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!

Saturday, April 21, 2007

we each took a turn at the top of the mast today, trying to fix our twisted jib halyard....

working on the new halyard end.....

It’s fun to see the keel of your house floating inches above the seafloor….
Hunting Cay lived up to its name, proving to be the mother lode of conch. As dedicated conservationists we harvested only conchs that were well past reproductive maturity – you can tell the old ones because they’re huge and have a really big “lips” on their shells.

Despite Danny’s Florida heritage he’d never actually caught and prepped a conch himself. He was a natural, though: on his very first conch, he detached the foot from the shell like an expert, then reached in with his bare hand and pulled out the entire critter in one fell swoop. His conch even had the coveted “crystalline style” – a gross gooey clear thing that you’re supposed to want to eat for its aphrodisiac powers. None of the three of us particularly wanted to try it. It looked really nasty. However Danny did try “barking” the conch which is pulling the skin off with your teeth. He made it look pretty easy, but I may just stick with the fillet knife myself.

Speaking of firsts, I made my first attempt at chowder to showcase our fresh shellfish and fresh-caught sierra. Not to toot my own horn, but it was pretty scrumptious. We’ll definitely be making more of that soon. Yum.

Everyone should get a vacation like this at least once in their lives…..days spent snorkeling, playing Jacques Cousteau, futzing with different fishing lures, exploring reefs, slapping on another layer of sunscreen, getting mildly freaked out by sinister-looking rays and barracudas, languidly sipping rum with a perfect tropical sunset as a backdrop.

Post-sunset, it’s time to pore over the sea critter field guides, play rummy, drink more rum, and drift off to sleep at ridiculously early hours as the boat bobs gently at anchor. Most nights we have been able to cook up conch and/or fish caught that afternoon. And, as a bonus for me and Allen, we have Danny here to catch us up on all the latest Bay Area gossip and happenings over the dinner table.

Of course, not every day is like that (just most of them). Today was a work day in Placencia: cut and re-swage the jib halyard, tinker with the transmission (a work in progress on this boat), spend time at the top of the mast re-running a cable.

Belize is as expected- colorful, laid back, friendly, expensive. It was a British colony until 1982, so culturally it feels a lot like, say, Jamaica. Topographically it’s most reminiscent of Bocas del Toro in Panama, but with prettier white sand beaches on nearly every cay in sight.

Our days of lower-latitude idyll are numbered, of course. This year’s hurricane season is widely predicted to hit early, and hard. So safety dictates that we keep our northward momentum instead of spending weeks and weeks in this archipelagos, like we’d like to. So the next couple weeks will probably find us in some combination of rushed passagemaking and island bliss, hoping to make landfall in Isla Mujeres sometime in early May. Time will tell……

Friday, April 20, 2007

Belize it or not, we're here

so we made it to Belize and it's gorgeous...we love it! spent a couple days at Tom Owens Cay, then a night at Hunting Cay, and checked into Placencia today. Having a ball. Belize ir very organized, and with that comes the inevitable sticker shock of U.S.-like prices, but so far that's our only objection.

We're in the process of assessing just HOW paranoid we are about the oncoming hurricane season, which will in turn influence our decisions about how long we spend in Belize, Yucatan, etc. stay tuned. in the meantime, we're living the life.

Having crew on board is wonderful. especially when said crew does stuff like making pancakes and fruit salad while we're underway. we should have thought of this earlier!!

more soon, UTE

Monday, April 16, 2007

Six-legged fun

Yesterday we happily succumbed to the nerd pull of La Ceiba's insect museum. The museum is small, but jam-packed with thousands of outstanding bug and butterfly specimens collected all over Honduras by one guy, Robert Lehman, a schoolteacher from Ohio who has lived in Honduras for years and years.

We oohed and aahed over beautiful butterflies, colorful coleopterans and other wonders of the insect world (we even forayed into other arthropods by playing with a tarantula). My fave part was getting to play with an enormous local beetle who was about the size of a computer mouse. Her legs were astonishingly strong and her exoskeleton delightfully fuzzy!

