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, March 22, 2007

the boys will be home tomorrow! that's the latest. They're flying Bocas-Panama City this morning, Panama City-La Ceiba tonight, staying over in La Ceiba, and taking the puddle jumper our here tomorrow. Hooray!

And, here is today's installment of cute kid pics....I couldn't help myself....

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

I confess, I think this one is my most favorite. All of our friends in Bocas seem okay with the fact that I miss Gladys the most of all.

When she and I used to spend every day together in the sewing room she was obsessed with my basting tape and regularly tried to steal it away and hide it so she could gnaw on it later. So when Allen left I sent along a special treat I had made for her, The Little Book of Tape.

The word on the street is she loved every inch of it.

reunited with Hebe
our friend Susan in Bocas was nice enough to accept the role of designated photog during Allen's brief time in the islands....here are some of my fave shots...thanks a million Susan!!

aforementioned cutest French girls ever, Marjorie and Estelle
So in a few short days I’ll be on a plane for Los Angeles…and it occurred to me today that perhaps I should get a new pair of pants for the occasion. Partly so I won’t freeze, but mostly because the shorts I wear nearly every day are a pair of men’s swim trunks I got at the West Marine Bargain Store for $5 two years ago. I have torn out the butt of these shorts so many times that their entire aft section is now constructed of a zigzagged patchwork of different colors of boat canvas.

They do tell quite a story, but still. Anyway, I thought my pants buying experience might serve as one example of how our life here is a little different than back home.

The first step in getting a new pair of pants was to figure out a way to get to Coxen Hole, Roatan’s “capital” of sorts, the island’s business center. Lucky for me, a couple of our neighbors, Don and Yvonne, who are cruising sailors-turned-Roatan-dwellers, were planning a trip into town today.

So I head off in the dinghy, and turn into the mangrove tunnel where I would find their dock. On the way I pass the school where I’ve been teaching, and am treated to a chorus of “Hi Teacher Cora!”. I maneuver the dinghy into their boat-shed and tie it off. Their house is on a key that is really more of a sandbar, with the ocean on one side and the mangrove tunnel on the other. As I walk across the key I pass by the house of Gladys, the laundry lady. She asks about Allen’s trip and when he will be back in town.

When I arrive at Don and Yvonne’s we enjoy a quick snack of pancakes with canned butter from New Zealand. You can’t get real butter here, so when the canned stuff comes into the grocery store (rare) it sells out within a matter of hours. In other words, this is a special treat.

We then commence the trip to Coxen Hole. We start out on a dirt road that leads us to a bridge over the mangrove channel, and then curves through jungle, past the Jonesville cemetery, past the Christian Camp, to the highway. From there it’s about an a 45-minute drive over roads that start out very potholed but improve in condition as one nears the cruise ship terminal (go figure). The views from the road are stunning – every turn reveals a new contour of the island – or another shimmering reef vista. The heavy rains lately have brought on an explosion of color in the trees and plants along the roadside. It’s a little piece of heaven.

When we get to Coxen Hole, I get dropped off in what’s known as the public market. This is an open air flea market type of thing that covers about two blocks of side streets. The main street in town is paved, again to pacify the cruise shippers, but the side streets – which cruise shippers rarely dare to tread – are ungroomed, stinky dirt alleys. Much more authentic Central America, to be sure.

I roam around until I find a booth selling clothes. There are several, so it doesn’t take long. Imagine a small shack with a bunch of lightly used American clothes pinned onto hangers all over the inside and outside. These clothes are in that weird state where they don’t look new, but they don’t really look used either, kind of like the clothes you find in consignment shops in upscale neighborhoods. Aside from that, however, this store has little resemblance to one of those stores. I start looking around and an adorable, grimy, barefoot 5-year-old girl brings out the special broom-handle-with-a-nail to lower the pair of pants I have just been eyeing.

