Reviews

The MacGregor 26 is no longer being built as the MacGregors have retired from production boat building.  The Tattoo 26 is now available to replace it, and we will be coming out with a 22′ trailerable sailboat in Fall, 2013. Our new site is tattooyachts.com. Please visit us there.

We have left this site online as an archive of the MacGregor 26.

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Some publication reviews of the MacGregor 26 for your reference. Feel free to contact Sharp Marine Industries with any questions. Copyright 2012 Sharp Marine Industries, Inc. and their respective copyright owners.

 

La Regata Puerto Rico review - July 12

 

Trade-a-boat New Zealand review - June 07

 

Boat Owner Middle East review - August 06

 

Trade-a-boat New Zealand review - February 05

 

Sailing review - November 03

 

NOR’WESTING magazine evaluation of the MacGregor26

Sea Trial |  The New MacGregor Satisfies

It’s often noted that every boat is a study in compromise. We express individual preferences for design choices balancing speed and fuel economy. Boaters consider trade-offs between larger enclosed cabins and maximum exterior deck space. We wrestle with the benefits of fly bridge visibility at the cost of longer rolling moments and windage.  Shall we power with gas engines (cheaper to buy) or diesel (cheaper to operate)?  There is no universally correct choice, so the wide varieties of boats we own and enjoy reflect a healthy diversity of taste and opinion.

One of the first decisions most boaters will face is the fundamental choice between power and sail.  Nearly every other aspect of marine design is commonly compromised, but the vast majority of builders turn out a product that is clearly definable as either a sailboat or a powerboat.  Few manufactures endeaver to combine the best aspects of a speedy, planning, outboard hull and a nimble, fun to sail, cruising sloop.

The MacGregor Yacht Corporation (represented in the Pacific Northwest by Bluewater Yachts on Seattle’s Lake Union) not only attempts the unlikely marriage of power and sail, but also has invented a highly successful nice category of high-speed trailer sailors in the process.

Todd and Cheryl McChesney own Blue Water Yachts, the largest trailerable sailboat dealership in North America.  Cheryl took us for a test sail on a new 2005 MacGregor 26.  We quickly realized that while the MacGregor 26 is not the ultimate powerboat or an ultra fine-tuned racing sailboat, it is a uniquely enjoyable and surprisingly affordable vessel that offers a wide spectrum of choices for cruising our Northwest waters.  As Todd observed, “No boat will ever be all things to all people, but the MacGregor has proven to offer enough things, to enough people, that we have a lot of very happy and satisfied owners.”

About MacGregor

MacGREGOR yachts began building boats in the early 1960’s. The company business model was conceived by a group of graduate students at the Stanford School of Business.  MacGregor invented an adaptation of the retracting keel and energized the trailerable sailboat market.  Sailboats with fixed keels can be more difficult to tow and nearly impossible to launch at most boat ramps (the protruding keel puts the hull in the air that the tow vehicle could easily be submerged before the boat found enough depth to float free of the trailer).  With a retractable keel, a trailerable sailboat sits low on the trailer and launches as easily as a small runabout.

When MacGregor first begun building trailerable boats, families commonly owner a rear-wheeled drive, body on frame, V8 automobile with substantial towing abilities.  As car shifted to front wheel drive and lower horsepower engines, MacGregor recognized a need to reduce the weight of their vessels to facilitate safe towing.  The innovative solution was MacGregor’s water ballast system.  The weight can be literally drained away when running in powerboat mode, making it easier to haul the MacGregor onto a trailer.

Elimination of the static ballast allowed MacGregor to improve the performance of the 26 when operated as a powerboat.  One of the company’s promotional brochures includes a photo of an adult water-skier being towed by a 26 MacGregor.  It is unusual, to say the least, to see a water-skier zipping along behind a boat equipped with a mast.  (With a 50-hp outboard, the MacGregor 26 will turn about 22 mph.)  Few people seeking a boat to be used primarily for water-skiing would chose a MacGregor, just as extremely serious sailor might prefer a more specialized and highly evolved sailing hull.  MacGregors appeal to boaters who hope to enjoy the fun of sailing and the distance-shrinking cruising ability of a powerboat in a single vessel.

MacGregor can legitimately claim to be one of the larger volume manufacturers, having launched in excess of 35,000 boats.

