A century ago Nathanael Herreshoff designed a 16′ keelboat known widely as the H 12½ after its 12′6″ waterline length. She was intended to handle the steep chop and strong winds of the Eastern Seaboard, and to serve as a sailing trainer for the young men of the Buzzards Bay Yacht Club. The late Joel White drew a shoal-keel version of the H 12½ that proved even more widely popular than the original, despite the fact that, with carvel planking on steam-bent frames, it is not generally regarded as an easy boat to build. John Brooks, after many requests from his students at WoodenBoat School, drew up plans for a glued-lapstrake version, and in 2002 launched RED SKY, the first Somes Sound; eight years later he offered his plans for sale. When I came across photos of the Somes Sound, I knew I had to build one. John’s plans for lapstrake construction eliminated many of the obstacles that would discourage the average boatbuilder from attempting to build this most beautiful sailboat. He employs a number of methods for decreasing the time and skill required to build the Somes Sound: planks are cut in one full-length piece from pairs of marine plywood sheets scarfed together end to end; using an inner and outer stem eliminates the need to cut a rabbet in the stem; and the garboards are planed flush with the keelson, then capped with the deadwood and the lead keel.

Canted benches and broad coaming offer secure and comfortable seating while under sail.David Johnson

Canted benches and a broad, carefully angled coaming offer secure and comfortable seating while under sail.

John’s plans are very detailed and are accompanied by an extensive building manual. The boat is built upside-down on a building jig that keeps everything in alignment. To accommodate the rocker of the hull, the keelson has to be built up from two pieces. I made a vertical guide fence, an infeed table and an outfeed table for my bandsaw, and resawed 4/4 stock in half. Planed smooth into two 3/8″ boards, the two keelson halves were epoxied back together upon installation on the molds.

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