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!

Friday, September 29, 2006

I could be wrong but in this shot I think Allen is fantasizing about the brownies we're about to snack on....he baked from-scratch brownies using some baking chocolate from the cacao farm we visited. they were to die for. nice work baby. Posted by Picasa
zooming through the mangroves on our way to the monkeys.... Posted by Picasa

three tiny bats are tucked in on the underside of that leaf.... Posted by Picasa
we saw tons of oropendolas and their beautiful hanging nests, a fave sight......we also were lucky enough to see manikins, doves, ibises, tanagers, herons, dozens of beautiful tropical birds....but those were pretty much impossible to get pictures of!

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we finally got to see the red version of local poison dart frogs, for which Bastimentos is famous. And to answer the question someone asked last time we posted a poison dart frog picture, no, it isn't dangerous to pick them up...you would have to ingest the frog, or at least lick it, to get poisoned (unless you have an open wound on the hand you pick it up with - then you're a goner. Luckily, Mother Nature does not count mosquito bites as open wounds). The poison is an alkaloid neurotoxin secreted from glands in its back... and those smart kids over at Smithsonian discovered that the poison ingredients are actually sequestered by the frog from small invertebrates that it eats (kind of like how flamingoes get their pigment from the little inverts they eat). So the poison is actually manufactured by ants and mites and little buggies like that, and it is just concentrated in one place by the frogs. Good trick! A tiny frog like this has enough poison to kill about 20 people. You would have to kill the frog and squeeze the poison juice out to use it on your blow-darts though - you can't just rub the arrows on the frog's back (damn).
As it turns out , despite their diminutive size, these little red guys are some of the most poisonous of all poison dart frogs. Posted by Picasa

as you can see, night monkeys look a lot like lemurs...however, aside from their both being primates, lemurs and night monkeys aren't closely related. Night monkeys are in a family of their own among New World Monkeys. They are the only truly nocturnal monkeys in the Americas - so I guess we woke them up today when we met them (bad biologist, bad biologist). It must be said, they were ridiculously, absurdly cute. They have Golem-y little sticky fingers, like lemurs, and they make delightful purring, churring noises to each other. They were really neat.....this particular vine-covered tree is home to a young pair of them...they pair bond for life and, unlike other New World monkeys, live in small family groups of just 4-6 individuals. Posted by Picasa

Thank God It's Viernes / Air Supply Anthropology

I'm a little sad to report that a trip to see Air Supply and relive 6th grade gymnasium-dance moments was not, in the final analysis, in Ute's budget for this month. Taking on enough new canvas projects to pay for the trip woudl have meant committing to being in Bocas for another months or two to finish said projects - so no go.

Mostly we just wanted to see who the hell goes to an Air supply concert in Panama City anyway. My curiosity was borne of two interesting facts: 1) the concert was advertised on a radio station that plays dance music and is pretty clearly marketed to the 18-25 set, and 2) the concert was in some way underwritten by the "Vote Yes on Canal Expansion" folks, because at the end of the commercial the announcer said something to the effect of "if you love Air Supply, you love progress. And if you love progress, support the canal expansion...for the future of Panama."

OK, it loses something in translation, but still..whaaa-at? maybe they were being ironic?

In the last few days they've started running a new ad for the concert, in which the announcer croons in Spanish, "they were there for your first love....your first kiss......your first heartbreak." Sure, they were there for my first kiss, but a Panamanian's? really? I guess that's what happens when you spend the 80's occupied by thousands of Americans running a transoceanic canal and strategic military post. Air Supply is touring El Salvador and Nicaragua this fall too, and I can't imagine they're running ads like that in El Salvador. I can hear it now...."they were there for your first paramilitary coup...your first nun massacre....your first mass grave digging...."

Ah, the 80's. anyway, since the PC trip was nixed by a little thing called Reality, we decide to compromise and take the day off work today and go see: night monkeys! after all, we can experience grandstand shows by aging rock stars when we're back in the U.S., but when we put the Panamanian jungle to our stern in November, it could be awhile 'til we're back here again.

So we recruited a few neighbors to split the cost and share the fun, and called upon our fave boatman, Sebastian, to ferry us to a little indigenous village on the island of Bastimentos where we'd heard there was a great guided hike where we might see night monkeys. And we did! It was fantastic! Time to rustle up some pics....

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Torito (little bull)

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another reason I love Panama: sometimes the people dozing in the waiting area at the airport are little Kuna ladies in full tribal garb. Posted by Picasa
can you spot the lizard? he has a huge crest on the back of his head, like a little dinosaur. actually, I think it's funny when people say something looks like a dinosaur, since none of us have ever seen one. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, September 23, 2006

shoot...where was Money magazine two years ago?? Posted by Picasa

life in panama

god, I love it. I love this country. These days, we're trying to figure out our "long term" plans (that means beyond next week). Will we head for Florida in November like we've been saying? will we keep sailing and head up the ICW next spring? will we sell the boat this year? next? never? will we jump on the baby wagon? will we stay in Panama for years, with Allen working as a sea captain and canal pilot while I design exhibits at the not-yet-open Museum of Biodiversity in Panama City? Will I ever have hot and cold running water?

