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, December 26, 2006

innovations in soup?

that's right kids....it's not just for polishing furniture or conditioning your hair anymore.....chicken soup is now Great for Cooking!!

Heads Up!

for those of you that haven't already heard about our newfound infamy in these seas, here is Allen's fantastic account of how we made a name for ourselves (already!) in the Bay Islands.....

[December 24] - Cora and I came into a beautiful protected anchorage for two reasons, one, to be somewhere nice and close to other cruisers for christmas so we can enjoy a wonderful potluck again....
The other reason is that there is a norther coming down and is expected to bring 25-35 kt winds from the n-ne-nw on christmas and is expected to last 3 days give or take. so we are anchored in jonesville bight in roatan. very beautiful and there are four other boats here. Well protected and good holding.
so we make our way into the anchorage through a narrow gap in the reef , no problems, sun at our backs and perfect conditions. (on a website we check regularly, nwcaribbean.net, they told us that people monitor channel 66 in case we need help on the entrance, or for local knowledge, so we monitor this channel.) we come in and start to scout the anchorage trying to find a nice place to anchor and be close to the free wifi that is here. Cora monitors the depth sounder while I steer and check our location.
we motor around for a bit and then start to head towards the back of the bight. as we go around this floating bar we spot a local coming out in his boat. I assume he is here to guide us around a shoal or something. he comes out and says don't anchor right here, there is a cable crossing. I say ok is it right here? pointing to the water and waving my hand back and forth indicating an underwater cable. he smiles kind of a 'yeah stoopid gringo' smile and says yes.
Mind you cora addressed him first in spanish, but he spoke in english and told us to follow him, great, bay islands people speak a lot of english around here. he looks back at us and i assume he wants us to follow him. so I do. there is one other boat anchored in the back and and he begins to wave us to the left hand side of the bay, so I move over a bit to the left. Well he is getting in his dinghy and waving at us still to go left. I figure he is having us avoid a shoal. so I go left.
no problems, but dude is still getting in his dinghy and I am afraid he is one of those controlling anchorage guys that is gonna tell us exactly where to anchor, you know the type, "oh, I wouldn't anchor there but over here is really good. but don't anchor too close to me. only let out 49.5 feet of rode or else you will be in big trouble. I never use chain it is too heavy to haul in, I never drag." I don't want to deal with that so I tell CPC that we are gonna go anchor out in the other little bay. I also tell the local kid that we are gonna go back out front, he looks at me kinda weird but shrugs his shoulders and goes towards shore. the local cruiser hangout is very close by and there are a couple of people looking at us, the usual audience you get when coming into a new place. A couple of other local people whistle at us and wave us towards the now right side of the bay. ok we wave back and follow our track back out. no problems. We drop the hook, set it really good, get the danforth ready to go if we need it, make some food, watch a kung fu movie and go to sleep.
We wake up a couple times to check the anchor and get a great night's sleep.
during coffee we listen to the nw caribbean shortwave radio net on 6209, listening to the weather. right after weather is a section called information offered or needed, we sometimes listen and we did this morning. about half way through this boat comes on and says, in an incredulous manner "hey man you won't believe this but the boat came in yesterday to Jonesville and came right to the back of the bight and RIGHT UNDER THE HIGH POWER LINES AT THEIR LOWEST POINT. then like three more people came on and said yeah we saw that and we were waving wildly at them.
Cora and I both jumped up and looked at where he would be talking about and sure enough, droopy electrical wires that couldn't be much higher than 40 feet. specs on UTE are 38.5 feet from water, but she did drop about 4 inches with all our crap on board. After seeing the lines, Cora said this morning, "There is no f&%$ing way we would take our boat under those lines now that I've seen them."
Mind you not one person pointed or gestured to the sky, just waving back and forth like hello. the local guy who spoke english never pointed up and said 'yeah dumbass the wires that your 40 foot mast just missed by an inch'. no one then came out and said anything to us when we anchored. We actually drove within 40 feet of another boat, hailing distance, and he just waved. So i guess the moral of this story is, don't just monitor the depth sounder, keep an eye to the sky. The other is if you have the option call for local assistance.
So now we have to go to the local cruisers hangout and hang our heads in shame and be the butt of criticism and jokes for the next couple of days. oh well, I am sure our egos can handle it. At least with a few beers in me.
Now we have something else to celebrate, we didn't ruin all the locals christmas by taking their power wires down, we also didn't electrocute ourselves in the process.
Merry Christmas everyone!!

The update? We've since received a very warm reception by all of our neighbors, although they do refer to us not as Ute but as "Dances with Wires". We also learned that a couple of other boats actually did hit it and lived to tell the tale. So......we have plenty to be thankful for this holiday season!

