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!

Monday, August 28, 2006

Zac, so glad you posted a comment about the pygmy sloths! They are SO COOL - they live only in Escudo de Veraguas, which is a little east of here - a beautiful island that we sailed right by on our way to Bocas a month ago, and are going to go back and explore in October. They were actually discovered and identified in 2001, but it wasn't until early this year that they got footage of one of the little guys (I think you can still view it at http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2006/02/0215_060215_sloth_video.html ).
There are only a few hundred of them and they are highly specialized to live in the briny mangrove environment around there.
As luck would have it the Nat'l Geo issue with the article about them (and a sweet article about ocelots on Barro Colorado Island, in the canal) was hanging around our little cabin in the mountains last week. The pictures of the little guys were over the top cute.
Funny you should suggest them as a boat pet, because we actually saw a boat in Puerto Lindo with a liveaboard sloth (quite the hood ornament, aint he).

Saturday, August 26, 2006

This is a Test

Team Redundancy Team, Panama, May 2006 Part VII

This is a Video that Rick put together. It represents the gatun lock phase of the canal transit. It does contain some very explicit boy language, like bauxite, ship sizes etc.

Friday, August 25, 2006

phew....blogger apparently got tired of me yesterday and boycotted me for 24 hours - anyway, we had a great visit with Nancy and that was pretty much all that we did.

After our lovely time in the mountains we headed back to Bocas, found the boat in no worse condition than we left it, and - miracle of miracles - secured a sunny day to go on a herd-o-tourists snorkelling day trip. The underwater landscape here is really quite lovely, and it was a luxury to let someone else do the driving; plus, the little lanchas around here can get to the shallow spots that Ute just can't risk visiting with her deep belly. Highlights were a brief swim with a shark (dunno what type, harmless fellow about 5' long), getting inked by a school of squid (they flashed 5 different colors in succession before simultaneously hitting mach one and leaving me with just an indigo memory), and a bristly, squirming rainbow of brittle stars and basket stars entwined around all colors of sponges and soft corals. The snorkeling here is different from Roatan - instead of a barrier reef like in the Bay Islands, there are underwater gardens of coral here - less majestic, but just as intriguing in their own right, with lots of hidden delights.

Now we're back to just the of us for the first time since July - and we weren't quite ready to be staring at the same walls and the same projects again - but we know we can't complain.....we are, after all, stuck in paradise together. what a way to go. And we won't be bored for long - the next visitor due in is my former Zoo coworker Sarah!

Thanks again Nance AND all you sweet sweet folks out there who sent goodies with our visitors: Lava soap, underwear, badminton birdies, transmission help, raincoats, new music, movies, cheese, maple syrup, zoocamp tshirts, LOVE. right back at ya, Ute

Thursday, August 24, 2006

as lovely as the domo geodesico was, staying warm at night became a priority so we ended up splurging and moving into one of the cabanas for our last night there....and it was perfect. absolutely perfect. like living in a little fairytale mountain cottage. A perfect spot to sip hot chocolate and watch 7 different species of hummingbirds come to the feeder.

I'm not sure if you can see it in this shot but this particular guy has a iridescent purple head. gorgeous.

thanks again Nancy for whisking us away to this magical spot....

the domo was pretty cool...well really pretty COLD. lesson: if you go stay at a spiffy rainforest lodge at 7,000 feet and the geodesic domo costs a third of what the rustic forest cottages cost, that may mean it is not heated. Mind you Allen and I had not so much as worn socks or real shoes for nine months.

we managed to find a hat and a fleece for Nancy and were content to drink hot chocolate, play cards and birdwatch. as you can see the view off of our terrace was fantastic - yet another flavor of tropical forest to discover - and this one was sort of like Washington's Olympic forest, but with palm trees, sloths, toucans, and hummingbirds. It really was astounding.

The lodge that we were paying rent to, Los Quetzales, is based in Guadalupe but has somehow managed to get permits to have four cabins and a dome within the Amistad forest reserve. I'm not sure but I think it is one of the only lodges in all of Panama and Costa Rica that can make this claim. They take you up to your magical jungle home by Land Cruiser or on horseback. Nancy doesn't do horses so it was the back of the Toyota for us.

Amazingly, our meager domo rental fee included a personal park guide who took us on three-hour hikes, spotted birds, brought us extra blankets, and just generally took care of us. What a vacation for all of us! We didn't think about the boat's sketchy electrical system for at least three or four days.

Nancy picks the perfect bunch of lychees at one of the dozens of cute roadside fruit stands
OK, so after all the aforementioned planes, trains, and automobiles (and boats), we arrived in David, near the Pacific coast and the border with Costa Rica, where we spent one night to plot our next move. David is a city of about half a million people, which is a pretty big city by Panamanian standards, and it and the surrounding area are very much the agricultural epicenter of panama - everything there has to do with farming, ranching, crops. For us, it was a launch pad to get into the Talamanca mountains.

