News SABINO Restoration

Steaming Again!

SABINO Sea Trial July 21, 2017
The Mystic Seaport steamboat SABINO on her sea trial, Friday, July 21, 2017.

After more than two years of restoration in the Museum’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard, the steamboat Sabino successfully completed her sea trial today, setting the stage for her to return to regular operation on August 2.

The sea trial was the first time she has operated under her own power with a new boiler that was custom designed and fabricated. The coal-fired boiler powers a 75-horsepower two-cylinder compound steam engine. The engine is the original power plant that was installed in 1908 and was manufactured by the J. H. Paine & Son Co. in nearby Noank, Connecticut.

This afternoon, a fire was lit in the boiler and when sufficient steam pressure was raised, Sabino was moved off her berth in the shipyard and eased into the channel with the help of several small boats. With Captain David Childs ringing the bell communicate instructions to engineers Jason Cabral and Ed Crotty, the steamboat got underway under her own power for a short trip up and down the Mystic River in front of the Museum.

“It was really great to see Sabino out on the water again,” said Mystic Seaport President Steve White. “The river just hasn’t been the same without her.”

Sabino was built in 1908 in East Boothbay, Maine, and spent most of her career ferrying passengers and cargo between Maine towns and islands. Sabino came to Mystic Seaport in 1973 and was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992.

The recent restoration began in December 2014 and addressed a number of issues around the vessel, including reframing much of the stern, replacing the keel bolts, installing new planking and decking, and restoring portions of the superstructure. In addition, numerous mechanical and systems upgrades were carried out, most notably the fabrication and installation of a new boiler to meet modern safety and regulatory requirements. The restoration is expected to keep Sabino in operation for at least the next 25 to 30 years.

Beginning August 2, Sabino will operate six days a week from the Mystic Seaport waterfront. There will be three cruises per day: a 30-minute upriver cruise for $8 per person at 2:30 p.m., a 90-minute downriver cruise to the mouth of the Mystic River for $18 per person at 3:30 p.m., and a two-hour downriver cruise at 5:30 p.m. for $25 per person. There will also be a two-hour downriver cruise at 11:30 a.m. on Sundays for $25 per person. The boat will not operate on Tuesdays.

Museum admission is not required for downriver cruises (it is required for the 30-minute cruise). Children 3 and younger ride for free, but they must have a ticket to board. Tickets can be purchased up to two weeks in advance by calling Central Reservations at 860-572-5331, Visitor Services at 860-572-0711, or the Ticket Booth at 860-572-5351.

Sabino can carry 74 passengers and is available for group charters. Her operating season ends October 9.


News SABINO Restoration

SABINO’s Boiler ‘Took Off Beautifully’

The old adage ‘where there’s smoke, there’s fire’ was both true and appropriate today at Mystic Seaport, when the first fire was lit in the steamboat Sabino’s new boiler.

A crowd of Mystic Seaport administrators, shipwrights and other interested parties gathered as a wood fire was built and then lit. Others stood on the dock in the Museum’s shipyard or on the Sabino’s bow to watch the smokestack for the first sign of smoke. There was a cheer when the first puff appeared.

Jason Cabral, Sabino’s lead engineer, said the fire was the first step in making the boiler fully operational. Chemicals that are added to the boiler tubes to fight corrosion and scaling needed to be heated in the water to set. It is a similar process to “seasoning” a new cast iron skillet. The Friday fire was to condition the boiler tubes with the chemicals.

“It took off beautifully and everything is doing what it’s supposed to do,” Cabral said of the first firing of the boiler. “We can already hear water circulating through it. It’s a big day, a big day for me at least, because I’ve been waiting two-and-a-half years for this. I’m really excited about getting her running.”

Sabino has been in the Museum’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard since late 2014 for an extensive restoration. Museum shipwrights addressed a number of issues around the vessel, including reframing much of the stern, replacing the keel bolts, installing new planking and decking, and restoring portions of the superstructure. In addition, numerous mechanical and systems upgrades were  carried out. On June 14, a new boiler and water tank were installed. The engine and canopy were installed on June 16, followed by the installation of the stack.

