. fantastic!

so anyway we are happy to be here. went for a hike this afternoon and saw dozens of oropendolas, flitting about visiting their big hanging nests and making their unmistakable drippy-faucet sounds. we also trailed a band of about 15 coatimundis snuffling along a ravine. too fun.

now to bust out some photos.....

cleaning up our act

alright, so we still haven't made it out of Colon! we were going to try and meet danny and gabby in the san blas but...we realized that we really had no idea what we were doing sailing around the caribbean - reefs, shoals, and tradewinds are a whole different ball of wax from the Pacific - and as much as we love those kids, we promised each other when we left Oakland that we wouldn't do any sailing that felt unsafe or rushed just to meet a deadline. so...we will miss them which is a bummer but hopefully they will understand. We're doing our homework today so that we feel more prepared...adding waypoints, reading cruising guides, etc. etc.

cool thing is, we're at a MARINA tonight and I am going to take a HOT BATH...my favorite treat....woohoo!!! here's the conversation that brought that about as we pulled into Shelter Bay Marina [across the bay from Colon] to take on water:

Allen: so, we'll just pull in and fill up both water tanks and get going.
Cora: sounds good. I'll set up the dock lines.
Allen: you know, i didn't want to tell you this until after we left here, but there is a hot tub at this marina.
Cora: SO MEAN! you are so mean. well you know what? i heard that last night this marina had an all-night Red sox game-watching-marathon with free Guinness and steaks but I didn't want to tell you. so there.
Allen: alright, I guess it was kind of mean.
Cora: that's alright, you can make it up to me by agreeing to stay here for the night. Let's at least ask how much it costs. I heard it is right in the middle of a national park that is all rainforest with trails.

So we pulled in here and the guy that runs the place gave us a tour and we were pretty much sold. mind you there are actually TWO jacuzzis and there are two disco showers. If you are in the market for a fascinating and cleanliness-oriented vacation, I would recommend flying to Panama just to try the disco showers. They seem like the kind of thing that an entire cult travel following could be built around....each disco shower is a giant booth with two chairs, flashing lights in the ceiling, and a surround sound stereo. The water can be made to shoot out of the ceiling, the walls, the chair backs, the chair seats, or any recombination thereof. All while disco lights are flashing and salsa music is jamming out of the walls. On the off chance you get bored with the show, you can entertain yourself with the translated safety reminders on the shower walls, which say things like "aged persona, intelligence obstacle personage and the pregnant of women do not use this sauna of the vapour".

Two more shower rides and a cold beer, and I just may become an intelligence obstacle personage.

Alright, I was just told they need to clean up the lounge for a "cruiser chip-and-dip get-together". Who am I to argue? This might mean access to foods of the type found in refrigerators, especially in light of the fact that Ute is smaller than some of these boats' dinghies. more later hopefully some canal pics too. cheers, CC


WOW! We are so happy someone actually web cammed us! Thanks Darrin. Who else but you. Amazing. Thanks.

Just in case everyone hasn't read Darrins account:
"I saw you guys! You turned slightly to starboard as you emerged from the first lock then had to veer slightly to port for a minute to avoid a tug, which also veered to port, collision avoided, both boats returned to their original courses. I had the replay last 20 images thing going and showed it to all my coworkers. "Hey Alex, you got any friends going through the Panama Canal right now?" "huh?" "Well, I do!" Thanks for letting us be there too.Darrin"

Friday, May 19, 2006

did anybody catch us on the webcam

sounds like the answer is no, but we'd love to find out if anyone did...i waved and waved at the darn thing

WE MADE IT!!!! hello Caribbean!!!

actually we made it through in once day and were here Wednesday night but PCYCs wi fi is down and i guess the phone is too....BUT the important thing is we're here!!! wooohooo!!! the transit went great, pics to follow soon, headed out to the san blas this afternoon or tomorrow monring, likely the former. the transit was AWESOME. our crew was incredible. it all happened really fast. our heads are spinning. now making a break for the islands in hopes of catching danny and gabby out there for a day before they split. hopefully there will be some kind of internet on one of the bigger islands as we'll be there for three weeks or so. well at the very least there is a phone on one island, we heard, so we'll figure out something!!! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU everybody for all your support, good wishes, correspondence. more soon. love from Colon, UTE

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Transit Update - Tomorrow (May 17) is the day!

We are picking up our Transit Advisor at 6:30 am Panama time, which is CDT. So we should be entering the Miraflores locks around 7:30 or 8:00 AM. We think this means that if you check out the webcam between 7:30 and 10 AM CDT you have a chance of seeing us. try again in the mid to late afternoon if that doesn't work (for the Gatun locks on the other side). not that we expect you to be glued to the webcam, but if you're at the office and bored, hey why not?

