The L. Francis Herreshoff designed H-28 has been a very popular design in the 50 years or so since she was designed. They were designed for amateur construction but were also professionally constructed in pretty large numbers. The original design was a simple and seaworthy
design. For their day they were reasonably easy to handle and were reasonably fast (although they are dismally slow by any modern standard).
As designed the H-28 lacked full headroom
for anyone over 4'-6" tall. They offered very minimal accommodations, and were not readily adaptable to the modern cruiser's 'nearly all of the comforts of home' approach to cruising. Like Folkboats these boats have been cruised all over the world by people comfortable with the very Spartan accommodations of these boats.
As these boats became popular, there were a wide range of H-28 adaptations built in wood
and glass. Many of these adaptations offered minimally improved accommodations at the cost of poorer sailing ability, seakindliness, and seaworthiness. Many of the adaptations had iron or iron/concrete ballast, heavier than designed spars, teak
decks, and heavy interiors.
L. Francis Herreshoff, the designer
of these boats, was vehement that the design should not be altered. In one of the most amazing 'how to build' articles that was ever written L. Francis in his inimitable manner says" If the H-28 is only changed a little, the whole balance may be thrown out. If you equip her with deadeyes, build her with sawn frames, or fill her virgin bilge
with ballast, the birds will no longer carol over her, nor will the odors arising from the cabin
make poetry, nor will your soul be fortified against a world of warlords, politicians, and fakers."
L. Francis's mystic prose not withstanding, the 'Frozen Snot' (as L. Francis Herreshoff called fiberglass) versions of the H-28 were very different boats and generally quite inferior sailors when compared to the authentic wooden H-28s. Much of the difference came from a pretty significant change in weight distribution, but the glass boats generally had a lot more room down below and more useable interiors.
The other issue with the H-28 is the fact that these are a very dated design. Performance and comfort are very inferior to what we expect out of a modern boat
. Motion comfort of an authentic H-28 is legendary but the modified versions tend to offer no better motion comfort than a quality modern design. While the H-28's were easy boats to sail, in many ways they took more skill to sail in changeable conditions and were not all that great in light air or at the more extreme ends of the wind
Of course then there is the age issue. Not many of these boats have been built since the mid-1960's. No matter how well built and maintained, an old boat is an old boat. At some level they are bound to be weakened and dated. This means more greater caution, and a commitment to greater maintenance
and a regime of carefully conceived upgrades as systems and components wear out.
To a very real extent, in original form, these boats lacked the kind of storage
and weight carrying capacity that any modern cruiser would expect. Few modern sailors would want L. Francis's pipe berths, cedar bucket head
, minimal ice box, or a cruising lifestyle that was designed around Hudson
Bay wool blankets, dried foods, and pressure cookers
All of this said, I really love boats like the H-28's (in their original form). They represent the ultimate development of their age. They were an absolutely brilliant design for their simplicity and moderation. As a sometimes yacht designer
I find her lines as drawn to be absolute poetry, a symphony rendered in simplicity.