In 2010 only about 400 new express boats were sold in the U.S. in the 40’ to 49’ range, and most of those were open Eurostyle designs, not Downeast-style hardtops. Perhaps as few as 40 boats were sold in the mid-forty foot range that were hardtops that have traditional-looking lines. That’s a pretty rarified audience, but both Grand Banks (the builder of the Eastbay 46 SX) and Sabre Yachts (builder of the Sabre 46 Salon Express) are now going mano-a-mano for a handful of yachtsmen who find this style and size appealing and want to keep the cost under a million dollars.
The Downeast style was inspired by Maine lobster workboats and this design seems attractive to boaters who appreciate the traditional aspects of yacht design and the sport of “yachting” in general. Generally speaking, they eschew the Eurostyle express cruiser because they feel it personifies a “nouveau yacht” boat owner who is likely to own a plastic fantastic. People attracted to this style like the suggestion of classic Maine workboat lines, the more shippy appearance, and the perception of Downeast quality and seaworthiness, as well as what it is not. Today this style is incorporated into boats built all over the world.
46’ (14 m) is a Good Length
There is something appealing about a 46’ (14 m) powerboat. For one thing, it is large enough to be considered a real yacht, not just a sportboat on steroids. For another, it takes a boat that is at least 46' long to carry a 15’ (4.6 m) beam (B/L ratio of .33) which is both wide enough to provide appropriate accommodations, has enough room for gracious entertaining, and has a look that overall is pleasing to the eye -- not too narrow or too fat. Finally, a 46' boat is usually large enough and heavy enough to handle offshore conditions with relative security when the weather turns nasty.
Yachtsmen who are attracted to traditional motorboat lines rather than Eurostyle ones should find these two -- remarkably similar looking -- boat models appealing. Both of these boats are new: the Eastbay 46 was introduced last year at this time at the Eurasia Boat Show in Istanbul and the Sabre 46 is being launched next month in Maine. But, while these boats might look like near identical twins, in fact they are quite different.
In our discussion where the two models are the same or nearly so, generally we will not mention these design details or items of equipment. Our mission is to compare and contrast the two boats so that the consumer might better scope out the differences to help find the best boat for his needs.
Eastbay 46 SX. This is the standard main deck layout. Note the good visibility, raised helm platform, and the wide companion seat to port.
Eastbay 46 SX vs. Sabre 46 Salon Express -- Round #1
As regular readers know, when comparing boats once we get past the pretty face and alluring curves, the first thing we look at is the displacement of the vessels on our short list. And in the case of the Eastbay 46 SX and the Sabre 46 Salon Express they are quite a bit different, and this single dimension could be a major factor in determining which boat will best fulfill one’s mission.
The Eastbay’s displacement is published at 42,006 lbs. (19,054 kgs.) with "half load." We assume that means a half load of liquids (fuel, water, and black water), so we will deduct 2,650 lbs. (1,204 kgs.) from the published displacement to get the boat's "dry weight" which would be then 39,356 lbs. (17,889 kgs.) The Eastbay appears to weigh 4,656 lbs. (2,116 kgs.) more than the Sabre’s dry weight of 34,700 lbs. (15,740 kgs.). If that is true, then the Eastbay is 13.4% heavier than the Sabre, or, put another way, the Sabre is 11.8% lighter than the Eastbay.
There is well over two tons of weight separating the two boats -- but where is it? Their engines and drive trains weigh the same, their generator and other equipment are comparable and on deck the boats are the same length. Is the difference in the hull and deck laminate, the cabinetry and furniture, bulkheads and flooring, or, a little bit from here and there? We asked spokesmen for both builders, and they both said they didn't know.
Neither direction (heavier or lighter) is necessarily the right or the wrong way to go – rather, they are just different approaches to providing a good coastal cruiser. An owner's mission, destinations, performance criteria and pocket book will determine which direction is best for the purpose in mind.
Eastbay 46 SX helm. Note that the engine controls and joystick are easy at hand to the right.
LOD. The second set of specs we examine more or less together are the length on deck, the beam and draft. Both Eastbay and Sabre are careful to clearly give their boats' length on deck (LOD) and do not play the LOA games many builders have been engaging in for the last decade or so. The Eastbay 46 is 45’9” (13.94 m) on deck and the Sabre 46 is 46’ (14 m). Essentially here the boats are the same. Bow pulpits and swim platforms add extra length.
