By Jack Hornor
Revised by BoatUS editors in October 2012
Sometimes labeled by the oxymoronic term "fast trawler" this traditionally styled sedan cruiser from Sabre Yachts offers moderate speed, good economy, excellent construction quality and beautiful interior joiner work, but her limited accommodations are best suited for a couple or small family.
Highly regarded as a quality sailboat manufacturer since 1970, Sabre began building their Sabreline range of motor cruisers in 1989 in an effort to retain past customers making the transition from sail to power. It wasn't long before their reputation grew among powerboat enthusiasts. The company now builds more powerboat models than sailboat models.
The second powerboat model built by Sabre, the Sabreline 34 was designed by the company's in-house staff and introduced in 1990. The design features a conservative modified V hull form with an integral keel and is intended to be comfortable over a broad range of operating speeds. The on-deck length, as might be expected, is 34 feet although the overall length is closer to 38' when the standard bow pulpit and swim platform are considered. The beam is a modest 12'6", draft is 3' 3" and displacement is 17,800 lbs. The Sabreline 34 remained in production until 2002. In 2006, a new Saber 34 HT express was introduced although it is not comparable to this earlier model.
The construction quality of the Sabreline 34 is at the upper end of the scale of production boatbuilders. The hulls are hand-laid fiberglass and resin as are the decks and superstructure. Core materials are used in areas of the hull, deck and appendages in order to stiffen and strengthen the structure. Generally Sabre takes considerable care to prevent water from entering the core of composites. In my experience, structural deterioration of fiberglass composites and attachments are very rare. However, I have found the fiberglass composite swim platforms used on newer models typically show some evidence of elevated moisture.
Sabre makes very limited use of fiberglass modules and structural liners in construction. Instead, strength is provided by full and partial plywood bulkheads and fiberglass composite longitudinal and transverse members securely attached with fiberglass cloth and resin.
Factory installed systems are always compliant with American Boat and Yacht Council Standards although some, such as factory air conditioning, are very difficult to access for service.
The exterior of most Sabreline 34s are finished with dark (green or blue) gelcoat which looks great when new but fades rapidly even with diligent compounding and waxing. After five to seven years most will need refinishing; a job likely to cost $7,000 to $10,000. (2003 estimate)
The six-foot-deep by 10-foot-wide cockpit seems, at first glance, to be quite small for a 34-foot cruiser but it accommodates two deck chairs and a small table with ease and is supplemented by a large flybridge. There is a transom gate for easy access to the swim platform, wide side decks with a bulwark, good handholds and sturdy stainless steel rails for safe passage forward. The foredeck is small but anchor handling is easy and there are storage lockers to each side of anchor windless.
Access to the cabin is through a sliding, patio-type door at the aft end of the main saloon and some of the newer models have a second starboard entrance adjacent to the lower helm. The main saloon features a drop-leaf table port dinette and starboard settee. The engine compartment is below with a centerline access hatch.
The galley is conveniently located forward of the dinette and is typically well equipped with good counter space. A fully instrumented lower helm is opposite the galley and allows for "all weather" comfortable cruising.
Forward and down three steps, the head and shower is to port and there is a large hanging locker opposite. The one and only stateroom is further forward and features a center island berth with drawers beneath and a hanging locker to starboard.
The standard power package included twin 220 hp Cummins diesel engines which enable the Sabreline 34 to attain a comfortable cruising speed of 16 to 18 knots and a top speed of 20 knots. Fuel capacity is 250 gallons which allows a cruising range of approximately 230 nautical miles with a 10% fuel reserve. Optional 300-hp Yanmar engines were available which increase cruising speeds to around 20 knots and maximum speed to 25 knots.
Engine access is complicated by the fact that the dinette and settee must be removed in order to reach the outboard areas of the machinery. This is a chore that can add several man-hours to the expense of service and maintenance.
Couples looking to enjoy weekends on the water in style, to entertain a few friends on a day trip or enjoy drinks and a quiet dinner for four before you send your guests home for the evening will find the Sabreline 34 nearly perfectly suited to the task.
Naval architect Jack Hornor was the principal surveyor and designer for Marine Survey & Design, Co., based in Annapolis, MD. He was on the boards of the American Boat and Yacht Council, the National Association of Marine Surveyors, and the Society of Boat and Yacht Designers. He and his wife sailed their Catalina 42, Legacy, based on Maryland's Eastern Shore.