It was kind of strange to visit a part of Panama that we'd sailed by way back in April - for some reason we just couldn't get it through our heads that we were now back on the same wild coast we'd seen from Ute. That was such a different chapter of our trip - and I remember seeing these big green mountains from offshore and wondering if I'd ever get a chance to come back and visit them (because back then, we didn't know we were gonna get to spend all summer here in Panama).

Over breakfast the next morning we sort of did the close your eyes and point to something in the guidebook approach. At one point the words geodesic dome in the forest canopy jumped out at me from a page in the Lonely Planet. Since Allen and Nancy were waffling about what to do I morphed into bossy-tour-guide-Cora and decided we were renting a car and driving to Guadalupe to stay in a geodesic forest dome. hey, who wouldn't want to stay in a dome home, right? so we were off for the mountains.

little did we know that in a 75-minute drive, we would experience a 35-degree temperature drop and a dramatic change in scenery. It was astonishing!

As we slowly gained altitude I had to double check the map to make sure we weren't actually in Ecuador. the quilted hillsides with baby clouds, the thousand shades of wet-green, the little farm plots nestled in river valleys - it was like being transported to the Andes. I had no idea this was right here in Panama all along! and good god it was cold. i mean really, legitimately COLD.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

After about 4 days of quality time in Panama City (including a day at the mall, I'm embarassed to say - and hey all you cruisers in Panama, did you know the Albrook Mall has an ICE RINK? 2nd floor by the movie theatre), we flew to back to Bocas to see how Ute was faring and dump off some of the bags of goodies that Nancy hd been so kind to cart down for us all the way from Maine. (Tim, you owe us one on those 14 pounds of stainless steel bar. Aeroperlas did not smile upon us)

Ute is spending the month parked at the Bocas Marina, so that we could go off on these jaunts and know that she would be safe. It's a great spot and having land access, bathrooms, showers etc. for our guests is a major bonus. (check out Ute's new spot at http://www.bocasmarina.com/panorama/panoramic.html ). Daily happy hour at the cantina ain't a bad feature, either.

Bocas' big drawback? BUGS. the no-see-ums are absoultely merciless, totally indefatigable. little bastards, they are. so hanging out on the boat is an ballet of mosquito nets. You can't move too far without having to go over or through one. and they still get in!

even though there were only three of us on the boat, somehow it was just too cramped and buggy. I guess it was the rain and the bugs combined. All I know is it was driving me over the brink in a way it hasn't before or since, so I hatched a plan to head for the hills. After 2 shorts days in Bocas, we were on the move again - this time, we would take a water taxi, another water taxi, a land taxi, a bus, and then another taxi to make it over the Talamanca mountains to the Pacific coast city of David. It wasn't nearly as complicated as I've made it sound here, and the bus ride over the mountains was spectacular.

Nancy and Allen at Metropolitano.....if you didn't know them, don't they look like cute little fraternal twins who are about to solve the mystery in an ABC after-school special? too funny.

during one of our afternoons in Panama City we had had enough of diesel exhaust and buses so we headed for the beautiful Parque Metropolitano, a 265-hectare park in the middle of town. It is pretty typical dry Pacific tropical forest, with a rich mix of big old trees, vines, and some cactuses.

If the sailing portion of our trip so far was about savoring the many subtle flavors of waves and wind, the land portion is a smorgasbord of forests. Now that we've spent a few months in Panama we're starting to focus on the different shades of tropical forest - and Panama certainly offers a whole rainbow of them. I thought I had seen most kinds, but Panama had some tricks up her sleeve waiting for me! What a joy it has been to tune in to the nuances of trees, vines, bromeliads, birds, critters, canopies.

we showed up too late that afternoon to catch any mammals, but we did see some neat birds and some really nifty bugs.

a trip to the central seafood market for lunch...YUM!

changing of the guard

...and just like that the girls were gone and Nancy was here. it all happened too fast for our walnut-sized brains to keep up with, but we hung on for the ride and it was a fun one.

we spent a few days in Panama city with Nancy, taking her to our fave joints and showing her the sights. she caught Canal history fever much the same way we did back in April, so we had a fun time of it.

it was neat to visit the Miraflores locks and see them from above...and to be one of the spectators we've waved at from the locks.

all too soon it was time for the girls to head back to PC to catch planes, so we tagged along with them to say goodbye and get ready for Nancy the next day.

our last night with them in Panama happened to be our 3rd anniversary and those oh-so-very-clever girls busted out their version of the Newlywed game for us that night. it was a riot. I'm pretty sure we won. and as a bonus we hooked up with our friend Bobby who we hadn't seen since Bahia del Sol in El Salvador.

when a retrospective exhibit of our trip photos is unveiled, I believe this will be called The Sangria Period.