This is a picture of the Sabre 40 helm and the 46 is designed the same way with the door to the side deck easy at hand for a quick exit to help with docking chores. Control sticks are to the right of the wheel and the joystick is to the left. There is quite a bit of difference in these two design concepts.
Beam. Sabre has the wider beam at 15’4” (4.67 m), compared to the Eastbay’s 14’7” (4.45 m). Only 9” separates the two. However, beam is a more difficult measurement to compare than is length. The reason is that length is measured on the centerline of the boat (stem to transom), and the beam measurement builders give is at the boat's widest point. The widest point might be because of a lot of bow flare or because 4” rubrails are counted on each side of the hull.
Sabre 46 Salon Express cockpit. Note how far the snazzy wrap around lounge seat extends above the gunwale. The wide, bi-fold door to the pilothouse saves space when opened and the retractable window aft also opens up the salon to the outdoors.
Draft. Despite the fact that the Sabre 46 is 4,656 lbs. (2,116 kgs.) lighter, it carries more draft than does the Eastbay, by 5” (12.5 cm) – 3’9” (1.14 m) for the Sabre compared to 3’4” (1 m) for the Eastbay. (The Eastbay 46 SX replaces the 45 model which had an even deeper draft of 3’11” (1.19 m), with conventional inboard running gear.) How could the Eastbay be heavier, yet shallower in draft?
The answer could be found in a couple of measurements that powerboat builders rarely publish: length waterline (LWL) and beam at the waterline or chines (BWL). Eastbay publishes its LWL and it is 41'9" (12.73 m). Waterline beam is a measurement few builders give, probably because they aren’t asked for it very often. But that measurement is usually more important than beam-on-deck because it will determine the amount of volume the boat carries below.
In any case, 5" in difference in draft isn't much and we would not be too concerned about that unless we owned a house on the water with a dock with skinny water on moon tides.
Bottom Shape is Important
Sabre tells us that their 46 Salon Express has a deadrise of 14-degrees at the transom, and 23-degrees midships. The Eastbay 46 is an evolution of the Eastbay 45 hull which was designed by C. Raymond Hunt and has a 19.5-degree deadrise at the transom, which is generally considered to be a modified-deep-V hull.
A boat with a sharper entry will be more comfortable in a seaway, but it will also pinch the available room in the forward cabin. Likewise a boat that is fuller in the bow will pound more at speed in chop. The best riding of all boats at speed in rough conditions is the 24-degree deadrise deep-V hull pioneered by Ray Hunt in the early 1960s which was made famous by the Bertram 31 and offshore race boats of the era. These boats had 24-degrees of deadrise at the transom and carried that far forward before warping into a steeper deadrise angle at the bow. In many cases their bottoms had a "constant" deadrise which means it didn't change as the bottom rose from the keel to the chines.
But boats that have flatter bottoms -- i.e., have lower deadrise angles -- are easier to push which means they go faster with the same horsepower. It is for that reason that many offshore fishing boats and even large motoryachts have flatter sections at the stern. For example, the easiest boat to push would be a flat-bottomed skiff, but it would also not be very comfortable in anything except flat water.
So, we have found another place where the Eastbay 46 SX and the Sabre 46 Salon Express are markedly different -- their bottom shapes. The designers of these two boats have chosen hull shapes at the transom that are not at opposite ends of the spectrum, but which obviously favor opposite ends. About the flattest bottom on a motoryacht we recall seeing is 11-degrees and Paul Spencer (owner of Spencer Yachts) tells us he will go as low as 8-degrees on a 45' sportfisherman which is designed for both speed and rough water.
Clearly the Sabre's designers are aiming for the best of both worlds by having a flattish surface aft to help increase speed, but it warps another 9-degrees fairly quickly to 23-degrees of deadrise midships for a better ride, and then turns even sharper in the forefoot. The Eastbay 46 designers have favored a better ride in rougher conditions at speed and its added weight will help in this condition as well. Eastbay's designers chose to give up some top-end velocity potential by staying with the traditional modified-deep-V.
Eastbay 46 SX. These classic lines fit in well anywhere in the world where yachtsmen appreciate the traditional look. Note the teak swim platform.