Next week, Cabral said, a coal fire will be lit and there will be two important tests conducted. The first – a hydro test – requires the boiler to be filled to the top with water and “we use a pump to pressurize it and make sure all the fittings are correct and don’t leak.” The second test is of the boiler’s safety valves. “In that test we bring the boiler up to full pressure, to where the safety valves let off, and the Coast Guard makes sure they are operational,” Cabral said.

Sabino will return to regular operation beginning August 2, with one 30-minute cruise to start each day followed by two downriver cruises.

“It’s like the heartbeat of Mystic Seaport is returning,” said Dave Childs, Sabino captain.

News SABINO Restoration

Reassembling SABINO

SABINO pilothouse installation June 14, 2017.
SABINO’s pilothouse is lifted into place as part of a busy day at the Shipyard June 14, 2017. Click the image to begin a slideshow.

The steamboat Sabino has been sitting quietly at her berth in the Shipyard for the past year while some key parts of her propulsion system were being fabricated, notably the boiler and the fresh water tank. The boat’s pilothouse, canopy, and stack, remained on shore for preservation work, which left her looking somewhat abbreviated as nothing was present above the upper deck.

That all finally changed as the new boiler was ready to be installed and a the new water tank arrived. With the help of a crane, Wednesday, June 14, was a day for a lot of progress in the Shipyard’s work to complete the restoration and prepare Sabino to return to operation next month.

The first task was to adjust the position of the new water tank placed aboard last week. The tank provides water to the boiler to make steam. This tank, newly fabricated, is smaller than the previous tank. It was determined, based on the way the Museum operates Sabino, that she did not need to carry as much water as she had been doing in the past. The result is a savings of weight and space in the bow where the tank sits below the main deck.

Next up was the boiler which was lifted and temporarily placed in position on its concrete base. The boiler actually sits on four metal brackets on the base which needed to be lag-bolted through the concrete and into the locust bed logs below. The crane lowered the boiler into position while the shipwrights carefully located the brackets. Once the engineer was satisfied with the alignment, the crew scribed spots for the holes to be drilled for the bolts. The boiler was then lifted out, the holes drilled, and the brackets were bolted down. The boiler was then lowered back into position for the last time and settled on the brackets.

The pilothouse was then rigged up and lifted off the dock and onto the upper deck. With a few minutes of back-and-forth nudging to get the positioning just right, the house was lowered completely and bolted into place.

Sabino now looks much more like a proper steamboat. The engine and canopy were installed on Friday, June 16. With the installation of the stack, Sabino will be whole once again.

Sabino 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.

News SABINO Restoration

SABINO’s Boiler Ready to Go

SABINO's new boiler. Photo courtesy Potts Welding.
SABINO’s new boiler. Photo courtesy Potts Welding & Boiler Repair. Click on the image to start a slide show.

The new custom-built boiler for steamboat Sabino has been completed and passed its initial pressure test. This is an important step in the restoration and continues the schedule to return the vessel to operation on the Mystic River in July.

The boiler was designed and fabricated by Potts Welding & Boiler Repair, Inc., a company in Delaware that specializes in the building of boilers and related parts for use all over the world.

“They are used to building boilers as big as our entire shop,” said Jason Cabral, Sabino‘s chief engineer.

The new boiler is fabricated out of steel and had to be reverse engineered from the previous unit as no blueprints were available. Sabino‘s old boiler dates from 1940 when the U.S. Navy operated the vessel on Maine’s Casco Bay, but the design goes back to the late 19th century.

The old boiler was manufactured by the Almy Water-Tube Boiler Company of Providence, R.I. It was the vessel’s third boiler since she was launched in 1908. It powered the steamboat for nearly three-quarters of her life on the water, including passenger service in Maine, as a private attraction in Massachusetts, and finally for more than 40 years on the Mystic River for Mystic Seaport. It is now on display in the lobby of the Thompson Exhibition Building.

