Restored and Ready to Steam: Sabino Returns at Mystic Seaport

One of America’s last wooden, coal-fired steamboats just got a makeover, but chances are you won’t even notice. Great care was taken to ensure that the steamboat Sabino maintained its historic look and feel while it underwent a restoration to preserve the ship itself and to repair issues with its boiler.

Steamboats have a long and almost mythic tradition in the United States, with roles that varied widely throughout their history. Many steamboats operated as towboats, pushing barges of cargo up and down rivers, while ships called packet steamers carried goods, mail and people to their destinations. Snagboats would patrol rivers and waterways, clearing sunken trees, stumps and boat wrecks. Steamboats were often used as ferries, carrying passengers from shore to shore.

The most glamorous (and largest) steamboats were constructed as coastal packet steamers. Operated by shipping magnates like Cornelius Vanderbilt, these elegant ships operated in Long Island Sound and along the Hudson River, transporting cargo and passengers and attracting wealthy clientele from business centers like New York City.

By the early twentieth century, steamboats had largely been replaced for transportation by railroads and eventually automobiles, but not before the construction of Tourist in 1908. The Tourist served as a ferry on the Damriscotta River in Maine, until it was sold and transferred to the Kennebec River in 1921. The new owners renamed the vessel Sabino after an Abenaki chief and local village. This historic steamboat still operates today giving tours of the Mystic River under the power of her original 1908 two-cylinder steam engine—manufactured in nearby Noank, CT, with steam generated by a brand-new boiler designed and built to recreate the one it replaced.

Sabino is ready to transport passengers back to the golden age of steamboat travel, exclusively at Mystic Seaport.

NOTE: Sabino‘s first official cruise will be to lead the parade of boats down the Mystic River during the Museum’s Antique & Classic Boat rendezvous July 23. She will return to regular operation beginning August 2, with one 30-minute cruise to start each day followed by two downriver cruises. The boat will also be available for private group charters.