5 Fun-Loving Females in Boating
Here are some of the ladies making a difference in our increasingly diverse favorite pastime.
By Diane M. Byrne
Kristi Lam’s love of boating dates back to her childhood, wakeboarding in Kentucky and Tennessee. Now in the Tampa Bay area, any given Saturday, she boats with her husband and two dogs. “It’s the place to have fun, unplug, recharge, and get together with the people that you love,” she says.
Millions of fellow American women—including nearly 18 million who enjoy recreational fishing—agree. Research shows women are increasingly buying boats, too. In honor of Women’s History Month, we’re spotlighting five females in boating. They’ll inspire you—and the next generation of fierce females.
1. Captain Janet A. Urbanowicz
Urbanowicz is a New Jersey State Police boating-safety instructor and a private captain. She fell in love with boating in her 20s, and soon focused on getting her captain’s license. However, studying nursing full time took priority. Rather than give up her dream, though, Urbanowicz continued boating, then refocused on obtaining her license toward her 50s. Whether on local rivers or delivering customers’ boats along the East Coast, “I’ve just had so much fun on the water, every time,” she says. Some of her favorite experiences are visiting waterfront restaurants and anchoring just off the beach near a music venue. She reveals more in our Boating Broadcast interview.
2. Captain Sandy Yawn
Fans of Below Deck Mediterranean know Yawn as the tough but fair captain. She’s a trailblazer, too, not letting gender bias early in her career thwart her determination. Yawn wants to see fellow females succeed, too. “We want more women boaters, but we also want more women captains,” she says. She especially appreciates how the TV program shows women on deck. “My passion is grabbing these young women and saying, ‘You would make an amazing chef,’ or ‘You would make an amazing captain,’” she explains. The bottom line for Yawn: “Because I think about how I would like to be treated, that’s why I make such a good captain.” Read our full interview with her.
3. April Smith
Smith and her husband have lived aboard an Aquila 44 power catamaran, One Eyed Dog (with their one-eyed dog Abby, who steals the show here) since 2019. “Our first year of owning, we did 9,000 miles,” Smith says, including the Great Loop. In fact, “We’re the only boat to have done it twice on the same day,” over two different years. While further enjoying the Chesapeake and the Bahamas, Smith says they love the Loop. “Do it, just do it. It’s the experience of your life,” she asserts. “We have friends in a 5,000-mile radius that we met on the Loop.” Besides, she adds, the people you’ll meet, and the confidence you’ll gain in your skills, are the ultimate rewards.
4. Kristi Lam
As mentioned above, Lam enjoys boating, with her husband, dogs, and a host of friends on Lady Bella, an Aviara AV32, which she effuses over in our Boating Broadcast interview. A consummate entertainer, she treasures having abundant space to put out fine food platters and coolers for wine and champagne. It’s fitting, since Lam also owns the Clearwater Wine Bar & Bistro. In fact, she says Lady Bella inspired her to create the restaurant’s Gourmet Picnic Packs, carry-out trays popular with boat-loving customers. She even used the Aviara’s refrigerator to ensure the platter sizes would be appropriate. “The Aviara design was a huge inspiration for how we could create a really memorable experience for our customers,” Lam says.
5. Laura Jeanne Vonn
About 15 years ago, Laura Jeanne Vonn fulfilled her lifelong dream of owning a boat. “Boating creates a bond,” she says. “When I started this journey, my daughter was little, and now she has a baby of her own.” Vonn is strengthening her bonds with her daughter, son-in-law, and grandchild on Lake Travis, Texas, aboard her Sea Ray SPX 190. (You can see her enjoying it here.) Having gotten out of the lifestyle for a while due to work, she’s rediscovering the joy, and the pride. “People always ask if I’m afraid to take it out,” Vonn shares. “The answer is no. I tell them, you can do anything, just ask a lot of questions, and you can do it.”