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!

Sunday, July 30, 2006

giving up our parking spot...

after nearly two months of being tied up here at Shelter Bay - and three months since we've done overnight passages - we will set sail for Bocas del Toro tomorrow morning! The engine starts, runs, and shifts - at the proper times and in the proper places. it's bliss.

to back up a step, I made it back safely from a wonderful week on the farm. My mom is doing well and I felt so fortunate to be able to fly home and help her out - it really helps one's worry level to have an in-person visit. there is no substitute.

I got back Thursday morning to learn that the wi-fi antenna at the marina had been struck by lightning while I was away. Allen actually watched the antenna - which stands barely 50 feet off our bow - get hit. Terrifying! the shock wave was, well, shocking but we didn't suffer any damage. Of course it meant no internet, and therefore no phone calls either for the last five days, so we were quite happy to see a new antenna this morning. we've gotten terribly spoiled here....we'll have to learn to rough it again when we leave.

Allen worked his butt off while I was in Wisconsin - it was like a whole new Ute when I got back! After three months of power plant issues we have two solar panels juicing ripe photons at full strength. A new cranking battery was the answer to our starter woes. And the transmission is smooth as a monkey's bottom.

Getting ready to back on the road again is fun. Fun to test drive the boat around today, turn the VHF and shortwave radios on, check the weather, chart waypoints, stow everything, read the cruising guides. Bocas promises to be a beautiful, albeit buggy, destination. Four friends fly there to meet us on Wednesday morning..with a little luck we'll beat them there but the weather is so fickle this time of year, it's anyone's guess. It's about 150 miles from here on a direct course, which we may or not be able to take depending on wind direction and the vigor of the western caribbean countercurrent. We hope that the weather will be cooperative during our time there since the charts show lots of tempting anchorages tucked among thriving reefs and dozens of mangrove islets.

Here's hoping for a quick and uneventful passage - hopefully not longer than 2 days or so. Cheers everybody - and thanks for all the support - UTE

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

plans, they are a chaaangin'.....

...naturally. that is what a sailor's plans do, change. and so I find myself in Wisconsin. yes, Wisconsin! no need to panic, nothing horrible going on, it's just that my mother underwent an unexpected appendectomy last week and, since she is not supposed to lift anything heavier than a fork for a couple weeks, I thought I should come home and help chuck hay bales and mow lawn and stuff like that. So last minute arrangements were made and, 12 culture shocked hours later, I find myself sitting in Rio, Wisconsin! Allen is holding down the fort in Shelter Bay, left to face our two-page, cross-referenced, priority-assigned to-do list of boat projects. poor sweetie.

so...for those of you sweet people who have been wanting updates on the engine etc....they'll have to come from my honey next time he cleans his hands up enough to touch the laptop. (oooh...better add Lava soap to my US shopping list. check).

After 10 months of spending every single moment with my husband and experiencing everything new and exciting with him at my side, it's a little odd to be back in the US on my own! but not in a bad way. just wish Allen was here to snuggle Buster with me. I'm feelign kind of guilty that I get to do so and he doesn't.

we're still planning to go to Bocas del Toro for the month of August, provided there is a good weather window to get there boat there when I get back to Panama on the 27th.

Stay tuned and take care everybody! CC

more soon. CC

Thursday, July 13, 2006

red sky at night....sailor's delight

thanks Derek for sending this one.....glad you made it back to Florida safe and sound!

Sunday, July 09, 2006

here's a coatimundi in case you were wondering what one looks like....

(please feed my delusion that you have at least one burning biology question on your mind at any given time)

Hi again everybody, and hope you had a great fourth! Ours was…amusing. Some of our gringo neighbors (about half the boats here are American) surprised us 4th of July morning by busting out a truly horrifying glut of Americana decorations. Who knew I would get to experience the holiday flag phenomenon so many thousands of miles from the Heartland? But in the spirit of “if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em” we sang corny 4th of July songs and joined the party. After all….where else were we gonna go? We’re in the middle of the jungle, for god’s sake. The marina has a shiny well-equipped kitchen that we put to good use in cooking up a feast….as a matter of fact the management was so taken by Allen’s skills at the grill that there has been some talk of us helping to open up the restaurant here. Hmmmm…maybe?

Lamentably our limey neighbors never emerged from their coccoon to receive their complementary clobbering. But we colonials partied down undaunted. My volleyball skills are improving. It’s not easy being parked and doing engine work for a month, but we have to make certain sacrifices for the boat, and if that means playing volleyball with young Panamanian firefighters every afternoon, so be it.

After the holiday it was back to the real world. Well, actually this is nothing like the real world and we feel like we live in some weird bubble, so I guess I should say back to work. The starter is still in the shop…we call every day and – surprise surprise – it’s always going to be ready manana. But we keep the faith. Life is funny here. It’s like living in a really exotic retirement community…there is even a Bingo Bus that takes us all to town a couple times a week. Everybody bitches about everybody else and tries to avoid direct sunlight. We are considered suspicious by virtue of the fact that we pretty much get along with everybody.

