Ask a boat manufacturer about the laminate on a typical cruiser and the response usually features the phrase "solid-glass bottom." I expected the same response when I inquired about the Sabre 52 Salon Express. Instead, Sabre took a more complex approach that made my inner geek glow with excitement.
The 52 Salon Express' hull is solid glass extending out 1½' from the keel on each side, then switches to 1"-thick Divinycell foam coring until the chines, which are solid fiberglass again. The hullsides are cored with Divinycell sheets for fewer seams, and the transom consists of doubled Divinycell. And it's all vacuum-bagged in place.
For the bulkheads, decking, and cabin sole, Sabre uses Nidacore honeycomb panels. It's 4" thick in the salon sole, which offers outstanding noise absorption as well as stiffness. Composite PVC Nidacore encapsulated in E-glass and topped with steel plates form the stringers beneath the engines. The hull and deck fit in a shoebox joint that's sealed with silicon, bolted, and bonded with fiberglass.
The results of the construction are best seen in the 52 Salon Express' performance and heard in its low sound levels. My test boat reached a top speed of 35.4 mph at 2350 rpm and cruised at 30.6 at 2100. When I accelerated hard, the surge pushed me back against the Stidd seat. And in turns, the boat felt more nimble than other boats in this class. It turned inside its own wake and the bow stayed up. Pushing a lighter boat also makes things easier on the engines, which provides better fuel economy and range.
Let's see how the 46,000-pound 52 Salon Express compares to the competition. The Grand Banks 55 Eastbay XS ($1.5 million with the 853-bhp CATs) tips the scales at 63,000 pounds. Alden Yachts' 56 Express ($1.7 million with the test power) weighs in at 48,000 pounds. The Sabre is a couple of mph faster than both of them.
Sounds of Silence
The other bonus from the 52 Salon Express' thick, honeycomb-cored decking is the quiet ride. At wide open throttle, I recorded only 80 dB-A at the helm. You can have a conversation in normal tones. The double-cored deck felt solid underfoot and no vibration was transferred. What's more, I could see all the gauges clearly. The large chart/glovebox in the port dash is the perfect place to chuck your car keys, wallet, cell phone, and other sundries.
Perhaps the most convenient installation on the 52 Salon Express is at the main distribution panel. When you power up the ship's main switch, every circuit on board is live. It eliminates the shouting between skipper and crew, "Is this on?" "Is that on?" The items that you want to stay on full-time, such as the refrigerator and the inverter, are isolated. One thing that needed improving: The hatch for this panel hits the console. Sabre said it will put a rubber bumper on the console.
Across from the helm, the portside L-shaped lounge is the most comfortable seat in the pilothouse, and it has a wine chiller in the base.
Aft is a large lounge to port that converts to a berth. Webbing on the bottom of the lounge cushions prevents the padding from bottoming out and making you feel as if you're sitting on the wood base. There's a custom-made table that you can enlarge with a leaf that stows in a dedicated drawer in the lounge base. To starboard, the entertainment center is fully stocked with a flat-screen TV, a Bose stereo, and bottle and glass racks.
Head belowdecks and you'll find that the 52 Salon Express has a most usable galley. There's a spacious countertop and an abundance of stowage. Kudos to Sabre for putting fiddles on every locker in this boat. I was less enthused when I found snap-spring supports for some hatches, however. Folding or sliding kickstands are better.
A sliding hatch made of Shoji wood and frosted white glass opened to the master stateroom, which is located amidships. Sabre put the owners' quarters in this area to eliminate the chine slap that you get with cabins in the forward section. A chest of drawers plus hanging and open lockers provide stowage. A second Shoji pocket hatch slides aside for access to the master head.
In the forward VIP cabin, the mattress for the island berth is designed with seams so it's hinged for easier movement when you need to lift it out of the way. The base opens on two gas struts to access the stowage, and another portion pulls out of the way so you can get to the bow thruster. The head for this cabin is also the day head.
One characteristic that Sabre carries through the 52 Salon Express is headroom, including in the engine compartment, where I, at 5'8", could stand up straight. The fuel/water separators are on large aluminum panels and the fuel lines are all swaged per ABYC recom-mendations. Even the batteries are easy to remove from boxes at the front of the compartment.
When I headed forward on the wide side passage-ways, I could walk facing straight ahead. The anchor locker has a dedicated chainbox and inspection hatches for the windlass rigging. I would, however, add gas struts to hold up the locker hatches to make it easier to handle lines or fenders. When I asked Sabre about adding them, I didn't get the usual answer either. The company representative's response was "Good idea, we'll make sure it's on the next boat." Who would have thought it? A boat company that listens.
EXTRA POINT: If you like to hit the links, there's stowage for your golf bags in the base of the queen berth in the master stateroom. It's designed specifically for stashing two bags of clubs.