Featured Liveaboard – Kim with Blue Turtle Trawler

1. When did you first have the thought… ” I could live on a boat?” Because while it is gaining in popularity… it’s still a very out of the box way to live. 

I was lucky because my parents were living aboard at the time and that put the thought in my head. After so many weekend trios and vacations to Keys to scuba dive aboard my parents’ boat, my husband and I decided that we wanted to look for a boat that we could stay on for weekend trips and vacations. We owned a flats boat at the time but felt we were missing out on being able to raft up with friends or anchor out on these weekend excursions. Once we started looking at boats we quickly realized that we probably wouldn’t be able to afford our house and a boat like that. That’s when I threw out the idea that we could just live on it like my parents were doing at the time. I think it surprised my husband that I was willing to try this lifestyle so we could enjoy being where we love…the water.

2. What struggles have you had as a liveaboard and how have you over come them. Maybe a couple examples? 

I think our biggest struggles were when we first purchased our trawler. We were complete novices and there was such a steep learning curve to understand how all the systems worked. We were popping breakers right and left and as soon as we fixed one issue another one would pop up. It was very overwhelming at first and so we just dove right in and tackled each issue one at a time. My husband has spent hours in the engine room learning to diagnose and repair issues and he does all the maintenance now which is a stretch from where we started 6 years ago not knowing anything at all.

Also, we bought a 40-year-old boat that needed a lot of fixing up. I think the first 2 years were spent remodeling areas, fixing things and making the boat not only comfortable for living on, but cruising-worthy as well. We still joke about how after 1 year into living aboard we returned from a weekend on hook and celebrated that nothing broke that trip.

3. What have you compromised to be a liveaboard? (if anything)

Regularly flushing toilets, LOL! No really, I think we all compromise some sort of luxury item or appliance. For me, I’ve compromised the things most people who live on land don’t even think about such as long hot showers, the use of a dishwasher, being able to throw in a load of laundry while cooking dinner. These are things I can live without and sacrifice in order to live the lifestyle and have the amazing views.

I think for many, space is also an issue. It really hasn’t been much of an issue for us since we lived minimally before moving on the boat. Winters here in southwest Florida are wonderful for living aboard because you leave all the hatches and windows open and you gain deck space in addition to the interior space. Summers can get a little claustrophobic because it’s so hot we have covers on our windows and everything is closed up sort of like living in a dark cave.

4. What do your friends think about your lifestyle and what do they most often ask about?

Most our friends are live aboard these days! Our friends from before living aboard were supportive. It’s usually the new people we meet that have the most questions about our lifestyle. Several people have asked us how our son goes to school, how does our dog go potty and do we have electricity. Many folks think we are anchored in some desolate locale and it doesn’t register to them that we stay in a marina and that our son goes to school just like other kids and that we simply walk our dog down the dock to the grass.

I do get asked by women how I can manage with such small space. Like where do all my shoes and clothes go? It’s definitely not for everyone. Thankfully, I work from the boat so my work wardrobe is basically the exact same as my regular personal wardrobe. That definitely makes things simpler with living aboard.

5. What does your family say about the lifestyle?

Obviously, with my parents already living aboard, they were thrilled to be able to share the experience. Randy’s father had a lifelong dream of living aboard so he was excited as well. A year after we got our boat, his father purchased one and lived aboard a few years as well. It was really cool that at one point we had both our parents living aboard in the same area. My sister, of course, has been completely supportive and we’ve had many adventures with her and my nephews aboard Blue Turtle.

6. There is a misconception about liveaboards as I’ve learned… that they are scallawag, drunks who never leave the dock and grow beards and hardly bathe. HaHa… What do you think is the new liveaboard lifestyle about these days? 

I think there are definitely different types of liveaboards and folks do seem to lump us all in the same category. We have off-grid liveaboards here in southwest Florida that live on derelict boats and anchor out on the water. We jokingly call them “pirates” because they do have the bearded, unbathed look to them. I think people tend to think of that when we say we’re liveaboards. I think there are many people who are looking to liveaboard as a means to simplify their lives. You learn to live with less and get more out of life through the adventures you have and the people you meet.

7. Tell me about your vessel and why you chose it? 

Blue Turtle is a 1974 40′ DeFever Passagemaker. She is a register antique and is actually 1 year older than Randy. The trawler has a fiberglass hull, that according to our surveyor, “could break glaciers in the arctic”. While some DeFever Passagemakers were manufactured in Taiwan, ours was built by Jensen Marine in California. She’s a single screw with a 185hp Perkins diesel engine and she has bow and stern thrusters. We believe she still has the original Onan generator which actually runs fine, though a little noisy.

I’m not sure that we chose her, I think she chose us. After looking at quite a number of boats in our price range we were beginning to get discouraged. Randy had driven to Longboat Key to take a look at her and called me to say that I needed to take a look at this boat. I fell in love at first sight. She has a very classic trawler look to her and I loved the interior layout of the boat. We liked that the 2 sleeping cabins were separated by the main salon. Which gave both us and our son some privacy by not being right next to each other. Randy loved that the boat had a single engine and a bow thruster. The single engine turned out to be an excellent decision for us because Randy was able to focus and learn about caring for just one engine rather than being overwhelmed by two. Our boat definitely needed a lot of work because of her age but we looked through that and saw good bones, good engines and a sound hull. We’ve lived aboard her for over 6 years and it’s like she’s part of the family.

8. Anything to add the story that people should know about you and your liveaboard story?

I started blogging about living aboard 6 years ago when we purchased our boat. Our blog is called www.blueturtletrawler.com. Through our blog and Facebook page we’ve been able to connect with some amazing folks and share some amazing stories. It’s also recognized us by PassageMaker magazine and we’ve now done seminars on Cruising to the Dry Tortugas two years in a row at their TrawlerFest show in Stuart, FL. I’ve also had the opportunity to write an article about the Dry Tortugas that was published in their March 2018 issue. Without living aboard and without our wonderful adventures aboard Blue Turtle, we would have never met so many great people or had the opportunity to present at TrawlerFest. It has truly been the happiest times in our lives and we don’t regret this lifestyle one bit.