Most yachtsmen we know simply slow down when the pounding gets annoying. So again, neither approach is right or wrong. The Sabre approach features a strong tilt toward fuel economy and speed in moderate to calm conditions, and the Eastbay leans toward a more comfortable ride at speed in moderate to sloppy conditions.
Nor does it end there. Comfort at rest -- where boats spend 99% of their time -- is also important. Deep-V boats can roll more at rest, in certain conditions, than would some flatter bottom boats. On the other hand, heavier boats are less likely to roll at anchor than lighter ones. Roll time is also important -- is it quick and jerky like a flat-bottom jon boat, or long and slow like a cruise ship? We don’t have the answers to any of these questions because we haven’t tested the boats.
Over the last 15 years or so there has been quite a bit of standardization as to how hulls are constructed in boats made to go offshore. Hull failures are rare and particularly so for builders who have been around a long time. For example, we do not ever recall hearing of a hull failure for either an Eastbay or a Sabre.
Sabre is quite weight conscious and uses biaxial E-glass in addition to Airex C70 foam coring in its resin-infused, vacuum bagged hull lamination. Eastbay also uses Airex foam core all the way down to the keel of the 46, so in this regard the construction is similar between the two boats. Airex is a tried-and-true hull coring material.
Eastbay 46 SX. This is a view from the helm area down the companionway to the “U”-shaped galley below. Both brands have the galley down in the standard layout.
Sabre carries its emphasis on light-weight construction to its bulkheads which have a honeycomb polypropylene core, laminated with biaxial E-glass with resin infusion for a strict glass-to-resin ratio. These materials and processes are both expensive and labor intensive. Here and there throughout the Sabre 46 one can find devices that the builder has used to save weight.
The galley of the 46 Sabre is opposite the master cabin. The passageway forward separates the two areas. Note the high refer at left with the convection microwave oven above it. The companionway step can be seen in the lower left.
Grand Banks plays to its strength which is its location in Malaysia. Since the company was founded in 1965 it has made extensive use of teak in its boats, with remarkable success. Over the years it has become expert on the use of teak in boats, has its own supply of the wood from nearby Myanmar, and knows how to cure and finish the wood for a fine yacht appearance. One need only step aboard a Grand Banks boat to immediately appreciate the quality of the teak, grain and color matching, tight fit, and man-hours that have gone into its numerous finishing coats of varnish.
The Eastbay 46 SX standard main deck plan. Note the wide companion seating that faces forward. The chart table is over the galley which is four steps below.
The Sabre 46 Salon Express standard main deck, pilothouse and accommodations plan.
The two boats are quite different in the cockpit although at first they may seem the same -- a theme that runs all through these two boats. Starting in the cockpit, the Sabre 46 has a standard “L”-shaped lounge seat along the transom and starboard gunwale. There is also a standard aft facing seat to starboard and all of these seats have storage space below for lines, buckets, cleaning supplies, mops and whatever. A teak cockpit sole is optional.
The Eastbay has an optional seat which stretches across most of the transom which can be seen in the pictures but not on the layout plan above. The aft facing seat on the Eastbay is standard, as is a pneumatic assist for the engine room hatch. Both seating fabrications have storage under. The teak cockpit sole is standard on the Eastbay. Both builders offer a standard transom door.
The man in the cockpit of this Eastbay 46 is not standing on a step or box -- he is standing on the deck which is about 18” (.45 m) below the gunwale.
Boaters used to conventional inboard powerboats are also used to cockpits that are typically 25” to 30” deep from the top of the gunwale to the deck. That depth gives one a secure feeling when underway. In fact the ABYC standards require railings or restraints that are at least 24” off the deck for the whole perimeter of the boat. But both of these models have the engines under the cockpit deck and in order to fit them in, the decks had to be raised. As a result, the depth of the cockpits to the top of the gunwale is only about 18” (.45 m). A rail, or seat back or some other restraining device will need to be above the gunwales on both of these models for ABYC compliance -- and they are. Now you know why.
Traditionally the aft quarters inside of a powerboat cockpit are left empty to facilitate line handling, docking, and tying up. Most powerboats have hawse holes in the stern quarters of the boat in the transom, just forward of the transom in the hull sides, or in the gunwales in the stern quarters. Also, large cleats are typically affixed to the bulwarks either inside the transom or on the side of the boat near it, or both places. One likes to get to these easily. There are also times when one wants to hang a fender off the stern quarter.