“The design process sought to create a modern boiler as close to the geometry and architecture of the one we took out of the vessel, but one that would meet all of the necessary safety and regulatory requirements,” said Dana Hewson, vice president for watercraft preservation and programs. “We also anticipate this boiler will be more efficient.”

At first glance the Almy boiler appears to be a small simple design. However there were many years of trial and error refinement incorporated into the design when it was built,” said David Sollish, an engineer who consulted of the project. “Since there were no design drawings or calculations to work with the boiler had to be reverse engineered. This is considerably more difficult than just designing a boiler from scratch. The design calculations had to all be done by hand.”

Sollish said the major challenge centered around the fuel. Coal used to be the backbone of the boiler industry and there were many boiler companies to choose from 40 years ago. Today, that coal boiler capability has all but disappeared in the United States and they could find only one manufacturer, Potts, with the capability and interest in tackling a custom marine boiler design such as this.

“The problem is coal burns differently from oil or gas or even wood. A boiler designed to fire coal is vastly different from a boiler designed to burn other fuels,” said Sollish.

Sabino will continue to be powered by her original two-cylinder expansion engine that was manufactured by J. H. Payne & Son in nearby Noank, CT, in 1908.

SABINO's old Almy boiler. The steam drum is on top and the two mud drums line either side at the base. The many water tubes are in between. The fire is lit in the middle and the heat passing by the water tubes turns the water inside into steam, which is collected in the steam drum and passed on to power the engine.
SABINO’s old Almy boiler now on display in the Thompson Building lobby. The steam drum is on top and the two mud drums line either side at the base. The many water tubes are in between.

A new base, or fire box, is being built that the boiler will sit in and the outer casing will be reused. The casing has been cleaned and internally modified to hold a new ceramic refractory material (insulation) that will be far more efficient than the old fire bricks. It will bolted back on and then the whole unit will be dropped into the boat in one piece. With only 3 inches of clearance in the mechanical space, there is not sufficient room to assemble the boiler in place.

The Shipyard is presently reinstalling all of the systems using a combination of brass and black steel pipe. Everything had to be disassembled, cleaned, inspected, and reassembled. Only those items needing replacement are being replaced, consistent with the Museum’s preservation practice. In addition, the engineers have been carefully logging and documenting all work for U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) review and inspection.

Cabral said the project is something of a learning opportunity for all involved. There are not many boilers and engines like this in operation in the country, so the USCG has created a special team for Sabino to spread the experience and knowledge generated from this project.

About Potts Welding

Finding a company that could manufacture a boiler as specialized as the one needed for Sabino was not a simple task. Mystic Seaport was fortunate to team up with Potts Welding & Boiler Repair, Inc. Founded by Walter Potts in 1929 as a boiler repair business, today the company employs approximately 200 full-time employees; constituting a team of professionals including welders, boiler-makers, engineers, draftsmen, machinists, mechanics, and technical and non-technical specialists. Potts specializes in the fabrication and repair of boilers and related component parts, heating and cooling equipment, heat exchangers, condensers, and the sale of related tubing. The manufacturing of pressure parts for the boiler industry is accomplished at their main production facility located in Newark, DE. The facility is situated on 16.5 acres and houses 180,000 square feet of manufacturing and ancillary space. Potts keeps an extensive parts and tubing inventory meet customer requirements and ships boiler parts to virtually every continent.

News SABINO Restoration

A New Boiler for SABINO

Steamboat SABINO
Steamboat SABINO moments after her launch in the Shipyard July 27, 2016. Note that her pilothouse and canopy will not be installed until after the new boiler and engine are in place.

Mystic Seaport is very pleased to announce the steamboat Sabino will return to operation in 2017. The vessel is a National Historic Landmark and is one of the last coal-fired operating steamboats in the country.

Sabino has been undergoing restoration in the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard since December 2014. This was a major project intended to enable her to continue her role as an operating exhibit for the next 25-30 years or more. The Shipyard addressed issues with her hull and numerous mechanical and systems upgrades. A number of frames and her keel bolts were replaced, some new planking installed, and general restoration and preservation work was carried out throughout the vessel.

