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Thread: Dark Harbor 12 1/2, 15 and 17

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Portsmouth, NH

    Default Dark Harbor 12 1/2, 15 and 17

    Hi all,

    I am looking at the cockpit size for the DH 12 1/2, 15 and 17 and trying to assess the size of the cockpit that will have adequate room for the hemlsman and the crew.

    I have the WB plans for a DH 12 1/2. It shows a floor or well that is roughly 16" deep and about 6' long. It appears that the seat is at the deck height leaving the crew to essentially sit on the deck with only the coamings behind them and with their feet to reach across the floor and rest on the edge of the deck just across the floor.

    If you refer to WB #183 pg 56, you will see an article on a DH 15. With a somewhat larger cockpit, it shows a deck outside the coamings and then seats inside the coaming that are lower than the deck and finally with a floor that is lower than the seats.

    If you refer to WB #196 pg 66, you see a DH 17 with a deck outside the coamings with only a floor to sit on (i.e. no seats). This also seems to be with little comfort.

    Personally, I like the DH 15 with 3 levels, with the deck, the seats and the floor. This arrangement leaves the helmsman with around 24" from the edge of one seat to the other and with only 16" for the DH 12 1/2 if the 12 1/2 used a 3 level arrangement. Either arrangement leaves the helmsman with little room if looking directly towards leeward. The only option is for the helmsman to put their feet their feet forward. Would it be a crime if I were to make a change to the 12 1/2 by putting in seats similar to the DH 15?

    Finally, the tip of the tiller in all 3 designs is forward the helmsman's body requiring them to pivot the tiller above them when tacking. Is tipping the tiller up while tacking, allowing the helmsman to shift seats, standard?

    With other designs, such as Joel White's Haven 12 1/2, the tip of the tiller is aft the helmsman's body leaving them to simply come about without having to pivot the tiller up when moving position. Also, there is plenty of leg room in the Haven.

    I am trying to determine which DH to build as I do not want to build a Haven 12 1/2. I would prefer to build the DH 12 1/2, but I want to have a better understanding of the size of the cockpit? Also, I am juggling to build just a daysailer versus a weekender which would leave me with the DH 12 1/2 or the 17. The 17 is fine but it seems that it would be uncomfortable without seats.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
    Anacortes, Wa

    Default Re: Dark Harbor 12 1/2, 15 and 17

    Glenn, you're hitting on one of the most important aspects of boat design that is almost always overlooked or minimized by prospective owners, builders and designers. I've often wanted to just have a designer design a cockipt with a boat around it.

    I'd favor the 15 for the same reason you do. However, the actual proportions are important and even though your concerns are seemingly addressed in the 15, be sure that they really do. I'd recommend making a mock up of the seats just to be sure they are truly comfortable. Sit down in it with your next WB mag and read for an hour. If it's still pretty comfy, you might be okay with it.

    I've also thought the seatless cockpit concept had merit if there was room for a folding chair or Maine camp chair. It would have to be able to be secured and rapidly shifted to either side. You would likely need a larger cockpit to have chairs dedicated to each side.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Nov 2002
    Whidbey Island

    Default Re: Dark Harbor 12 1/2, 15 and 17

    while most Dark Harbor 17s had shallow self-bailing cockpits, some (manchester fleet?) had deep cockpits with seats.

    More in the Diana Esterly book "Early One Design Sailboats"
    "Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn't do, than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." - Mark Twain

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Sep 2006
    Sierra Foothills

    Default Re: Dark Harbor 12 1/2, 15 and 17

    Your question regarding the 12 1/2 cockpit change is quickly resolved by drawing a scale section of the cockpit area and inserting your human dimesions in the picture. I have plans for both 12 1/2 and 17. They are very different boats. the 12 1/2 is a day sailer and in real life scale is a small boat. The 17 is 79% more boat in volume and thus more flexable to alterations. The 12 1/2 certainly could be build without the self bailing floor thus becoming an open boat wherein it becomes an altogether different boat from a safety and useage standpoint and that must be considered above all else- the original intent was a safe relatively unsinkable boat in a knockdown. With its high ballast ratio fin keel and low freeboard you had better design in serious floatation in the correct locations and volumes to counter the potential flooding. Still honestly it is a very bad idea to make the DH 12 1/2 an open boat for these reasons.
    The 12 1/2 is no easy boat to build and clearly a well accomplish DH17 is an order of magnitude greater in material costs and labor time. the fin and ballast while doable are no quick weekend job and require attention to detail and accurate workmanship and execution-you may know all this. High ballast ratio fins with a narrow skinny hull contact like the DH's have are a critical mechanical and engineering structure in these boats and must be well done or failure is likely and could be catastrophic.
    If you want the type bad enough of course it can be built check out Art Reads 12 1/2, flawless and beautiful. Before doing a DH 12 1/2 you may be better building the 21' Hodgdon on the next pages of the Fifty Wooden Boats catalog- Similar effort, vastly supierior performance and sleeping out in the cockpit with boom tent is fixed in the design.
    The other thing to consider if you alter the DH cockpit is the structural- carlings,beams etc- if you drop the deck seat level to a side deck/coaming/seat flat you change the structure requirements and add weight and complexity to the build, and you might gain 2-3"- you will run out of floor depth in the shallow hull. not worth the bother, Draw it up, mock it up, you'll see. But the DH 17 is well worth the effort that's for sure, and if you build one well and decide to sell they will come...them with $$ as it is a desireable design. The 12 1/2??? pretty but when all said and done alot of effort for little bang. About the same effort = Hodgton21 or similar. But demanding to build any of these well- from a woodworking stand point these are pro/expert category. Not to say it can't be done at home etc-obviously it can and is- the range of capability or lack of it is impossible to gauge from forum verbage and vernacular styles and avatars etc..
    Last edited by Varna; 09-03-2008 at 02:05 AM. Reason: add missing info detail

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Apr 2008

    Default Re: Dark Harbor 12 1/2, 15 and 17

    Hi All, I have been researching the DH 15 and the few photos I found only beef up that desire.
    However finding building plans eludes me.
    I would enjoy finding out more about others building efforts and results.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Oct 2000
    Padanaram, MA USA

    Default Re: Dark Harbor 12 1/2, 15 and 17

    Unless I'm mistaken, the so-called Dark Harbor 15 was a one-off by Chip Flanagan for a client who wanted something in-between. He showed it at the Maine Boat Builders Show some years ago. Beautifully done.

    Has anyone heard from Chip?

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