With the lounge seat wrapped around the starboard stern quarter of the Sabre 46, line handling will have to be worked out when tying starboard side-to. It will be easier tying up port side-to with the Sabre, and with the joystick placed on the left side of the wheel the skipper can stand in the center of the bridge while easing the boat into the dock.
As the optional transom seat in the Eastbay 46 does not extend all of the way to the port side, hawse holes and cleats can be easily accessed there, as well as on the starboard side outboard of the transom door.
Both builders offer a swim platform as standard, but there the similarities end. Eastbay’s swim platform is the traditional teak grate design which has been used forever on motorboats. The advantage of it is that because it is a grate it does not provide any significant resistance to seas that might wash over the area in snotty conditions -- water simply flows through it.
On the other hand the Sabre 46 swim platform is a solid bi-axial laminated fiberglass sheet of material that has been tapered on the aft corners so as not to drag in sharp turns. The forward side of it rests on a one-foot flat surface which is an extension of the hull and is chemically and mechanically affixed to that surface. In addition there are two stainless steel struts supporting the aft portion of the platform. It can be fitted with an optional teak insert as seen in the drawing.
In the pilothouse both builders have placed the helm to starboard and that is about the only similarity. In the Sabre the “L”-shaped lounge seating has a high/low table that can be used as a cocktail table or a dinner table. The Eastbay in the layout presented has a “U”-shaped settee with table. To port on the Eastbay there is a large companion seat for two facing forward with a chart table. The Sabre 46 has an “L”-shaped arrangement for companion seating. The question begs why Sabre did this, and we’ll get to that.
Optional main deck arrangement on the Eastbay 46 SX with the galley up and aft.
One of the newest trends in yacht interior layout schemes has been to place the galley in the aft end of the pilot house. This was started on Italian-designed boats at first, and has migrated rapidly to convertibles and now to boats as traditional as the Eastbay brand, where it is offered as an option. Buyers need to carefully consider how they will use the pilothouse space.
Eastbay 46 SX standard accommodation plan with two staterooms and galley down.
Galley. The standard accommodation plans for both brands have two staterooms below with en suite heads and the galley down and this is the arrangement that we will discuss. The galley in the Eastbay is the traditional “U”-shaped affair which will keep the chef out of the way, while the one in the Sabre is along the port side of the boat. The passageway on the Sabre appears to have been made wider to make it easier to get by the galley slave.
It also appears that the Eastbay has more counter space than the Sabre. The Sabre has a stand-up Isotherm refer/freezer unit, while the Eastbay has a below-counter refer and a top loading, under the counter freezer, sailboat-style, in the outboard aft corner. The Eastbay has a Corian counter with backsplash, fiddles, and sea rails on its stove top and an exhaust fan, all as standard equipment.
The Eastbay galley also comes fully equipped with Oneida flatware (12 sets), bone china dishware (for 8), stemware, glasses, and serving plates, in short about everything you will need to serve eight people except the pots and pans to cook with. One of the important aspects of getting all of these items as standard equipment is that the builder has been forced by necessity to make sure that there is a place for every item!
Eastbay 46 SX. The starboard guest cabin has twin beds that are partially under the pilothouse which would have housed the engine room in conventional inboard-powered boats.
Master Stateroom--Sabre 46: The master stateroom on the Sabre is the one amidships, a location that many owners prefer because the ride is more comfortable there, it is easier to make the queen bed, there is generally more deck area, and with any luck the slap-slap-slap of small waves hitting the bow of the boat when at anchor will not be so audible. Also a washer/dryer combo can be installed in the aft bulkhead of the cabin, making this chore about as handy as it could be.
In the Sabre there is one full hanging locker, and one half-length for jackets. A large chest of drawers is also in the aft bulkhead and there is more storage under the bed and forward of it. The head is on the largish size for this length of boat and it appears that both the toilet and the small sink can be used by a couple at the same time. There is also a separate shower stall with tile sole.
Eastbay 46 SX Master Stateroom. The “steps” up both sides of the bed not only make getting in easy, but they also provide a good place to sit when you are pulling on your socks.
