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!

Tuesday, October 31, 2006


Now you see how cool ratlines are! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 29, 2006

check out this awesome snake we found next to the showers - I love how his mottled grey/brown and green colors blend in with the palm fronds!

a couple more canal shots (won't you all be happy when we're in Honduras: no more canal)

this great shot of the enigmatic sea lion on the stern (I call him "Teaky") and the Bridge of the Americas at sunset was taken by our buddy Pablo, who also joined us for the transit. He has lived in Bocas off and on for more than 10 years (he owns and manages the marina here), but had never been through the canal, so this was clearly the right boat to make it worth the wait!

One of my favorite things about this transit was watching Captain Allison very confidently and calmly maneuver a 90-ton boat into some pretty tight spaces. She was constantly working the bow thrusters to keep us centered in the locks.....a whole different ballgame than Ute's transit (understatement). She never got ruffled, even when we pulled into Flamenco Marina and we were too big for all the spots, and the 18-foot tides and huge surge were making the boat buck and strain against her docklines, which were cleated off on cleats more suited to a Ute's dinghy. What a great role model.......

Friday, October 27, 2006

SUCH fun fabric shopping.....! Posted by Picasa
David was one of our favorite people at Shelter Bay Marina, so it was great to see him on Saturday - but even more amazing to run into him while shopping and meet his family! Posted by Picasa
saying goodbye to our favorite leather, vinyl and velcro supply store.....if you could shop this place, you'd understand.... Posted by Picasa
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never thought we'd be linehandling on a foredeck with two Harleys, a Boston whaler, and a hydraulic crane...... Posted by Picasa
getting to know the Komodo..... Posted by Picasa
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"Pinch me...!"

....the two words that pretty much sum up our canal transit on De Vrouwe Christina...wow!

Our long weekend on the Canal and in the City was PERFECT: the transit was flawless, the canal was gorgeous as always, and our time in Panama City was spent catching up with friends and enjoying our favorite places (and stores!).

Only in Panama could we do all of the following things in one whirlwind weekend:

1. wake up in the morning on the Caribbean, fly to the Pacific, then bus to the Caribbean, so that we could deliver a yacht to the Pacific

2. Reunite with friends we met in at least four different countries

3. Stuff ourselves on mouth-watering sushi for 7 bucks a person - and order plaintain-wrapped salmon rolls!

4. Go shopping in the fabric underground downtown and run into a Kuna family we know

5. Wake up on Lake Gatun, anchored out on an 8-million-dollar yacht, and eat grapes and prosciutto while watching ships transit the Gatun locks

6. Buy fruit-scented bras on Central Ave for 59 cents each that say "over-getter" (?) and "True Love" all over them

7. Drag the owner of Bocas Marina through seedy parts of Panama City in search of the perfect #10 zipper

man, we'll miss this country!

here's a shot from our flight into P.C. - the canal luring us in one last time -

Friday, October 20, 2006

a moment in history....

can't believe I almost forgot to mention...that we will be transiting the Canal on the very day that the citizens of Panama vote on the proposal to expand the existing canal - a 5 billion dollar project that naturally has sparked major controversy and red-hot debate. The essential problem is that the biggest, most modern container ships being built today are actually too large to fit through the Canal in its current incarnation - hence Panama either has to expand the Canal to secure its monopoly on its transoceanic commerce, or watch as another Central American country steps in to build a bigger, and therefore better, canal.

These are interesting times for Panama....in a way, they're damned if they do, damned if they don't. I can certainly sympathize with concerns over who will foot the bill, and who will reap the real benefits of the new canal....but to sit back and watch someone else grab up the canal would be tragic. The canal is an inextricable element of this country's identity...but what a young country it is....and, as we Americans are learning in our own young country, you can't stay on top forever.

Geographically speaking, southern Nicaragua and Mexico's Tehuantepec region both remain suitable locations for a canal, just as they did a little over a hundred years ago, when Teddy smiled upon Panama instead (or shall I say, Colombia).

