Steamboat Sabino Sets Sail After 2 and a Half Year Restoration

The steamboat Sabino, a national historic landmark, is ready for passenger voyage again. 

“It’s been a very long two and a half years waiting to get her back in the water again, so today is a huge day to start running again,” lead engineer Jason Cabral, said Wednesday. 

Sabino is the oldest wooden, coal-fired steamboat in regular operation in the United States. She was built in East Boothbay, Maine in 1908 and spent most of her life ferrying passengers and cargo between Maine towns and islands. 

"It’s a huge relief, really, because it's an important part of the scene in Mystic. We got a lot of criticism for missing those two operating seasons,” Quentin Snediker, director of the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard at Mystic Seaport, said.  

Snediker helped lead the extensive restoration, which included reframing most of the stern, installing new planking and decking and installing a new boiler. 

For Relief Master John Kihm, captaining the steamboat’s first passenger voyage Wednesday was extra special. 

“This is my first day … the very first day for me,” Kihm said. "It feels great. It's a very, very big day for me." 

Kihm said there is a direct line to the rudder, just by wire, calling it the oldest way to steer a steamboat. He said neither hydraulics nor anything electronic is on the steamboat and pointed out a bell to communicate with the engine room. 

"The captain has no control over backwards or forwards or how fast we go. So that's all my job,” Cabral said. 

For the people on board, it’s an experience like no other. 

“The sounds, the feel, it's just different from anything else. It's really unique,” said Colleen Deboer, who was in from New York. 

"It's awesome. That's what it is,” exclaimed 10-year-old John DiMattio, of Scranton, Penn. 

The entire restoration cost just under $1 million and all of the funding came from private and public grants. 

Sabino will operate six days a week from Mystic Seaport through Columbus Day, Oct. 9. 

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