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!

Sunday, February 25, 2007

cool...finally figured out how to snapshot in Google Earth....

School started this week on Roatan so now we get to see all the kids float by on their way to school......

MRE My Valentine

now that we know this slideshow gimmick works, you can bet we will be abusing these bells and whistles to their full extent....

Here are some shots of our Valentine's Day brunch, brought to us by you, the taxpayers of America. that's right, we got a real live, locked and loaded MRE given to us by a neighbor. the best part of this story is, these neighbors are Austrian, and they bought their boat in Isla Mujeres, from some guy who had been working up in New Orleans post-Katrina. so their boat came stocked with a hundred or so MRE's.

Now i don't know about you, but when I think of MRE's, I think of the old fashioned nasty ones. Well, we got schooled. These newfangled MRE's are first rate. Each one comes with a little FRH (flameless ration heater) that is water-activated and gets your food literally bubbling hot. who knew?

Our MRE was Meal #6, Chicken Fajita. In keeping with authentic Mexican culinary tradition, this included chicken fajitas in tomato sauce, easy squeeze nacho cheese, apple cider, corn-protein-coated trail mix, wild rice pilaf, and french vanilla cappucino. The "fajitas" tasted a lot like Tasty Bite Indian food. Not bad. Helpful graphics on the boxes elucidated the vitamin fortification program. Our troops must be working their asses off, because this meal was meant for one person and we were both stuffed on it (of course, we did supplement it with rice and beans).

As you can see we wore our best camo and olive drab in honor of the occasion.

I can't decide if it's so right, or so wrong that we can sit on a boat in Honduras, and use wireless internet to upload a heart-shaped slideshow of us celebrating a romantic holiday with U.S. military rations. As Captain Aubrey said in Master and Commander, "what a fascinating modern age we live in..."

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Okay I know some of you said no more snake pics, but have you ever seen such a beautiful lemony yellow snake in your life?
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This our neigbor Sonny, proudly displaying his harmonicas in all different keys - and man, can he play those things. Our neighbors on Queen Mary organized a music night earlier this week, and it must be confessed, we had a blast. our accordion and ukelele were dragged out of the bilge for the occasion, but the real highlight was hearing some of our neighbors play - one is a professional musician who you might have seen on Hee Haw - and I don't know about you but Hee Haw was a cultural institution in our household. Anyway, these kids could play. They were very encouraging and gracious about having us chime in wherever we could pick up the chords.....thanks guys! (OZ folks, I'm proud to say I taught them the ZooCamp pirate song about the Irish Sea.)

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Allen assured me that it was essential that the pigs and cows have their own dry bag.
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we took the plunge this week and cleaned out the very scary storage area behind the couch.....we can now say definitively that we own hundreds of dollars' worth of outerwear that would be really, really nifty and useful if all the zippers weren't completely seized up from prolonged exposure to the salt air. I guess next Christmas we want LL Bean gift certificates?

mmmm.....see that fat red crab? we ate him for dinner...so good
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Last weekend we went to a great festival over in Oak Ridge Key.....It was sponsored by a local group who is trying to deal with the garbage problem around here. Not only did we get some very yummy BBQ but we got to introduce a whole posse of kids to wiffleball! It was a blast. Allen spent the afternoon being the little league coach and I somehow found a group of kids that really wanted to hang out on the beach and learn about snails. Sweet little nerds trapped in the bodies of 9- and 10-year-old boys. You just never know what you're gonna find around here.....

I am going to try a new kind of link here that should pop up as a slideshow of photos. Post a comment if it works for you or takes too long to load or whatever - might be a cool way to share photos or might be a lame gimmick. only time will tell.....

life in paradise

Hi everybody…we know it’s been awhile….well only about two weeks, really. We’re thrilled to hear that people still check the blog so we will reward your loyalty with some tales of life south of the border and a handful of great pics……..

The big picture is, not much is new here. Mostly we work. Which is exactly what we came here to do, so that’s not a complaint…. just a reality! Of course, we make sure not to work too hard – we know we’ll have to buckle down if and when we ever make it back to the “real world” ( I know it must be on our charts, we just haven’t found it quite yet) so this is the final chapter of tropical slackerdom. This feeling is enhanced by the fact that approximately 62 of our friends have gotten in a family way in the last 6 months. Talk about your ticking clocks. Sweet jesus. We’ll get there. And we’ll have quite the posse of role models when we do…..

