Living Life Aborad at Trawler Speed

Soaking Up Life From the Water

Written by Ellen Honey

Live-aboard boater Betty Robinson describes her current lifestyle of meeting new people, traveling to new places and having new adventures in six words, “soaking up life from the water.” It’s a wonderful if unexpected thing that this woman, who says she is outdoorsy and not a homebody, would be found fully living life on LiLi, her home, a 48-foot Kadey-Krogen North Sea.

Betty portrays her early boating experiences in New England and the Jersey Shore waters as “not very serious.” During her extended career in the information technology world — 30 years at Johnson & Johnson, and then the next 15 years in IT for a variety of other businesses — weekend boating was a very social, marina-bound event. Her dock-centric lifestyle continued after she became single, and she says that when she took out the cabin cruiser she “never strayed far from the slip.” But somewhere along the way, she began to think about spending more time on the water.

Following an early retirement, Betty expanded the idea from just owning a boat into exploring the concept of living aboard. She asked herself, “What’s the worst that can happen?” Friends who had graduated into a variety of yachts brought her to a series of boat shows, and after three years of intensive research, she decided on a Kadey-Krogen. Betty’s passion for LiLi is reflected in her voice when she relates, for anyone, the transition to living aboard is filled with opportunities and challenges. Two major considerations are boat manufacturer’s post-purchase assistance and whether you possess the skills and confidence needed to handle a new vessel. 

Betty has been more than satisfied with Kadey-Krogen’s support throughout the purchase process. She spent as much time as she felt she needed with the commissioning staff, learning every detail of the boat. She is comfortable knowing she can call Kadey-Krogen at any time for its expertise and advice. Part of the Kadey-Krogen culture is ensuring that its buyers’ experiences be success stories, and it most certainly has one with Robinson.

Betty addressed ownership of LiLi as she would a new career, and she acknowledges that she probably would not have been able to do it if she were still working. Retirement changed Robinson’s casual water lifestyle to a “much more serious, disciplined existence.” Her early days were devoted to training, not just book learning for navigation and safety, but also hands-on experience with diagnostics, managing the engine room and dealing with hostile weather. She hired teaching captains to provide her with one-on-one instruction about her vessel. Although she has her 100-ton captain’s license, she still takes advantage of training seminars and hires captains for the legs of certain journeys to help increase her skills. 

These days, more and more women are purchasing boats or initiating these endeavors with their spouses. Betty has excellent advice for those women: instead of thinking in gender terms, think about receiving novice vs. expert instruction. Professional, low-stress training at a comfortable pace is critical, she claims. Find yourself a skilled instructor and take as much time as you need to feel capable and confident at the helm.

Heading out in the wide-open waters with unskilled operators and no lane markers requires extensive preparation to remain competent and confident and to make boating more enjoyable. some things, like the weather, cannot be controlled. Capt. Robinson has had a “storm or two tug at her nerves,” she says, which has made her careful enough to “go when it’s safe.”

Living aboard requires a different orientation than a land-based existence. The lifestyle makes visiting with family, staying in touch with friends and finding annual medical and dental care a challenge. Betty’s answer to those issues is to go electronic, which she has done quite successfully.

One of the few downsides to living alone on a yacht is the need for crew members. Finding crew is not hard, but making sure they are competent and then determining whether you want to live with them for even one leg of a cruise itinerary is more difficult. For a more extensive journey, it’s wise to have a co-captain. Juggling schedules is never an easy task, but when everything falls in place, it’s grand adventures ahead.

Betty and her various crew members travel the East Coast, from Rhode Island to the Florida Keys. Summers are spent exploring Newport and Long Island in the Northeast or wandering the Chesapeake Bay waters from her summer season homeport of Annapolis, Md. The trips along the coast are never rushed, allowing the crew to enjoy the coastline from the yachter’s perspective. normally LiLi is based for the winter at the Marathon Marina & Boatyard in the Florida Keys, but Capt. Robinson and crew have also managed to take extended cruises to the Bahamas and Turks and Caicos.

Living life at trawler speed provides ample opportunity to enjoy time in port, and Betty thrives on exploring spots along the way. She loves running across arts festivals, visiting local museums and just soaking up the unique local flavors of each location. And she enjoys not just the sense of community in the yachting world, but also its camaraderie, and she expresses enthusiasm about meeting new people and running into familiar faces. Recently Capt. Betty and her crew were tied up in St. Simons Island, Ga., having a great time and eagerly anticipating exploring Cumberland Island with its isolated beauty and abundant wildlife. The trip Betty is most hoping will materialize is a group cruise to Cuba. She wants to “dance in Havana wearing a long flowered skirt with a parrot on it.” Given her history of determination and preparation, no doubt it will happen.

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