Master Stateroom--Eastbay 46: Eastbay has placed the master in the bow of its 46, as is traditional with this size and type of boat. The queen bed is what we call “diamond-shaped," because it is pinched in at the head and the foot is tapered slightly. This is done for the obvious reasons, and appears to work out fine. The sole space around the bed is about as good as we have seen it in this size boat with a stateroom in the bow, and there is extra deck space at the foot of the bed.
The head is decent-sized and a couple can use the toilet and sink at the same time. The shower stall is square which is a good shape and has a teak grate in the sole.
Guest Stateroom--Eastbay 46: As you will see in the layout drawings that accompany this report, Eastbay has several different layouts for cabins below. The standard layout has the guest stateroom opposite the galley. This arrangement has twin beds with the en suite head forward. Eastbay uses the twin bed layout in its standard version because it will appropriately handle more combinations of guests, not just a cohabiting couple. The en suite head is a wet head with teak grate.
Eastbay has a three cabin/two head optional layout for people with big families or who like to cruise with a gang. It also has yet another layout that has just one stateroom below with the galley and settee down, along with a desk.
Guest Stateroom--Sabre 46: One of the advantages of coming out a year after your head-to-head competition is that you can try some one-upmanship. Sabre is proud of the fact that their guest stateroom has a queen berth in the bow. It has a large hanging locker and an en suite head with a separate shower stall that is distinctly on the small size -- don’t drop the soap.
Sabre 46 Salon Express. Head for the master stateroom. Note the separate shower stall with a seat in the background.
Sabre’s customers evidently like to cruise with another couple and they can feel like VIPs with the queen berth.
Below the Pilothouse
Both models utilize the Zeus Pod drives which means that the engines do not have to be under the pilothouse as they have been for decades on nearly all inboard cruisers. With the engines moved back under the cockpit sole, the space that would normally hold the engines is free for other uses. The first use both of the builders put that space to is holding the fuel tanks. Both builders use aluminum tanks and put 250 gallons (950 L) on each side as far outboard as they can go. This leaves the space in the center of the boat, amidships, for other uses such as a utility room, crew cabin, a place for a washer and dryer, or just general storage.
With bulkheads forward and aft, the fuel tanks outboard, and less than standing headroom even on the centerline above the deepest part of the boat, this space is probably best used for storage, a work area, or laundry. The space (sometimes called the “basement” or “dungeon” by owners) is in the same general location in the two boats, but the access is radically different.
In the Eastbay 46 the “utility” room is accessed by lifting the companionway stairs which has a hydraulic device to make this easy. This is a conventional approach and builders have accessed the engine room this way in hundreds of models over the years.
Note love seat to port. It slides to the center of the cabin revealing a staircase below.
Sabre’s access is one of the most innovative bits of boat design we have seen in a long time. In the salon the love seat on the port side slides to the center of the cabin revealing a stair case going below and forward. Once below, there is 5’10” (1.77 m) headroom at the landing. This is the reason that that Sabre has an “L”-shaped companion seat on the bridge -- the area below the seats provides the headroom, just as on many mid-cabin express cruisers. The headroom drops to 4’8” (1.42 m) in the center.
Both Eastbay and Sabre allow this space to be customized as much as possible and the builders need to be contacted about their ballpark charges for different customization schemes. The folks at Sabre tell us that their customers have used this space for a work area, storage, crew quarters, and a children’s cabin complete with bunk, TV and A/C.
Sabre 46 Salon Express. Let the outside in with the bi-fold door and retracting aft window. Note versatile high-low table at left for cocktails or dinner.
Propulsion System and Engine Rooms
Both boats are powered by Zeus pod drives, both have tunnels for the pods and dual, counter-rotating props, and both use the same CMD (Cummins MerCruiser Diesel) QSC 8.3L 550-hp engines as standard. Both offer the 600-hp version of the 8.3L diesel as an option. Both have tunnels that are the recommended architecture for the aft-facing dual prop Zeus pods to both maximize performance and minimize draft.
Both engine rooms are accessed through hatches in the cockpit sole and needless to say there is only crawling or crouching headroom in both models. We feel ease of access for daily fluid checks, strainer checks, thru-hull and hose checks we feel will be of paramount importance. Prospective buyers need to check out each boat’s engine room personally to see if they can reach all of the important spots in it.
