Skip to main content

A Force for Change: Captain Liz Gillooly

00LEAD

I first heard about Capt. Liz Gillooly in 2016 from my cousin while working three jobs in our shared hometown on the North Fork of Long Island and living with my parents to save money for a boat.

But despite being the same age and growing up only 13 miles apart, Liz and I never met until 2021. While I slung breakfast sandwiches for tips, started my esoteric sailing blog, and perused Craigslist for old sailing yachts, Liz was already a licensed captain, her Catalina 22 sat on a trailer in her parents’ driveway while she was in Africa, and her own sailing blog was peaking.

Although she may not admit it, Liz was a pioneering sailing blogger and travel writer with her website “Moxie & Epoxy” (moxieandepoxy.com), which she started in 2013. Professional, practical, and self-directed, Liz taught herself search engine optimization and quickly monetized her blog to live the life of a digital nomad, traveling and blogging from around the world.

Though she started sailing at 8 years old, her yachting and blogging career began accidentally when she postponed college for financial reasons and took a year to travel in Central America. She returned to the United States, finished a year of school, and landed an unpaid crew position on an 80-foot maxi yacht from New York to Sint Maarten. Captivated by the voyage, Liz stayed in the Caribbean for nearly four years, working charters with mostly other women captains and crew and earning her USCG captain’s license.

From the Caribbean, Liz made her first transatlantic and Mediterranean cruise as the first mate on a 116-foot ketch. Then she moved to Hawaii to work as a day charter captain and solo hike Kauai’s Napali coast before returning to New York. Her next command was with a charter company on her home waters and in her local yacht club’s dinghies where she taught sailing.

Between sailing seasons, Liz was travel writing and blogging in Africa, Asia, and Central America, being featured on early multimedia travel networks like Matador and travelcontinuously.com, and in sailing media such as Ocean Navigator and the Boat Radio podcast.

When I finally floated into Liz’s homeport in 2021, she welcomed me into Sterling Harbor in Greenport, New York, where, since 2018, she has owned and operated her charter business, Layla Sailing, aboard a gorgeous Fastnet 45. Designed by Bill Luders, Layla emerged from the LeComte yacht yard in the Netherlands. Liz hired me for day work helping to button Layla up, as the charter season was now over. I was intimidated as I paddled my falling-apart kayak up to the licensed captain with all her sea miles and her beautiful yacht, but my insecurities melted away as soon as she welcomed me aboard. Liz is passionate about supporting other women sailors. We banged out cotter pins, flaked the sails, and secured the hull and rig to be hauled out the following day. Since the designer of my boat, Bill Tripp, also had designs come out of LeComte, we declared ourselves “cousin ships”—after all, my cousin was the only reason we met.

Liz is passionate about having an all-women-run small business and crew, having seen the gender disparities in the yachting industry. In the future, she plans to sail Layla to the Caribbean for winter work, but for now, she is quickly becoming the yacht charter of choice for hipsters and New York City’s urban professionals.

Recently elected a town trustee in Southold, Liz also serves as a member of the steering committee for the Southold Justice Review & Reform Task Force. She’s determined to create opportunities for women and focus on water rights through her venture into local politics. Along with her seamanship, what’s most impressive is Liz’s deep entrepreneurial and political knowledge and how it intersects feminism, anti-racism, and climate justice. I’ll never forget standing around with some community members at the marina after working on Liz’s boat, and someone made an insensitive remark. Capt. Liz put her arm around the person’s shoulder and explained with love why it was harmful.

After we met, Capt Liz left the harbor to take Layla to the yard. We waved and took a picture of each other’s boats from our respective cockpits. I was also off the next day on a longer voyage south, so our time together was short. But I trust and hope I will sail with her again.  

October 2022

Related

00-LEAD-JB13-RT1169

What's it Like to Sail a Legend?

At 110 years old, the storied pilot cutter Jolie Brise powers off the wind. In 1851, the New York pilot schooner America sailed to England, beat the Brits at their own prestigious yacht race (which came to be known as the America’s Cup), and launched an evolution of the East ...read more

Alexforbes Archangel1-1 (14)

Cape2Rio Draws to a Close

With just four boats still on their way, it has been a long road to Rio for the fleet competing in this year’s Cape2Rio. Larry Folsom’s American-flagged Balance 526 Nohri took line honors and a win in the MORCA fleet, finishing with a corrected time of 18 days, 20 hours, and 42 ...read more

_01-Steve-and-Irene-1

Close Encounters: A Star to Steer By

I first met Steve and Irene Macek in the proper way—in an anchorage full of bluewater cruising boats. This was in St. Georges, Bermuda, in the spring of 2019. Theirs, without doubt, was the most distinctive boat there—an immaculate, three-masted, double-ended Marco Polo schooner ...read more

14_01_230123_TOR_JOF_0414-2048x

The Ocean Race Leg 2 Kicks Off

After a trial by fire start to the race and only a brief stop for limited fixes, the five IMOCA 60 crews in The Ocean Race set off for Cape Town, South Africa, early on January 25. Despite arriving somewhat battered in Cabo Verde, an African island nation west of Senegal, the ...read more

Lead

Cruising: Smitten with a Wooden Boat

I was sailing down the inner channel of Marina del Rey under a beautiful red sunset when Nills, one of the crew members on my boat, pointed out an unusual and unique-looking 40-foot gaff-rigged wooden cutter tied to the end of a dock. Its classic appearance was a stark contrast ...read more

Screen-Shot-2023-01-23-at-12.03.19-PM

Racing Recap: Leg One of The Ocean Race

New to spectating The Ocean Race? Managing Editor Lydia Mullan breaks down everything you need to know to get started. ...read more

image00001

From the Editor: Keeping the Hands in Hands-On

SAIL Editor-in-Chief Wendy Mitman Clarke enjoys a sunny autumn cruise in her Peterson 34 on the Chesapeake Bay. It was late afternoon just after the U.S. Sailboat Show in Annapolis when I climbed aboard the last boat on the schedule. I and others who review and sail boats for ...read more

P1580711

B&G Announces New Zeus S Chartplotter

B&G has long been putting out top-of-the-line electronics, but the new Zeus S Chartplotter is a new take on the best way to give sailors the exact information they need, when they need it. “So many more people sail shorthanded these days, whether as a couple or when they’re ...read more