society of mackinac island old goats
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FALL 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com 1
from the editor
The 2017 Chippewa
delivery crew, from
left: Gail Anderson;
Blue Water Woman
Editor Patti Samar;
Skipper Pam Wall;
and Dee Caimi
Our crew was ready to leave Mackinac Island so I asked the college-aged female marina
attendant to give us a hand as we cast off from the dock.
She walked to the sailboat with me and took a look at our crew.
“Wow! It’s all women! It is all women, right?”
I smiled and nodded. “Yup.”
“That’s awesome! I’ve never seen that! Girl power!”
Twenty-four hours later, as our boat approached the gas dock in Presque Isle following a rough
day on the water – eight to 10 foot waves slowed our progress south – another college-aged female
marina attendant took the dock line from my hand as we sidled up to fill with gas.
“All women?” she asked incredulously, looking at the five of us, all wind-blown and covered up in
foul weather gear.
“Yup,” I said with another smile.
“I’ve never seen that before. Talk about girl power!” (Yes, two dock attendants, almost 100 miles
apart, both said “girl power!”)
Later that evening, as our crew sat in the cockpit, staring at the starriest of skies that can only
be seen in the northern wilderness, our night-capper cocktails in hand, I told my friends about my
brief conversations with the dock attendants. “Why don’t more women sail?” I asked.
I “retired” from serious sailboat racing after the 2013 season, but I still love to jump on a boat
and go out and have fun. For almost 20 years I crewed on various boats – for 12 years with the
same rag-tag crew on a boat called Rum – and I thought it was more fun than anyone could ever
package into 33 feet of fiberglass.
I was the only woman on the crew of that boat and I was fortunate enough to be invited to do
a total of 10 Mackinac races, including a couple of Chicago-to-Mackinac races as well as a Super
Mac, which involved five days of sailing, laughing and having too much fun in 47 feet of close
quarters with 14 of my closest friends – all but one other were men. The only other gal on board
was the boat owner’s 12-year-old daughter.
My friend Pam Wall started racing one-man sailboats and then, later, windsurfers, back in the
late 1970s when her then-boyfriend, now-husband, got her interested in the sport. However, he
didn’t teach her how to sail; she taught herself. Two national windsurfing championships later, she
began sailing on big boats and 25 Mackinac races later, this summer she earned her place in Bell’s
Bayview Mackinac racing history when she became only the 15th woman to become a member
of the Society of Mackinac Island Old Goats, signaling completion of 25 Port Huron to Mackinac
races. Literally hundreds of men have earned a spot in the society.
Why only 15 women?
Throughout the week-long trip home, at every port, someone approached our crew and noted
how “brave” we were. Our own friends here at home commented on our Facebook posts and told
us we were “courageous.”
For what? For jumping on a sailboat without a man?
I appreciated the sentiment behind what our friends were saying as they tried to “congratulate”
us simply for being five women on board a sailboat traversing one of the Great Lakes. But I’ve
done this delivery before following Mackinac races and no one ever told me I was brave. So I’m
suddenly braver because there is no man on board?
Our skipper, Pam, has won more Mackinac races than any man I know and this year, she
skippered her boat to third place in her class.
My point here is this: there is nothing “braver” about doing things without a man.
But, there is fun and laughter in sharing travel experiences with others. And while most of
us travel with our families, there is also something rich and creamy like the most decadent of
chocolates about traveling with your girlfriends. Especially in close quarters on a sailboat. After one
of your friends has become one of the most kick-ass women on the Great Lakes. And you all raise
your night-cappers in a toast to her each night, in every port, just because there is such joy in being
PAmela wall 4
deidre slingerland 6
mary taylor 8
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volume 7, number 3 FALL 2017
Blue Water Woman is published quarterly by The Write Company,
511 La Salle Blvd., Port Huron, MI 48060. Circulation 5,000.
Editor & Publisher:
Patti Samar, owner, The Write Company
Patti Samar at email@example.com
Questions, comments or story ideas?
Contact Patti Samar at firstname.lastname@example.org
Blue Water Woman is the premiere publication
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Its stories and features are written and designed
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2 FALL 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com
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4 FALL 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com
by Patti Samar
Go ahead and call Pam Wall an old goat.
Wall, 63, of Algonac, won’t get upset. Instead, she will likely just
smile her beautiful ear-to-ear smile.
