Turner Loose (Again)

Dialing in the fun

November 2015 Feature Story and photos by Brady L. Kay

The third time is the charm; just ask any child who is familiar with the story of Goldilocks and the three bears. After owning two other custom-built houseboats, the Turner family believes they’ve finally found the boat that is “just right” for them. It took a few years, several different manufacturers and some time out on the water, but Ron and Linda Turner are absolutely in love with their 20- by 93-foot Yacht Series houseboat from Stardust Cruisers.

For some houseboaters, staying with the same builder, going larger and getting more luxurious each time is a common recipe in the process of having a custom houseboat built. But for the Turners, it was more about finding a houseboat that truly filled their needs and exceeded their expectations.   

Their first houseboat was built by Sharpe Houseboats in the late 90s, but the family was quick to upgrade to a larger model after only a few seasons. Turner Loose II, which for years was moored at Lake Cumberland’s State Dock in central Kentucky, was a 100-foot houseboat manufactured by Fantasy Yachts. To say the boat was “loaded” didn’t even come close to describing the vast array of added features on the couple’s second houseboat. However, over time the Turners realized this Fantasy had turned into a bad dream and it wasn’t exactly what they were looking for.

“The second Turner Loose houseboat was more fancy than practical and it just wasn’t the right boat for us,” explains Ron. “So when it came time to build our third houseboat we felt like we had a good idea of what we really wanted before we even started the process.”

Show Boat

Back in March 2014, Stardust Cruisers was in the early stages of building a show boat for the National Houseboat Expo when Ron and Linda, who have been married for over 50 years, started talking to the houseboat manufacturer.

“We agreed that it would still be a show boat for the Houseboat Expo in June that year, but we had our own ideas that we wanted to incorporate into the layout,” recalls Ron. “We added the third story sundeck level, recessed the fans into the ceiling and added some very dramatic lighting. If I’m out on the lake at night, I want a lot of light on the boat.”

The 20- by 93-foot Stardust is a three-story houseboat that is docked at the Jamestown Marina on Lake Cumberland, but it’s the changes to the interior that made the biggest difference for the Turners.

Ron and Linda’s daughter Tonya Widmer decided to get involved in the design process and immediately began drastically changing up the interior feel of the boat.

“Everything was originally brown, but I wanted some color so I started changing things around,” says Tonya. “Mom and Dad let me just run with it and with the help of interior decorator Debbie Sharpe, we created a clean and contemporary look. I just couldn’t do brown, brown, brown like everyone else and felt these changes needed to be made.”

A lot of the fabrics that Tonya wanted ended up being on back order so despite Stardust’s best efforts to have the boat ready in time for the Expo that year, the Turner’s new houseboat ended up not being ready.

“We tried to make it happen, but the boat didn’t end up making the show,” says Tonya. “But it was delivered by the end of June last year, just in time for summer.”


With access to decorators, Tonya picked out the lighting and tried to lighten up the interior as much as possible. She even helped pick out the granite tops, which can be found throughout the entire boat including on the second level.

Yacht Series

The Turners enjoy their new custom Stardust for several reasons, but one of the biggest factors is the quality of materials used and the yacht type style the design offers with the new Yacht Series.

“It has a sleek look with the hard sides, stainless rails, taller ceilings and the curved fiberglass in the back that extends past the cabin,” says Ron. “Plus there’s no canvas, all the lights are 100 percent LED and we love the Geothermal air conditioning system.”

Now You See Me

In the main salon there are two space-saving amenities that tend to attract a lot of attention. The first being a pop-up, 70-inch curved television that is hidden below the granite countertop. With a simple push of a button the TV raises up so it’s only visible when needed. This means it’s not taking up a lot of room inside your cabin and it’s not blocking the large windows and your view of the lake when you’re not using it.

The other unique feature is the pullout helm drawer. It’s common to want to hide the helm console when you don’t need it, but this design goes beyond just lowering it into the floor.

“Our old houseboat helm came out of the floor, but I like this design a lot better,” says Ron.  You don’t have a large steering wheel to deal with; instead you just use this rudder control system.”

The pullout helm takes the place of a cabinet drawer. After you slide it out, you press a button and the controls rise up. The system still has HydraNautic thrusters, but the steering is all hydraulic with no need for a steering wheel. Of course, if you want to use a steering wheel, the option to pilot the boat from the top deck flybridge is always available.

Up Top

Besides the fire pit table in the bow, there is also a second one located in the stern of the second level with plenty of seating for everyone. This tends to be a great hangout spot for Ron and Linda, as well as their 11 grandchildren when they come to visit. Their son Troy is the oldest, followed by Daren and then Tonya. On this day, Tonya is down at the lake with her husband Jason and their three children: Justin (15), Chase (12) and Lindsay (9), who have all grown up houseboating.

Troy and Daren went in together on another Stardust houseboat a few years ago, but as the families continue to grow it made the most sense for Ron and Linda to upgrade to Tuner Loose III so there would be enough room to comfortably fit everyone.

Up top there is a horseshoe bar and a barbecue grill, plus back-to-back flat screen televisions so no matter where you’re at on the top deck you can view the TV. There is also a head on this level, which makes a total of four on this houseboat.

Back by the fire pit is a set of stairs that takes you to the third level, which is a nice sundeck with lounge chairs and just enough room for a cornhole tournament.

Living Quarters

As nice as the two top levels are, the family does tend to spend plenty of time inside the houseboat—especially on those really hot and humid days. The large master stateroom includes a large private bathroom with walk-in shower and there are three other rooms including a spacious lower cuddy that is complete with a couch and plenty of headroom.

If they were to do it again, the Turners wouldn’t mind going a little longer, but overall they’re all very happy with it.

“Another 10 to 12 feet longer so we could add maybe some bunk beds would have been nice, but realistically we can’t all fit on one boat like we used to so this isn’t a big deal,” says Tonya “Stardust has been great to work with. They jumped through hoops to get it to us and they executed it very well. They’re wonderful people.”

“We had a bucket list that we gave to Stardust and the bucket is full,” adds Ron. “We wanted a boat that we could enjoy for years and we love the yacht style inside and out. Jerry Harden is an asset to the team and if we ever build another one, it will be a Stardust.”

Last fall, Stardust Cruisers, Sumerset Houseboats and Thoroughbred Houseboats formed Trifecta Ventures, LLC, a joint venture consolidation that brought three premier brands of houseboats together. The houseboats are now built in an expanded manufacturing facility located in MonticelloKy. Each brand has been able to keep its own identity, but together they’re able to pull their power in the industry together.

As for the Turners, could there be a Turner Loose IV in the future?

“You never want to say never, but at this point we feel we’ve found the ideal houseboat for our needs and we really love this Stardust,” says Ron. “It took a few other boats for us to figure it out, but we think we’ve come up with the perfect setup.

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