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Sabre 362

2008 November 10

Capable and elegant, this Maine-built cruiser is at home on the bay or on the ocean

The Sabre 362 was designed by Jim Taylor to be a capable club racer and a spirited but comfortable coastal and offshore cruiser. Not surprisingly, the 362 succeeds admirably on both levels. In many respects, creating a genuine racer-cruiser, or in today's vernacular, a "performance cruiser," is more challenging than producing a boat dedicated to a specific task.

We may not like to admit it, but a combination of casual racing and short-term cruising is the way most of us actually use our boats. We want to win the Wednesday night beer bashes and be competitive in an occasional offshore race, and we want to enjoy a couple of weeks, or even a month spent cruising every summer. We also want a boat that can stand up to the rigors of a passage, just in case this is the year we finally get away to Bermuda or the islands. Although the 362 has been in production for nearly 10 years, with more than 120 boats launched, the design premise remains fresh, and Sabre's execution continues to be superb.

Sabre Yachts has been building boats in Maine for more than 30 years. The sailboat facility is in Raymond, just north of Portland. Sabre has streamlined its manufacturing operation to three models: the graceful 402, the powerful 452 and, of course, the nimble 362.

Although I recently tested the boat on a blustery afternoon on San Francisco Bay, I first sailed the boat several years ago on a delivery from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, to a charter company in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. I remember the passage well: It was a slug. The 1,000-mile uphill sail to the islands is never easy, but when the southeast trades are in a bad mood it can be a grueling passage.

Still, with a novice crew and the wind hard-wired on the nose, we made good progress, sailing close to the wind day after day and maintaining speed without making much leeway. It was one week to the hour when we spied the verdant peaks of St. Thomas, completing an impressive passage.

The details
The 362 is nicely proportioned and maintains a rather stately bearing in the water, an intangible that Taylor and Sabre's design team, headed by Ken Rusinek, seem to have patented. The ends are moderately short, and the sheer is flat, but the bow entry has a soft rake that brilliantly takes any racy edge off the boat. The cabintrunk is carried well forward for interior volume, but it blends naturally into the linear flow of the hull line. The recessed portlights lend an air of sophistication. Beam is carried well aft, providing enough space for a comfortable aft quarter cabin below, before tapering into a handsome stern. Interestingly, the transom swim step, de rigueur on most new boats, is offered as an option on the 362. Sabre recognizes that despite the 362's quick hull shape, she also has a certain appeal to traditionalists.

Below the water, the 362 is designed to offer excellent all-around performance, even when loaded with provisions for an extended cruise. One of the problems with pure performance boats masquerading as cruisers is that they have very limited load carrying capacity, at least not without radically altering their sailing characteristics. The 362 has three keel options: a standard deep keel with a draft of 6 feet, 6 inches; a shoal-draft wing keel offering a modest 4-foot, 8-inch draft; and a keel centerboard model with a board-up draft of just over 4 feet. All three keel versions offer a high ballast/displacement ratio of at least 40 percent and a respectable displacement/length ratio of 217.

Sabre's enduring popularity and the healthy resale value of its older boats is closely linked to the high quality of the original construction. The company claims to build boats "The Maine Way," and whatever that is, it has proven to be a fine way to build boats for three decades. The 362 hull features a balsa core sandwiched between layers of hand-laminated fiberglass of alternate layers of mat knitted biaxial roving.

Sabre employs the SCRIMP method of resin infusion. Vinylester resin is used below the waterline as a backup for ISO NPG gelcoat to prevent osmotic blisters. The hull-to-deck joint is through-bolted and chemically bonded on an internal flange.

The 362 is constructed in the same fashion as the company's larger boats, without the extensive use of molded pans and liners. Instead, bulkheads, berth faces, shelves, floors and all stringers are laminated to the hull providing integral structural support. The mast is keel-stepped on a bridge. Chainplates are tied to a composite grid and grounded to the keel. The NACA section fin keel is cast in lead and hardened with antimony before being through-bolted to a reinforced keel sump bed with stainless steel bolts. Careful inspection of the 362 reveals a boat that has been well-engineered and painstakingly assembled.

On deck
The 362 cockpit is nearly 7 feet long and quite comfortable. Still, the shape limits well size making it safe and seaworthy in a blow. The Edson pedestal and 40-inch Destroyer wheel are perched well aft, with a contoured helm seat offering good visibility. The cockpit seats are scooped out allowing you to make your way around the wheel. I like the fact that you can support yourself with your legs on either tack, even when heeled, and that there is a bridgedeck to keep green water out of the cabin. The standard Lewmar 48 self-tailing primaries are easily reached from the helm. There are small lockers astern and a larger locker to port complete with a most useful light. Sail controls are led aft to the end of the trunkhouse where there are stoppers and a pair of Lewmar 30 CSTs.