In July, Wall skippered her Tartan 34 sailboat, Chippewa, to a third
place finish in the Bells Bayview Mackinac sailboat race and, upon
crossing the finish line, became only the 15th woman in the history of
the race to complete 25 Port Huron to Mackinac races, thus earning
her a place in the Bayview Yacht Club’s Society of Mackinac Island
Old Goats. Hundreds of men have achieved this recognition.
A native of the city of Detroit, Wall did not begin sailing until she
was in her 20s and was dating her now-husband, Robert.
Though her husband had a lot of sailing by the time the two paired
up, Wall taught herself how to sail on a Hobie 14 catamaran. The
couple traveled around the Midwest racing the boats, which were very
popular in the 1970s and 1980s.
“It was really fun times,” she said. “Their slogan was ‘Live the Hobie
life’ and we did. That was my introduction into sailing.”
She eventually took up competitive windsurfing and ended up
winning two national championships in the women’s division, the first
in 1979 and the second in 1983.
By 1990, the couple was ready to begin sailing big boats together for
a more family-friendly experience so they could take their three kids
along on the water and so they purchased Chippewa.
She has sailed on every Mackinac the boat has sailed since they
“I’ve just been going ever since,” she said.
Did she aspire to become an old goat?
“I didn’t really think about it until last year I was like, ‘Hey, this is
Once the race was completed this year, her husband and family
members surprised her with a party on the west porch of the Grand
Hotel to commemorate the occasion of her “old goat-ness.”
She encourages other women to become involved because it is fun
“I don’t know why women feel they can’t do it,” she said. “They can
do it. Look to other people.”
She did note that it can be more difficult for women to rise through
the ranks on a sailboat crew when compared to men, who can step
foot on a sailboat with no knowledge but their physical strength allows
them to contribute immediately in meaningful ways that women
“I think it’s definitely harder as a woman,” she said. “I think you
have to work twice as hard to prove yourself as a woman on a boat.”
She noted that she has not encountered that issue because she has
always owned her own boat.
“I’m empowered because of a man, really,” she said, noting her coownership
of the boat with her husband. “I was able to be on a boat
without any barriers because I own the boat.”
She noted that some husbands and wives are uncomfortable sailing
together because there tends to be a lot of yelling during a sailboat
“Sometimes you just speak sharply because you mean, ‘Right now!’”
she said with a laugh. “That’s when immediate action needs to be
Wall’s enthusiasm for the sport is unwavering. “I’d live on my
sailboat,” she laughed.
FALL 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com 5
by PATTI SAMAR
Though she didn’t know it at the time, Deidre Slingerland, 33, of Port
Huron, was looking for a home.
When she found it, she knew because her heart told her.
Slingerland, a 2002 graduate of Port Huron Northern, is preparing to
move part way around the globe in order to follow her heart and live in
a place where she feels more at home than she’s ever felt and also allows
her the opportunity to help others in a way that she knows is right.
In the 15 years that have passed since her high school graduation,
Slingerland has attended college – she is one semester short of a
bachelor’s degree in psychology – and tried on a number of different
careers. She worked for several years in the local media at Radio First.
“It was too much of the same thing, over and over,” she said. “How
many times am I going to introduce this song and give the weather?”
She obtained a license as a pharmacy technician, which sent her to
Ann Arbor where she scored a job at the University of Michigan and
then transferred to the Behavioral Center of Michigan, where she
reviewed patient charts, looking for opportunities to change treatment
“I felt like I was contributing to the drug problem and was not part
of the solution,” she said of her work there.
It was during her time there when she stumbled upon an online
challenge. RandomActs.org was looking for people who were willing
to fundraise $5,000 for the opportunity to visit Haiti where volunteers
were needed to continue helping rebuild the country following the
devastating 2010 earthquake.
Slingerland raised the money needed for the project, went to Haiti in
2013 and knew that she had found her calling; she knew helping others
was the key to her own personal fulfillment.
She returned home following her one week trip and began
putting into place an action plan so she could join on with another
RandomActs.org trip. This time, the organization was helping build a
high school in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua.
It was late 2015 when Slingerland made her first trip to Nicaragua
and it was life changing.
“We went down for a week and we hammered some nails,” she said
with a chuckle. “But I wanted to get down there and really get to know
these people and know their story. I wanted to see their project come to
Earlier this year, Slingerland spent six weeks in San Juan del Sur,
again volunteering and helping build the high school. Her heart swelled
with love for the people and the community in spite of the fact that she
doesn’t speak Spanish, although she is learning.
“This project transcends language; this is really lifting people up,” she
said of the school construction. “I was able to take in what was coming
at me and not make it about me anymore. I went down there not sure
I’d be able to do what they needed me to do, but it worked out.