The majority of Sabino’s restoration was completed in mid-summer 2016 and she was launched back into the water. However, the vessel needed a new boiler and additional time and funds were required to have one designed, fabricated, and installed.

SABINO's Almy Boiler
SABINO’s Almy water-tube boiler on display in the Thompson Building lobby.

Thanks to the philanthropic support of numerous parties the funds were raised, and the Shipyard was able to identify and contract specialized vendors to do the work. The design was recently approved by the US Coast Guard and construction will begin shortly. The goal is to have Sabino back in operation for her usual seasonal run in 2017.

Sabino‘s old boiler was installed around 1940. It was manufactured by the Almy Water-Tube Boiler Company of Providence, RI. It was the vessel’s third one since she was first launched in 1908 and powered the steamboat for nearly three-quarters of her life on the water, including during passenger service in Maine, a private attraction in Massachusetts, and finally more than forty years on the Mystic River. It has now been placed on display in the lobby of the Thompson Exhibition Building.

Sabino will continue to be powered by her original 1908 two-cylinder expansion engine that was manufactured by J. H. Payne & Son in nearby Noank, CT.

For additional information on the restoration, please read the Shipyard Blog.

News SABINO Restoration

What’s Your SABINO Story?

Fred and Jennifer Bogue
Fred and Jennifer Bogue next to Sabino in the Shipyard just before the steamboat’s launch on July 27

Throughout Sabino‘s restoration over the last 20 months, we have been hearing a number of  stories from people who had a special moment in their life on board the steamboat, usually on the 90-minute downriver evening cruise. That got us thinking: How many people out there have a similar story? Whether it be a first date, a proposal, or just that moment when something important fell into place, Sabino seems to have been the catalyst, or at least the setting, for more than her share. Do you have a Sabino story? If so we would like to hear it. Please email us or call 860.572.5307. The following is the story Jennifer and Fed Bogue recently shared:  

Last year, for their 35th wedding anniversary, Jennifer Bogue tried to book a downriver cruise as a surprise for her husband Fred. That’s when she found out that the Sabino  was out of the water undergoing restoration in the Museum’s Shipyard.

Sabino holds a special place in the heart of the Bogue family. Jennifer and Fred had their first date on one of the downriver cruises in 1977. Jennifer had just started as a hostess at the Museum’s Seamen’s Inne and met Fred, who worked as a line cook. Fred had never been on Sabino before and Jennifer had only worked a few parties on board, pouring wine, helping with food service, and, in her words, “not actually sitting there and enjoying the ride.”

At that time the Seamen’s Inne Restaurant (now Latitude 41° Restaurant & Tavern) was fully owned and operated by Mystic Seaport, so Jennifer and Fred were employees and still have their 1970s-era badges.

As Jennifer explained, “We could come and go at Mystic Seaport anytime we wanted. That’s why the Sabino trip was a very reasonable date! We made prime-rib sandwiches at work and brought a bottle of wine and some strawberries. We sat on the back and it was a lovely date… it was a down-river cruise, a sunset cruise.“

The Bogues continued to work on and off at the Seamen’s Inne over the next decade, during which they got married, Fred attended culinary school, and they had children. Fred found his way into carpentry by helping rebuild the oyster bar at the restaurant during the slow winter season. He said, “I helped the gentleman do a lot of demo work. I became friendly with him and he gave me my first carpentry job.”

Leaving the restaurant business shortly before their marriage in 1980, Fred stayed in the carpentry business for over 20 years. In 2004, the couple opened the Bogue’s Alley Deli in Pawcatuck, named after the area near Fort Rachel in Mystic where Fred’s family lived. Fred’s father worked as a welder for Electric Boat and they recently learned that he may have helped build another Mystic Seaport vessel, the tugboat Kingston II. Today, the deli is owned by a former employee and Fred has returned to doing small-craft carpentry.

News SABINO Restoration

SABINO Launched

SABINO Launched
Steamboat SABINO moments after her launch in the Shipyard July 27, 2016. Note that her pilothouse and canopy will not be installed until after the new boiler and engine are in place.

