By Andy Adams

Fresh Take On A Traditional Power Yacht

We were really looking forward to visiting True North Yachts for the opportunity of driving the all new 2013 Sabre Yachts 38 Salon Express because it is equipped with Volvo Penta IPS 400 pod drives.

You may recall that we reviewed the 38 Sabre Hardtop Express back in 2009 and from a distance you would have trouble determining which is the newer model. The exterior styling cues continue that elegant downeast look, but when you get up close, the differences are significant. The Sabre 38 Salon Express is all new from the keel up.

This design has a larger salon area that is fully enclosed by a very handsome glass bulkhead in a polished stainless steel frame. The previous model was open and required canvas when you closed it up for the week, now you just lock the door and walk away.

Better yet, you arrive and unlock the door! You are going to love spending time on this boat.

You’ll normally step on board via the swim platform and you enter the cockpit through the substantial transom door. There you will now find a spacious aft bench seat with an attached table and this is a very neat feature; it slides forward and aft electrically!

Slide all the way back and you have large cockpit area. Slide it forward and you have a large swim platform plus, the table is now closer to the second bench seat in the cockpit which is facing aft against the glass bulkhead. This makes an outdoor dining table with seating capacity for five or six people.

On the topsides, Sabre has continued many of the boat’s excellent features with substantial welded stainless steel rails, excellent and well-placed cleats and hardware including horn style aft mooring cleats, polished stainless steel anchor roller and best of all, wide, flat side decks that make it easy to get around the boat.

The salon is very typical, high quality Sabre. The top-notch cherry wood interior that’s handcrafted in Maine has few equals in this size of yacht.

As you unlock the bulkhead door and step in, you’ll find a cabinet on the starboard side that conceals a flatscreen television on a mechanical lift.  This also provides handy storage space for small items, encloses the audio system controls and more.

Opposite on the port side is a raised dinette with a high-low table. This inlaid table is most impressive and you could easily seat four to six people in comfort on the benches. Some storage is offered underneath. Sabre is very good at finding useful little lockers and cubbies for your convenience and the air-conditioning system is enclosed under the seats to keep things quiet.

The mate’s seat backrest has a clever articulating feature that allows the dinette to convert to a comfortable double-wide companion seat facing forward at the same level as the helm seat.

Again, Sabre has continued to equip the 38 Salon Express with a Stidd helm seat that has a wide range of adjustments for maximum comfort, built-in footrest and swivels to join the party as well.

 A wood rimmed steering wheel seems totally appropriate for this boat and this tilts for added comfort. We liked how the controls for the Volvo Penta IPS engines were mounted. It allowed us to rest our arm comfortably for precise throttle control even in rough going. The joystick docking control is mounted on the side just where you’d want it.

The dashboard offers plenty of room for mounting your navigation electronics and the twin Volvo Penta engines are always feeding information to the Volvo digital control display.

Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but we noticed that the ‘good old’ compass is almost out of sight and lost on the forward side of the dashboard area. Many owners will probably never need it but I’d like to see it more easily read, just in case.

Overhead, our test boat was equipped with a substantial electric sliding sunroof. This is really the way to go these days. In seconds, the side glass slides open, the sunroof slides open and a large section of glass in the aft bulkhead opens as well, allowing the 38 Salon Express to make the most of glorious summer weather.

The galley offers a composite countertop, 2-burner ceramic cooktop and a huge polished stainless steel sink, and we really like the double drawer Vitrifrigo undercounter refrigerator and freezer and built-in Haier microwave.

The four drawers include dividers for cutlery, there’s a large locker under the sink and an excellent slide out bottle and spice rack. An interesting feature is the ability to open up the galley to the forward stateroom. The privacy bulkhead has a TV mounted on the forward side for use in the master.

The main breaker panel is handy in the companionway below the helm. Under that is the head with a full fiberglass liner, opening porthole, opening deck hatch and separate enclosed glass shower stall. The hardware is elegant and we liked the glass vessel sink as well as the louvered cherry wood vanity door.

Below the main salon there’s a comfortable sitting area that is open to the port side of the galley and can offer additional sleeping accommodations. And outboard of that below the helm station there is a huge storage locker for dry goods and extra gear.

The master stateroom is in the forward vee and includes a queen-size berth, more of that elegant cherry wood cabinetry with five drawers under the berth itself, cedar-lined locker, overhead storage areas all around and an opening deck hatch as well.

The master also has a separate door into the head for privacy when guests are on board.

Today’s buyers will appreciate all of the improvements but the main event is the Volvo Penta IPS 400 pod drive system with joystick docking to which Sabre has added a Lenco Autoglide system that includes an auto-trimming feature. This will automatically deploy trim tabs to help the boat plane off faster, maintain a level ride attitude and maximize performance.

Overall, we found that the boat was smooth and quiet all speeds, even with the sunroof and bulkhead wide open. The ride and seakeeping qualities are impressive and the fuel economy is better than one nautical mile per gallon at almost all speeds.

It’s hard to imagine how you could have a more elegant 38 footer. Congratulations to Sabre yachts on an outstanding boat.


Twin Volvo Penta D4 300HP engines linked to VP IPS drives
3.7l (4) cylinder fresh water-cooled Includes Volvo electronic controls
Volvo Active Corrosion Protection system, GPS receiver and NMEA

Idle 5.2
1000 7.0
1500 9.9
2000 12.2
2400 16.4
2830 23.0
3000 25.3
3170 28.8
3500 33.5
3620 35.2

3170 / 28.8

LENGTH: (w/o anchor pulpit or swim platform)  38’ / 11.59m
BEAM: 13’4” / 4.06m
WEIGHT: (est. full load) 21,500lbs / 9773kg
FUEL CAPACITY: 300 gal / 1125 L 
WATER CAPACITY: 100 gal / 380 L
WASTE CAPACITY:  40 gal / 150 L
PRICE: $609,000 USD (as tested, manufacturer base price)

Test boat provided by and price quoted by: True North Yachts,

Performance data by: Sabre Yachts,

Photo Captions

Photo 1: The new electric glass aft bulkhead is plainly evident in this shot. So too are the transom doors, great cockpit seating and conveniently designed exteriors.
Photo 2: Few yachts equal the quality of cabinetry and finish that is the hallmark of all the yachts in the Sabre line.