Litsey captains dining cruise ship in Cleveland

| February 11, 2015
Katie Litsey

Katie Litsey

COSHOCTON – A few years ago, Katie and Damon Litsey made a deal with each other. If he got an SUV, she got a boat. Katie got her boat and with a lot of hard work and determination was able to turn her passion for boating into a career.

Katie is a captain on the Nautica Queen, a dining cruise ship in Cleveland.

“About three or four years ago, I took my Dad to Cleveland for his birthday and on the Nautica Queen,” she said. “I saw the captain walking up to the ship and knew this is what I wanted to do as a job. I went up to him and started talking to him about how I could do this. We spoke about it pretty much the whole trip and the next thing I knew I was in classes to be a captain.”

Katie was hired right out of her classes as a deckhand and became a captain in training.

“Two to four weeks after I was hired I made first mate of the ship,” she said. “I was responsible for my own little crew. I learned so much about the ship. I was down under changing oil, doing engine checks and everything required to keep the ship running.”

Within a few months she was in the pilot house training with the captain to do his job.

“You have to have sea time on the size ship you want to drive,” Katie said. “I started out slowly with steering. It’s not an easy task. You don’t just jump in and do it. It takes a lot of practice and training.”

She is now a licensed captain of the ship and loving every minute of it.

“It’s so much fun,” Katie said. “A lot of people come up and want to get pictures with you and there will be people that look in the windows and say, ‘Is that a girl? They have a girl captain.’ This is the best job in the entire world and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

She can get licensed to drive bigger ships, but right now Katie is looking into also working on the water taxies that Cleveland is trying to bring back.

“I’ll always be a part of the Queen though,” she said. “It’s where I started and where I learned.”

Katie's children Griffin and Alona goof around while visiting her on the Nautica Queen. Photo contributed to The Beacon

Katie’s children Griffin and Alona goof around while visiting her on the Nautica Queen. Photo contributed to The Beacon

The Nautica Queen starts cruising the shores of Cleveland at the end of March or beginning of April and its last cruise of the season is New Year’s Eve. When Katie is working she lives on her family’s boat in Cleveland. She comes home on days off and Damon and their kids, Alona and Griffin, visit when they can.

“She’s always loved boating and when she found out this was a possibility I knew she would get it done,” Damon. “This is what she loves to do.”

Some of Katie’s favorite memories from working on the ship involve her crew and interacting with those on board.

“My crew is the goofiest bunch of guys,” she said. “We laugh the whole time.”

Katie also fondly remembers having guests on board who where patients at a Children’s Hospital.

“I went back and took pictures with all of them and explained the cruise and ship to them,” she said. “I also took them into the pilot house so they could experience it. It was so special to know I made a difference in their lives and that was a day they will remember for the rest of their lives.”

The views from the ship also can’t be beat. Fireworks go off right over top of them on the Fourth of July and on night cruises you get to see the city all lit up.

“The most enjoyable part of being a captain is the outdoors,” Katie said. “Some of the sunsets we see are heaven sent. They are phenomenal. I can’t call this work because everything about it is a joy.”

She did have problems in the beginning with some of the male crew members not liking to work for a woman, but she quickly got those worked out.

“If a woman wants to do something she shouldn’t let anyone hold her back or be afraid of what people might think,” Katie said. “I have the respect of every single man on the crew now. They didn’t think I could do it at first, but I do it and I do it extremely well.”

She tries to make a special effort to talk to young girls on the ship so she can help them see that they also can achieve their dreams and to visit with anyone from Coshocton that she knows is on the cruise.

“This is my job and my passion,” Katie said. “I’m not going to stop here. It’s only been two years and I’m only 31. This is just the beginning. I can take it as far as I want and go to any level I choose to. I wouldn’t want to do a cruise ship right now because you would be gone a lot, but when the kids are grown up you never know.”

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About the Author ()

I started my journalism career in 2002 with a daily newspaper chain. After various stops with them, I am happy to be back home! I graduated from Coshocton High School in 1998 and received a Bachelor of Arts in Communication in 2002 from Walsh University. I also earned several awards while working for daily papers, including being honored by Coshocton County’s veterans for the stories I wrote about them. I am honored and ready to once again shine a positive light on Coshocton County. I also am the proud mother of a little girl named Sophia!

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