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!

Thursday, November 30, 2006

still here...

we know, this is getting kind of silly.....but it happened to us again.....a breakdown sent us back to Providencia, and the time we spent fixing it cost us a weather window. no biggie. other than all these false starts getting a bit embarassing - everybody knows everything on an island with a population of 5,000 people - we are safe, content and ready to try again. The port captain and our yacht´s agent (we are required to use one here - but he´s great) are so kind and so accomodating, it´s almost absurd.

long story short, this time it was the engine´s freshwater pump....the funny part is we could easily make it all the way to Roatan without an engine but we need it for the last mile or two ....no way are we coming into French Harbor - where some of the shoals and reefs might be marked with stakes, but more reputedly aren´t - under sail, at least not when we have another option. And such a lovely spot to keep returning to! Luckily we had a spare pump on board. We brought an entire spare Isuzu Pisces with us in pieces - but I think we´ve used up most of the spares - is our grace period nearing an end?

hard to believe that by the time we get to the fabled isle of Roatan, with its high-speed internet, hot showers, laundry options and cheeses of the world, the pics we post of our going away festivities in Bocas will be over a month old.....we´re going to make you look at them anyway, of course. In honor of Gladys if nothing else.....

shoot, if we´d known we be here so long we would have lobbied you all to come visit.....file away the name Providencia for when you´re looking for a truly unspoiled, welcoming, totally mellow Caribbean isle. All of our photos look like postcards and screen savers....well, except for the pics of us at 2 and 3 and 4 in the morning hauling up the anchor (my job- by hand mind you - the manual windlass broke in Baja) in walls of rain and gale-force wind and trying not to crash into our neighbors or a reef. But wouldn´t life be boring if it was all snorkelling and rum drinks, anyway?

we´ll let you know.

Hopefully - not that anyone´s holding their breath at this point - we´re outta here sometime in the next 2 days.....maybe this time will be the real thing....

more soon. Cheers, UTE

Saturday, November 25, 2006

timing is everything....

Hi everybody and hope you had a great turkey day!! Ours didn´t include turkey, but we did partake of a truly lovely rotisserie chicken that we secured in a major chicken bidding war. Yum...

It´s looking like tomorrow is the day..the day to leave for Roatan...for real this time! The big norther that swept through here this week was much bigger than anyone here expected it to be and we couldn´t be happier that we decided to sit tight...that was some serious wind! We´ll have many stories to tell when we get to Roatan and can post pics too, but for now suffice to say we weathered the storm and are getting ready to go. What´s funny is we feel like we´ve already been underway for about four days, but apparently we´re still in the same spot. At least it´s a damn nice spot to wake up in.....

As I write this, Allen is downloading weather charts on the computer next to me, and just informed me that a tropical storm may be developing in our area in the next 36 hours. Hmmm....well, We´ll see what they say on the shortwave net tomorrow morning (broadcasting from Roatan) and take it from there. My hunch is we´ll likely be able to leave anyway. The next big front coming down from the Gulf looks like it will start moving in on Thursday, so we´d better skedaddle while we can. It´s recently come to our attention that the month of December is just over the horizon....how is that possible? Wasn´t it just Halloween??

We did all our provisioning last night so today we´re off for one more succulent meal of black crab and other local delicacies, and some beach time. We´re nearly out of propane, and need to conserve it for the passage to Honduras, which is a great excuse to eat food cooked someplace other than Ute! what can we say, we do what we gotta do.

Big turkey hugs to all and catch ya later. or sooner. time will tell. Love, UTE

Monday, November 20, 2006

We loved it so much.....

That we came back to Providencia, actually we never made it any farther than the sea bouy before we realized our trusty crew member, OTTO, was not functioning. We really don´t like hand steering and facing the possibility of a slog north without him, so we turned around.
We awoke the next morning to the weather report of a full blown norther entering the caribbean this weekend.
So we have dropped the hook and have been enjoying more of Providencia. We repaired otto and did a few other projects.
It looks like we will be waiting until at least thursday or friday before we head out again. Oh well. The life of a sailor is managed by break downs and weather. We can deal with that.

And this is to the arm-chair sailor that made the motor-sailign comment; You just wish you were here enjoying 60 cent beers and 80 degree water.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006


we made it! we pulled into the anchorage in radiantly turquoise Catalina harbor about 2 PM on Sunday....and have been living an island fantasy ever since! this place is unbelievable! All except the internet connections, that is, which move at a circa 1994 sort of pace, so I´ll keep this brief on the (highly probable) chance that it won´t load at all......anyway, this island is amazing, we are safe, healthy and happy, and we will probably leave here on Friday if the weather experts stick with their prediction of light SE winds for this weekend (sounds too good to be true, but then again that is the norm around here it would seem).

