This article was originally published in the December 2021 issue of 48° North.

A predictable, and predictably daunting, part of boat ownership — haulout.

Sailing means something different to everyone — from sunny days in a gentle breeze with sails up and drinks in hand, to wet and wild rides hoping today isn’t the one where the waterproofing on your foulies gives up. For some, sailing is something they do casually every once in a while, for others it’s something they can’t get enough of no matter the weather. For this writer, sailing has become a crucial part of my life. I’ve expounded on part of it in a previous article, but I would not be who I am today without sailing, and over and over again this community saves my life. 

Up until a little over a year ago, sailing was something I always did on other people’s boats (OPBs). My mother (whom I have to thank for bringing sailing into my life) and I had talked on and off over the years about “someday” getting a cute cruising boat together. We talked at length about what size of boat we would be comfortable running ourselves and what features we each wanted. Mom absolutely required a boat with wheel steering and a head that’s not a bucket. I wanted something that would be fun to cruise and sleep on overnight, but still would have enough get-up-and-go to race in Duck Dodge. With that being said, while I’m a dreamer and a schemer, there are a lot of dreams I’ve had that never came to fruition. I thought owning a boat was in that category, but it turned out that not everything was terrible in the “Anything Can Happen” year that was 2020.  

After a practice sail on the TP52 Sonic in September 2020, I was talking to my friend Jennifer and, surprise, we got onto the subject of boats. I had mentioned that my mom and I talked about getting a small cruising boat together someday. She said, “What about my boat?” As it turned out, she needed to offload her 1973 Catalina 27 on which she was living aboard, as she was in the process of buying a Catalina 30 and needed to get it out of the slip quickly. Being the slightly (ok fine, very) impulsive person that I am, I asked a few questions and accepted her invitation to come check it out. After looking the boat over and realizing that, “Oh my goodness, Catalinas are quite roomy inside and quite cute on the outside.” The little gremlin in my head started to agitate. It was time to call mom. 

Proud new mother-daughter boat owners.
Proud new mother-daughter boat owners.

Me: “Hey mom. I, uh, might have found a boat for us.”

Mom: “You what?!”

Me: “It’s a cute little Catalina 27!”

Mom: (starts to get fussy about not
wanting to use a tiller, etc.)

Me: “But mom, it has a wheel!”

Mom: “Shit. When can we look at her?”

We arranged a time to look at the boat and wouldn’t you know it, we both started to fall in love. A previous owner had done a beautiful job updating the galley area; making the port side settee shorter in order to extend the countertop space and the infamous cool box was replaced with a dorm-sized fridge. 

The boat’s current owner was eager to get her to a new home, so we agreed on a reasonable price, and mom and I had to think and crunch some numbers to figure out whether this was really the time to go for it. Most important of all, though, we needed to figure out what to call our boat! As we were walking down the dock after our sea trial, I paused and looked at mom and asked her, “Did we just find our happy place?” She looked at me with watery eyes and said “Yes, I think we did!” And with that, we also found her name, Happy Place. We drafted up a purchase and sale agreement for the boat, had her soon-to-be-former owner sign it, paid for the boat and — holy crap — suddenly we were boat owners. 

The author, Lizzy (right), and her co-owner mother, Elly (left), holding their sign, “We’ve come a long way, baby… We got a boat!”

All of this happened very quickly; so quickly in fact that between the smoke-apocalypse (this was in September 2020) and the busy schedules of the surveyors and divers due to the Covid boat boom, we didn’t exactly follow the recommended order when purchasing a boat. We ended up having the boat dove and surveyed after buying her. It was a major leap of faith and not one I would advocate anyone doing because it could have gone horribly wrong. Instead, were really lucky and got a boat that — minus a few cosmetic things including bottom paint — was in quite decent shape structurally and just needed some love, elbow grease, and two crazy women with the will to spiff her up. 


The stars aligned and we were able to quickly secure a slip thanks to a friend who was a marina manager. Before we knew it, it was time to bring her home. We were fortunate that the smoke finally cleared for delivery day and, with a couple of good friends to help with moral support and line handling through the locks, we took our new boat from Shilshole to her new slip on Lake Union. It was a gorgeous sunny day and we got through the locks without incident. 

Just past the locks, however, the outboard decided it was tired for the day and, no matter what we tried, we could not get the throttle to move the boat above a slow crawl. We had named the outboard Lil’ Buddy on the sea trial (or Lil’ Bastard when he’s misbehaving) and were now begging Lil’ Buddy for mercy to keep going. Thank goodness he did, slowly, and we had the most slow-motion docking ever, but we had our new boat in our new slip! 

