The steamboat Sabino is the oldest wooden, coal-fired steamboat in regular operation in the U.S. Built in 1908 in East Boothbay, Maine, by W. Irving Adams, she spent most of her career ferrying passengers and cargo between Maine towns and islands. First she operated on the Damariscotta River in midcoast Maine. After sinking during an accident in 1918, she ran on the Kennebec River. From 1927 to 1960 she served the islands of Casco Bay, running out of Portland. For this service her narrow hull was widened with sponsons to make her more stable in the open waters. Although her configuration and passenger capacity changed through the years, her engine did not. She is still powered by the two-cylinder Paine compound steam engine installed in 1908.
From about 1820 to 1940, coastal and riverside residents relied on steamboats as much as we do today on cars and buses for convenient transportation. With poor roads and few bridges, it took far longer to travel on land than it did at eight miles an hour in a comfortable steamboat. But by 1900 railroads had reduced the demand for steamboat service, and with the popularization of the automobile and the development of reliable paved highways in the 1920s, the steamboat became obsolete.
After her career in Casco bay, she was restored by the Corbin family who operated her out of Newburyport, Massachusetts. Sabino was purchased by Mystic Seaport in 1974 to serve as a working exhibit. She is operated during the warmer months on regularly scheduled runs for the enjoyment and education of visitors. The Sabino was formally designated a National Historic Landmark in 1992.
Sabino was hauled out in the Museum’s Henry B. duPont Preservation Shipyard in 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 are being carried out and a new boiler will be installed. She returned to service August 2, 2017.