I have some experience with H-28's most of which was on a wooden version built to the original design. For me it was love at first gust. While these boats are cramped and slow by modern standards, by any standard, these boats sail very well in a broad range of conditions and are a pleasure to sail.
That said, not all boats, which purport to be an H-28 are all that close to the original design in execution and behavior. After all there have been a lot of versions claiming to be an H-28, some in wood, glass and some very loose interpretations in hard chine plywood and ferrocement, some with doghouses, sloop rigs, and inboard rudders.
L. Francis was very opposed to modifying the H-28 even slightly. As L. Francis famously said, “If H-28's design is only slightly changed, 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 you be
fortified against a world of warlords, politicians and fakers.”
Clearly many of the builders chose to ignore that advice. The original H-28s were nicely balanced and tracked well. They ghosted pretty well in light going and had enough stability and a low enough rig to sail well in a breeze. The jib and mizzen were about the right size so that the boat could be sailed under jib and mizzen in a breeze (although was very hard to tack with just the jib and mizzen). The deck plan was very simple and single-handing was very easy with her fractional jib and self-tending main and mizzen. The cockpit was a little strange so that crossing the cockpit was a challenge on a tack with the tiller aft of the mizzen, the mizzen just ahead of the tiller, the mizzen backstay angeling back below the boom, and the mizzen boom pretty low to the deck. It would also not be Bimini cover friendly.
The interior layout was very simple, workable, Spartan, but reasonably comfortable. The original design had fold down pipe berths that were surprisingly comfortable, but few were built with that layout. Most that I saw had a vee berth forward. Then came a head which was fully exposed to the forward cabin but which could be visually closed to the main cabin. The main cabin had opposing settees. On the one boat the galley was aft and went across under a bridge deck. The other had the galley forward and settees aft that partially extended under the cockpit seats to make a full length berth. I am 5’-9” and between the low house and low freeboard, I seem to remember having to duck as I moved through the cabin.
But as these boats were modified they varied in a broad range of ways, most came at the price of the seaworthiness, seakindly and easily driven behavior the originals were known for. To begin with most of the fiberglass hulls were substantially heavier than the wooden hulls. Further complicating the problem, the glass boats often had the freeboard raised, a larger cabin structure, more accommodations and tankage, a bigger heavier engine and so on. The result was that the glass ones generally had some mix of reduced ballast and/or greater displacement. The problem was made worse because many of the glass boats had internal encapsulated ballast and that ballast was often a lower density than the lead that Herreshoff had specified.
That really hurt sailing ability in almost all conditions. It also hurt apparent stability enormously. To put this in perspective, the original design was intended to have a displacement around 9,000 lbs with a slightly more than a 31% ballast ratio carried as cast lead, external ballast. The glass ones generally were closer to 11,000 to 12,000 lb displacement but with the same ballast or less than their much lighter hulled wooden cousins. And to put those numbers in perspective, these boats had a heavier displacement than my 38 footer with a 1,500 lbs less ballast carried in a draft that was 3 feet shallower and with a beam that was nearly three feet narrower.
As a broad generality these heavier versions tended to be noticeably inferior in light air, and far worse in a chop. In fact, they tended to feel much more tender in a breeze. Because the heavier versions had such a low ballast ratio, they often had a reduced sail area as well. This came about in a number of ways. The original H-28 had very low booms (too low to have a dinghy on the house). When the dog house was added the booms were raised to clear the house. With the higher freeboard, lower ballast ratio, low density ballast, these boats would not tolerate having their mast heights increased and so they were generally under canvassed as well. These boats seemed to roll excessively as well.
The worst example of this were the glass Cheoy Lee Bermuda 30’s. On the other hand there were reportedly some very nice Australian built versions, including some with a fractional sloop rig that was slightly deeper and with heavier ballasted, that I understand these sailed very well. But there were also some very overweight Australian versions that were real slugs and really should not have been called H-28's.
One of the more authentic glass renditions was Henry Walton's version from the 1960's. These were either built in Europe or Canada and were really nicely done. I recently saw and ad for a Krueger Marine's version that looks very authentic.
In the end, the way that I look at the H-28 is that these are boats which take a specific mindset, a mindset that can appreciate them for their simplicity and minimalist virtues. And while for the dollar there are many boats that offer more room, better carrying capacity, performance, seaworthiness, and ease of handling, for the right kind of person, an H-28 would be hard to beat.