We have not tested the Eastbay 46 so we cannot attest to its speed, fuel flow or handling. At press time the Sabre 46 had yet to be launched so even the factory has yet to run speed trials on a completed boat. In the brochure on the Eastbay 46 SX, with the caveat that “All speeds are estimated,” it says that the max speed with 550-hp engines is 31 knots. Cruise speed is said to be 25 knots.
Eastbay 46 SX. Looking forward in the engine room under the cockpit. Note the jackshaft connecting the starboard engine with the pod housing at extreme right.
While many items of standard equipment are the same on both models, a few jump out as being different and noteworthy either because they are so large, or so useful. Both companies offer an Onan (which is partnered with Cummins) generator, but the Eastbay’s standard unit is 9kW and the Sabre’s is 13.5kW. Sabre has a standard three-zone heating and A/C system, whereas that item is optional on the Eastbay.
In the engine room the Eastbay has a lot of important equipment standard, which the Sabre does not. Eastbay has Delta-T demisters as standard as well as an automatic engine and blower shutdown system. A fuel polisher, oil change system, and fuel transfer pump are standard on the Eastbay. None of these items is standard on the Sabre.
Below the waterline Sabre uses Marelon sea valves on all thru-hull fittings and Eastbay uses traditional Groco sea cocks which are made of bronze. What is “Marelon”? It is a non-corrosive, non-conductive formulation of glass-reinforced DuPont Zytel. This is a non-metallic material that its distributor says is fire and impact resistant.
The Companies Behind the Boats
Grand Banks. Virtually every powerboat owner knows the basic story of Grand Banks, the builder of the Eastbay Series, so we will not repeat it here. Suffice it to say that the company started building powerboats in 1965 in Hong Kong and single-handedly created the concept of trawler yachts as we know them today. Some years ago it branched out from the trawler market with the Eastbay line of hardtop express cruisers that adopted the Downeast style.
Sabre. Sabre is perhaps a little less well known, primarily because for the first part of its life it built only sailboats. The company was started in Maine in 1970 by Roger Hewson who set out to build fine sailboats and succeeded. Roger went on to become an industry leader and one of the most respected boat builders in America. He was also a consummate gentleman.
With time Roger discovered the powerboat market and started building “high-speed” trawler-type yachts that had the early signs of what would become a Downeast look about them. Over the years the company changed hands and the models that Sabre builds now were developed. The company also developed another line about 10 years ago, called Back Cove.
Both Builders Have Corporate Integrity
When selecting a boat to buy, particularly one in this price range, it is important to make sure the company building the boat, and the people running the company have a commitment to quality, to the consumer, and to customer satisfaction in the aftermarket – not just their company’s bottom line.
Sabre 46 Salon Express. This is the amidships master stateroom. Note the Shoji screen door to the head at left which transfers light and matching Shoji screen doors on cabinets.
We are happy to say that from our experience both Grand Banks and Sabre care deeply about their customers and their brands’ reputations. For example, every Sabre that is sold has an employee assigned to it for one year to work with the owner to make sure everything operates correctly and the customer is satisfied. Likewise, Grand Banks has had its own system of customer service in place for years and now many of its dealerships are company-owned.
Price. Finally we come to price. It is the ultimate arbiter of all that has come before. Publishing pricing is fraught with pitfalls for builders, dealers, consumers -- and the publication source, too! Typically boats in inventory have been spec'ed differently from one to another, just as similar cars in a dealer’s showroom are rarely the same. Then there are added charges such as freight, and freight varies. There is also often a “dealer prep” charge, and we can assure readers that the dealer has to go to a lot of trouble to get a boat ready to deliver, but that charge will also vary from dealer to dealer.
With those caveats, the base MSRP price of the Sabre 46 Salon Express as of this writing is $920,000. The price of the Eastbay 46 SX is $965,000. Both boats for this price are equipped with the CMD 550-hp engines and the Zeus drives and joystick. Other items of equipment vary.
Clearly, both of these builders are trying to deliver as much as they can in a 46' yacht and keep it under US$1 million. By the time you get a tender, electronics and other items you will need on the boat you will be at or over $1 million but very close to it.
To get another take on the Eastbay 46 SX read our Captain’s Report…
To get another take on the Sabre 46 Salon Express read our Captain’s Report…