Robert has dedicated his life to educating the local public about the incredibly diverse insect population in Honduras. It was really neat to hear him speak with such passion about the schoolkids that visit the museum every day. We even had a couple entomologist friends in common in different parts of the Americas!

some other favorite bugs.....

the peanut head bug (yes this is real!)

leaf-mimic bugs....

jewel scarabs....

a hummingbird moth (that long stringy thing is its tongue, so cool)

and a stunning array of the BIG beetles!

outta here / technical difficulties

so we're finally headed for Belize tomorrow morning, probably (we had to wait out a big cold front the last few days).

We're sorry the blog is so screwed up - we 've tried to fix it to no avail - so I guess there'll be no archives or old posts until Blogger helps us out - which could be awhile, unfortunately.

We're headed first for Placencia, Belize, to check in, but we'll probably stop at some cays on the way, so we could be offline for at least a couple days.....

We're so excited to finally experience the islands and reefs of Belize! We plan to spend a total of three to four weeks in Belize, depending on the usual factors: weather, visitor's schedules, Hebe's location, etc. etc.

As always, we'll do our best to update this site whenever we are able!! Cheers, UTE

Sunday, April 15, 2007

another element of the perfect birthday was carrying on our Ute tradition of Birthday Bacon. This means you get a whole plate of bacon delivered to you in bed on your birthday.

Luckily the marina has a big palapa with a full kitchen and bar for guest use: perfect for frying up a couple pounds of pork in the early AM hours. We also made good use of it by throwing a joint birthday party there on Friday night. As if the palapa wasn't good enough, the marina has also won our hearts by delivering cases of beer to the boat at no extra charge.

The prevalence and ease of beer consumption may be a large part of the reason no one remembered to take pictures on Friday night. oh well. Anyway it was fun to reunite with several boats we know from other parts of Honduras and Panama.....
We met a lot of colorful characters at the lodge but our favorite was definitely Pausito, the four-month-old anteater orphan being raised by the lodge staff. Not only we we able to help feed him his bottle full of soy-milk-and-termite smoothie, but we also got to snuggle and play with the curious little fella. We were surprised at how monkey-like he was in the way he used his "hands" and his prehensile tail...but since they live in trees I guess we shouldn't have been surprised at this.

He really enjoyed climbing all over us, and peering into our clothes in hopes of finding termites.

I challenge anyone to watch these videos and tell me a baby anteater is not one of the cutest things around.....

birthdays in paradise

we think we've figured out the elements to a perfect birthday in the tropics. we're happy to pass on the results of our research to you.....

Allen's birthday was experienced in Surprise format. I packed for him Wednesday night and early Thursday morning, we caught a taxi into La Ceiba to meet another ride that would take us to Jungle River Lodge on the beautiful Cangrejal River in the nearby green mountains. I think he had an idea what was up, but he still didn't know for sure.

From start to finish it was a typically Honduran adventure: we had unforgettable, incredibly beautiful and fun times with very warm, fun-loving, highly disorganized folks. There was a lot of waiting around, and the Land Cruiser broke down twice on the way to the lodge. Getting out and pushing was part of the birthday fun.

Upon arrival at the lodge we found the setting even more beautiful than we had imagined.....set right on the banks of a clear, fast-flowing mountains river flanked by water-sculpted boulders and sheer rocky cliffs covered in viney green jungle....perfect for birthday fun!

Allen found out what we were doing just before we piled into another vehicle of dubious performance to be carted upriver to our put-in spot!

What we didn't realize is that the first couple hours of our trip would be spent scampering over giant river boulders and taking death-defying leaps into the river. The guide described this as "training" for the rafting portion. The funny part was we were commanded to wear helmets while walking down the muddy banks to the river, but then we left the helmets (and everything else) in a pile while we trekked upstream to do things US tour operators wouldn't have allowed in the 70's. Sadly we don't have any pictures since we had to leave our camera in the pile of things that might have protected our bodies, but I'll always carry the image of Danny and Allen being yanked straight up the side of a moss-covered cliff by our scrappy adolescent Honduran guides. We were scaling rock faces and jumping from 10, 20, sometimes 30 feet into very narrow passes of rapids. It was insane and A LOT of fun! I chickened out on the highest of the climbs but enjoyed watching my husband survive it with limbs and cranium intact.....

Compared to the "river training" the rafting itself was fairly mild, and super fun. The water was the ideal temperature for lots of accidentally-on-purpose falls into the river, and the scenery was astounding.

I would definitely recommend this adventure to those of you who are sailing this way anytime soon!

