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.