Steamboat Sabino returns to Mystic River after multi-year restoration


MYSTIC, Conn. (WTNH) — What’s old is new again on the Mystic River, as the restored steamboat Sabino returned to the water Wednesday.

Wednesday’s cruise was a pretty special ride, as it was the first public cruise after being in dry dock for two and a half years. It is the oldest coal-fired steamboat in regular operation in the United States and it’s now back in service.

The Sabino was built in 1908. It underwent renovations in the early 70’s when it first arrived at Mystic Seaport, and again just a couple of years ago.

Quentin Snediker from Mystic Seaport oversaw the restoration. He said they had to do some major work, saying, “We had to do the shaft log which is about as deep a surgery as one can do in a wooden hull.”

Another big part of the restoration was rebuilding the boiler.

“The tubes inside is what we renewed and making it all fit back together was a bit of a challenge,” said Snediker.

So is driving this national historic landmark. Captain Dave Childs said being at the helm is not quite what you’d expect.

You have to think a little differently. A little more like a sailboat.”

That’s because while the captain can steer the boat in the pilot house he has to use a bell system to send orders down to the engine room.

“I ring the hammer on it by pulling this. One bell is to go forward. Another single bell will stop the boat,” said Childs.

Everything is authentic.

“It’s really really cool that an old ship like this has been restored to such pristine condition,” said Alex Meyer, of Massachusetts. “The boiler, the engine room, is completely open you can see people moving around inside.”

It’s a unique experience you can only get at Mystic Seaport. The Sabino can carry 74 passengers. It will steam up the river three times a day for half-hour, 90-minute, and three-hour cruises through Columbus Day.

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