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

some shots from the last couple days of sailing....

Goodbye Jonesville...Hello Danny...Goodbye familiar friends and neighbors....Hello beautiful new anchorages....Goodbye sewing...Hello sailing!

and just like that, our time in Roatan was up. We worked hard and played hard during out three months there, and we'll really miss it. Thanks a million to the island folks that made our time there so rewarding and memorable.

We sailed on on Easter Sunday (despite repeated rumors of an impending pig roast - there comes a point when it's just time to leave). Our first sail was not exactly a major passage - we traveled all of 5 miles due east to drop the hook in Port Royal, where we would scrub a couple months' worth of growth off the hull. An unsavory job, to be sure, but good friends and warm turquoise water help a lot.

The buildup of living growth on the hull was...indescribable. The worst we've ever seen. Giant curtains of mossy sponge trailed more than 3 feet off the hull, while full-sized anemones swayed in their shadows. It would have been fascinating had we not been staring at the belly of our boat. We got her cleaned up pretty quick, though (having crew is really a treat!). And if we weren't convinced of the power of a clean hull, we are now: coming into Port Royal, we were going 3 knots with the engine on and both sails up. Leaving the next day in nearly identical conditions, and on the same point of sail, we found ourselves flying along at 6.3 knots with just the jib powering us. Beautiful!

Monday found us daysailing again (also a real treat for us), this time bound for Cayos Cochinos, a small group of islands about 20 miles south of Roatan. After a night tucked into the picturesque harbor at Cochino Grande (and some good snorkeling), we weighed anchor and moved on again. We had planned to explore the Cochinos for a couple days, but we were too excited to get to La Ceiba and take care of business, so we were sort of chomping at the bit.

So Tuesday morning we were bound for La Ceiba on the Honduran mainland. Because there are no anchorages in the La Ceiba area, we're forced to stay in a marina during our time here. We'd be lying if we said this was a hardship; in fact, we're having a ball - the marina is beautiful, safe and clean and a great place to get a lot of stuff done in a short time. Our objectives here are to take care of boat business (fill water tanks, fill diesel, fill propane, check out of Honduras, provision for the next month, make some small repairs, etc.) and to have some major birthday fun (Allen's is tomorrow, mine is Saturday). So far we've been doing a lot of hot, dirty, sweaty boat work, punctuated by frequent swims in the marina pool. We're loving it. Tomorrow there's a mystery birthday adventure planned - more on that later this week!

The plan is to stay here through Saturday, then scoot up to Belize and and get checked in there. We've no idea what sort of internet access we will or won't have for the next month or so, so don't be surprised if we're basically offline for awhile. We'll probably explore Belize for a couple weeks, then cross into Mexico, bound for Isla Mujeres, where we'll wait for a good weather window to make the passage to Key West. Yup, the good ol' U S of A. We'll update this site with our plans as best we can, as things start to come together.....

Thanks friends and family for your comments and support....we'll post more soon. Cheers, UTE

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

fast times in Jonesville

hang onto your hats people.....times they are a changin'. I am back from L.A., Allen has settled in from his Southbound adventure and our buddy Danny shows up today for SIX fun weeks aboard Ute. We're saying goodbyes and wrapping up loose ends here in Roatan in anticipation of our departure on Sunday or Monday of next week (probably). The sewing machine is stowed, along with yards of Sunbrella and lots of other sewing crap. What a relief.

Baby Graham was all I imagined and more....a wonderful little fellow. Thanks Julie and Vanessa for an amazing time. Astonishingly, Julie has somehow found time to put together a charming website with some great photos. Check it out at www.gng.babywindow.com. (Click on Photo Album, then Weeks 2 and 3 to see Aunt Cora bonding with Baby G). What an incredible family.

Allen enjoyed his week on his own aboard Ute although he did have to put out a couple fires..a bolt in our raw water strainer gave up the ghost which led to a sudden influx of sea water into the cabin. For those of you who are not familiar with marine engineering, this is more commonly known as "sinking". There was some urgency to the matter as this happened while Allen had part of our standing rigging detached to rebed some chainplates. But the flow was slowed and eventually stopped, and the offending part replaced. The moral of the story is, wait until your spouse is present to detach any part of your standing rigging.

Well it's off to the airport for us, and hopefully we'll come home up one crewmember.