Womens Roundtable


By Lisa Targal Favors

With approximately 40 female members in attendance at the Women’s Roundtable session (during the MTOA 2012 Southern Rendezvous in Fernandina Beach, Florida), I looked forward to a little lighthearted bonding with some of my female counterparts who were assembling in the meeting room. As the appointed time approached, the chatter died down, attention quickly moved to the front of the room as the moderator, Sue Wingginton called the session to order. I guess I could safely state that female cruisers have some unique concerns about their boating lifestyle, ones their male counterparts do not share, thus the need for a “Women Only” session during this four-day MTOA rendezvous. Whether it was safety or emotional concerns, women were ready with their questions and prepared to share information.

Women’s Roundtable heats up at the MTOA 2012 Southern Rendezvous in Fernandina Beach, Florida.

If you are a regular reader of our BoatU.S. Cruising Logs, you may already know that we belong to several boating clubs. Two of those clubs, MTOA and AGLCA, regularly schedule women’s sessions because the need is substantial within these large boating communities. AGLCA provides a women’s session during their spring and fall rendezvous. I usually try to attend these sessions as I have a keen interest in what I might learn on both sides of the fence. Some of the questions and concerns I’ve heard before and often, especially while gathering stories for our book, Women On Board Cruising, they seem to be recurring topics, unique to women boaters.

On this day, the program started slowly, with a few sobering accounts of actual medical emergencies or safety situations. These were quickly followed by remedies, solutions and suggestions by either the story teller or another member as to how each solved a similar problem.

Karen Siegel, of Active Captain, talked about how to handle a medical emergency on board while at dock. She suggested that five horn blasts would get a lot of attention when docked in a marina. The horn noise would alert people nearby to the distress on your boat. Her second suggestion was to use the VHF radio, as neighboring boaters might monitor their radios even at dock. If all this failed to raise someone nearby, she’d suggest using a cell phone and dialing 911 for local emergency response. Karen said not to forget to gather location address and slip number before calling to give to the operator (this info might be on the receipt you received at the marina when you checked in. In 2011 we attended the PNW MTOA Fall Rendezvous and a similar conversation was addressed during an open session about medical emergencies out on the water. It seemed the consensus was to use a MAYDAY call on the VHF radio first in order to reach either the Coast Guard or those within immediate reach of your vessel, using the phone after that to get help if still needed.

Karen also suggested making a laminated card with emergency medical specific information or procedures, like CPR instructions, that would be kept in a handy, easy to get to, place.

Next we discussed different methods of deterring intruders on our boats. Not many boaters like to carry guns on board. Possessing a firearm can be a major problem if you want to visit Canada, so the women shared their weapons of choice which included: bear or hornet spray, door alarm or one of the most creative methods I’ve heard to date… placing tacks, point side up, on the deck where an intruder might board. Guess you’d have to remember to remove those in the morning.

Sometimes you just want a good, reliable, and quick source to ask a question when a need arises while cruising, so we discussed the value of the MTOA List Serve (an online forum for members only). All you need to do is sign on and ask your question and you can be sure someone will answer in short order. In addition to the List Serve, the MTOA Port Captain Program (members who are ready and willing to provide assistance and advice to any member traveling in their area), is a valuable resource when needing local knowledge.

One woman, just starting out on her first long boat trip, asked the question about how she could stay in touch with her parents while gone for long periods. Communication methods have improved greatly during my seven years of long-distance boating. I remember leaving Charlevoix for our first Great Loop boat trip in 2005 and I was still trying to figure out how to use the Wi-Fi feature on our new laptop and how to find a workable signal. Now the options to communicate with family, friends or run or do business while traveling are almost too numerous to mention. Skype has been around for a while, now many people have Facetime on their phones. There are also many mapping programs or apps, such as the new DeLorme inReach hand-held tracking device (which also is a two-way SOS emergency response system), another is the Spot Personal Tracker. These devices will show or even track your location so that interested parties can keep an eye on your progress, whereabouts, and safety.

The Delorme inReach provides an easy way to stay connected with two-way satellite text messaging, SOS alerting, Follow-Me tracking/Find-Me locating. An easy way to provide tracking for your family and friends while you are long-distance cruising.

Some of the more emotional concerns revolve around leaving one or more family members behind while you follow your dream of cruising. It can be because of offspring who don’t understand, or the guilt of leaving aging parents to fend for themselves while gone for long periods. One woman shared a distressing situation with one of her daughters, who was very upset with her for leaving, had begun to withhold grandchildren time from this woman to get her to cancel her trip. The woman was visibly upset at these circumstances, which apparently surprised even her. You can just imagine the support she received at this meeting; not only good advice about sticking to her guns, but how she might include her daughter in some way…. so she would find some understanding and acceptance.

