New Year, New Experiences

In follow-up to our recent guest blogger’s blog, I thought I should add my take on the experience of having a mystery guest aboard. I’ll begin with the night of Leslie’s arrival, New Year’s Eve. I was excited to have a guest on board, even someone I’d never met, but felt at ease with through the Women Who Sail site and our Facebook chats and emails. We rarely have guests, and I was feeling a little melancholy when hearing our cruising friends boast about their numerous guests scheduled to visit during the season. Knowing the chances of family coming for a visit this season was unlikely, it was this nagging need of mine that inspired me to ask Paul if we could say yes to Leslie’s request for a sailing adventure during her break from daily mothering. I responded to her on Facebook and the following morning she’d booked her flight.

With that we cleaned up the guest room. Paul removed all his tools and I readied the bed, cleaned the head and put out our new guest towels. I love the look of our guest room when it is ready and awaiting a guest.

Leslie arrived on New Year’s Eve around 7pm. I had made chili and rice, knowing that she’d be hungry after her travels. We then enjoyed a few cocktails as we got to know each other better. Fast forward a few hours and Leslie is asking, “can we swim?” I’m thinking, it’s dark, we don’t swim in the dark. But anyone who knows Leslie, knows she can be convincing and she got both Paul and I to swim with her. Yes, I was nervous stepping into that dark water, and I only swam to the bow of the boat and back, but I did it. I stepped away from my fear and went for it. Would I do it again, probably not, but I’ve done it and it was exhilarating.

Shortly after our swim, Leslie retired for a rest in the hopes she’d wake back up for midnight. Travel has a way of wearing you out. She slept straight through to the next morning. Paul and I enjoyed the movie ‘Almost Famous’ on the computer, which Leslie kindly brought along with her. We made it to midnight and then also retired for the night.

Speaking of bringing things, you’ll find if you are ever visiting a cruiser, you’ll likely be asked to bring something with you from the mainland. I asked her to bring a few movies along and some onion powder. Yes, I have trouble finding certain spices and this was one I didn’t think I’d run out of so didn’t have a second one on hand when I ran out.

Since Leslie explained in her blog the places we went, I’ll focus on my joy in having a guest on board. First, I’ve found since cruising that I really do enjoy cooking and have found many recipes that I like making and sharing. Leslie did tell me she wasn’t a fan of curry so she missed out on 2 of my very favorite recipes, but I had plenty of other recipes to cook up. She asked for a few recipes, and rather than write them out for her and for others who’ve asked in the past, I have since had Paul set up a recipe tab on the blog, so I can now share these as I go along. So for Leslie, fellow cruisers, and friends on shore who want to try a few new recipes, feel free to try some of those I post and let me know what you think.

Back to the joy of having Leslie aboard, it’s like I’ve known her all my life. Strange as that sounds, she was a lot of fun. Her enthusiasm for sailing and being here was pure joy. It made us feel good, but it also reminded us of how lucky we are, to be floating about, exploring places, and experiencing things like night sailing. Leslie showed us our life through her eyes and that was a gift.

That night sail was one of the best sails we’d ever experienced on this boat. I remember back to the days when this was just a dream and night sailing was a fear of mine. That last night sail was so far from being fearful and I now wonder what all my fussing and fear was about. Just another of those tricks my mind plays with me.

We went places we normally wouldn’t have gone (Soggy Dollar Bar), did things we normally wouldn’t have done (swim at night, swim ashore), and made a new friend out of pure faith. From the bottom of my heart, I’m so grateful for the Women Who Sail site, for Margaret who invited me to join the site about 1 year ago, and for Leslie for putting it out there and asking if anyone would be willing, for my wonderful husband who said sure, let’s go for it, and lastly for Leslie, bravely coming into unknown waters with us and inspiring us to step out of our norm and see this wonderful life through her eyes.

After spending 5 days doing as much as possible for our guest, P and I needed some down time. This means, let’s go somewhere, drop the hook and not move for a bit. We headed to Beneurs Bay on Norman Island. Here we sat for 8 days and nights. We got ourselves into some yoga, snorkeling, swimming, making water, reading, taking Charlie ashore, taking hikes over the island to the Bight, and star gazing. This is how our days are when we are just us.