Meet the MacGregor 26

The 2005 MacGregor 26 is constructed of hand-laminated fiberglass, without the use of chop strand or “coring.” The dry weight of the empty boat is 2,550 pounds, and the beam is 7’9” to permit easy trailering.  (The trailer weighs another 710 pounds).  The general style above the waterline is reminiscent of a small sloop, but there is a broad, flat transom with an engine well that accommodates up to 70-hp outboard motors.  With the daggerboard and rudders in the “up” positions, the MacGregor is a planning hull, with a mere 12-inch draft.  The cockpit will easily seat four to six, with a pedistalmounted steering wheel and engine controls.  Side decks are nonexistent, with access between the foredeck and the cockpit routed across the cabin top.  Fortunately, Blue Water Yachts rigs their boats for easy single-handed sailing from the cockpit.  The roller-furled jib also reduces the need to go forward when underway.

The MacGregor 26 interior provides all the basic amenities of a family cruiser.  An extremely roomy double berth is most aft, under the cockpit.  Just forward, to starboard, is a dinette that will seat four.  MacGregor incorporates a unique “sliding galley” mounted to port.  The galley locks into three different positions.  When slid forward, it is opposite the dinette and there is well over six feet of standing headroom available for the cook.  In the middle position, the alcohol stove and sink can be used with ease, and the additional seating space is created on the port side of the main cabin.  With the galley secured most aft, it is entirely under the cockpit but there is still plenty of room to sleep in the aft birth, and sliding the galley all the way aft creates an additional single bunk on the port side of the main cabin.  Two can sleep in the forepeak, and the dinette folds down into a single berth over seven feet long.  One could sleep six adults on a MacGregor 26, but frankly the boat would seem more appropriately accommodating for two to three adults, or a young couple with perhaps two or three kids.

Many smaller boats have no toilet facilities, or a “porta-pottie” arrangement that stows under a bunk when not being used.  Privacy on many small boats is non-existent.  The MacGregor26 has an enclosed head compartment with a mirrored bulkhead, so dignity can be preserved without asking everyone aboard to “look elsewhere.”  Blue Water Yachts includes a portable marine toilet with aholding tank that can be fitted if desired.

Getting underway

We didn’t need to launch the MacGregor 26; it was secured to a dock at the Blue Water Yachts office.  Launching a MacGregor is reported to be an easy task, with the aluminum mast easily raised or lowered by a single person.  (There is an optional mechanical device that uses a brake winch and support pole to more precisely control the mast white raising or lowering.)  The forestay is the only rigging disconnected when the mast is lowered, so setting the mast up again is a simple procedure.  Launching would involve only a minimum of fussing around, once floated free from the trailer.

To exit the dock, we lowered the daggerboard and the twin trailing rudders.  Cheryl put the MacGregor into the fairway, spun it around smartly on the daggerboard pivot point, and we motored out to Lake Union.  The outboard ran flawlessly.  The MacGregor’s “sailboat genes” allowed it to be very agile in tight quarters.

Sail ho!

Once out on the lake Cheryl showed us how easily the MacGregor converts from a powerboat to a sailboat.  The first order of business was to confirm that there was water in the ballast tank. Removing a cap from a fitting under the V-birth allowed water to displace the air in the system, and we confirmed the tank was full by sighting water within a half-inch of the vent fitting.

For purposes of our demonstration we would be doing a “low tech” sail (there’s a limit to what a stinkpotter can be expected to absorb.)  We centered the boom over the companionway dodger.

After removing the sail cover and the bungee cords bundling the mainsail against the boom, Cheryl motored into the wind and raised the outboard, releasing it from hydraulic steering ram and securing it on an adjacent post.  Disconnecting the motor reduced the load on the steering wheel to just the two rudders trailing off of the stern  (We were surprised to learn that the extra point for securing the outboard was a Blue Water Yachts innovation, and Todd and Cheryl sell the parts for this system to MacGregor dealers and owners throughout North America).

We hoisted the 170-square foot mainsail and began scooting across the lake.  We made very good progress up wind.  Cheryl commented that many sailors are surprised at how well the MacGregor 26 goes to windward.  There is a powerful, soothing silence when under sail-an experience that can’t be exactly duplicated in a powerboat of any type.  Sailing is a natural, organic experience, with Nature herself carrying you toward your destination.  Every time I go sailing, I resolve to do it more often.

We unfurled the jib and turned to take the wind board abeam.  It’s a good thing the seven-knot speed limit on Lake Union doesn’t apply to sailboats- we were flying!  The planning characteristics of the MacGregor hull free the vessel from the constraining bow wave that decrees a 26-foot displacement hull- sailboat normally sailed seven knots.  With a moderate wind on Lake Union, we were clipping along faster than one would expect; factory sales literature claims that with enough wind a MacGregor can achieve 13-14 knots under sail.