"you said what was the best part of our wedding??!"

chilling out on Wizard's Beach after one hell of a hike....in true Gilligan's Island style what should have been a half hour hike turned into quite the adventure when we got lost, my shoe broke, and we found out that some paths are a *little* more challenging in rainy season than dry season. at one point we were squlching and skwooshing barefoot through stinky sticky jungle mud in swamp water up to our knees - one of those scenarios that ends up fine but while you're in it you wish you didn't know anything about bacteria, viruses, jungle diseases, water borne tropical illnesses, or creepy crawlies.

we emerged unscathed though, and the warm crashing surf made it all worthwhile.....and better yet we found the real path on the way home - which led us to yummy pizza and wine at a sweet little Italian restaurant on stilts over the water, about 50 yards from home sweet Ute.

due to my extreme neurosis about sand in the house I forced everyone to go night swimming when we got home....

one of the best things about having the girls here was .....glancing up at the same old foredeck while underway and seeing two of our best friends! what a treat!

due to the preponderance of electrical storms here in Bocas- both the in-the-sky kind and the in-Ute's-wiring kind - we didn't do much sailing or snorkeling, but we did cruise over to Bastimentos and enjoy a few peaceful nights anchored out there. Avesa, who had her heart set on snorkeling, never complained once about the grey skies, and even serenaded us on Allen's ukelele.

really, we just spent the whole visit yakking anyway, so the rainy weather didn't matter much.....

one of the first things we did with the girls was check out the Smithsonian labs here in Bocas del Toro. As I've mentioned before the Smithsonian has a huge research presence here in Panama so pretty much anywhere you turn up, the Smithsonian will turn up to - dreamy for geeks like me. The enormous, shiny, gorgeous lab facility here in Bocas has an open house every Friday, but for some reason we got lucky and that particular Friday they were having a super duper open house extravaganza. so we got to meet most of the researchers there (most of them American post docs) and hear about some really fascinating projects. My favorites were the frog dude that studied chemical defense mechanisms in poison dart frogs, and the guys that were sleuthing out a mysterious new coral disease in the area.

there are poison dart frogs all around Bocas - they may be cherry red, line green or sky blue depending on which island or beach you visit - each spot has its own unique frog subspecies! a couple days after we met frog researcher dude we were lucky enough to spot some lime green dart frogs in the forest on Bastimentos Island. (don't worry, no licking).

uh......where'd everybody go?

hi again, back in Bocas, just said goodbye to Nancy, sitting here in our hot little cabin trying to remember what it is we do around here....something about sail-ing? it has been a whirlwind, immensely enjoyable three weeks of hosting friends and then Nancy, checking out parts of Panama we never would have seen if it weren't for them, celebrating various anniversaries, birthdays, and milestones and catching up with real live human friends and family (so much better than e-mail!). we've gotten terrifically spoiled, though - we will slowly transition back to canvaswork, dissecting the boat's electrical some more, feasting on ramen and tunafish.

Thanks again Jen, Avesa and Nancy for being so generous with your time and your resources, showing us such a good time, bringing us American goodies and being such incredibly flexible guests!

Now it's time for some photos, if I can get them sorted out.....

Thursday, August 10, 2006

we love the parade of visitors!

hi everybody, just wanted to let you know we are doing great...we put Avesa and Jen on planes back to the US this morning with hugs and tears, and are now eagerly awaiting Nancy{s arrival tonight. Phew! the fun never stops here in Panama....

we had a great week in Bocas del Toro with the girls, catching up, swimming, hiking, learning valuable lessons about anchoring in the oh so shallow Caribbean...hey what{s that bonk, bonk, bonk noise? oh, it{s our keel hitting the bottom....oops! it was fantastic so have so much catch up time with such good friends. thanks jen and veese for a great time! and for making our 3rd anniversary so much fun! photos to follow soon when we{re back on our own computer in Bocas. sorry for the bad punctuation but this keyboard is a fun grab bag in which the symbol printed on each button is just a fanciful suggestion for what might result if you hit it.

the boat is in good shape with the transmission giving a stellar performance, although we do have some annoying bugs in our electrical. the fun never stops! we are going to convince Nancy that it will be fun, fun, fun to work on the boat with us in Bocas. she{s a pretty good sport so I think it will work.....

so we{ll be here in panama city for at least a few days and then back to Bocas. more soon. cheers everybody, CC

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Bocas Del Toro

Hey folks we made it to Bocas, Off to find our freinds, check in with the Capitania, have a few beers and some local food. Uneventful passage, dolphins, no rain, smooth running motor, 2 knot adverse current, light winds on the nose. Absolutely, fantasically, astoundingly easy passage to another paradise.