From Island Bound to Bearly A-Wake

"If a man must be obsessed by something, I suppose a boat is as good as anything, perhaps a bit better than most. A small sailing craft is not only beautiful, it is seductive and full of strange promise and the hint of trouble."
-E.B. White from The Sea and the Wind that Blows

Beautiful, seductive and full of promise. Those might seem like odd adjectives to attach to a sailboat, but once you feel the power of the wind driving a hull through the waves or spend a few nights bobbing at anchor in a far away harbor, you realize how perfect they are. Besides all that, I'm sure Erin appreciates that my obsession is a sailboat rather than any number of alternatives. And so the next chapter in my obsession began late this summer when we moved up to a bigger sailboat.

Based on comments from a few other recent posts, some of you have been eager to hear about the new boat. Those that follow my Instagram account (@SailFarLiveFree) have probably already picked up a few of the details. In any case, here’s the skinny on our move up to a bigger boat…  

Our family has been growing, both in number and in volume (We've got some very active and hungry kids!). It was time for our sailboat to catch up. Island Bound was an amazing boat for our family; a good second boat that allowed us to broaden our horizons and really settle into sailing as a family. She took care of us for well over a a couple thousand miles on Lake Michigan and Lake Huron, sometimes all in one big journey. Needless to say, Island Bound was the foundation for some great memories and will always be a special sailboat, and more importantly, represent a special time for our family.  

But don’t take my word for it. My oldest daughter recently posted this on her Instagram account: 
“Well Island Bound, we’ve had so many memories with you and have been so many different places with you…I will miss you like crazy! I mean, you’re the only yellow sailboat I know of! You took us way up to Canada, way up to the North Channel, and all the way to the other side of Lake Michigan and back no problem. I will miss having a yellow sailboat. Keep trudging along my baby!”
The reality is that things simply became too cramped for two adults and three young children on a 28 footer with a narrow-ish beam of 9 feet.
We each had our list of “must haves” for the next boat. Erin wanted pressure water, more room in the galley, and private cabins complete with doors. I wanted a proper anchor roller and storage on the bow, wheel steering, and a diesel. The kids wanted to continue to swim, fish, sail, and play without hearing about mom and dad discussing the “next boat”. 
We looked at a lot of sailboats over the last year or so. Some good, some bad, some dirty, some clean, some stinky, some shiny, some old, some new, some close, some far. We took in a couple of sailboat shows just to get a feel for how new boats compared with pre-owned boats in our budget. We considered everything from a Gemini 3200 catamaran to a Baba 35. I’m a firm believer that it takes a lot of looking and keel kicking to really learn the market and have a confident sense for the value of boats (or houses, cars, and just about anything else). If I had to assess the overall market in our price range and region, I’d have to say that I was surprised at how many boats seemed neglected and dirty. I usually walked away thankful to be the proud owner of Island Bound, even if she was small. 
In the end, we landed with what we feel is a very nice Catalina 34. Ironically enough, the boat ended up being right from our home marina. It showed up for sale on a Monday and we had an offer in by Friday with no hesitations. Knowing the market and visiting lots of sailboats prior was key to the light coming on when this particular C34 hit the market. We knew the capabilities, size, price and layout of Catalina 34 would fit our needs very well, but we just hadn’t seen one that was in an appealing condition until this particular boat showed up. The tips in this blog post about sailboat inspections were a real asset during our search.
She came named as s/v Bearly A-Wake, a creative enough name but with no particular meaning to our family, so we’ll likely re-name her sometime in the near future. [If you've got ideas for us, please send them along in the comments below or an email!] For those who care about the details, she’s the wing keel (4’3”) tall rig version of the C34. We love the roomy and private forward/aft cabins, dedicated navigation station and open cockpit. She’s also been recently re-powered (60 hours when we took possession) with a new Universal M-25XPB diesel. The previous owners did a great job keeping her systems and features up to date and also added a few nice custom touches such as the turtle shaped maple inlays in the dinette table and the custom mermaid carvings on the hinged companionway doors. 
She’s big enough to provide us the space we need. She has the features we want.  Catalina’s customer support and other online resources, such as the C34 Association, are excellent. We also feel this is a boat that can get us anywhere we want to go on the Great Lakes and potentially beyond to places like the ICW and Caribbean. Most importantly, this C34 represents the perfect sailboat for how we currently sail and cruise. Oh, I almost forgot, she's also beautiful, seductive and full of promise.     
And so, I present to you our new sailboat:


  1. Anonymous22 October

    Island bounding?

    1. I suppose so! Luckily, she's now got another enthusiastic new owner.

  2. Man I love that table! Congrats again, what a great boat for you guys. Hopefully we'll catch you guys next summer :)


    1. Thanks Jackie. As you know very well, it's a lot of fun looking for a new boat and even more fun getting to know them once the purchase is made. Hope to see you and Ron on the water again too!

  3. Hi - congrats on your new boat! I was wondering if you had also considered and looked at the Catalina 36. If so, how do you think they compare?

    Thanks - Ellen

    1. Hi Ellen. Indeed we did consider several C36's, but again couldn't find the right one. Actually, there was one that would have been ours if Island Bound would have been sold at the time. The MkI C36 & C34 have identical (or very nearly so) cockpits and the LOA is less than the 2' the model names would imply. The 36 seems to have a bit more space in the salon and galley, but the berths of the C34 are both private (hinged doors) and possibly just a bit bigger. The head is forward on the 36, while it is aft on the 34. Didn't really matter to us, but some folks prefer an aft head because it is more convenient to use while sailing and as a wet locker while underway. We did really like the smaller "game table" and slightly more storage available on the C36, but in the end the more private aft cabin was a big plus with for our family. Both are great boats with lots of well thought out space and good neutral sailing characteristics. Thanks for checking out our blog!

  4. Thanks - that's really helpful. When you look at pictures and specs for the 34 and 36 they seem very similar and I did wonder if that 2' really made a big difference. I'll definitely check out the 34s more thoroughly and looking forward to seeing how you get on with yours. Cheers - Ellen

  5. Beautiful new boat! Congrats!! :) -Kim

    1. Thanks Kim. I checked out your blog, look good!

  6. Wow wonderful boat. Glad to see you found such a great one in the region. It surely does take a lot of "Keel Kicking" lol.

  7. Beautiful boat for a beautiful family.
    Can we go for a sail the last weekend in June?

    When you are ready to take it to the Caribbean let me know.

  8. We are also considering a boat in the 34' range, and the Catalina looks great-- do you have any opinions on the Beneteau 340, which is another boat we are considering? -- Carl in PNW


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