We heeled over on the beam reach, but the water ballast proved to be effective.  Sitting on the high side of the cockpit and watching the chop bouncing off the hull is a real sailing experience-as it should be, since the MacGregor is a real sailboat.

Cheryl called our attention to the MacGregor’s rotating mast. The mast is shaped like an airfoil and automatically seeks the proper angle relative to the wind direction.  (The shrouds and spreader remain fixed.)  A non-rotating mast can deflect the wind and create a “dead spot” in the head of the sail. The rotating mast all but eliminates the deflection of air away from the sail, and the wind fills the sail more efficiently.  The rotating mast, the shallow draft, and the relatively lightweight all contribute to a surprisingly speedy experience under sail.

Powering up

Sailing the MacGregor was such fun we could have spent all day just blowing up and down the lake.  Alas, time limitations eventually dictated that we douse the mainsail, furl the jib, and experience the MacGregor in powerboat mode.

We hauled up the daggerboard, lowered the outboard, and reconnected it to the steering ram, and hauled up the trailing rudders.  Our top speed would be slightly reduced because we still had the water ballast in the tanks (the tanks can be drained in about five minutes when underway).  We headed up for the “speed lane” and throttled up.

The MacGregor 26 stepped up the plane very quickly, easily reaching about 20 knots with minimal wake.  Aside from the empty mast protruding from the cabin top, there is little difference between running the MacGregor at the moderate speed as opposed to any one of a number of traditional runabouts.  Most trailerable sailboats will motor at five or six knots, or about a quarter of the speed of a MacGregor.  Fuel consumption is said to be around three gallons per hour when cruising at 15 knots, achieving an impressive five nautical miles per gallon.  Make no mistake about it; the MacGregor is a real powerboat, too.

Conclusion

As Todd McClesney stated, no boat can be all things to all people.  There are certainly higher performing, more technical sailboats (and more exciting, speedier powerboats) than a MacGregor 26. What does singulary well in combine the potential for a very wide range of fun boating experiences into a single vessel.  It would seem too obvious that a boat that can sail well and then slip easily into planning powerboat mode will appeal to a greater number of family members and could enhance the family’s total boating enjoyment.

I have often wondered what happened to the affordable family boat.  It’s all too easy to attend a boat show and conclude that unless one is prepared to invest $80,000-$100,000, or substantially more, it may be tough to go home with a new boat on which a family of four would consider spending a week in the San Juans.  The affordable family boat is alive and well, and available at Blue Water Yachts.  Todd and Cheryl employ a “no dicker” pricing and offer the same low price to all comers.  The Blue Water Yachts “bare boats” package includes the bare essentials (but no out board ), the prices out at $20,999.

There are packages that include a 50-70-hp Nissan and Suzuki outboards, dual battery systems, marine coolers, canvas covers, and much, much more.  The extremely well equipped boat we tested at Blue Water Yachts was configured with the “Super Cruising Package”; more than adequately prepared to depart on a summer vacation cruise at a moment’s notice.  The MacGregor 26 with this top-of-the line option group is still modestly priced at $30,999.

Affordable family boats are good news for the marine industry, as well as for the families that are enjoying them.  Cheryl McChesney expressed it very succinctly: “I really enjoy selling MacGregors, they make people happy!”

One could do far worse than own a boat specializing in happiness.

Boating New Zealand magazine evaluation of the MacGregor26

Motor Sailor on a Trailer

The MacGregor 26 is part trailer sailer, part powerboat, offering the benefits of life under sail with the home-by-six convenience of a powerboat. This combination of power and sail is nothing new, but the MacGregor does it in a new way.

Built in the US, the distinctive high profile outline and head turning speed under power have hit a chord with the market. A relatively recent arrival to the New Zealand scene, the MacGregor brand has been producing quality production boats for 36 years from its California base. Sales of the proceeding 26x model exceeded 5,000 and the new 26M is set to be even more successful.

First impressions of the 26M are “large”. Her high freeboard, distinctive double layered cabin windows and moulded stake gave her an unmistakable look – this is not your average trailer yacht.

Closer inspection reveals an attention to detail typical of US manufacturers: lots of bright gel coat and moulded curves that flow through the small but functional cockpit and continue through into a clutter-free, flush desk. Though the walk-through transom is narrower than the 26X model, there is still good access to and from the cockpit for trailer and marina use.