The fall brought no shortage of projects and educational experiences, ranging from learning how to repair holes with fiberglass and epoxy, to replacing some older hardware, to splicing. Meanwhile, we added some personality to the boat in the form of a unicorn light and a disco ball, and no small amount of galley goodies and other creature comforts to really make her ours. The previous owner had a comfortable latex mattress made, so the boat started to become a weekend getaway at the dock. Mom and I had a sleepover to christen her, and we reveled in getting to do this on our own boat.  

We continued to work on her together and with the help of friends, and enjoyed the freedom that came with sailing on our own time or just messing around on the boat at the dock. Our little boat became our sanctuary during a fall and winter in which we had to be careful about who we spent time with due to rising Covid cases and a desire to keep my mama safe. 


With a freshly installed 12v system, Happy Place could strut her lit-up stuff away from the dock.
With a freshly installed 12v system, Happy Place could strut her lit-up stuff away from the dock.

It was a weird time for all of us but, amidst the bummers and cancellations, one thing Covid could not completely cancel was Christmas. As someone who deals with increased depression in the winter and loves sailing, the lighted boat parades have become one of my favorite parts of the holiday season. Now, I had my own little boat to decorate with lights, but there was one small detail — it needed a DC system. 

You can’t run Christmas lights away from the dock without power, so one call to the amazing Meredith Anderson and she taught me how to put together a basic wiring system with a battery and inverter, and we were in business. Unbeknownst to me, my wonderful mother had purchased a big light-up LED unicorn and, when I saw it, I knew exactly where it needed to go — on the bow! 

Lighted boat parades have long been a fun and therapeutic part of winter in Seattle for the author. And the good vibes went off the charts when she was able to join such a parade with her own decked-out boat.

We had so much fun covering Happy Place with Christmas lights and seeing the joy our display brought both to our dock neighbors and others on the lake as we motored around. It gave us a huge amount of joy as well, and meant a lot to share something new and exciting during a holiday missing many special things. Our Happy Place was bringing happiness to others, and we knew we had named her well. 


Based on the survey and dive, we knew the bottom was in need of some love. Also, the deck was showing the boat’s age as paint was flaking off, revealing a mustard yellow that neither I nor my co-owner mother were excited about. We had plans to do more cruising on the boat, but wanted to know that the hull and deck were solid before venturing far from the dock. That meant we would be dealing with something that strikes fear in the wallets of boat owners around the world…the dreaded haulout.

I had helped other friends with their haulouts before and had heard and seen enough of the process to be freaked out even before getting started. We wanted to do a lot of the work ourselves, both for the learning opportunities and also to gain a more intimate knowledge of our girl. That limited our options for boat yards and we zeroed in on Canal Boatyard in Ballard. 

Being a female boat owner and a former employee at a chandlery, I had heard and seen plenty of stories ofwomen being fleeced or mansplained or both by boatyards and contractors, and I was nervous about dealing with it. I’m a strong-willed woman but it can be exhausting to deal with people that think I’m not smart or worthy of their time. I am glad to say that both Canal Boatyard and Pacific Fiberglass were wonderful to work with. 

We got the haulout booked and had the project plan written down. I barely slept the night before as I worried about what surprises we might find when she was on the stands. Again, we were fortunate. 

It was important to the author and her co-owner to do much of the haulout work themselves.

As many boat owners know, blisters look a whole lot worse than they usually are and, once they were sanded down, there was a surprisingly (mostly) smooth keel and hull below the paint. Canal required that an approved contractor strip down the bottom and apply the epoxy base coat and first layer of bottom paint, then we could do the rest. We wanted to give Happy Place a real proper spa day, so I planned out the relatively simple activities of sanding down and then re-painting… everything. If it sounds like we might have been in over our heads, you are absolutely correct. 

I have a new appreciation for how many screws and bolts there are on the boat and just how big 27 feet feels when sanding every inch of it — and then sanding again. It took forever and many sanding pads to get the old nonskid gone so we could put new paint and Kiwi Grip on the deck. For an idea of how much sanding was involved in this haulout, I had an actual nightmare in which I was chased by a giant sized Mikita random orbital sander — not the best way to wake up. 

Finally, we came to what was supposed to be the day before we splashed and, crap, it was pouring rain. There was no way the last coats of paint would cure to finish the haulout. I am not ashamed to admit I had a pretty good cry that morning, and then I called the yard and said we’d have to be there through Memorial Day weekend. So much for having a funsies sail over the holiday. 

At long last on Sunday evening, we had the boat patched up enough to call it a day. My wonderful partner Matt and two of my closest friends were there as I climbed down the ladder from the boat for the last time. I collapsed in tears into Matt’s arms as the exhaustion and emotion of finishing this huge undertaking hit me like a big wave of green water over the bow. I had never worked so hard for so long in my life, and it was done! 

There is no way we could have gotten through this crazy ordeal without the help of very kind and generous friends and family sharing their time, tools, knowledge, and labor to get our girl looking pretty. My friend Kelly deserves a freaking medal for all her sanding help. The next day, our boat splashed and it was surreal to see her back in the water again after spending so many days with her on stands surrounded by pavement. 