The 362 has wide side decks and the molded nonskid pattern offers good footing. Double lifelines are well-supported although they could be a bit taller. Full-length handrails are perched on the house, and there are inboard and outboard genoa tracks. The mainsheet traveler is pushed forward of the companionway to free up space in cockpit, but this requires using midboom sheeting, which is a mixed blessing at best. I prefer the control of end-boom sheeting, even if it means the traveler bisects the cockpit.

The Hall aluminum spar has double swept-back spreaders, is treated with an Awlgrip finish and has an air draft of 53 feet, 2 inches. Deck hardware is first-rate, from the cast alloy stemhead fitting to the beefy chocks and cleats astern.

Down below
The interior arrangement uses the available space flawlessly, and the cherry finish and excellent joinerwork is of typical Sabre quality. The forward stateroom is especially large for a 36-foot boat of moderate proportions. The double berth is 6 feet, 6 inches long and actually sleeps two in comfort. A convenient vanity sink and dressing seat arrangement makes much more sense than squeezing in another head in a boat of this size, and it lends a spacious feeling to the cabin. The saloon is also open thanks to a fold-up bulkhead-mounted table, which is a terrific idea in any boat less than 40 feet. Louvered lockers and berth backs provide abundant storage. Sabre pays attention to details: For example, the chainplate tie rods are nicely finished with wooden sleeves, and the chart table to port faces aft and has plenty of room to mount nav instruments and repeaters.

The L-shaped galley is to starboard, with double stainless sinks facing forward and a two-burner gas stove and oven outboard. The good-size icebox is available with an optional front-loading door. Sabre also offers a range of Sea Frost refrigeration units and Corian counter tops as options.

Taylor and the Sabre design team have logically opted for a single head with a separate stall shower located opposite the galley. A separate shower might be the single feature that moves a boat beyond the "camping" stage, and it also makes for a perfect wet locker, especially in the 362 because it's only a step away from the companionway. The aft stateroom, or aft quarter cabin, offers a double berth, decent storage above and below, and a hanging locker. It's ideal for occasional, short-term guests.

Ventilation is excellent throughout with four Lewmar Ocean series deck hatches, custom stainless opening portlights and two chrome dorades.

The standard diesel is a three-cylinder 35-horsepower Westerbeke with a fixed two-blade prop. A Yanmar 3JH2E is optional as is a feathering Max Prop. The 34-gallon fuel tank is aluminum and provides a realistic range of 250 to 300 miles under power. Robust bronze seacocks, hot and cold pressure water, and an activated carbon water filter are part of the standard plumbing package. The two 110-amp batteries and a 50-amp standard alternator should be upgraded if serious long-range cruising is in your plans.

Under sail
Photographer Bob Grieser and I caught up with Mitch Wilk, the gracious owner of the 362 Ricochet at the San Francisco Yacht Club in lovely Belvedere, California. I hopped aboard and within minutes we cleared the dock and headed toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Although we motored briefly, we moved smartly, and the engine was free of any obvious vibration. The wind was gusty, ranging from 15 to 25 knots. We quickly canned the engine, hauled up the full-batten main and unrolled the 120-percent genoa. Sailing across the mouth of Richardson Bay, looking back at Sausalito, we eased along on a tight reach, snug in the lee north of the bridge.

Taking the helm I realized that the 362 had a tough act to follow. A few years ago I tested the Sabre 402 and it quickly became one of my benchmark boats. The 362 also has the same instinctive feel. The steering is tight, the sail and engine controls are within easy reach, and there is good foot and back support at the helm. Cracking off, we angled south and could see the west wind building on the water. Within minutes we had a capful. The 362 absorbed the initial blast, heeled, found her stride and charged forward. It was great sailing. Although we had a spray dodger, the boat was surprisingly dry.

Naturally we were a bit over canvassed and there was some weather helm, but even sailing this way it wasn't overly difficult to steer and our speed was impressive as we hit 7.5 knots. We were nearly to San Francisco by the time we tacked and galloped back across the bay. Easing off onto a reach we flattened the boat and accelerated, nearly topping 8 knots. Grieser earned his money, steering the small Whaler in lumpy seas near the Golden Gate, capturing our every move. As we entered the lee again, the wind veered and we made our way back toward the dock wing-and-wing. I made my way below. Handholds were well placed, and despite our acrobatics of a few minutes earlier, everything was still in place.

Ricochet's owner, a former advisor to the California Governor's Office, hopes to find the time for some extended cruising in the near future.

"I wanted a boat that was easy to handle, even singlehanded," Wilk said. "I like to daysail after work. But I also wanted a boat that would be capable of heading toward the South Pacific if the opportunity presents itself."

Given my experiences with the boat on both coasts, I'd say the Sabre 362 will fit the bill perfectly.