The hike from Benures Bay to the Bight:

[Paul] And some fish from the snorkeling.  What is missing is an amazing encounter with a peacock flounder.  I didn’t have my camera but pictures on the internet are great.  I was watching some fish on the bottom when suddenly the flounder appeared out of nowhere and grabbed something, startling me.  It turned a brilliant purple, swam along for a little ways then settled into the sand and if by magic turned into a textured version of the sand barely visible – purple gone.  And once you turn your head away, you couldn’t find it again.  Who knows how many flounders I have seen while thinking I was looking at sand and this was in about 12 feet of water.

[Gwyn] We also spend time trying to get on the internet and update the blog. This can be a long slog in the islands when the internet seems best only in the very early morning hours or the very late evening hours. Everything in between is a slog that we’ve resigned ourselves to. Our friends from Chill joined us in the bay after their return from Christmas in the US. We’ve since followed them back over to North Sound where we are now as I write this.

It’s been a wonderful start to 2015. I look forward to stepping onto new islands this season and having more visitors. For now we are readying ourselves to make a passage to St Martin/Sint Maarten, weather permitting, we hope to leave the afternoon of Monday the 19th of January.

[Paul]  Just recently received some more photos from Leslie that had gotten missed in the first post.  As Leslie explained in her post, on Jan 3 she and Gwyn took a hike from Bitter End to Byras creek and back after which we sailed from North Sound through Trellis bay to Cane Garden Bay then explored ashore that evening and the next AM before sailing to Jost (photos are in chronological order).  Be sure to click the photo for a larger lightbox presentation that you can then cycle through.


Mystery guest to start 2015

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  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.

Leslie off to Charlotte Amalie and home.  It was great having you!
Leslie off to Charlotte Amalie and home. It was great having you!


This dish can be prepared in one pot. On the boat we like to use the pressure to reduce our cooking time.


2 TBSP olive oil
1 package (8 oz.) vegan sausage links, cut into ¼” slices
1 yellow onion, peeled and chopped
1 green bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup jasmine rice
2 (14 oz) cans diced tomatoes, including juice
1 ½ cups home cooked dark red kidney beans, or 1 (15 oz) can drained and rinsed
1 (4 oz) can chopped green chilies, hot or mild, drained
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tsp dried marjoram
½ tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
Tobasco sauce (to taste) – at least 5 drops


  • In a large, deep pan, heat 1 TBSP oil over medium heat, add the vegan sausage and cook until browned, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Remove from pot and set aside.
  • Use the same pot, heat remaining 1 TBSP olive oil, add the onion, bell pepper, celery and garlic. Cover and cook until softened, about 7 minutes.
  • Stir in the rice, tomatoes, beans, chilies, broth, marjoram, oregano, salt, pepper, tabasco and the cooked vegan sausage and mix well.
  • Cover tightly and cook on low heat until the rice and vegetables are tender, about 1 hour (or 20 minutes in a pressure cooker, letting the tab release naturally).
  • Serve hot.


Hummus is a staple for us.  Love it as a dip with pita and all sorts of veggies.  It is something that can be made to your own taste. We like ours lemony, so we often add more lemon if it’s available. You can also substitute cilantro  for the parsley if you like.


2 cups home cooked chickpeas or 2 (15 oz)cans,  drained and rinsed
1-2 cloves garlic, minced
3-4 TBSP tahini
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp ground corriander
Juice of 2 lemons
1 cup chopped parsley
3-4 TBSP olive oil
Sea salt to taste
Dash of cayenne (optional, if you like a little more zip)
Paprika for garnish


  • In a food processor puree all ingredients until, smooth and creamy
  • The more olive oil you add, the creamier it will be
  • Top with paprika, chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour prior to serving to allow flavors to blend.


Yummy vegan cookies.  Be warned, these won’t last long. We had a guest one night who enjoyed them so much, he ate nearly a whole plate full.

Makes about 16 cookies


2 Ripe mashed bananas
½ cup unsweetened applesauce (or 1 snack size containers worth)
2 tsp vanilla
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup flour
1 ½ tsp baking powder
1 dash salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp nutmeg
½ cup raisins
½ cup dark semi-sweet chocolate chips (Ghirardelli brand are apparently naturally vegan)
¾ cup old fashioned oats


  • Preheat oven to 350  F
  • Blend the first 4 ingredients with an emulsifier or blender
  • Mix all dry ingredients in a medium sized bowl
  • Stir wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and mix well
  • Bake for 20-30 minutes until browned