I think I’m getting addicted to the canal zone, if that’s possible. Being at this crossroads of the Americas is every bit as scintillating as it was when we first arrived two and a half months ago. A couple days ago a cruising family rolled in…..Mom, Dad, 13-year-old boy and 10-year old girl from Maine. They are homeschooling the kids on board, had their kids relatively late in their 30’s, and have made their living for the last several years writing cruising guides and sailing articles. We even own one of their cruising guides to the ICW! (we made them autograph it, which they found funny). Naturally I have been picking their brains about every single aspect of their life…..they are just LITTLE interesting to me (right). Within the first 20 minutes that we knew them we were already finding out which homeschool curriculum they use, which hospitals in Maine offer the best birthing plans for older moms, what it’s like cruising with kids, how to pitch articles to boating magazines. If it had been a sales presentation I would have signed on the dotted line and jumped on the baby wagon. I think Allen was a little frightened by the gleam in my eyes but I can’t help but notice he’s becoming a groupie himself. Sure makes ya think……

I’m still spending every day in the sweatshop. You might be amazed how much STUFF you need to amass to do quasi-professional canvaswork. Canvas, vinyl, binding tape, basting tape, grommets, grommet dies, bone folder, chalk pencils. Upholstery pins, industrial thread, t-square, yardstick, snap setting tool, measuring tape, velcro, zippers, zipper feet, soldering iron. Luckily we brought most of the stuff from California in anticipation of doing this along the way to make money, but every day there’s something else we wish we had. But the work itself is getting easier…I only have the urge to chuck the sewing machine out the window about 10 times a day now…down from 20+ per day all last week.

Allen has bravely been tackling jobs like fixing our colicky outboard and rewiring our wind generator. Yesterday I found him rocking and swearing and speaking in tongues after a couple of hours of trying to coil a spring back into the top of the outboard. It wasn’t pretty. Thank you, sweetie, for taking on the ugly jobs.

As for the chance to drive in reverse, we can’t work on that ‘til we can start the engine. Heck, at least our flow chart is laid out for us. A month ago we had big ideas about tackling the to-do list, but now it seems like everytime we scratch off one thing, two other things break. We’ll have to get our act together by the 22nd, as that’s when we’re planning to leave for Bocas del Toro, where we’ll host friends from CA for the first 10 days ot August, then both of our moms for a couple weeks after that…whew! If our guests are very, very lucky individuals we’ll succeed in rain-proofing and bug-proofing the boat by the time they get here. (Cross your fingers, future guests. We’re trying, I swear).

In the meantime we enjoy the jungle around us…its allure has not faded a bit. Today I looked out the window of the loft and saw five coatimundis rummaging around in the brush, their tails held high, looking like little ring-tailed lemurs. Flocks of lime green parrots squawk back and forth over the volleyball court each day. The rains have been beyond torrential the last couple days…It’s hard to believe that much water could ever have been suspended in midair in the first place. Last night I stepped out of the marina clubhouse into a wall of water, and a bacchanalia of flying, hopping, swimming, buzzing, skittering critters. Crabs, frogs, winged termites, mosquitoes, bats, moths, flying fish. It seems that everything is alive….and, inside our boat at least, festering. Towels are washed and stacked in a dry place only to be found molding just three days later. Porous and nonporous surfaces alike compete to be the fuzziest. Flies come in 17 sizes here on the isthmus. Good thing we’re nature lovers. We even had a crab appear on our DINNER TABLE the other night, which sort of crossed a line for me. On the floor, I can see, but what the hell was he doing right in between our plates? Gutsy little fella.

Enough blather outta me – picture time.
surprise! I'm a great short order cook.

patriot games

I kind of feel like we should have a caption contest for this shot, but really it ws just a stupid party game we got roped into on the 4th. maaaaaan, are we good sports.

Monday, July 03, 2006


the good news: our transmission is in and our engine is properly aligned.

the bad news: it only shifts into neutral and forward. no reverse. good thing that dovetails with our general life philosophies. seriously though, that part is very fixable, and we should get it figured out soon. today's bigger bummer is, our starter crapped out! yup, totally unrelated to the tranny. took it to Colon today (what an appropriately named city that is - not "heart", "elbow" or "kidney" - nope, COLON) and will call tomorrow to get the prognosis.

good thing we're not in a hurry to get anywhere.....

Sunday, July 02, 2006


hey has anybody out there received a postcard from us from Costa Rica or Panama?

just asking because we sent a bunch and it seems quite a few people never received theirs...so we want to find out if anyone actually did get one.

post a comment if you did, or e-mail us...thanks! love, UTE