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

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

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