Just before Christmas, Gwyn responded to a post on Women Who Sail from Leslie, a single mom who had a short window without her son at the beginning of January and was looking for a Caribbean sailing experience. We invited her to experience the BVI on Blue Sky if she could get her passport or the USVI otherwise. Inviting a total stranger aboard is not something we would normally do but our Christmas spirit and empathy developed from both of us having been single parents during part of our lives pushed us to take the leap. After Leslie arrived at Soper’s Hole and we established that none of us were ax murderers, we had a wonderful 5 days together. We invited Leslie to write a blog entry of the experience and have included some of her photos courtesy of www.fraserrustics.com. So here it is, starting in Soper’s Hole (or West End of Tortola):
(Leslie) Sailing aboard sv Blue Sky in the BVI over the New Year holiday, with gracious hosts Gwyn and Paul, was a dream come true for a newly-single mom with a mere, but rare, 5 days child-free to recharge my batteries. My hosts took better care of me than I often do myself. Gwyn miraculously whipped up savory dishes each day that stretched my taste buds to new levels with her vegan cuisine. She is a magician in the galley – making preparing meals look easy – even under sail. Each dish was simple, but elegant with delightful textures and flavors. She claims that they often eat from bowls these days. But, that certainly did not diminish anything about our meals in any capacity. In particular, I enjoyed her vegan Jambalaya, black bean burgers, Dal, cole slaw, and home made granola. With the use of a pressure cooker, she also whipped together a potato salad that rivaled most that I had ever tasted. I told her that she needs to publish a cook book for sailors.
Our days began with a cup or three of flavorful coffees, which changed daily, from Paul’s collection of tasty beans, freshly ground each morning and served from a french press carafe. Not a breakfast person, I tended to have my breakfast late, after a dip in the warm, turquoise waters of the BVI. Next I was offered my options of the day: long sail or short sail? Snorkeling, hiking, beach? While my time aboard was relatively short, in island time – as there is so very much to see and do – I felt like we squeezed so much into my 5 days there.
We snorkeled at the caves at Norman Island, “stern-tied” at Peter Island, enjoyed mimosas, paddle boarded, kayaked, and had a spectacular 5 hour sail, tacking against the wind all the way to Virgin Gorda’s North Sound.
We then dinghied to Saba Rock, where we enjoyed a couple of their signature “Painkiller” cocktails topped with fresh nutmeg in the setting sun. There we also witnessed the nightly feeding of the tarpons.
We also watched some crazy para-sail boarders doing tricks in and out of the water (not sure what that is really called [P – kiteboarding or kitesurfing if in waves]- but it was a sight to behold.) I captured quite a few action shots on my Canon. One, in particular that really blew my sock off was when a boarder jumped over a dinghy with two passengers, who looked as amazed as we did, from the looks captured on their faces as they also photographed the stunt overhead.
We hiked the trails at Virgin Gorda which offered amazing views of the ocean from the exclusive resort at the top of the island. (The resort name escapes me [P – Biras Creek Resort]) [P – and there were also many beautiful ships in North Sound]
The only damper to my trip was a severe allergy attack that swelled my face and eyes almost closed. Surely a result of all of the blooming flowers that I stopped to enjoy along our hike in Virgin Gorda. Their sweet pup, Charlie, took a shine to me, and to prove it provided many kisses, some of which landed inside my nose! Which, along with the allergies, snorkeling and sun, probably didn’t help my sinus condition. But, I was not about to let any of that ruin my fun – so a little allergy medicine (that Paul happened to have on board) and some ice packs to reduce my puffy eyes, and we were off to the next destination – Cane Garden Bay on the North side of Tortola.
We took our time one day, bopping around the shops in Cane Garden to pick up more gifts to bring home to family and friends, visited a glass artist who recycles bottles from the island for his art, and had a little quiet time on the beach, before heading back to the boat for our next adventure. When we returned to the boat, there was a rather large fish that had taken a liking to our hulls and didn’t want to leave. We captured a few photos of it – unsure exactly what it was – but we thought that it might have been a barracuda. I was hot and dusty from being ashore and desperately needed a dip in the water, but stayed on the ladder – to be ‘safe’. Later, upon inspection of the photos, Paul identified it as a barracuda, based on it’s front fins – top and bottom, one above the other. So, yes, I swam – sort of – with a barracuda. Crazy.
Paul came through on his promise to let me sail the boat to our next destination, Jost Van Dyke, which was an adventure in itself. I learned to read, follow and use his various digital instruments and navigation system and now – after seeing how heavy the boat was, I appreciate the need for autopilot! A Lagoon 420 does NOT respond as quickly as other boats that I have sailed, and man those sails are heavy! I insisted I try to haul them up by hand – poopooing the electric winches. Silly me! Pretty much impossible. Anyway, we made it without my sailing the boat into an island or a reef, much to Gwyn’s relief, and we carefully squeezed our way into the cozy harbor on Jost Van Dyke and dropped anchor. This particular cove/harbor is home to the famous “Soggy Dollar Bar”, where one must swim ashore for one’s drinks.
The Soggy Dollar was a new destination for my hosts as well. I brought them out of their usual routine with my request to go there based on recommendations from friends, and they also seemed to enjoy the people watching at this crazy place. Little Charlie, suited up with his life preserver, also made the swim safely ashore with us, with only one stop at a neighboring boat where he did a straight shot to their swim ladder and was hauled out of the water for a quick breather before swimming the rest of the way ashore. Later that evening, after yet another tasty and nutritious meal and a cocktail, I twisted Paul’s arm to join me ashore for one last drink at the bar for my last night while Gwyn kept the boat safe and watched the rest of the movie “Sideways” which I had brought for them. Upon arrival at the bar, much to my surprise, the bar keep plopped two large cups of ice, a giant jug of rum and a giant jug of mixer in front of us when we ordered our Painkillers. “You make them. That way they are not too weak, and not too strong.” Next came the fresh nutmeg and grinder to top it off. Wow! Best 19 bucks I have ever spent!
The final joy of my stay was yet to come. Upon returning to the boat, Gwyn informed us that the anchor had dragged a considerable distance and the neighboring yacht owners had been coming on deck regularly to inspect the possibility of disaster. A decision was discussed. Re-anchor and head out early, or moonlight sail? Well…. a full moon sail [P – close hauled in 20 kts wind], only ones on the water, full wind in both sails, no engine, sitting on the bow with a glass of tasty red in my hand was the cherry atop the most marvelous journey that I can remember. Tears poured down my checks, and my throat tightened with joy as I drank in the beauty of the moonlight on the waves, the feel of the boat dipping and rising with the swell, and the spay of the ocean upon my face. I thought I had died and gone to heaven. For surely, this live-aboard life IS heaven upon our earth.
Thus came the end to my travels, with gracious and kind hosts, Gwyn, Paul and Charlie, with promises to reconnect when they sail to my usual sailing destination of Maine. I feel I have made friends for life, and will cherish the memories, laughs, shared stories and photos of my trip for a lifetime. My enormous leap of faith paid off. Dreams do come true, if you only ask.