Nicaragua has been blowing a lot of smoke lately about building the next Canal. I will now bite my tongue and refrain from sharing my (obviously biased) opinions as to whether or not the government of Nicaragua could gets its act together to build anything more complex than a sandcastle.

It's probably naive to think of it as a Panamanian issue, anyway, or even a Central American issue, since I would bet that a chunk of the support, funding, and pressures are coming from Japanese and Chinese commercial entities.

anyway, time will tell.....
by a remarkable coincidence, the couple that crews this boat are expert canvasworkers and had done canvas work and sail repair here in Panama for several years when they were cruising! And as if that wasn't glorious enough, get this: when we offered to swap some of our sweatshop labor in exchange for his expertise in re-timing our machine (something we hadn't yet worked up the nerve to take on ourselves), he said, "oh sure, in fact I'm writing a book on how to make money while cruising, and I just finished the chapter on industrial sewing machine maintenance, so you guys can be my guinea pigs!" Could we be any luckier?

Thanks Scott for being our sewing guru! Posted by Picasa
putting the humongous panels back up.... Posted by Picasa
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in this shot you can see the giant lee boards they have to put down when they sail....'cause the bottom of the boat is pretty much flat! Posted by Picasa

we hitchhike in style

here she is .....it took 69 man-hours, 40+ bobbins and 28 needles to restitch every seam in the cockpit enclosure....hopefully none of our seams will bust open in the Canal.....that would be somewhat embarassing.

The boat was built in 1957 as a Dutch canal barge, and underwent a six-million-dollar refit in St. Maarten last year. The sails had never actually been used until the current crew took charge! She's around 70' long, and has things like Harleys, and player pianos on board. outta control!

The woodwork on this boat is absolutely breathtaking. There are a number of carvings and sculptures, some of which are original, others replicas as some were stolen over the years.

you can read more about her and see more pics at the crew's site, http://www.yachtwork.com/super_yacht_crew.html

one last blast in the Canal!

hi everybody - just wanted to let you know we are transiting the Canal one last time this weekend - hooray! - on the big boat we did all the sewing work for last week, De Vrouwe Christina.

We fly to Panama City tomorrow morning early, then bus it to Colon and taxi to Shelter Bay, where we'll hopefully get time to sneak in one last disco shower before we head for Gatun locks around 5 PM.

This boat is really incredible - we meant to post pics last week while we were working on it - I'll try and scare up a couple tonight, but we'll take some during the transit, too, of course....we're super excited to crew for these guys- the captain called us this morning and suggested we fly down for it. And it works out great, because we need to do one last provisioning trip to Panama City anyway, and we had just been trying to figure out when, and how, to go! So we'll transit with them, crash on a friend's boat in P.C., shop like crazy, and then bus back to Bocas Tuesday or Wednesday.....

If you are at your computer just waiting for something interesting to do either Saturday evening or Sunday midday, check out the Canal webcams and looks for us: on Saturday evening, go to the "Gatun Locks" tab, and if it's Sunday, try the "Miraflores Locks" tab....here's that link again: http://www.pancanal.com/eng/photo/camera-java.html (we'll spend Saturday night tied up to a great big red buoy in Lake Gatun....for Caribbean-to-Pacific transits, yachts uplock at night, then downlock the next morning).

more soon! Oh and thanks for the feedback on the Roatan decision - we love it! - UTE

Saturday, October 14, 2006

Roatan Sweeps Panamanian Winter Destination Voting

Bocas del Toro, Panama - Vote talliers shook their heads in amazement earlier this week as they counted votes aboard the tiny sailing vessel Ute. After weeks of heated debate as to where this seagoing beauty will spend the winter sailing season, election officials anticipated at best a tie, and perhaps even discord and infighting among the ship's crew.

But to the immense surprise of everyone aboard, each and every scrap of crumpled paper pulled out of the moldy John Deere hat clearly read, "Roatan".

