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Participants say the formula works. If there are no men in the room, the women feel sufficiently liberated to ask ANY questions about the cruising lifestyle.

(Anne Bonney and Mary Read (above) were ahead of their times. Both were notorious pirates of the Caribbean in the 18th Century. Our panel is not quite as ferocious.)

Each woman on the TrawlerFest-Baltimore panel has been cruising for years, and each has had distinctly different experiences. This makes for lively discussions, or so I've been told.

Womens Group

Alyse Caldwell and her husband Chris are the longest-standing TrawlerFest instructors in the program. Both hold 100-ton Masters from the Coast Guard and operate a trawler training business called Captain Chris Yacht Services. She is also a registered nurse.

Becky Fickett is a licensed Coast Guard captain and participant in the family boatbuilding business. Mirage Manufacturing of Gainesville, Florida, builds the Great Harbor and TT35 lines of cruising powercraft. She and husband Ken Fickett have cruised and delivered boats up and down the East Coast and down island. She fishes, too.

Jill Sechez and her husband Rudy have been low-tech liveaboard cruisers for more than two decades, having built their own boats from ordinary lumber. They now range up and down the East Coast and through the Bahamas aboard Briney Bug, a 34 foot “sail assisted trawler.” She and her husband co-authored their tell-all classic “Anchoring: The Ground Tackler’s Apprentice.” They also conduct individual training lessons for new and prospective cruisers.

Mary Ann DeGraw started her boating career as an adult. After obtaining her USCG (100-ton) license she spent 30 years teaching boating skills, much of it in the Mediterranean--Greece, Turkey, Italy and Croatia. During the winters she worked the Islands mostly in the Caribbean but as far away as New Zealand. These international trips were learning experiences for both teacher and students. Exploring the world by water and sharing skills with students provided the greatest pleasure.

Priscilla Travis has been a boat-owner for 40 years, and in that time she has cruised some 105,000 nm along the east Coast of North America and in northwest Europe. She holds a U.S. Coast Guard 100-ton Master's license and has taught sailing and cruising to adults. Her experiences cruising and teaching motivated her to write The Mariner's Guide to Nautical Information, published in 2011.