NOR'WESTING MAGAZINE EVALUATION OF THE MACGREGOR 26
(PHOTOS ARE NOT INCLUDED TO SAVE DOWNLOADING TIME)
The following article appeared in Nor'westing Magazine, March 15, 2006.
AT THE RAMP ----THE MARVEL THAT IS A MACGREGOR
Those of us rapidly becoming so "long in the tooth" that we could double as vampires
shall clearly remember the opening lines of a popular TV series from the 1950s and 1960s. Look! Up in the sky! Itís a bird! Itís a plane!" Of course the mysterious object was neither bird nor plane, but something much more marvelous and unique; "No, itís Superman!"
Those opening lines, etched so indelibly on the childhood memories of an entire generation, come to mind when considering this monthís vessel for our "At The Ramp" feature, the MacGregor 26. When spotted on plane at over 20 mph and rigged with a mast, it would only seem natural for certain observers to have difficulty attempting to categorize the craft.
"Look! Out on the bay! Itís a powerboat! Itís a sailboat! And of course the mystery boat is neither a conventional powerboat nor a high-performance sailboat, but something marvelous and unique in itís own right. "Itís a MacGregor!"
Every four hours, every day of the year, somebody buys a new MacGregor. While there are several "trailer sailors" offered by various competitors and MacGregor also builds larger sailboats (up to 70 feet LOA), MacGregor Yachts has taken the design of the 26 well outside the traditional "power vs. sail" paradigm and created a boat that can perform with astonishing versatility. The name MacGregor and the concept of trailerable
sailing are nearly synonymous.
Powerboat purists may consider the MacGregor and conclude, "There are several powerboats that come to mind that will go faster or handle slightly more nimbly than a MacGregor." Sailing elitists could properly observe, "There are some sailboats of the same and similar size that will out sail a MacGregor." While there is some merit to either reproof, such critics may be missing the point entirely. MacGregors sell in exceptionally large numbers to boating families who want to enjoy the ability to motor along at planning speeds or slow down and sail silently through the San Juan or Gulf islands. The MacGregor is one of the few boats that could allow some boating families to spend four to five days of a weekís vacation actually sailing in the islands (rather than a short one-to two-day sail between two-to three day motor cruises up and back). MacGregor may not be the most precise handling powerboat ever built, but it certainly sails better than 99.9 percent of its competitors. MacGregor may not be the ultimate high-tech 26-sailboat, but
it can two to three times faster than most when in the motorized mode.
CONSTRUCTION AND DESIGN
MacGregors are built on solid, hand-laminated fiberglass hulls. There is no "chop" used in the lay up, which allows the Macgregor to be lighter and more easily trailered than a chop strand lay up of equal size. MacGregor avoids the use of balsa or foam coring in their fiberglass lay up but does include a generous amount of solid foam floatation to keep the vessel afloat should it ever become swamped.
The hull and deck joint is mechanically fastened as well as chemically bonded, using 3/16" bolts on 4" centers. Deck hardware is through-bolted with backing plates and washers for increased strength, and all of the through bolts nuts are accessible from the interior but cleverly concealed behind removable access panels.
The MacGregor is shaped like a traditional sailboat above the waterline, but the bottom is flatter than most sailboats and designed to allow the boat to plane with adequate hp in the powerboat mode. A retractable dagger board and retractable dual rudders provide the required stability and steerage when sailing, but are unneeded and easily withdrawn when the MacGregor is used as a high-speed powerboat. The retractable dagger board allows the MacGregor to sit low on the trailer and enables the boat to float free on the trailer in shallower waters and a greater number of boat ramps.
Sailors will appreciate the rotating mast of the MacGregor 26. Sailboats with conventional masts will experience points of sail where the mast creates a pocket of turbulent air over the forward portion of the mainsail and reduces the lift accordingly. MacGregorís rotating mast will present a more aerodynamic face to the wind and provide additional buoyancy and assist in righting the MacGregor in the event of a knockdown under sail. Ease of raising and lowering the mast will be important to any trailer sailors, and MacGregor has incorporated a system that allows the mast to go up or down in a matter of minutes.
Ballast is the most important when sailing, but can be less desirable when power boating and adds additional weight when towing. MacGregor uses 300 pounds of permanent ballast, and incorporates a water ballast system that adds up to 1,150 pounds of additional weight to the hull when needed. The MacGregor stability is enhanced by 1,450 pounds of ballast, but the tow vehicle is only required to haul 300 down the highway. The water ballast system can be filled underway, and is self-draining when the MacGregor is converted to powerboat mode.
Powerboats will be pleases to note that the MacGregors is rated for motors up to 70 hp. According to MacGregor Yachts, the 26-footer will turn about 22 mph (or 19 knots) with only a 50-hp engine. Nineteen knots is just fast enough to tow one adult on a waterski, a feat that is absolutely unlikely to be performed by any other boat capable of sailing. (Boaters looking primarily for a water ski or a wakeboard boat and with no interest would probably select something other than a MacGregor.) With a smaller motor or throttled back, the MacGregor can loaf along at casual "trawler speeds" and enjoy excellent fuel economy.
INTERIOR DESIGN AND AMENITIES
MacGregor provides a pleasantly upholstered interior, with headroom of up to six feet below decks. A double row of cabin windows introduces plenty of natural light to preclude and "down in the cave" sensations associated with some sailboat cabins. A useful sliding galley module is located on the port side of the cabin and will lock into the forward, middle, and the aft position. By shifting the galley between the aft cabin berths and the salon, more space can be provided with appropriate for changing activities throughout a boating day. The galley consists of a stove and sink, with cold storage provided by an ice chest that nestles into a dedicated compartment under the rear bunk.
With the starboard dinette table down and the starboard cushions converted to a berth, and at least two in the port and starboard berths, a large family could easily bunk down for a weekend or longer.
The head compartment is fully enclosed, providing some welcome privacy that is simply not available on many boats of similar size. A portable toilet is standard on the MacGregor 26, but a fully plumbed, conventional marine toilet with through-hull and holding tank is an available option. A folding door can isolate the forward compartment from the main cabin, allowing more privacy once again.
The MacGregor 26 remains a popular and appropriate choice for boaters anxious to enjoy a single vessel that can be a very good sailboat as well as a very good powerboat. Enthusiastic MacGregor owners probably wonder why other boaters would ever settle for a boat that is "only" a powerboat or "only" a sailboat. MacGregor owners are so busy having fun that they probably never really fret that their own vessel will never contend for the "ultimate" status in either the sail or power category, especially as their boats continue to serve them reliably and well without regard to the type of boating they choose to enjoy on any particular day.
A relatively low purchase price and reduced monthly costs that can be associated with trailer boating (compared to keeping a boat in the slip) allow a greater number of people to get out on the water in a MacGregor. Thatís a very good thing for the families that are cruising in MacGregors, as well as for boating in general.
In the Pacific Northwest, MacGregors are represented by Blue Water Yachts at 2400 Westlake Avenue in Seattle (206-282-4261) and by Gerry Berg Holdings in Vancouver (800-334-6269). Blue Water Yachts offers the MacGregor 26 packaged with a trailer 50-hp outboard starting at just under $30,000.