My father started taking me to the Boston boat show when I was 10 years old. It’s total eye candy for anyone and particularly for those of us who are blessed enough to own their own watercraft.
I started going to The Newport Boat Show in the 1970’s with my good friend Peter. We were taking home $200/week, but dreaming was free!
We were also doing research for my father who was thinking about buying a sailboat. Peter and I needed good information when groveled with Clyde to buy us a boat!
In 2005 I started going as a potential buyer. In fact, that’s where I first saw the Hydra Sports 3300 which I ended up buying in 2008 (The Mean Kitty).
I love Newport and it’s such a wonderful venue for a boat show. It takes over The Newport Yachting Center, Bowen’s, and Bannister’s (at least) so it’s right there on the water in Newport Harbor.
While I’m not shopping for a new boat, as I said before dreaming is free.
I started my trip at the Sabre/Back Cove exhibit which sits in the prime spot right off of Bowen’s.
I have to admit that visiting the Sabre/Back Cove exhibit is a bit of an old home week for me. I chatted with Joyce, finally met Rhonda face to face, and spent quite a bit of time talking with Boston Yacht Sales owner Michael Myers. I also saw Bruce and met Scott for the first time. It’s a great group of folks who really know their boats inside and out.
The Entry Level Back Coves
Joyce was stationed on the new Back Cove 32 so I started there. My friend Steve has a relative looking for a boat for Buzzards Bay in this size category and I wanted to give him a report. I really don’t think there’s much out there that can compete with it’s quality and price point.
Sadly, my iPhone 7+ doesn’t really take great close-up pictures, so I’ll use some stock photos from Back Cove to highlight this great design.
All in all, this is a great design. Surprisingly, Back Cove still offers the 30 and the 34. I think this is because each offers a unique configuration.
The BC 30 is really a picnic boat. It does have a center table in the cabin that converts to a bed and a mini-galley in case a couple wants to do an overnight, but it’s best suited for day trips with 6 to 8 passengers.
The BC 34 is more of a family boat with two convertible settees allowing it to sleep a family of 6. That said, it really it’s well suited for two couples unless no one snores!
I think it makes a lot of sense for Back Cove to keep these three boats in the catalog. Each caters to a different type of customer.
In terms of pricing, I’ve seen 30’s for the low $300’s. Given that the 32 is a new design and the 34 has been around awhile, I’d guess they’re both around $400K.
My next stop was the new boat in the Sabre family – The 45. I actually saw one at Block Island (hull #3), but we were in a hurry to get to the beach so I declined the owner’s offer for a tour.
Did I mention that I’m not in the market for a new boat? But if I was, I’d probably start by giving the Sabre 45 a good look.
Like Vigilant, it’s a two cabin – two head configuration. The guest cabin features two small twin berths that can be slid together to make a queen.
These beds are clearly much easier to make than the one on the Back Cove 41. The cabin feels a little bigger and brighter. Is this worth an extra 250 large? I’m not sure.
You do get a lot of higher end features in the cabin…
Not to mention twin Pod drives. Still, I have no problem with Vigilant’s single 715 Cummins and kind of like the simplicity and lower cost maintenance.
It’s still a great boat for the right couple, but the smallish cockpit would be a killer for us and our typical 6-10 guests.
The Sabre 48
Mrs. Horne loves to tell the story about how I picked up a brochure for a Sabre 48 the day we handed BYS the keys to Tenacity in trade for Vigilant. I do like this boat and I’m pretty sure Mrs. Horne does too.
This is a beautiful boat with a really nice configuration. The salon is typical first class for a a boat in this price range.
The galley is below to port, but far enough from the pillows in the cabins to enable one to brew coffee without waking everyone up.
Again, very nice, but to be expected in boats in this class.
Where the Sabre 48 really sets itself apart is in the sleeping quarters. There is a great master cabin opposite the galley with an almost regular sized queen bed that you can easily make and access in the dark of night without disturbing your partner.
I’ve never seen a master this big or with this much headroom in a 50′ foot boat.
Next up is the VIP or primary guest cabin.
This cabin is almost identical to the master cabin in the Sabre 45.
Finally, the Sabre 48 has a third room under the salon that is accessed by a powered sliding couch on the port side.
If you’re having your Sabre 48 built, you have a few options for what to do with this room. It can be a workroom, an office, or a 3rd cabin.
The dealer’s boat at the show had opted for a crew’s quarter with a washer/dryer combo below.
I can’t see us ever being out to sea long enough to justify a washer and dryer on board. I found a picture of a more civilized third cabin on the Sabre website.
We’ve been very fortunate financially, but even in my wildest dreams, I can’t see my way to coming up with the $1.3 million one of these beauties costs new.
But as I said, dreaming is free…
What Defines Value in a Boat?