I can’t help but notice that the girl bears a strong resemblance to one of my students who is Miskito (an ethnic group from mainland Honduras – learn more at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mosquito_Coast). My two Miskito students in Jonesville have been teaching me how to say a couple basic things in their native tongue. I take a chance and say, “Mahni. nak sma?” which roughly means Good Morning, how are you? (either that, or my students have been teaching me dirty words and just telling me that’s what they mean). She smiles, her face lights up and she replies in her language – I understand nothing but it doesn’t seem to bother her. Her father asks where I’ve learned these tidbits and I explain - in Spanish. He tells me they've moved here to find work. This is a common theme around Roatan - the unemployment rates on the mainland are dismal.

I am lucky in my shopping – it appears that someone’s cousin must have run into an Ann Taylor Loft store, shoplifted everything in the size 12 pants section, and shipped the whole lot to this one tiny hut. You just never know what you’re going to find down here. I take a pair off the hanger and ask if I can try them on over my shorts. “No, no!” shouts the mother, running out of the kitchen with dough in her hands, “you must try them on your body! You must try them on here in the kitchen! Come, come! I will leave the kitchen!”.

They are so intent on creating a fitting room in their kitchen, that I can’t say no. I grab the pants and walk into the kitchen. It is slightly larger than an airplane bathroom. Atop the counter in front of me are a sleeping baby in a basket and a plastic tub holding a pile of tortilla dough balls about 3 feet tall. Next to that is a roaring stove with a huge bubbling pot of some kind of stew. I think I spot an iguana bone in there.

I try the pants on while resisting the temptation to sink my teeth into one of the dough balls. Or my finger into the stew. The pants basically fit. “Basically” is as good as it gets down here – I don’t even think about what they might look like. The baby sighs in his sleep and squirms a little.

I emerge from the kitchen, wearing my patchwork shorts once again. “How much?” I ask the father, who seems to be in charge of pricing. “Sixty lempiras” he replies. About 3 bucks. A little steep by public market standards, but they are okay pants and I’ve fallen for their children so he knows I will pay. I don’t have the heart to bargain him down.

Before I leave I make sure to give the girl a lucky plastic pig. She smiles.

Another successful errand run in Roatan.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

right on time

that's right, the cat's outta the bag....and into the Bocas Marina. Congrats Allen and Dwayne on a successful delivery! According to our good friend Susan in Bocas Marina, they rolled in there last night right at sunset - arriving in style no less. Allen was heartily greeted by Estelle and Marjorie, the world's cutest French girls, as well as a bevy of former neighbors.
Then it was back to the same two hulls for Rum Boogie's crew, since they can't visit Migracion until this morning, and thus should theoretically not be treading the Panamanian soil.
It is my hope that they made an exception and enjoyed at least one round of the marina's signature margaritas as the sun finished its daily show.
We'll await further updates from El Capitan.....and thanks Susan!!

Monday, March 19, 2007


wildlife in the school "parking lot"
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eco speedsters

Remember Scott and Allison, the crew on the big fancy Dutch boat, the sewing machine gurus that helped us out in Bocas del Toro? (see October archives for pics of us transiting the canal on the boat they crewed/captained). anyway..they've moved on and their new project is pretty cool...they are ground crew for the Earthrace. Earthrace is a bio-diesel powered boat that is, as we speak, racing towards Acapulco, the second stop on their attempt to break the round-the-world-on-a-speedboat record time. The clock started ticking when they left Barbados on the 10th. They transited the Panama canal a couple days ago - see cool pics below.

Luckily their job does not entail actually riding in the boat, which is evidently about as comfortable as the rock truck that Allen made us ride in last week (of course, as Kermit taught us, it's not easy being green).

Learn more at www.earthrace.net. Good luck guys!!
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Wednesday, March 14, 2007

what happens when you mix 39 kids between 1st and 6th grade, who speak two different languages, into one classroom? MAYHEM! but it's fun, sweet, somewhat controllable mayhem.....make that barely controllable....
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midmorning break at Jonesville Point school
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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

cat news

hi everybody - just wanted to let you know that Rum Boogie - the catamaran - made it to Providencia last night, and is planning on leaving for San Andres tomorrow. the Captain says they are doing great and that cat sailing is fun and fast....
I'm so happy for them, and glad to hear that they're right on time....nice work baby!

Allen said the Vivorillos were breathtaking, and like no place he's ever seen. can't wait to see some pictures.