After nearly 20 months out of the water for restoration in the Shipyard, steamboat Sabino was launched early in the morning Wednesday, July 27. She previously had been staged on the shiplift and once the motors were engaged she was lowered into the water in a process that took around 15 minutes. She floated off her stands at 8:29 a.m.

Prior to the launch, Mystic Seaport President Steve White addressed the gathered staff and volunteers to thank those who had worked on the project and to announce that the Museum had begun the design process for a new boiler.

“If all goes well, we expect Sabino will again be steaming on the Mystic River next summer,” he said. He noted that fundraising continues and encouraged anyone who would like to support the effort to return the vessel to operation to contact the Museum’s Advancement Department.

Sabino is still missing her canopy top, pilot house, stack, and engine, so she looks somewhat cut down at present. Since the boiler project is moving forward faster than expected, those parts will not be re-installed until the new boiler is fabricated and delivered. Installation of the boiler requires it to be lowered through a “soft patch” in the top deck (a section of the deck that can be removed much like a hatch) and the canopy would have to be removed as well. The Shipyard staff determined it made more sense to hold off on that work until the boiler was ready so there would not be unnecessary duplication of effort. Thus, Sabino will remain in the Shipyard until the project is complete and she is ready to resume operation.

SABINO Steaming
SABINO steaming on the Mystic River prior to her current restoration.

Sabino was built in 1908 in East Boothbay, ME, and spent most of her career ferrying passengers and cargo between Maine towns and islands. She is 57 feet long and has a beam of 23 feet. Her hull is constructed of wood and she is powered by a 75 horsepower two-cylinder compound steam engine—the very same engine that was installed in 1908. The engine was constructed in nearby Noank. Her boiler is fueled by burning coal.

She came to Mystic Seaport in 1973, where she takes visitors on 30- and 90-minute cruises on the Mystic River from Memorial Day weekend to Columbus Day each year.

While she has received constant maintenance and work since she was purchased by Mystic Seaport in 1974, she had reached a point in the life of the vessel where a thorough restoration was needed to keep her operating for future generations.

“The goal is to make Sabino good for the next 25 years,” said Shipyard Director Quentin Snediker at the beginning of the project.

The restoration is supported by a mix of public and private sources, including a $199,806 Maritime Heritage Grant administered by the National Park Service, $149,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services’ Museums for America grant program, and $172,125 from the Connecticut State Historic Preservation.Office.

News SABINO Restoration

Moving Day for SABINO

A truck from Brownell Systems gets ready to pull the steamboat SABINO out of the main shop, where she has been undergoing restoration since December 2014. (Photos by Kane Borden and Joe Michael/Mystic Seaport)

A truck from Brownell Systems gets ready to pull the steamboat SABINO out of the main shop, where she has been undergoing restoration since December 2014. Click on the image for a slide show. (Photos by Kane Borden and Joe Michael/Mystic Seaport)

Steamboat Sabino took one step closer to her launch this summer when she was moved out of the main shop today and onto the shiplift, where work will continue until she is ready to go back into the water. Sabino has been undergoing a thorough restoration and inside since December 2014. Brownell Systems of Mattapoisett, MA, erected a trailer under the vessel and then carefully maneuvered her out to the lift.

Sabino still needs to have her engine, stack, canopy top, and pilothouse reinstalled. They were removed to provide greater access for restoration work and clearance through the shop doors. In addition, a new boiler needs to be designed and fabricated to replace the current one that dates back to 1941. While that is taking place, Sabino will be launched and returned to operate as a dockside exhibit. The plan is to have her return to steam operation for the 2017 season.

News SABINO Restoration

SABINO Will Steam Again

SABINO Steaming
SABINO steaming on the Mystic River. She needs a new boiler to return to operation.

This past month, Mystic Seaport made the decision to launch the 1908 steamboat Sabino without a new boiler. She has been hauled out in the Shipyard for a major restoration since December 2014. The project addresses a wide range of structural and mechanical needs, including a great deal of work on her wooden hull and superstructure.

Although the project has been progressing on schedule, it has been determined that the existing boiler needs replacement and difficulties obtaining funding and identifying a manufacturer who could take on the work have made it impossible to finish that part of the project in time for the 2016 operating season.