Heaven only knows what we'll decide over the next six weeks, but what I do know for sure, and I think Allen's with me on this one, is that I love this funny country so very much that I could cry just thinking about leaving here in a month.

It's like no other place in the world....all the randomness, warmth, and spice of the rest of Central & South America but with a totally different vibe, thanks to the canal and all the commerce, history and bustle that comes with it. This is a place one could actually be a functional, dialed-in, non-USA-hating expat and have a life. I love that we've had the opportunity to spend the last five months here.

It's funny to travel like this, where we're not Panamanian residents by any means, but we do, after all, have our entire house with us. Makes it interesting to host guests - we don't exactly know our way around like locals, but our home is here, for now. Strange, and wonderful. It's fun to have a community network here, much more than we would if we were just backpacking or traveling around. Last week when I went to Panama City, I bought the wrong size 22-foot-long zipper, and when I realized it, we were able to call up some South African canvasworker friends of ours in PC, and they bought it for us and put it on the next plane out here. Very cool.....

I've been listening to this great radio station out of Panama City while I work. If they had a station half this good anywhere in the US, I would listen to it 24-7. Hell, the salsa/reggaeton advertising jingles down here are better than actual songs they're playing back home. I kept hearing this song that I was just sure I was going to try to buy or download before we left and after a couple rounds I realized it was a Wendy's commercial. If they played this Wendy's commercial in CA, it would be the feel good hit song of the summer you would hear at the ballpark, like Who Let the Dogs Out however many years ago that was.

As for life in Bocas, it's slow-moving, but fun. Orders are piling up at Ute Canvasworks...in fact we have a waiting list of at least 6 boats. My sweatshop elbow is acting up again. It's a fun challenge, though. We are getting paid actual US dollars for most of our jobs, but also surf lessons, rum, nav charts, and homemade chocolate in some cases. Today this really nice Dutch guy came into my "shop" to ask about a repair. The funny thing about him was, he kept inserting Dutch words in his English sentences. But not in the way people usually do, in that "how you say" sort of way, but more like I would know exactly what he meant. "Oh great!" he said, "I bet with that schnarzen, you could really make a great heinhoufen," he exclaimed. "Yes, it's a good one," I agreed. "But do you ever have trouble with the schmezewistel?" he ventured. "No, " I said, "No, I don't".

He seemed impressed.

With a little luck, all these projects might just justify another trip to Panama City next weekend, in which case we'll take advantage of the opportunity to put on some blue eyeshadow and go see.....guess who? here's a hint.....

so lift your eyes
if you feel you can
reach for a star,
and I'll show you a plan.....

name that band..... ( no fair googling, you have to feel this memory)

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

putting the final stre-e-e-e-etches on today's project....... Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

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mmmm.....50 cent fair kabobs Posted by Picasa
The fair came to town! This last weekend we piled into a neighbor's panga to splash on over to the 44th annual Feria del Mar. It was a lot like the fair back home, but with less crop art and 4-H, and more salsa music and folkloric dancers. I even won ten bucks on a quarter bet at the weird betting wheel game, which was great since ten bucks kept us in beer and fair food all night. yum, yum. Posted by Picasa
one of this week's smaller canvas projects - it's a cover for an exhaust pipe, but the boat's owners call it The Wedding Gown. I guess they didn't expect so much, um, flair. Posted by Picasa
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taking an afternoon rest with local red dog, Gladys Posted by Picasa

Sunday, September 17, 2006

here's something funny, the old circuitboard, made in 2002, said "Work for Peace" but evidently Southwest Windpower is not about that anymore because the new one doesn't say anything about peace. Maybe it's because annoying weenies like us keep calling from developing countries asking why their circuitboards don't work. Posted by Picasa
one of this week's projects is putting a new circuitboard in the wind generator.....we ordered it when I was in Wisconsin and only now found time to install it....sadly though, we followed all the steps in the instructions and the damn thing still doesn't work....hopefully we'll figure it out. Posted by Picasa
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my turn to wash the family car Posted by Picasa
the stuff that grows on the bottom of the dinghy is positively fascinating. Did I say fascinating? I meant really gross. Lots of little alien life forms. I kind of want to make a nature program about it....I think I'll call it "The Other Magic Kingdom" or something.... Posted by Picasa
returning from a sewing-supplies shopping trip for Panama City: this is what thousand dollars worth of Sunbrella looks like. Thank you Air Panama Cargo Dept. Ute Canvasworks is up and running.... Posted by Picasa