I have a feeling he will come back a convert...to multihulls. fine with me, if he can come up with the quarter of a million bucks we'll need to buy one. I could really get used to a big galley, major stability, privacy, plenty of space to entertain, cabins for guests, a full size fridge/freezer.......

Monday, March 12, 2007

unfunny monkeys not attacking Craig

for those of you who need a monkey fix. notice we were very careful not to trigger an attack by calling them "funny". we learned our lesson in Panama.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

we're motorin'

what do you know! we finally got enough dimes together to buy an outboard that actually runs (sorry hon, but that last one just plain DIDN'T). here it is IN ACTION on the "road" to the next bight...

I know this is kind of like some really boring home video from your coworker's vacation or something but you have to understand, this is exiciting news!


hi everybody, just wanted to share that the boys made it to the Vivorillos just fine yesterday, stayed the night, and weighed anchor this morning, bound for Providencia. I would guess they'll be there by Tuesday or so. If they're using the waypoints I plotted for them, they'll get to turn downwind any minute..or maybe even already have...hooray! go cat go! This info came from a neighbor, who heard it on the morning shortwave net, in which a different former neighbor broadcast the cat's whereabouts on their behalf (there are quite a few boats in the Vivorillos right now, including at least 3 that we've met elsewhere).

It sure is nice to have this huge network of people streching across all of Central America.....thanks everyone the updates, especially Valentina!

here is a rough map of their route, click on it to see it bigger


getting ready to leave
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the Captain at the helm of his new charge
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and this is what a lunar eclipse looks like from the deck of a gently rocking boat......
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in case you were curious, this is what a northern nerd looks like in uniform and ready for a day of hitchhiking and curriculum development in Roatan
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musings from Jonesville

It’s a gorgeous Saturday evening here in Roatan…the tropical breezes are just strong enough to keep the no-see-ums away and spin the wind generator…but not so strong that I need to worry about checking the anchor. I’m enjoying a signature Ute cocktail as I write: Lime Tang with local rum and, of course, a squeeze of lime juice (just say no to scurvy). Soon the tree frogs will start up with their singing (which will, thankfully, drown out the loud revival going on at the Christian Camp).

The last few days have been mighty eventful…we are tickled, proud, ecstatic, and overjoyed to announce that our dear friends Julie and Vanessa are now the proud moms of a handsome baby boy named Graham, who made a healthy debut into this world yesterday afternoon. Congrats girls!! Can’t wait to meet him in two weeks......

Thursday morning we were up at dawn to see Allen off on his multihull adventure, his first delivery as a captain. As many of you know we are not morning people (understatement) so typically the only time we’re up at dawn is if we’re under sail. As it turned out, Jonesville Bight is spectacularly beautiful at sunrise – or at least it was on Thursday – so we’ll have to make more of a habit of this. It seemed a perfect morning to set sail on a journey. The fact that at least ten other boats we know in Roatan and Guanaja chose the same day to start their southbound journeys just increased our sense of it being the right time.

It must be said, this moment of calm and inspiration was welcome after the circus that preceded their departure. The boat needed some help to get “up to speed” this week. The owner, a nice guy who has always had powerboats and doesn’t know the first thing about sailing, managed to wrap a line around his port propeller when he was setting the anchor here in Jonesville. His assurance that he had swum down and “gotten most all of it off” didn’t sit so well with us. I borrowed a neighbor’s scuba gear, ostensibly to scrub the bottom of the cat, and ended up spending about 2-1/2 hours wedged between the prop and rudder, hacking away at a giant mass of melted plastic line that obscured the prop shaft entirely. It was bout 4 inches thick. This cemented my feeling that I never want to scuba for work purposes… .I just want to see the pretty fishes. Scratch that career off the list!

We also spent quite a bit of time checking the boat’s systems. The cat is really well-equipped – if you want to throw a dinner party, that is. It was a charter boat in Belize before this guy Brian bought it, and as such it has lots to offer in the way of creature comforts, but not much for passagemaking. There are matching sets of cloth napkins, wine racks, surround sound stereo, and a full size chest freezer, but no shortwave radio, no EPIRB, no tools to speak of, no backup VHF, no backup GPS’s. Allen left Ute with a duffel bag as big as him, full of tools, parts, and appliances.