Down below, the MacGregor reveals her Tardis-like-qualities. The exceptional spacious layout and generous 1.82m headroom would make comfortable weekend living for a couple or family of four. There is a roomy double birth under the cockpit, a spacious saloon with two large settees/single birth, an ingenious sliding galley and sink unit to port, space for an enclosed head and cozy vee birth forward. This layout seems slightly more useable than the previous 26X design, to a more user-friendly height.

Rigging and rotating mast is a breeze due to the innovative mast raising winch and pole system. Launching is straight forward, aides by relatively flat bottom, although high freeboard could make this challenging in anything other than an off shore breeze. The 26M is legal width and light enough- thanks to the water ballast – to be towed by a two litre car. She rides nicely on her well-balanced trailer, which comes with hydraulic override brakes as standard.

We motored out into the Littleton harbour in powerboat mode, without water ballast, and experienced the first of many unusual sensations as we lifted onto the plane and clipped along at 17 knots.

With a 50hp Yamaha four-stroke slung from a powerboat-like transom well, we had the power to push through a little wind-against-tide chop. With the skipper and crew seated aft in the cockpit, the motion is much smoother than most powerboats, however the rig seems to take a lot of shock load from the pounding, which can alarm the uninitiated. Ideally, this mode is suited to water skiing on calm days.

A simple, hand-operated gate valve on the transom allows filling of the water ballast tank. In three minutes it’s full and the motion of the 26M changes dramatically to that of a displacement launch. In this mode she has a maximum speed under motor of around 15 knots. While this gives a slightly wetter ride, the sensation is a lot more solid and getting home quickly in front of a weather change is a reassuring possibility.

The Yamaha 50hp four-stroke is quite economical. There is storage for up to 60 litres of fuel in the cockpit lockers, which are isolated from the interior of the boat. The 26M’s maneuverability and shallow draft in power mode makes beaching easy, which was disturbing for the keeler sailor in me, but it will make the family beach picnic, that much more enjoyable.

Switching to sail mode is a matter of raising sails and lowering the water filled dagger board and the twin rudders, which slot nicely into the transom on an endless rope system.

The rudders are attached to the same cable steering system as the motor. This and the small powerboat-type wheel make for an awkward feel to the helm by yacht standards. Disconnecting the motor from the system may make a difference-this simply done by lifting the helmsman’s hinged seat, stepping into the engine well and disconnecting it with an R clip. However it is recommended that it left connected so the engine is ready to use if needed in a hurry.

With a 16-knot breeze in the offing, we set the 19.1 m2 genoa and 15.m2 mainsail. We quickly reefed the genoa on the CDI to balance the boat and to help her stay on her feet. The 26M’s narrow beam and lack of ballast in the dagger board mean that she is tender and needs reefing early to sail at her best. Future 26M’s will come with the working jib as standard option and the genoa as extra, which is in keeping with New Zealand’s generally windier conditions. We tacked through about 90 degrees in the short harbour chop and with a boat speed of around 5 knots on the wind, which is appropriate performance for a cruising trailer sailer.

While the purist sailor might enjoy a good slog to windward in these conditions, the smart family sailor would learn to use the 26m’s strengths. It’s appealing to think of dropping the sails to motor upwind at pace to a nice anchorage for a BBQ or water ski, while looking forward to a leisurely downwind home a 5-6 knots.

The designers have achieved a good compromise between power and sail. Some trade-offs are inevitable but the overall result is a comfortable family boat in the best traditions of the 70’s trailer sailer revolution, updated by technology and in sync with the needs of the modern family sailor.

Specifications

 

loa 25ft 10in

lwl 23ft 2in

Beam 7 ft 9in

Draft , board up 12in

Draft, board down 5ft 9in

Engine 5-50 hp

Water ballast 533 kg

Permanent ballast 136 kg

Total ballast 669 kg

Disp, empty 1264 kg

Price, basic yacht and trailer, no engine $58,000 +gst

NOR’WESTING magazine evaluation of the MacGregor26

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! It’s a bird! It’s a plane!” Of course the mysterious object was neither bird nor plane, but something much more marvelous and unique; “No, it’s Superman!”

Those opening lines, etched so indelibly on the childhood memories of an entire generation, come to mind when considering this month’s 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! It’s a powerboat! It’s a sailboat! And of course the mystery boat is neither a conventional powerboat nor a high-performance sailboat, but something marvelous and unique in it’s own right. “It’s 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 week’s 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. MacGregor’s 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.

Conclusion

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. That’s 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.