The link for the Web cam is:
See you there!

Monday, May 15, 2006

getting closer . . .

Danny and Gabby are here. happy and healthy.
Rick and Bill are here. happy and healthy.
having 4 crew to boss around and put to work is dreamy. and, they´re pretty excellent company to boot. we are bouncing off the walls with anticipation, excitment, nervousness.
best quote from the experience so far:
Brian (looking out the window of the taxi): Hey, what´s that building?
Cora: That´s another one of the Smithsonian labs. There are a whole bunch of tanks where they do fish research, but we don´t know what kind.
Brian: they´re probably trying to build a tuna that Allen can catch.

[we have yet to catch a really edible fish in 7 months of sailing].

we finally have our new camera. I am ecstatic. hopefully we´ll have pics for the blog soon....working on it.

more soon, love to all, CC

Friday, May 12, 2006

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Panama Canal Webcam

Not sure of the exact time and date yet but the canal has a webcam for the locks. http://www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html
We are hoping the 17th of may will be our date but it could move a day or two either way. We will post the date as soon as we know.
We will also make sure that we have this link at the top of the blog.
We are getting so close.
Also Bill and Brian are here in panama. So cool

Monday, May 08, 2006

Grandma Greene, Canal-bound on a banana boat...


hell, i guess if we fanagled 2 Old Towns through 6 giant Mississippi grain barge locks and 82 miles of river, we can get ol´Ute across the isthmus.

good thing our crew has experience....hopefully this time we won´t have to build a sail out of green tarp and a canoe paddle. anything´s possible, though...

hot shoes...burnin´ down the avenue....

all you children of the 70´s can name that song, yes?

sorry for the lack of updates....the prep for the canal is a fun and funny whirlwind...starting to feel like a smaller scale version of the wedding in terms of planning, logistics, excitement, expectations, expenditure.

there aren´t words to articulate the heady intoxication of being AT the panama canal...we are marinating in history, stories, lore, beauty. it is extraordinary.

quick crew update: danny and gabby arrive the 13th. Rick and Bill arrive the 14th. our transit date has fluctuated from the 18th to the 12th and back again and every date in between. we get a different answer every day when we call. so....no guarantee on the fam & friends being able to crew for us, but we are doing everything we can to make it all come together. we're buzzing around like hummingbirds, fixing boat parts, fortifying chocks and cleats, lining up tires, plugging leaks, figuring out how the hell six people will sleep on our boat if it´s raining, blah blah blah............

it occurred to us that the last adventure we roped Gabby into also involved transiting VERY LARGE LOCKS in VERY TINY BOATS. i will have to dredge up some pics from that Mississippi trip......and my mom sent some cool pics of my Grandma on her United Fruit passenger liner that brought her to Panama (thanks Mom!).

in the midst of all the errands and stuff we´re having a blast. we transited the canal this weekend on a neighbor´s boat. it was intense. made us that much more stoked to take Ute through (whenever that may be!). it was beautiful. favorite part? when we were approaching the very last lock before the Caribbean and we looked over and saw a HERD of frolicking capybaras in a clearing next to the lock. they looked just like a flock of sheep with bouncy spring lambs...except they were giant rodents. you could have knocked me over with a feather. there were about 12 babies and they were running and playing and bucking. too cute.

we´ve actually found time here and there to enjoy Panama City too..it continues to be friendlier, cleaner, cheaper, and more fun than we´d expected. We´re anchored right next to a causeway that unites three small islands, and the tiniest of the three, Naos Island, right next to our boat, is home to a Smithsonian-administered park that includes an interpetive trail, an exhibit center, and an arboretum. I may have actually died and gone to heaven here. We spent an afternoon exploring the park last Sunday.....it was great....there are 15 wild sloths that live on the island. One of them - we named him Luke - likes to crawl over the fence into the marina parking lot (where we park our dinghy) and sleep in a tree there. At night he climbs back over the fence to feed. we watched him late one night last week and it took him about 45 minutes to make it from one fencepost to the next one...we were cracking up.

Smithsonian has a huge presence here in Panama City...I knew that they had their big research station in Lake Gatun (check out www.stri.org to learn more) but I didn´t know until we started exploring around here that they have offices, research stations, bookstores, interpretive centers tucked away all over Panama City. some of their labs are set up in old bunkers and gun emplacements on the different islands. Right next to our marina is a lab where they´re doing mysterious things with fish in dozens of giant bubbling tanks. I´m dying to know what they´re up to. so cool to have big league science all around us.

ANyway.....more emailing and then I´lll track down some photos maybe. CC