Mother and daughter affixing the new name decal during the ceremony.

Race Week has always been something special for me and it meant the world to have it back after its absence in 2020. We decided we wanted to do the renaming ceremony while Happy Place was our support vessel at Race Week, since a lot of our good friends would be there. Plus, who doesn’t want another excuse to party at Race Week? 

Mom and I doublehanded to and from Anacortes, with a stop in Langley on each side to break up the trip and give our old outboard a chance to rest. What an adventure the delivery was. The wind was enough to sail most of the way and it was an amazing feeling to be on the Sound in our boat with sails up, music on, and beverages in hand. 

Langley is a quaint marina, but my goodness are the slips tight even for a 27-foot boat. It was not my finest docking, but thankfully people were willing to catch lines. The next day, we excitedly did a combination of sailing and motoring towards the infamous Swinomish Channel on another lovely sunny day. I had never been through the channel, but Mom had, and we both had a healthy respect for it. I am proud to say we did not become another cautionary tale. We timed the current well and, thanks to trusty Navionics, made the transit flawlessly. Relieved to be safely through, onward we went to Anacortes where our friends were waiting dockside with ready hands and cocktails. 

Let the bubbles flow! The boat renaming came with enormous community support.
Let the bubbles flow! The boat renaming came with enormous community support.

Getting to have Happy Place as a support vessel and boat hotel at Race Week made things really fun. Being in the thick of everything at the marina meant that we got to introduce lots of friends to our happy little boat. We even wound up being the unofficial patio for our neighbors on the J/105 Insubordination. Surely, bringing our Margaritaville machine didn’t hurt matters. 

On Thursday, it was time for the special event for which we brought our boat up — the renaming ceremony. A dear friend made the graphics for us and we had the decals waiting to apply on the appointed day. We had also lugged an entire Costco case of Prosecco up to share with friends during the renaming and so we wouldn’t insult the gods by running out of bubbly. Our friend David Miller of the J/99 One Life performed the function of master of ceremonies and, I must say, he did an amazing job helping us officially name our girl Happy Place. 

We were honored by all of the friends who were present and the kind words shared during the ceremony. Our friends had a trick up their sleeves at the end, though. Emre, skipper of the J/80 Reckless and the first skipper who took me on as regular race crew, gave a speech; and at the end he surprised us with the news that several of them had banded together to buy us a new mainsail from Ballard Sails. They had decided that our well-loved mainsail needed replacing. Clever people that they are, they had the Ballard crew come to the yard during the haulout to measure the boat. We were floored by the generosity and moved to tears. 

Duck Dodging on Happy Place, on the way to a well-earned black duck award for Toga Night.

Sadly, it was time to leave adult summer camp and make our way home — which I’m proud to say included a perfect first transit of Deception Pass. Mom and I still couldn’t believe that we had a new mainsail coming to us, and we had been advised that the sail would start out without a number as our friends weren’t sure what we would want to put on it. My dear grandfather, my mother’s father, had passed away a few years earlier that very week and he was on both of our minds. Suddenly on the delivery home, I knew what I thought our sail number should be. I asked mom what year my grandfather was born and she was curious why I was asking. I told her to just tell me, so she replied “1927” and I said that sounds like a great sail number. We both got misty eyed and immediately loved the idea of honoring him with the sail. Ultimately, my grandfather is the one to thank for my love of sailing, as he and my grandmother would take my mom and her siblings on family sails on a Swedish Triss when they were growing up. Some may say that your sail number “has” to be the hull number, but we say it’s our Happy Place and we are doing it our way. 


Having our newly renamed girl back in Seattle for the summer meant we could finally realize another big dream we both had, putting our own boat in Duck Dodge. We had an absolute blast bringing Happy Place out with various friends, and I’m proud to say we successfully obtained a few of the most valued Duck Dodge awards of all, the black duck! My favorite win was making togas out of dead spinnakers for Toga Night, even though it hurt my heart a bit to cut and rip kites on purpose. 

Using our boat to bring joy to others is a theme we will continue with Happy Place for years to come. As the pandemic hopefully comes to an end, we hope to use her to help others find a love of sailing. We will keep making our girl better, no doubt with some cautionary tales to learn from along the way.

It has been a wild and wonderful first year of boat ownership. I love our happy little boat and am grateful to be in a position where we are able to work on her and sail her with help from our friends. Most of all, I am grateful for a mama who has always believed in me and supported me. We now are living our crazy dream of owning a boat together! We have big dreams of getting Happy Place shipshape enough for an eventual little boat flotilla all the way up to Alaska. In the meantime, if you see us out on Lake Union or the Salish Sea, feel free to say hello.