The funny thing about being in Roatan is that we’ve settled into a sort of quotidian routine that seems like we almost could be back in the U.S….but then something will happen to remind us that yes, we are actually bobbing around on a yacht in the western Caribbean…..and it’s not like home at all. Like we’ll go snorkeling in a gorgeous reef canyon, or dinghy thru a mangrove tunnel to get to the grocery store, or see a 6 year old kid paddle by in his own little dugout canoe. These are very cool moments, it must be said. We are fortunate. One of the things that makes Jonesville so comfy for us – we only recently put a finger on this - is that it’s one of the few places we’ve been on this trip where we feel like we have real rapport and friendships with both the sailing community and the locals. Finding other sailors to hang out with along the way hasn’t been hard, but finding a place where we feel safe, secure, and like we can really hang out with the locals is (lamentably) unusual. Wish this wasn’t such an exceptional quality, but such is the world today. We are just appreciating it where we find it. That’s not to say that everyone here lives in perfect harmony and it’s all puppies and waterslides, but speaking as a gringo, the atmosphere here is worlds better than, say, Costa Rica, where people walk up to you on the beach and flat out tell you they’re gonna steal your dinghy and outboard just because you’re a gringo, and that’s what Ticos do to gringos.

Well, okay, nobody ever threatened to steal our outboard. I can’t imagine why? We do have outboard news but I’ll let the captain roll that out…..

So, nearly every day we witness some fascinating cultural exchange and we say, “God, we’ve got to try and write this stuff up on the blog”. But I just don’t know how….there’s no way to describe the cultural brew of this island without sounding like some cheesy travel magazine or guidebook. Cultural diversity, eclectic mix, colorful history, singsong patois, blah blah blah, you get the picture. But wait- it really is that cool! Just take the accents and dialects, to start with – Roatan would be a veritable Disneyland for a linguist. We’ve made short visits here in past years, so we had a passing taste of the island dialect (think Jamaican from Winnipeg), but what we didn’t realize is that every little town, every little bight, has its own accent, at least down here on the east end of the island. We have been schooled in the proper pronunciation of “Jonesville” (it’s Jones-uh-VEAL or sometimes even Jones-uh-WHEEL). A boat is a boh-uht. Or boh-wat. The first day we were here I went to buy gas for the outboard at Erba’s house (no gas stations here, just folks who sell gas out of their gas hut). Erba said Good Morning, grabbed the gas can and asked, “den yo done gone wan dat wit lube oh not wit lube t’day?” It took me a minute to figure out what she meant. But at least it fell into the general English category. There’s a whole other island dialect that is completely unintelligible to northern ears – but we don’t know what it’s actually called. Then there’s the Garifuna dialect, spoken by the descendants of African slaves that got shipped here in 1797. Then there is Spanish, spoken by mainlanders who’ve come here to work, and by islanders of a certain generation. And, because humanity is a messy endeavor that doesn’t fall cleanly into categories, there are hybrid languages and dialects of all these. Some settlements are populated by whole families of redheads. The best part is, it’s sort of linguistic roulette when you meet someone new – there’s no way of telling by looking at them whether they speak Spanish, English, or both (or neither, really). It’s sort of a politically charged issue – islanders resent what they see as an invasion of Spaniards from the mainland – but most people just smile or laugh if you guess wrong. Makes everyday communications anything but ordinary……

There are so many little moments each day we wish we could capture for the folks back home…..like the freestyle rap battle that happens around 5 PM not quite every day on the VHF. It’s fantastic. There are two guys and a chick trying to outdo each other right on Channel 16. It’s like 8 Mile gone Caribbean. What else? Um….we eat beans and rice nearly every meal and we actually like it. We have perfected pressure-cooker beans. There’s a little shop right across the bight from where they sell the most delicious flour tortillas I’ve ever eaten. They make them fresh every morning, and if there’s not a batch ready when you go in, they’ll make up a new stack and deliver them out to your boat. This is living. Also wish we could document how much fun we’re having hitchhiking around this island...everyone hitchhikes everywhere and it’s really easy and fun. The trick is allowing yourself plenty of time to run the simplest of errands – there is one two-lane road that runs the length of Roatan and its condition varies from challenging to downright crappy. Getting there when you get there – zen hitchhiking? – is a great state to achieve when you’re coming from the freeways of California. Last Monday I had to go “up island” for a meeting in West End and Allen and I made a day trip of it…..to get to the highway to even begin to look for a ride, we have to dinghy in to the Hole in the Wall bar, then hike up through what we call Christian Camp. It’s pretty surreal…this is a huge property that is managed and owned by a christian organization. There are two huge pagodas-like structures, rusting hulks of heavy machinery everywhere, and, most ominously, dozens of shipping containers, also rusting away. Rumors abound as to what the contents may be but we try not to think about it. The guy who actually lives there and takes care of the property is really sweet, and gives us big bags of limes all the time and doesn’t mind us walking up through his property. They’ve cleared quite a bit of land, but there’s still plenty of jungle so it’s a wonderful walk. As we huffed and puffed up the hill the other day, we saw a beautiful grapefruit-yellow tree snake, a dozen different kinds of butterflies, woodpeckers, parrots. On the return trip down the hill later that day, just after sunset, we were wowed by thousands of fireflies and one grumpy agouti who didn’t appreciate the intrusion. What a commute…..