It might sound funny since we’ve been traveling for a year and a half now, but we really find ourselves stymied when we have to pack for a trip – we’re so accustomed to having our whole house with us! Trying to plan a sail on a boat that isn’t Ute is especially hard – we have everything we need, exactly where we want it, and fine tuned aboard our boat – which leave us that much more disoriented on other boats. Wednesday night found us not only trying to conjure up worst possible scenarios for Allen’s trip, but also trying to divide up our meager travel-related belongings – as Allen may not be back before I depart for L.A. on the 24th. Aboard Ute, we have one piece of luggage. One cash card. one checkbook. One shortwave radio. One day pack. One stick of deodorant. One bottle of shampoo. One tube of toothpaste. One Leatherman. You get the picture. We don’t travel off the boat much – let alone separately! It was pretty funny, figuring out who needed what, more.

I should point out that, despite the cat’s lack of major sailing equipment, it appears to be in really good shape. I had previously thought that most charter boats were typically ridden hard and put away wet, but this one truly appears to have been well maintained. The maintenance logs from the Moorings are impressive. And everything looked well-kept-up. Naturally, I would have vetoed that trip if I didn’t deem the boat worthy of carrying my man safely to Panama.

Although I can’t say for sure – they do not have transmitting capability over our shortwave, only receiving – the boat is most likely in the Vivorillos keys right now, off the Cape Gracias a Dios (if you run that name together it sounds like “Thank you, Goodbye” which always cracks me up, but of course it really means Thanks to God). Our former neighbors and good friends aboard Valentina were nice enough to satellite-email us from Guanaja yesterday to tell me the boat had successfully pulled into there long enough to fuel up, check out of the country, and hit the road again (thanks Sonny and Kay!). This doesn’t sound like much, but is a minor miracle – the fact that the officials from Customs, Migration and the Port Captain were all in the offices and doing their jobs at the same time, when they wanted to see them, is notable in Honduras.

Hopefully, they will hit Providencia around Monday or Tuesday and I’ll get an email update. The weather – which I check almost obsessively – is looking relatively friendly for the next couple days. If you’d like to obsess along with us, go to www.nwcaribbean.net and click on the weather links – very useful.

Allen’s first mate on the trip, Dwayne, is a solid character. He’s a bartender at our local watering hole, the Hole in the Wall, and he has considerably more sailing experience than we. He has no teeth, gives super bear hugs, wears party shirts with holes in them, and tells great stories. He also has hobbit feet. I think he will be a great partner for Allen as they journey southward. Much as I would like to be there, I’m happy just knowing that Allen is getting this experience, making some money, and will get to see so many of our buddies in Panama….including…..drum roll please…Tim and Ariel! That’s right, the lovable crew of Hebe is back from their South American adventure, back to their trusty rusty boat in Bocas del Toro. They’ll leave Bocas soon to spend a couple weeks in the San Blas islands and then head northward to catch up with us. With a little luck we will meet up with them in Belize or Mexico sometime in May, although we may not see them until Florida. (Do you like how we use countries and months interchangeable as markers of time…sort of a new twist on “If it’s Tuesday, this must be Rome”).

Which reminds me, people keep asking for an update on our spring plans. (Part of the reason we don’t talk about them that much is, despite what you might think, they haven’t changed much. No, seriously – when we left Panama in November, the plan was to be in Roatan through April or May, then move north to Florida. There is a plan to our madness...you gotta have some faith). So here goes: as of March 31st, Allen and I will both be back from our travels. Our good buddy Danny arrives April 3rd for 6 weeks aboard Ute (finally, we convinced a friend to take a vacation of reasonable length!). We are aiming to leave here sometime between April 6th and April 14th or so, headed for Florida. We came here with knowledge that we would depart sometime during the April to early June weather window for moving northward, and all the early results seem to indicate that this year, the window opens early. Plus, this will give us an opportunity to explore Belize and possibly the Yucatan a bit, which we’re terrifically excited about. After Florida, we will probably head up the east coast to New England. I say probably, because if we find a buyer for the boat, our budget dictates that we will sell her at the earliest reasonable opportunity. Anybody out there wanna buy a boat? I am putting together a webpage with specs, photos etc. that will be ready soon...this is a hot item people. strike while the iron's hot.