Another safety measure discussed during the session was the ditch bag (a bag prepared ahead of time with abandon ship items). Many suggested having it ready the night before. MTOA has lots of information about ditch bags and what they should include in their online forum (you have to be a MTOA member to access). One good suggestion was to include a battery operated, handheld radio in the bag. Another important note shared was to remember that coolers float and may be something valuable to hang onto if all else fails.

One really good suggestion for women concerned about cruising in bad weather was to check weather buoys before going out. BouyData and NOAA are good resources for this. Set your own limits on the wind, waves, and stormy weather you are comfortable cruising in – set them and stick to them. Another suggestion was to scrap plans to go out if the weather is bad and enjoy a good book at dock or anchor. A more creative suggestion was to entice the captain with a little “amorous liaison” as a diversion from the, “We have to go rain or shine, wind or waves” mentality. It was mentioned that perhaps our male partners actually like us to take this initiative, to insist we stay at dock. By doing this they won’t look bad in the eyes of other captains and, in essence, we can help save them from themselves – and ourselves in the process. Overall it’s a good practice to set up a few “rules of engagement” early on in your crew’s cruising discussions. Better to know each other’s limits ahead of time and agree or at least compromise to set limits before a situation arises and you are headed into something that might turn you against boating with your crewmate forever.

Sue, the moderator, brought up the subject of first-time women boaters taking a Power Squadron class, to jump-start the learning curve. In addition, there are woman-focused courses through Sea Sense or a course taught by Wendy Young, a personal boat trainer who was in attendance at this roundtable.

Jim and I have a laminated card with our boat’s information. On the card, we list things such as height (with mast up and with mast down), width, and draft for use when approaching a bridge or marina. We keep this handy just in case we have a brain fart or are about to mistakenly use or give old information from a prior boat.

No Women’s Roundtable would be complete without a review of the MOB (man overboard) drill. It was strongly urged that women not familiar with the MOB GPS feature or radio operation learn the steps and practice the drill with their captain.

Lastly, a few tips on food preparation and provisioning in general. Don’t be at a loss with limited space and appliance functions. Women before us have a lot to share on almost any galley concern. We found out during the session that there are several provisioning lists to be found on the MTOA List Serve (must be an MTOA member to view). I also like this website, The Boat Galley, it has lots of useful information to get the most out of food storage and preparation on board.

On our second Great Loop boat trip, during a forced layover, due to flooding on the Illinois River, on the free wall in Joliet, Illinois a new acquaintance, Linda, on Shore Thing, shared this amazing recipe which was a big hit at cocktail hour on the dock. Jim and I can now only eat saltine crackers prepared this way.

Fire Crackers
  • 1 lb unsalted saltine crackers (4 sleeves)
  • 1-cup canola oil
  • 1 (1 ounce) packet ranch dressing mix
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder (optional)


  • Mix oil, dressing, red pepper, and garlic powder in bowl.
  • Stir till mixed well and not settled on the bottom.
  • Pour mix evenly over crackers
  • Close lid tightly, flip container over every 5 min. for 20 min.
  • Lightly shake back and forth to coat all crackers.
  • Store in a sealed container or Ziploc bag.

Servings: 24

Will keep for about a week – if they last that long!

Firecrackers were a popular snack item during cocktail hour on our second Great Loop trip in 2008 when we were docked at the free wall on the Illinois River in Joliet, Illinois.

The more recent onboard food buzz lately, and timely mentioned at the Women’s Roundtable, has got to be the 3-2-1 Cake, a microwavable cake that’s fits perfectly with our boating lifestyle; easy to make and clean up.

3-2-1 Cake

This recipe is called 3-2-1 Cake because all you need to remember is:

"3 TBLS mix, 2 TBLS water, 1 minute in the microwave!"


Mix together in a gallon zip-lock bag:

  • 1 box Duncan Hines Angel Food Cake Mix

Just remember that one of the above mixes has to be the angel food mix (the cake mix that has the eggs whites in it); the other is your choice (Red Velvet, Chocolate, Spice, Banana, Strawberry, Lemon etc. use your imagination on the mixes.)

Mix together and pour into a microwave safe container like a ramekin or other small baking dish or paper bowl:

  • 3 tablespoons cake mix
  • 2 tablespoons water

Microwave high for 1 minute.

Makes 1 serving

Let rest for 15 minutes and serve with fruit, whipped cream or other toppings. Be creative.

Keep remaining cake mixture stored in the sealed Ziploc bag for future use. Does not need refrigeration.

Enjoy 3-2-1 voila!