Sabre’s 66 Dirigo is a Downeast Classic

The company's road-less-traveled philosophy turns the Sabre 66 Dirigo into a modern cruising classic.

October 16, 2018
sabre 66 dirigo
Sabre’s 66 Dirigo is a Downeast Classic Billy Black

Before you step aboard Sabre‘s 66 Dirigo Flybridge, throw away the standard methods of judging a yacht. Hold off on the tour through the staterooms, poking around the galley and sitting in the helm seat.

First, step into the salon and run your fingers lightly over the fluted pillars, with American cherry joinery. Go to the galley, where every locker, drawer front and the fridge has raised panels, a hallmark of fine cabinetry. Each drawer is handcrafted maple with dovetail joints that should hold together for decades, even without glue. Every stateroom door is arched and hearkens back to Horatio Hornblower days. Sure, square doors would have been faster and cheaper to build. And the yard could have used inexpensive, preformed drawers. But that isn’t the Sabre Yachts way. The company motto is “Crafted in the Maine Tradition.”

Every Dirigo (Latin for “I lead” and the motto of Maine) is a semicustom creation. She comes from the boards of in-house designer Kevin Burns (see sidebar) and is available as a Salon Express or as the Flybridge version we tested. This new Sabre flagship is 14 feet longer than the now-retired Sabre 54, and the added length makes her even more graceful, carrying the flybridge without adding bulk.


Most builders would convert that extra length into additional staterooms, but Sabre gave more generous amounts of space to the existing three staterooms and salon. The master spans the yacht’s 18-foot beam and includes a walk-in closet, a 6-foot sofa, and a shower stall that’s more than 4 feet wide.

The yacht’s salon is also an airy retreat, with 6-foot-2-inch headroom and six opening windows for panoramic views from the 10-foot couch and loose chairs. Double-wide sliding doors open to the cockpit, where there is another high-low dining table and settee, and a clever touch is the glass-enclosed stairway to the bridge — so the salon view isn’t blocked. Just inside the sliders are a wet bar and fridge.

The helm is an open pilothouse, raised slightly to provide the skipper with wraparound visibility. An L-shaped settee for companions is to port of the helm console, which has room for four displays. The skipper has a joystick control in the armrest of the Stidd helm seat.


As you step down to the galley, admire the complicated handrail, supported by fluted newel posts, that wraps nonstop from the helm, past the galley and down to the master stateroom. The galley runs fore and aft to starboard, with a Wolf four-burner cooktop, Sub-Zero fridge with freezer drawers, and granite countertops.

sabre 66 dirigo
Cherrywood warms the salon. Billy Black

Opposite the galley is the VIP stateroom with an athwartships queen berth, an en suite head and shower, and sliding shoji screens over the ports for privacy. Forward, the third stateroom has a double berth that splits electrically into twin berths as needed. This stateroom has access to the day-head, as well as a private shower compartment to port.

Noteworthy details include the pump room under the galley sole that has step-in access to systems and plumbing. Redundancy is a byword for the Sabre 66, because you don’t want the air conditioning or fresh water to go out on a cruise, so there are backups installed, and the audiovisual cabinet in the companionway has electronics on sliding racks for easy service.


The flybridge is traditional with the helm console forward, an L-shaped settee wrapping around an electric high-low dining table, and a console with a grill, sink and two-drawer fridge. With a fiberglass hardtop, the bridge can be enclosed for all-weather use.

Power for this yacht is twin 900 hp Volvo Penta IPS1200 drives with D13 diesels. A cockpit hatch leads to the full-headroom engine room with space on all sides of the engines. A pair of Onan Quiet series generators provide 21.5 kW on the primary and 13.4 kW on the secondary unit. Switching between AC shore and generator power is automatic, and a Mastervolt 3.4 kW high-output inverter/charger backs up the stand-alone 100-amp charger.

sabre 66 dirigo
Cleats and hardware are stainless steel (left). Note the joystick control in the Stidd helm seat’s armrest. Billy Black

The Sabre 66 Dirigo is surprisingly quick, considering the 40-ish tons of fine woodwork and amenities. Our test boat had a 24.6-knot cruise speed while her engines burned 63 gph. The skipper of our test vessel says he averaged 24 knots from Maine to Florida at 65 gph.


A wealth of thoughtful touches, fine craftsmanship and classic styling should make the Sabre 66 Dirigo timeless.


Looking for something smaller? Sabre’s other flybridge models include a 42- and 48-footer. The builder’s Salon Express series has 38-, 42-, 45- and 48-footers.

Fuel Savvy

The 66 has a 975-gallon fuel capacity: twin 225-gallon day tanks to port and starboard, and a 525-gallon main tank on centerline. There are also dual transfer pumps.

sabre 66 dirigo
Powered with twin 900 hp Volvo Penta IPS1200 diesels, our test 66 Dirigo averaged 24.6 knots at cruise speed. Billy Black

Sabre Designer Kevin Burns

After serving in the U.S. Coast Guard and Merchant Marine, Kevin Burns studied yacht design and worked with mentors before joining Sabre Yachts. There, he finds the family atmosphere productive. He can hear the sounds of the shop floor through his wall and smell the resins. “If I draw something up, I can bring it downstairs, and my guys can tell me if it’s going to work,” he says. “If not, back to the table.”

He sees good design as lasting. “I want a design that’s going to be just as appealing 10 years from now as it is today, without ever becoming old-fashioned,” he says. “Design must advance technology, and technology must advance design. But it has to be a boat first.”

Living with HAL

Nicknamed HAL after the talking computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey, a digital-switching network from Mastervolt CZone and Maretron is aboard the Sabre Yachts 66 Dirigo. It is displayed on the yacht’s Garmin screens and a pair of Apple iPad Minis that recharge on LaunchPort bases in the salon and master stateroom.

Nearly all of the vessel’s AC and DC systems are monitored and controlled through this setup, which has programmable modes for day cruising, night running and “dock unattended,” which not only sets the lighting and water pumps, but also monitors shore power to start the yacht’s generator should dockside power fail.

At the touch of a button, the skipper can also transfer fuel among the 66 Dirigo’s three tanks, check on the bilge-pump status, adjust the air conditioning and open the sliding doors. HAL’s comment in the movie sums up the magic of the onboard digital switching system: “I am putting myself to the fullest possible use.”


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