What Would You Do For A Klondike, Kate?

Robert and Janet Polito live aboard a boat inspired by her singing career

Published in the September 2018 Issue September 2018 Feature Emily FitzPatrick

Everyone in the United States is familiar with the tune that plays with the commercial, leading up to the slogan What would you do for a Klondike bar? Commercials often feature people completing ridiculous tasks to obtain some of the ice cream’s yummy goodness, such as acting like a chicken, puting away dishes, or imitating a teapot.

Robert and Janet Polito have jumped through a number of their own hoops to achieve their dream of living on a houseboat in Long Beach, Calif. Moving their Destination Yachts houseboat from Arizona to California took two and a half days alone and the help of two escort vehicles, but when they arrived they found themselves having to complete a number of other ridiculous tasks, reminiscent of the antics on Klondike commercials.

Deciding To Go For It

The Politos were on the water long before deciding to make the water their permanent home. In 2004, they purchased a 25-foot Sea Ray and upgraded in 2007 to a Bayliner. However, the Politos soon grew dissatisfied with the 12 days out of the month they were able to spend aboard their boat and soon realized they wanted a living situation that was more permanent on the water.

Robert decided that a bigger boat – a houseboat – was what the couple really needed and he began to search online everyday for plausible options. However, despite his constant research, many of the available options were simply too far away, the boats residing in places such as Kentucky or Washington.

“He was looking online every single day for a year,” Janet Polito recalled. “He’d call to me and say, ‘Hi honey, we’re home,’ and I’d run to see what boat he had discovered this time.”

After a year of searching, the Politos found a 65-foot Destination Yacht in Arizona, a distance not too far for their new home to travel. During the sweltering summer of 2013, the Politos visited Arizona and made arrangements for their new home to be delivered to California, a 430-mile distance.

“There were only two guys in California that would do it,” Janet shared. “We had no idea what we were getting into with the expense of it. Then it took them about two and a half days to get it here, because it was a winding road coming back.”

Doing What It Takes

Like the people often featured in Klondike commercials, Robert and Janet Polito did whatever it took to get their boat out on the water. They painted the bottom, paid the appropriate amount for insurance, and proved it could survive long-term exposure to salt water despite the general disbelief of the population.

“All of the others were semi types of houseboats that were at least ocean going. And I guess ours was, on a clear flat day,” Janet Polito laughed. “But you wouldn’t really want to do that, so we put it in the bay and people were just coming out and looking like, ‘What in the hell is this’? People were thinking this was crazy, because nobody has a houseboat like this. Nobody.”

Though the cost of getting their home into top shape was enormous, Robert and Janet concede that it was worth every penny. The view alone makes their decision to move permanently on a houseboat in the bay a happy one.

“We’re living the dream. California living is expensive. If you want to live on the water, it’s a multi-million dollar home,” Janet explained. “Here we have a houseboat and we’re right on the water and it’s so beautiful.”

Destination Yachts was a major help to Janet and Robert as they worked to customize their boat and make it a place they could call home. Their guidance was an additional resource as the couple strove to overcome their various obstacles.

“I have even personally talked to the owner Sheldon Graber. He actually answers the phone, which isn’t something that’s very common in these large businesses,” Janet complimented. “Destination Yachts also helped improve things. They make these boats custom and with care, like a new house. Of course, ours was used, but we’ve been able to make adjustments to make it our own.”

Singing To The Top

The boat is appropriately named after a character, Klondike Kate, whom Janet played in Sergeant Preston’s Dancehall and Saloon show at a Disneyland hotel. The name of their boat appropriately reminds her of her character’s fearless attitude and the fun she had in her youth as a singer.

Klondike Kate, otherwise known as Kathleen Rockwell, was born in Kansas and raised in the state of Washington, but after a short failed stint at show business, Kate decided to try her hand at taking advantage of the gold rush.

She dropped everything in her pursuit of fame, performing shows for miners and eventually making her name known. Klondike Kate’s story struck with Janet, who felt a special connection to the character from the beginning of her own performance-related adventures.

“There were maybe 200 people, I guess, there to audition. They picked me and two other girls, but when I was at the audition I said, ‘Look girls, you’re all too young for this part. They need a madam type of character and that’s me!’” Janet reminisced. “Anyway, we had to learn two shows, each 45 minutes, just for the audition, and I beat them out.”

Advice From The West Coast

When asked what advice she and Robert would give to houseboaters just beginning the process of purchasing a boat, Janet responded that prospective buyers should keep in mind the cost of their endeavors, especially if they are going to attempt to put the boat on salt water.

“If you are going to put it in salt water then you might want to think twice about it, because it is going to get expensive. Get a fiberglass pontoon if you’re going to put it in the ocean,” Janet advised. “Also, you must get the bottom cleaned every month.”

However, living on a houseboat, even on the West Coast where the endeavor seems impossible, has been extremely rewarding to this couple and they recommended that anyone contemplating living on the water should carry out their dreams.

“It was the best decision we’ve ever made in our lives. We have dolphins in our bay and sea lions,” Janet said. “So we have all kinds of stuff to watch and look at. There’s nothing like being on the water. It’s so tranquilizing. So freeing.”

Living on the water is just as—if not more—delicious as the simple joy of a Klondike bar (just don’t tell Unilever - the current owners of this popular sweet treat). Houseboats are long-lasting and the rewards of completing any silly task standing in the way of owning are worth far more than what you would do for a taste of ice cream and chocolaty goodness.

For more information, check out Destination Yachts.

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