The trip here was great....had to do some motorsailing to power through 25 knots just off our nose, and took a lot of waves on the beam, but it was never unpleasant and certainly was as good as we could hope a northbound passage in the Caribbean to be.

more soon, although it could be a little while, as we plan to check into Honduras on the island of Guanaja, where the computers may be just as high tech as these. Since it takes 12-18 minutes to open one email message here, I entertain myself by pretending this is actually one of those historical reenactment tourist attractions, the type where we will someday take our grandkids to show them what computing was like in the early 90´s....I can hear it now...¨Grandma, did people really wear their hair like Jennifer Aniston and carry mini backpack purses?¨

love to all, and more soon. UTE

Sunday, November 05, 2006

getting there is half the fun...

here's a rough approximation of our planned route to Honduras.....don't worry, we use much more detailed nav aids than this to actually get there (!), but the Google family of brands has yet to offer a way to import our electronic nautical charts into Blogger. You can, of course, use YouTube to do useful things like watch drunk people singing karaoke in Topeka, or a Japanese girl pretending to eat her cat, but as for disseminating less useful information like our routing, well, hope is all we have.....

The trip should be about 700 miles total.....our first leg is from here to Providencia, which, despite its location off the coast of Nicaragua, is technically part of Colombia (don't worry Mom, it's just a technicality - Colombian pirates don't seem to recognize it as part of their jurisdiction). By all accounts Providencia is beautiful and a great place to stop and get a good night's sleep and hang out.

After Providencia, we'll hopefully be able to make it to Roatan without stopping again. What you can't quite tell from this map is that the path to Honduras is fraught with shoals and reefs... there is one, or maybe two, safe passages around the cape to the Bay Islands.

The first 400-500 miles will likely be the most challenging.....while the NE trades reputedly wane a bit in November, they don't go away entirely, so heading straight north in a sailboat in this part of the Caribbean is uneventful at best, and usually uncomfortable or worse. Once we make it around Cabo Gracias a Dios and turn left, the wind should be a little more cooperative, but anything could happen. It could be a beautiful, idyllic trip or a wet, unforgiving beat into headwinds and ugly chop, reminiscent of Nicaragua....experience tells us to prepare for a savory blend of the two.

It's a little intimidating that Cabo Gracias a Dios was so named by Columbus in 1502, when he spent so many weeks trying to get around the cape, and was turned back by weather so many times, that when we finally got around he dubbed it "Thanks to God" cape. uh, yikes.

We think the trip will take about ten days, including a night or two at Providencia, but it could take as long as a couple weeks if we have to wait out weather somewhere. So, don't worry if we're offline for a few weeks after we leave this Wednesday!

Most of our weather resources indicate we should wait out the cold front that's passing over the Caribbean this weekend, and then make a break for it mid-week. Hopefully we'll have a good window after that....if you like weather check out one of our new fave sites at
(the numbers along the top row of the chart indicate how many hours out the projection is........click on "Surface Strmlns and Wind speeds [kts]" to see some truly beautiful maps!).

thanks for staying tuned!!
Scott tried to catch lunch....but no luck Posted by Picasa
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a bunch of our marina neighbors whisked us away from work today for one last hurrah in Panama....we took a huge dugout to a magical place called Bird Island...these pics don't quite do it justice, but it was gorgeous. very King Kong. it's a rookery for red-billed tropicbirds and yellow-footed boobies, so once you get used to the guano smell it's a nerd's dream spot. The huge vines cascading down the sides are just begging to be swung on.....and there are birds tucked into every nook and cranny. the sea was a little rough for snorkeling but we decided to try it anyway...and were rewarded when we swam with huge deep blue parrotfish and swarms of queen angelfish.....

on the way home we checked out a friend's propoerty in the jungle, and had a scrumptious seafood dinner on the beach....mmmm......lobster, fish, calamari and shrimp in heaps of butter and garlic. what a fine farewell to Bocas!

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We finally moved out to the anchorage last week....and Ute is sooo much happier. so are we. no bugs, and I swear it's about 20 degrees cooler day and night.

And, as you can see, the water is gorgeous....especially when viewed from the top of our new ratlines..... Posted by Picasa

Friday, November 03, 2006

plans update

hi everybody, just wanted to let you know that we are planning on leaving Panama next Wednesday or so....we were going to leave on Monday or Tuesday, but Allen has to go grease some palms at Migracion in Changuinola over issues with his passport, and apparently 75% of days in the month of November are holidays here in Panama. So the dang Migracion office won't be open until Tuesday.....but we can try and get everything else ready before that.

In the meantime, while we're working, we may get to enjoy a parade or two! It's Independence Day in Panama, plus Day of the Dead, Day of the Living, Day of Labor, Day of the Living Dead, Day of ......well you get the picture.

more soon......really.........

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

not surprisingly, we found other members of the pirate brotherhood while out and about....one of them even loaned me his blunderbuss (!) Posted by Picasa
yo ho ho...this one's for you, Neil..... Posted by Picasa
the Captain kept showing off his badass pirate cuffs (what can't we make with original Revlon Red and some old vinyl?) Posted by Picasa

Arrrrrrrgh - Happy Halloween Mateys!!

we'd decided last week that we didn't have the time or money to do Halloween this year - and then - REALITY CHECK - whaaaat???!! We love Halloween!!! How could we be in Panama for Halloween and NOT be pirates?! So we pulled together some costumes at the end of our work day....(the liberal application of sea shanties and grog helped the process along consdierably....)

One of my fave moments of the night was when, while waiting for my food at the late-night chicken truck on the main drag, I complimented the guy next to me on his Prince costume. Only, as it turns out, he wasn't dressed as Prince...he was just a skinny Latino guy with a moustache and curly hair, who happened to be dressed in a slinky purple shirt open to his navel....


All in all we had a rocking good time on the not-so-high seas......!