Monday, December 25, 2006

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given that the christmas story is based on something so wholly improbable as an immaculate conception, we figured it was the right time of year for other long-odds gambles like Ute catching an edible fish. no bites though. Posted by Picasa
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Ho-Ho-Hole-in-the-Wall! Merrrrrrry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas everyone!! Hard to believe that after so many miles we're finally here...anchored right off of Hole in the Wall, one of our fave eating and drinking spots here in Jonesville Bight, Roatan. What a beautiful holiday...can't put the right words around our state of delight and gratitude that, after so many years of dreaming and talking about it, we finally landed on the island where we got engaged on this very holiday, four years ago, and honeymooned over Christmas the year after that. I don't think either of us has fully wrapped our brains around it yet!

Christmas in the tropics is a trip......we've carried on some old traditions and added some decidedly salty new ones. Off to a sailor potluck this afternoon - will probably bust out the accordion and ukelele for some squeaky Christmas carols. Santa brought me some new dishtowels and Allen a machete - how pink and blue can you get?! funny. (I asked for a machete this year, too, but either I haven't been good, or one of Santa's helpers didn't make it to land to go shopping. I'll stick with the latter).

Since we can't send Christmas presents this year, our gift to you is a couple hot pieces of advice for living:

1) Low hanging power lines may not appear on navigational charts from the late 70's. Always look up when entering an unfamiliar anchorage (more on that later).
2) French toast is tasty, but not a great building or sculpting material.
3) Ordinary wet/dry sandpaper - preferably 220 grit or finer - can be used to remove pesky tea and coffee stains from tooth enamel with very pleasing results.

Hope they come in handy. Merry Christmas to all of you - we miss you and wish you were here - big big hugs from us. Pics soon. Love, UTE
Thanks again Susan and Jeff for the beautiful hammock - it now hangs in the exact spot where we got engaged - not many hammocks can say that! Posted by Picasa

Thursday, December 21, 2006

and just like that....Roatan

we're finally here, after a dreamy passage from Guanaja last night...we left around 5 PM and, knowing we had only 40 miles to cover and we needed to wait until at least 7 AM to approach French Harbor, we were able to ghost along at about two and a half knots, on viscous, nearly flat seas, with a million stars overhead, just a breath of wind, and a cadre of dolphins puffing around us and diving below the keel in phosphorescent streaks. We didn't know the Caribbean could be so mellow! gorgeous. absolutely gorgeous.....

arrived in French Harbor at around 8 this morning no worse for the wear. French Harbor anchorage is exactly as we expected: sketchy, hot, buggy, and garbage ridden. so why did we stop here? to get groceries, cash, and internet (what stinky towns are for). After we've accomplished that trio of objectives, we can move to a more salubrious anchorage - and Roatan has plenty of those to offer. The bank network seems to have crashed for the moment, though, so we may be here overnight. ah, island life.

Trash and all, it is wonderful to be back in Roatan. we are itching to explore the island again - by boat this time!

Hope all of you that are traveling for Christmas are getting there and back safe and sound, warm and happy. Be well, and we'll try and check back in by Christmas!! hugs, UTE

Saturday, December 16, 2006

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conched out in Guanaja

a couple days ago we got our first conchs....so delicious! and so much easier to prepare than we thought they would be....this is definitely the start of a very yummy friendship. Provided we can get used to them staring at us with their weird alien stalk eyes while we are killing them, that is. But hey, unless you're a true vegetarian, you better be able to look your food in the face, right?

After the first one we sort of got the knack of extracting them from their shells..... Posted by Picasa

we share the island with some very nifty critters......I feel like this is the place I dreamed of every winter as a kid when I watched the frost gather on the Cousteau Society decals on my bedroom window.... Posted by Picasa
taking advantage of the rainy weekend: the rinse cycle, I love Lucy style. Posted by Picasa

Friday, December 15, 2006

now THIS is what we signed up for....

our destination: Josh's Cay. so, there's this concept, this daydream, of finding the perfect deserted tropical island to hang out on, right? swaying palms, juicy fruits, white sand beach...the works. well, when you've been on a small boat for a year, the daydream evolves: you swoon with the fantasy of that island just over the horizon that would tempt you with an ice machine, raked beaches (thus no sand fleas), unlimited sweet water, cold beers, hammocks in the shade, and wi-fi, but the island would, of course, offer all these services for free, and only to you. and you would have the place to yourself...unless of course you needed something, and then the nice helpful island staff would help you get it. Oh, and there would be frolicking wildlife, and deep enough water for your boat on one side, but colorful reefs teeming with life everywhere else......

