Standard Bearer

Sabre Yachts celebrates a half-century as a Maine boatbuilding icon

From canoes and fishing trawlers to stately windjammers and sleek motor yachts, boats are as much a symbol of Maine as lobsters and pine trees. Around the globe the flag of the state’s fine boatbuilding tradition is flown by Sabre Yachts, which has crafted the highest-quality pleasure craft for 50 years.

At its facilities in Rockland and Raymond, Sabre and its sister company, Back Cove Yachts, build as many vessels as the rest of the state’s liveaboard boatbuilders combined.

“We represent a significant piece of the Maine boatbuilding industry,” says vice president of sales and marketing Bentley Collins. “If you walk into a boat show in Genoa, Italy, or Sydney, Australia, and say ‘Sabre Yachts,’ the boating community will immediately think of Maine. Just like L.L.Bean and Tom’s of Maine, we are an iconic brand in our business.”

In 1970 company founder Roger Hewson was determined to build the world’s finest 28-foot sailboat using production-line methods and fiberglass technology. Called a “pocket cruiser” due to its small size, the Sabre 28 was launched at the 1971 Newport Boat Show; a total of 588 Sabre 28s came off the assembly line. The boats were so well designed and built that they remain in demand in used markets today.

More consumers became interested in powerboats, and in 1989 Sabre debuted its first motor yacht, the Sabre 36 Fast Trawler, which blended the comfort of a trawler design with a vee hull for performance.

“Today, everything we build is power,” says Collins. Sabre’s luxury performance yachts range from 38 to 66 feet and include two styles: the Fly Bridge, with upper and lower helm stations, and the Salon Express model, which has an enclosed helm and a spacious cockpit. All feature inboard diesel engines. Back Cove Yacht models range from 32 to 41 feet, and are designed with both comfort and ease of operation in mind.

Not only do Sabre Yachts and Back Cove Yachts turn heads, they have built lives. Many of the 350 employees have been with the companies for decades, says Collins, a 26-year veteran himself. “There is a strong work ethic that is typical of Maine’s manufacturing industries. Quality is on the tip of their tongue every minute of the day,” he says.

To celebrate the milestone anniversary, two new models are being released in 2020. The Sabre 58 Salon Express features a main door that opens completely from port to starboard, connecting the main salon with the cockpit, three cabins—each with its own head and shower—and a master stateroom with a walk-around king berth.

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