The ship's lemur, Ringo, who was standing by as designated tiebreaker at the time, was dumbfounded. "We will now have to vote on something else, because I never got to be a tiebreaker before and I was really excited," he stated, his disappointment barely concealed. "maybe we can vote on something about bananas, or puppies."

As Ute's captain and first mate were unavailable for comment, voting experts can only speculate as to what catalyzed the sweep by the long, skinny island of Roatan, which is part of the Central American nation of Honduras. "We can't say anything for sure," said one observer, "but we suspect the outcome is due in large part to the fact that Florida sucks, and Roatan does not suck."

teachable moments

hey, now that we're back online we can answer all the GREAT questions that people have posed in their posts! (we love, love, love the questions. keep 'em coming)

Q. Why are ratlines called ratlines?

A. Because in the old days, when a ship would sink, all the rats aboard (and unlucky human crew) would scurry up the rigging as a last-ditch effort to avoid going down with it!

Q. What's an oropendola?

A. An oropendola is a large black and yellow bird found in Central and South America. Oropendolas build large hanging nests, and make a variety of really bizarre noises that can sound like a water whistle, a dripping faucet, or a cell phone ring.

Q. What's the difference between New World monkeys and Old World Monkeys?

A. New World monkeys live in the Americas, and some have prehensile tails (meaning they can use their tail like a hand to grab things). Old World monkeys live in Asia and Africa, and none have prehensile tails. (There are some other distinctions between the two groups, but that's the most notable one).

Q. Why are night monkeys nocturnal?

A. Not sure, but my guess is because it's just too hot during the day to forage for food when you're wearing a thick brown fur coat (not that that stops the other monkeys of course). I would say predator avoidance is a factor in being nocturnal, but there are plenty of hungry preds sneaking around at night, so it can't be that. I guess they just found a niche and settled in, like so many other weird jungle critters. Survival in the jungle is all about settling upon your gimmick and sticking with it. They do eat moths, but I don't know if they evolved to be nocturnal because they like to munch on moths, or vice versa.

Friday, October 13, 2006

in honor of our year out we donned all the cozy layers of clothes that we wore out the Gate.....in the interests of appreciating the fact that we're never COLD these days!! (you start to take heat for granted when you're in a 9'-by-10' boat cabin, cooking over a hot stove in 98 degrees and 99% humidity...)

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from the mouth of the Bay to the mouths of the bull...

One year ago today, at 11:45 P.M., we shivered as the ebbing tide swept us out of the San Francisco Bay and under the twinkling, imposing Golden Gate Bridge......

.....and now, twelve months, 4,000+ miles, and six countries later, we're sweating and swatting mosquitoes in the mangroves....

Who woulda thunk it?

We'll drink a special toast tonight to Danny and Jonas, our crew on the first leg - we couldn't have done it without you. Thanks for putting up with 16-foot freezing-cold seas and burnt cinnamon rolls. We are forever in your debt!!

And thanks to all the rest of you who have made this amazing journey possible in so many ways!

Love, UTE

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

there's always something toxic to play with at the fuel dock! Posted by Picasa
We probably forgot to mention that about four weeks ago, the benevolent owner of Bocas marina took pity on my sewing out onthe docks in the blazing tropical sunlight, and offered us the use of a "shop" space in exchange for patching some sails, etc. You can't imagine how much we're appreciating it! The space is what used to be the marina office when they first built it....as you can see it comes equipped with not only a table and power, but also a friendly red dog, and airbrushed palm trees whose fronds have an odd testicular quality to them.

Said owner is now trying to convince us to stay here and make it a permanent arrangement. As he put it the other day, "Hell, you not only have a shop, but it even comes with a dog....what more could you ask for?"

Tempting as the offer is, I think it's time to move on. It has been a super setup though, and we're very very grateful.

As for the red dog, well, I may just try and stow her away when the captain's not looking..... Posted by Picasa