Sabino is now scheduled to be launched in early summer once work on her hull and superstructure has been completed. Her engine, boiler cowling, possibly her old boiler, and stack will be installed and she will appear as she always has, but she will not have an operable boiler and she will not operate at that time.

“We are disappointed in the decision we needed to make, but we believe it is in the best interest of the vessel to be launched this year and back in the public experience as a dockside exhibit,” said Steve White, president of Mystic Seaport. “That is what is best for her wooden hull and it will give the public access to the vessel while we work to complete the project.”

“We maintain our commitment to returning Sabino to steam operation,” he added.

Sabino’s present boiler dates back to the early 1940s. It was installed by the US Navy when she was taken into service in World War II.

Its long term viability has been a question for a number of years and could only be properly evaluated if it was removed from the hull, disassembled, and examined by a certified boiler inspector. The result was the determination that a completely new boiler would be required. That began a broad search with the aid of industry experts for a manufacturer who could design and fabricate a boiler that would be both historically accurate and pass the standards for approval of the United States Coast Guard and meet the National Boiler Inspection Code.

Sabino’s boiler is now a one-of-a-kind example of an archaic design, which made this a long and difficult process, and it was only at the very end of 2015 that we located an independent designer and a firm who could do the work,” said Quentin Snediker, director of the Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard.

As is the case with all of the Museum’s major initiatives, the Sabino restoration relies on private and public support for funding. So far Mystic Seaport has raised $622,000 for the project, including federal and state grants totaling $520,936. The balance has come from private sources. All of these funds are being spent on the vessel’s restoration and will enable her to be launched in as complete as possible. To be able to move forward on the replacement boiler, the Museum needs to secure another $200,000, which is not available at present.

Sabino is a National Historic Landmark and an important part of our country’s maritime heritage. We want to see her operating on the Mystic River as she has since 1973, and we encourage those who value that experience and tradition to join us in support of that goal,” said White.


News SABINO Restoration

SABINO Receives Grant

Congressman Joe Courtney tours the Sabino restoration with Mystic Seaport Shipyard Director Quentin Snediker (left) on September 14, 2015. Credit: Andy Price/Mystic Seaport.
Congressman Joe Courtney tours the Sabino restoration with Mystic Seaport Shipyard Director Quentin Snediker (left) on September 14, 2015. Photo Credit: Andy Price/Mystic Seaport.

Congressman Joe Courtney (CT-2) announced that Mystic Seaport will receive more than $149,000 from the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) Museums for America grant program to support the restoration of the 1908 wooden steamboat Sabino. Mystic Seaport will provide matching funds of more than $154,000 to complete the project. Courtney toured the Sabino this morning with Mystic Seaport President Steve White and Shipyard Director Quentin Snediker to view the restoration plan.

“The Sabino, a National Historic Landmark vessel, is an important historical artifact encapsulating part of the maritime history of New England. It is one of the last remaining wooden, coal-fired, operating steamboats in the country—providing a unique experience to visitors and tourists. This grant will help preserve that historic value for generations to come. I congratulate Steve White and the Mystic Seaport team on the most recent in a long line of successful restorations and exhibits that have rightly earned national recognition,” Courtney said.

“We are grateful for the support from the IMLS and the recognition of the importance of the work we do to preserve and share America’s maritime heritage through projects such as the Sabino restoration. Public support is crucial to our ability to fund this kind of work and carry out our mission,” said Mystic Seaport President Steve White.

This year, IMLS received 521 applications for Museums for America grants. Of those, 202 projects were selected, totaling $20,207,105 in grants. Institutions receiving the awards are matching them with $29,946,584 in non-federal funds.

The 57-foot steamboat Sabino was built in Boothbay, Maine, by W. Irving Adams and was first operated on the Damariscotta River but spent most of her career ferrying passengers and cargo between Portland and islands in Casco Bay. This project will maintain the vessel’s historical integrity, and perpetuate knowledge, skills, and professional licensing necessary to operate a unique technological artifact of maritime history and culture.