Wake up! you're at Graham's Place on Josh's Cay. yup, it's true.....all of it. I am sitting in our cockpit, working on the blog, reading email, interrupted now and then by visits from Dolphy, the friendly local dolphin who often swims up to say hello (I can't make this stuff up). We spent most the afternoon snorkelling on a lovely reef - which we had all to ourselves - and then stopped by the island to pick up a bucket of ice (free), buy two ice cold beers (cheap), and take freshwater showers (free). Then we came back to Ute, who was bobbing contentedly on her well-anchored (free) mooring in 11 feet of water.

Ya gotta love it.

Thanks Mercedes and Ronan for the greatest tip of them all!! Posted by Picasa
it's always raining somewhere in Guanaja....and when you're not in it, it' s beautiful........ Posted by Picasa
after a rainy but fun weekend in El Bight we decided we had a check out the reef along the east coast of Guanaja, which is studded with tiny cays, some private, some public. Between the reef and the main island is a long, narrow, and blissfully deep lagoon just built for carefree daysailing: the tradewinds blow in over the reef, but the waves don't, and the water is at least 50' deep until you get right up next to the cays. (A smaller version of the much-touted sailing playground of Belize, evidently). And the frosting on the cake: those uber-helpful neighbors told us about a cay where there was a small resort that offers cruising boats free moorings, free ice, free water, and free wi-fi. To good to be true....? maybe....... Posted by Picasa

finally figuring it out...after 14 months

after our quick stop in town we floated over to a beautiful little protected anchorage called El Bight, where we met our new neighbors, Mercedes, Ronan, and Louie, who were nice enough to stop by in their dinghy and invite us to go for a shore walk with them. She's British, he's French, but they met in Hong Kong, and sailed from there nine years ago on their 32' boat! Louie is five, so has been sailing all his life - he joined the crew in South Africa. pretty cool. they shared lots of hot tips with us (lamentably we had none to share with them) and showed us where to find mangoes, kumquats, limes, and - best of all - huge patches of wild chantrelle mushrooms! big yum! Thanks guys!! Posted by Picasa
this is Main Street on Savannah Bight: no cars...just feet, bikes, maybe a hand truck here and there. and boats of course. Posted by Picasa
the only real "city" in Guanaja is the settlement on Savannah Bight which consists of about 10,000 people crammed onto a key that has to be less than a square mile in area, living in a Dr.Seuss-worthy sticky-stacky jumble of stilt houses and boardwalks. The guidebooks made it sound dreadful - we were expecting a sort of highly septic Joseph Conrad's Venice - but it was actually a delightful little town, and the people rivalled those of Providenica in friendliness. One of the reasons we stopped here on the way to Roatan was we'd heard it was an easier and cheaper place to check into Honduras than Roatan would be, and that proved to be true. The Port Captain and Migracion were warm and wonderful - the Migra guy charged us ten bucks, but he did share his breakfast of candied papaya with us - and the whole town had a very welcoming, laid-back vibe going on. The deal was sealed when we tied our dinghy up at the general store and rounded the corner onto Main Street to find a Mexican restaurant serving tasty lunches!! The perfect antidote to 5 days of ramen and saltines..... Posted by Picasa
coming into Guanaja settlement Posted by Picasa

around the cape...Gracias a Dios!

after our lovely stay in Prov it was onward - northward that is - to the Bay Islands. We spent almost exactly 5 days getting here (here being Isla Guanaja). It was a long, wet, rolly, green-gilled slog of a trip. I had written up a colorful little account of the trip, describing every bone-chilling wave in detail, but after we found out how Starlet had fared, we can hardly complain. Suffice to say it was a challenging but successful trip on tiny and tender boat, a salty combination of a ride on a Tilt-a-Whirl, an Outward Bound experience, and going through astronaut training. There were some fun and funny parts, like when a brown booby - who we dubbed Dodohead - attempted a landing on a solar panels and came crashing down into the cockpit on my watch. Scared the crap outta me! He rejected our welcome gift of kippered herring, choosing instead to gum on the lines tying down the outboard. After a rolly half hour of glaring at us and pecking at everything on our stern, he merrily ejected guano in a perfect ring on our stern laz and took off for friendlier pastures.....

Allen says he likes how the booby and I are wearing the same expression in this shot......

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

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arggggh, there's wee Ute again, balanced on top of me head Posted by Picasa

here are a bunch of nifty shots we took one day while snorkeling and exploring sea caves (is there anything more fun-sounding than "sea caves", really?)