It will no doubt be hard to leave Roatan, especially Jonesville…. This place has really worked its way into our hearts while we’ve been here. Today as I was zooming around in the dinghy getting a butane fill and getting groceries, I was struck – as I am nearly every day – by the incredible beauty of this island and the warmth of the people. Miss Jeannie, who runs the little store, wanted to know how I was getting along without Allen here. Miss Gladys, who takes in boater’s laundry, remembers everyone’s names and washes our clothes as many times as is necessary to get them clean (and gives us back the money we left in our pockets!). She told me to come over and hang out since I’m by myself. Bob, the owner of Hole in the Wall, radioed me to tell me he had made a big pot of spaghetti and I was invited to join them for dinner. All this in a cove surrounded by beautiful bluffs and clusters of mangroves. As I maneuvered the dinghy around the shrimper fleet and dugout canoes, kingfishers and herons flitted about, uttering the occasional cranky squawk.

Because the bight is shaped like a hand, the views are radically different as one moves around the “fingers”. Before Allen left, we moved the boat back up into one of the fingers – the same place we anchored when we first came here in December. It’s less exposed to the weather, and thus safer for me – I probably could re-anchor the boat by myself in a big blow, but it would be tricky, since we have no windlass. So now I have a new view – or really, and old favorite one.

That’s not to say it’s totally idyllic here – Jonesville has its fair share of problems. As a small boat passed me today I saw the driver toss and empty beer can and a chips bag into the water. I restrained myself from shouting something to them about it. It’s hard to toe the line between doing the right thing, and not being an obnoxious bossy gringo. A majority of Jonesville’s population is 7th Day Adventist, so they believe the world will soon end. It’s hard to get people motivated about conservation efforts when they really believe that. Makes my work with the Marine Park very interesting. But, I shouldn’t digress any further into politics or religion….I try and avoid such topics on the blog (I know I don’t always succeed in this).

Anyway, I’ve rambled on long enough. Thanks everyone for your support and your comments – they mean more to us than you know. Updates soon. CPC

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

North and South or really Southeast

New happenings. Where to begin? Cora is working with the Marine Park here in Roatan. Going to the local schools and teaching the kids about the coral reef. She is also busting her butt getting sewing projects done so we don't drain the kitty too soon. She is one busy girl.

Last week she had to hitchhike two hours down the island to get to a meeting that didn't happen. But then she had to hitchhike back again to attend the meeting they canceled later in the week. She is quite the island traveler.

I did make her ride in a flatbed full of rocks the other day. It wasn't very fun as they were quite pointy rocks. We were on our way to meet the owner of a Catamaran that was interested in paying the two of us to help deliver his boat to Panama. We were going to take a sail on the boat, but due slow rock trucks and my semi-poor planning we missed him by 30 minutes. oops. We did get to have fried chicken for lunch. That was very Yummy.

But, I did take the job to sail to panama with this owner. I will be Captain (a paid position) and I have hired another friend as the third crew. We leave tentatively on the 8Th and should arrive sometime between the 19 and 23. We probably will be stopping in the Vivarillos island chain (AKA the Hobbies) and then in Isla Providencia. I am hoping for a quicker trip so I can see Cora before she heads back to the states on the 24Th to see a very new baby! She is going to be visiting her best friend and her new baby in L.A. We hope to have a quick meeting before we head our separate ways for another week.

Oh the life of a traveler.

I will try and post from somewhere along the way but as some of you remember from our last journey to Providencia the internet there is spotty at best. The Hobbies only have a few fishing shacks so I doubt that there is any wifi access there.

Cora is bummed that she won't be joining me, I am too cause she is the best crew I have ever had, but she will be holding down the fort on UTE and taking care of our other Roatan business, and of course she is super excited about meeting the new baby. I sure will miss her. This will be the longest we have been apart since leaving on the trip. (Visualize me with my lower lip stuck out here.)

But it is also good cause we can replenish a good chunk of our kitty.