With a stomach ache from all the eye candy I ate the Sabre exhibit, I decided to embark on a little boat show mission. With the backdrop on my Sabre 48 dream, I went off looking for a reasonable alternative that I might consider in the unlikely event I was ever in the market for $1,000,000 plus yacht.
I was also going to give each boat a good once over with value in mind. Not value as in affordability, but rather value as in holding it’s value over time or simply being a classy new boat after 5-10 years of use.
Palm Beach Yachts
The first boat I looked at was Palm Beach 42. They also had a 44 and a 50, but they were crowded with people so I headed for the 42 first.
A very nice looking boat, but two things jumped out. This so-called 42 was about the same size as our Back Cove 37 – Tenacity.
It was also more of a glossy Hinckley style boat with lots of varnished surfaces. I’m not sure how this varnished trim would look 5-10 years down the road and I certainly don’t want to pay for it’s maintenance.
I asked the Australian showing the boat what it costs and he $1.2 million. No value here. I took a look at the 45 and it looked smaller than Vigilant. The 50 was about the size of the Sabre 45, so I skipped the tour and moved on.
At this point, I reached the conclusion that none of these undersized, high priced, heavily varnished glamboats would ever cut it for me on Buzzards Bay. I’m talking about Hinckley’s, Hunts, San Juans, and these Palm Beach Yachts.
The Bay is just too hostile for all that glitter. Plus something like a Hinckley 44 is no bigger than a Back Cove 41, but priced like a Sabre 48.
East Bay Yachts
My friends Paul and Ellen have an East Bay 39 that’s about a decade old. It’s still very nice so I think it’s safe to say they pass the 5-10 year value test. I’ve a fan of EB’s for years and I’d probably say they’re the closest thing to Sabre in terms of style, finish, and value.
As I was leaving the Sabre exhibit I spied the EB 44 with a Robin’s Egg Blue hull and headed for it.
This is a very nice boat and it feels like a very big 44 but it’s actually just 2 feet longer and 7″ wider than Vigilant, but it felt much bigger.
The fit and finish was a cross between Sabre and Hinckley; more wood and varnish.
What I liked about this boat was the configuration. It had a master, a guest, and 3rd crew cabin.
I liked the look of mat floor covering, but I doubt I’d like it much after a year or two of people walking on them with feet wet from sea water.
There was a guy literally grovelling over the boat and calling it “his” so I asked him what it cost. Thinking I might buy it before he could strike boat show deal he said “eighteen million dollars”. I assured him I was not a serious buyer and he said $1.25 million.
Clearly a viable alternative to a Sabre 48, but not if the price was the same.
Sea Ray 460
The last boat I looked at was a Sea Ray. I know they’re not in the same class as Sabre or East Bay, but they’re very popular and seem to have good resale value.
I choose the 460 because Marine Max was offering it as a Boat Show Special.
I can remember back when I was just dreaming about buying a serious boat and thinking when the time came I’d go to the boat show with my check book to land a deal. Now I’d never consider the thought.
I’m not a big fan of the Sea Ray look, but they do pack a lot of boat into a decent looking package.
The Mediterranean style does look nice from a distance, but the helm always feel claustrophobic. The Fly 460 has a big flying bridge so I started there.
This is the most compelling feature on this boat. 10 people could easily spread out here and enjoy the afternoon. The curtains can all come down and you’d have a great porch. It would enable us to relive the old Mean Kitty driving through the wind experience.
Of course there are those curtains. Someone has to clean them. take them down, store them (somewhere), and put them back up.
The salon was well appointed, but kind of dark…
Below decks there were two good sized stateroom and two heads which makes this strictly a 2 couple cruiser.
In terms of fit and finish, the drop off from the Sabres, Back Coves, East Bay’s and various Hinckley knock-offs was very apparent.
Where the higher end boats have wood and high gloss fiberglass, the Sea Ray has vinyl covering. The flooring is mostly carpeting which will soon stink of sea water.
It’s interesting to note that the list price on this floating condo is close to the big Sabre’s or the East Bay, but the quality is no where near the same class. This is not a brand or a class of boat that I’d ever consider.
Although I just reviewed the Sea Ray, I’d put a bunch of other brands in the same bucket. I’m thinking about Beneteau, Jeanneau, Cruisers, etc. I
f you buy one of these boats new, you save 20% off the cost of a Back Cove or a Sabre, but you’ll regret that saving when the times comes to sell it.
One more class of boat that I would have liked to review was the Tiara’s and Riviera’s, but I didn’t see a lot of 45-50 footer’s. I see a lot of them on Buzzards Bay and although they don’t have the classic Lobster Yacht look, they’re pretty sharp.
More Eye Candy Than One Can Consume
I spent 2 1/2 hours at Newport Boat Show and all tolled, I visited 15 to 20 of the hundreds of boats on exhibit. If I go next year, I think I’ll carve out more time.
You can never get too much eye candy.