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, March 11, 2007

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

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