Preview: The Three Boats I Lust After (and Why) – Buzzards Bay 18, Dark Harbor 12 & Belfast Lough One Design

January 7, 2011

Alec Brainerd

There are designs that simply cannot be improved upon.  The Herreshoff 12 ½, the Herreshoff Fish Class, the Buzzards Bay 15, the Dark Harbor 17…. These are boats that fulfill their purpose perhaps more effectively and with more grace than any small boat designed before or since.  If this blog were titled “The three best designs ever drawn,” or “My favorite three designs,” then perhaps the list would be different.

However, I would like to introduce three designs that beyond all else, I yearn to build:

The Belfast Lough One Design was drawn by William Fife III in 1898.  The BLOD is 24’ 6” on deck, 15’ on the waterline, displaces 3000 lbs, and has 342 sq. ft of sail.  If these dimensions sound vaguely familiar, it is because they are nearly exactly the same in every respect to Herreshoff’s Buzzards Bay 15 which was designed the same year.  I have always revered Fife as having drawn the most beautiful sailboats in the world, but most people associate him with large yachts such as those racing in the Mediterranean today.  In fact, Fife drew many smaller boats as well, but most were influenced by the fishing craft of the day, and did not have the ethereal aesthetic qualities, like long overhangs, for which his bigger yachts are known.

For me, the Belfast Lough One Design has all of the spirit and grace of Fife’s “big boats” but in a wonderfully small package.  To the best of my knowledge, none of the original BLOD’s exist today, and I’m sure no one has built a replica.  The only changes I might consider would be a fixed Marconi mast in place of the split [Alec, What do you mean by “split?”] gunter rig, and a larger cockpit with bench seats.  The heavier displacement and full keel would make the BLOD a much dryer and stiffer boat than the Buzzards Bay 15, yet still easily singlehanded.

It’s fascinating to me that the world’s two greatest yacht designers (Herreshoff and Fife,) would have drawn such similar boats at the same time, yet each is true to his own style and local sailing conditions.   To me, the Belfast Lough One Design epitomizes the style of William Fife in a way that no other small daysailer does—and is at the top of the list of boats I would like to build.

Buzzards Bay 18

Buzzards Bay 18

Buzzards Bay 18

The Buzzards Bay 18 is yet another design, of which no original example survives.  Herreshoff designed the 18 in 1903, just a few years after the Buzzards Bay 15.  She is 29’ on deck, 18’ on the waterline, displaces 4430 lbs, an has 472 square feet of sail.   Like the

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