I guess our only complaint might be that we’re getting awfully busy…..it’s starting to really cut into to our swimming and beer-drinking quality time! We have tons of canvas jobs, and I also got a part-time gig doing outreach teaching for the new Sandy Bay/West End Marine Park. The name is misleading, it’s actually a marine preserve, and my job is to go out into local schools and talk to kids about coral reef conservation. I just really started a couple of weeks ago so I’ll update soon as to how it’s going….my biggest challenge isn’t the Spanish speaking classrooms, but the island-English speaking ones! Hopefully my ears will start to tune in….

Well, Allen and I are constantly mentioning all the stuff we mean to put on this blog but at the moment I’ve no idea what all those things were. We’ll work on it. Allen has a great story about a cow, I’ll get on him to write it up. So thanks for sticking with us and I’ll go load some pics now. Love, UTE

Monday, February 05, 2007

in this lovely shot a Jonesville neighbor shows off the boa he just killed...he found it with a small deer half in and half out of its jaws. yum, yum. we've heard lots of stories of neighbors waking up to find big snakes on board their boats (they get blown offshore and slither up anchor chains!) but it hasn't happened to us yet. which is fine, really.
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one of the best things about Roatan is the view from the one highway that runs along the spine of this long, skinny island........you can almost always see reef in at least one direction.....

after a couple days of tropical living Ute-style - Marti never complained about rice and beans, Tang and rum cocktails, the fussy outboard, or her 24-inch-wide-bed - we graduated to a lush land lifestyle......

I could definitely get used to the high life. definitely. Allen took a little more coaxing but Putters the Cat really helped it along.

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Sunday, February 04, 2007

the weather was even more capricious than usual during our little journey so we got to watch the sea and sky cycle through every imaginable shade of grey, blue, turquoise. Gorgeous! Mom also got to experience pelting cat-sized Caribbean raindrops when the squalls tore by us......Posted by Picasa
Mom declared the water temperature "just right"
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after the requisite day of looting the pirate treasure that Mom brought down from the motherland, and oohing and aahing over all the goodies, it was time to get her out on the water......to the old pirate stronghold of Port Royal, just 6 miles east of Jonesville.

Now the funny part about sailing in the Caribbean is, 6 miles east means a 3 hour sail, but 6 miles west - on the way back - means about 40 minutes. Gotta love those tradewinds. so the trip there was awfully wet, lots of short tacking back and forth. Mom was a good sport about it, and the really funny part was Allen and I were seasick but momma the landlubber was fine. The Captain went belowdecks and slept for the entire trip, but we ladies had a nice time of it.
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miracles can happen

if you've ever tried to any sort of business on a remote island, or in Latin America, you can appreciate just how shocked and thrilled we were when the following process actually worked: hitchhike to computer place up island, order new hard drive to come in on next plane, hard drive arrives in scheduled shipment, go pick up new hard drive, hard drive costs a resonable amount, hard drive is easy to assemble, computer works again!

maybe it's easier to have the planets all align in your favor now that Pluto got demoted, and there are only eight planets? that's my guess.....

anyway we're back online. not that we really missed much in terms of posts, mostly we are just kickin it in Jonesville and doing canvas work and odd jobs. now news there. Allen does have a hundred dollar story about rescuing a reptile and distress but I'll leve that for him to tell - it's a doozy. Suffice to say fly tape has been banned from Ute due to the inhumanity.

Marti's been home for two weeks already but gotta share some pics anyway - we did some beautiful sailing while she was here........