I'm hesitant to deride a builder for added bells and whistles, but I get disturbed if a vessel's functionality is compromised by them. The trick is to strike a balance among functionality, safety, and creature comforts while maintaining aesthetics. During the time I spent aboard the Sabre 34 Hard Top Express, it was apparent that the South Casco, Maine-based builder understands this concept in spades.
I met Scott Shane, the sales manager for DiMillo's New York Yacht Sales, in Freeport on the Long Island town's famed Nautical Mile, a stretch of waterfront jam-packed with boat dealers, seafood restaurants, and salty types. Shane escorted me to the 34, tied stern-to among a number of other Sabre models. She cut a handsome profile: Her optional blue hull, set off with gold striping, gleamed with morning dew and contrasted nicely with the teak toerail and the creamy white pilothouse, hardtop, and coach roof. Walking alongside her, I noted the cast stainless steel fairleads midship in the teak toerails, another nice detail. As I stepped aboard via her fiberglass (teak is optional) swim platform, through a 30-inch-wide transom door, and into her cockpit, she barely moved under the weight of my 175 pounds plus the 35 pounds of equipment I was carrying.
From the 50-square-foot cockpit, it's one step up to the 34's seriously windowed pilothouse, where her owners will likely spend the bulk of their time. I unzipped the optional three-side isinglass enclosure to enter (a hard-back enclosure with an aluminum door is a $17,500 option) and passed the galley, all the way aft to starboard. While it's a simple setup—with a bullnosed Corian countertop, a two-burner cooktop, a stainless steel sink, and microwave, with a refrigerator/ freezer to port—there's enough stowage for a weekend of sundries for two. The galley-up also frees space below decks and is convenient for dining, as the standard inlaid cherry table at the L-shape settee is just to port.
The entire pilothouse is bathed in light from three forward and four side windows that offer panoramic views in all directions. For days when it's not warm enough to run the optional 18,000-Btu air conditioning here, ventilation is available from a number of sources: 2'2"x3'4" sliding windows to port and starboard, two 1'8" square Lewmar sliding hatches in her hardtop, and a slick, electrically actuated center windshield. Both the helmsman and first mate are ensured all-day comfort at a pair of standard Stidd helm seats finished in the same beige Ultraleather as the settee, which looks great against the cherry accents and optional teak sole in the pilothouse.
The handsome appearance extends below decks, where simplicity dominates: Accessed via a centerline companionway and down four steps, her saloon is homage to what Sabre calls "crafted in the Maine tradition." The cherry interior is artisan-grade, with flawless grain matching and first-rate joinery. Stowage areas are also well crafted, with dovetail joints in all drawers. In addition, many of the stowage spaces have louvered doors, a great look that also allows for air circulation, which prevents mold. A cozy, starboard-side, L-shape settee and a cherry table with gorgeous bird's-eye maple inlay set off the saloon, providing a great reading spot or premium viewing for the standard, swing-arm-mounted, 15-inch LCD TV.
Although the saloon settee can convert to a double berth for guests, the 34 is an ideal boat for a couple, with a forepeak queen-size berth separated from the saloon by a privacy curtain. Opting for a curtain instead of a bulkhead frees up space, allowing for a convenient fridge-freezer to port and a 2'8"Lx 2'Wx3'4"D cedar-lined hanging locker to starboard. It also gives the port-side head a larger footprint, which the 34's designers used for an enclosed shower, a nice surprise on a boat of this size.
Another welcome surprise was her combination of superlative performance and fuel efficiency. During the sea trial on the flat backwaters off of Freeport, the 34 achieved 1 mpg or better throughout her engines' entire rpm range, except at WOT, where she registered a still-respectable 0.93 mpg while topping 38 mph. In the confused, crowded waters of the Jones Beach Inlet, the 34 busted through the two- and three-foot wakes with ease, weaving her way effortlessly around groups of anglers that were gunning for stripers just outside the inlet. Integral spray rails kept the windshield dry, and sightlines were excellent in all directions from the starboard-side helm. However, I noted that her optional twin 370-hp Volvo D6 diesel inboards were running about 120 rpm above rated maximum rpm. After discussing this with the builder, I learned that Sabre specs the ZF props assuming that four people and their related gear are aboard.
The 34's craftsmanship, performance, and all-day cruising comfort impressed me, but what I liked best was her practicality: nothing felt superfluous. Yet she's no plain Jane, turning more than a few heads along the wharves of Freeport. And for a lot of owners, that will be this boat's main attraction.
cherry interior; teak-and-holly saloon sole; 2/12" Raymarine E120 displays, 240 VHF; Lectrotab trim tabs; 2/Stidd helm seats; custom mahogany and s/s six-spoke wheel; Ritchie Powerdamp compass; 15" Sharp Aquos LCD TV; Jensen DVD/CD/MP3 player; 3/ Lewmar sliding hatches; Jabsco Quiet Flush MSD; 2-burner EuroKera cooktop; Corian countertops; Dometic microwave, 2/ refrigerator/freezers; 12,000-Btu Marine Air A/C; 11-gal. water heater; PSS dripless shaft logs; Racor fuel-water separators; teak toerails and eyebrows
teak helm sole; three-side isinglass zip enclosure; electrically actuated center windshield; 18,000-Btu Marine Air A/C in pilothouse; Clarion AM/FM stereo/CD player w/ 4 speakers in saloon; Raymarine ST6002 autopilot; Side-Power bow thruster; radar mast; Lewmar windlass; Whale hot/cold transom shower; contrasting nonskid color; fore and aft saltwater washdowns; shore-water connection; custom hull color
Test Boat Specifications
- Test Engine: 2/370-hp Volvo Penta D6-370 diesel inboards
- Transmission/Ratio: ZF 80A/1.962:1
- Props: 21x23 1/2 ZF four-blade nibral
- Price as Tested: $425,000
This article originally appeared in the December 2006 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.