“They are a people who have nothing, but everybody there is alive
with possibility,” she said. “Haiti is the poorest country and Nicaragua
is the second poorest country, but there is something less painful about
their devastation. And I am not ungrateful for what I have here, but
I’ve never fit in around here and I always took pride in the fact that I
don’t fit in around here, and I feel drawn back.
“Everyone smiles while they work and everyone’s dancing. I feel like I
fit in there. That simplicity makes more sense to me.
“There’s something alive in me when I’m there that I didn’t know
Slingerland is returning to Nicaragua in early September and plans
to stay until the end of the year. She is currently fundraising for monies
to help finish construction of the high school. Donations can be made
locally through The Center of Port Huron, 723 Court Street, Port
Huron MI 48060 and should be earmarked for Deidre Slingerland/San
Juan del Sur school. You can follow her blog at: www.gooddeids.com.
6 FALL 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com
A Blog you’ll wAnt to follow
ABout greAt lAkes. greAt Adventure. greAt women.
Reported & Written by Patti Samar
FALL 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com 7
by patti samar
8 FALL 2017 BlueWaterWoman.com
What started as a part-time job became a full-time passion for Mary
Taylor, 57, of Port Huron.
That passion was recently rewarded when Taylor, assistant director of the
Council on Aging of St. Clair County (COA), was named the 2017 recipient
of the Laura Newsome Legacy Award by Sanborn Gratiot Memorial
Home, which is managed by Blue Water Developmental Housing, Inc.
Taylor has worked at the COA for 30 years and has served in a number
of roles during her tenure with the agency. She was honored at the annual
Sanborn Gratiot Memorial Home luncheon held in June.
The legacy award, named for COA retired executive director Laura
Newsome, is presented each year to “an individual or organization residing
within the Blue Water Area of Michigan who, via their professional
affiliation or volunteer efforts, or due to its mission and services, has
improved and enriched the lives of seniors in and around St. Clair County,
“Mary Taylor is dedicated to improving the lives of senior citizens in
our community and we are honored to be able to recognize her many
efforts given over a number decades,” said Kathy Swantek, executive
director of BWDH. “Her passion for serving this population is more than
Taylor said she is humbled by the award. “It has been surreal,” she said,
noting that just a couple of years ago she helped put together the original
award that honored Newsome. “It’s a very humbling experience.
“You don’t do this job looking for accolades,” she said. “You do this job
because you want to make a difference. Coming into this agency and being
able to draw a paycheck for helping people? Not everybody gets to do that.”
During her tenure with the agency, Taylor has been responsible for raising
tens of thousands of dollars to support activities that benefit seniors; she
has coordinated the work between the COA and the Area Agency on Aging
1-B to ensure that all grants are properly reported and audited; she served
as the liaison between the agency and the county emergency management
office; and she serves on the Community Services Coordinating Body,
among other duties.
“It allowed, at times, for me to have my family working with me,” she
said, noting that her husband and two (now-grown) children volunteered
for a variety of projects. “My kids thought everyone made turkey for
Thanksgiving for 400 people,” she said with a laugh.
“But they are very comfortable with senior citizens now, which was a side
benefit. They had a whole bunch of grandmas and grandpas.”
She said keeping seniors connected with their families has been a priority
at the COA. “For a lot of them, their family doesn’t live here anymore so
Skyping or Facebook is important to keep up with family,” she said. “We
have classes on how to use their smart phones and computers.”
Working in human services was not part of Taylor’s original career
plans. In fact, she trained to work very closely with animals. A graduate
of Michigan State University, she majored in public affairs management,
which was a part of the college of agriculture. She has minors in finance
and animal selection and genetics.
After graduation, she ended up working for the American Guernsey
Cattle Club. Taylor had long been involved in 4-H and found working with
genetic testing and engineering in the 1980s fascinating.
“Dolly the sheep had been cloned and we laid down the groundwork for
what would happen with (cattle) embryo transport,” she said. “They were
breeding for specific things, like for more milk output. I never in my life
expected what we had done with cows would happen with people.”
Taylor has also been an active and involved member of the community.
For 35 years she has served as a 4-H leader, has been involved with Knights
of Columbus Daughters, and she has been involved in the Walk Out of the
Darkness event to help prevent suicide.
“I work with youth in my free time and I work with seniors here,” she
said. “I enjoy getting the kids together with the seniors. Anybody who has
the chance to work with today’s youth realizes we aren’t going to be that
bad off. They just need someone who will listen to them.”
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